Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cooperative Extension offers gardening classes

Gardening isn't just a spring thing.  While a cold and wet winter may not have conjured up images of planting and fertilizing, typically mild temperatures in eastern North Carolina make just about any time the right time to do a little vegetable gardening.  What's important is to know what to plant and when.  "You can grow year around, but you have to pick and choose wisely," said Larry Kent of the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Onslow County.  With that in mind, there's H.E.L.P on the way for area gardeners and prospective gardeners interested in learning how to plan, plant, harvest and even market locally grown fruits and vegetables.  The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the Onslow County Farmers Market Association have partnered to offer the Horticulture Entrepreneur Leadership Project, better known as H.E.L.P, for the fifth year.  An organizational meeting is set for Monday at 6 p.m. at the Onslow County Extension Office and weekly sessions begin Feb. 25, with classes held each Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.  It's a combination of classroom and hands-on training, with classroom work at the extension office and hands-on work onsite at the quarter-acre garden.  "We'll grow a total of 18 different fruits and vegetables," Kent said.  Early on, participants will start with cold-weather plantings such as potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and onions.  "After the danger of the last frost is behind us, we'll start planting warm-weather crops like snap beans, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers," Kent said.  Add watermelon and cantaloupe to the list as the warm months continue.  And along the way, gardeners will learn to tend the garden from preparing the soil to selling their produce. Among the topics will be taking soil samples and interpreting test results; how to plant and transplant; how to graft tomatoes; irrigation fertilizing; integrated pest control; how to harvest; and marketing the fruits and vegetable.

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