I am Mack Johnson, the new Extension Horticulture agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. I am a native Robesonian, born in Lumberton, educated locally, worked and eventually helped manage a family farm. I then served our county residents at our Department of Public Health.
I came on board Sept. 4, and will concentrate on horticulture — commercial and urban — and the Robeson County Farmers Market, which is associated with our Consumer Supported Agriculture. I will also work closely with the Extension Master Gardener volunteers, a group receiving training and support from Extension, and in return volunteer for projects in education, community development and beautification.
I can remember my grandmother would start fretting before Halloween about all the cooking and preparations for the holidays looming in her near future. I thought she was being silly, but I now more fully understand the brevity of time and how quickly the seasons pass.
Just as one season passes and we feel we can slow down and relax, it is time to prepare for the next. Now is the perfect time to begin preparing for next year’s lawn and garden.
Taking soil samples now can benefit your garden, lawn and even wallet. Proper analysis of the soil with the intended vegetation in mind can more precisely determine what nutrients are needed and the necessary amounts. Less wasted fertilizer can mean optimum plant performance and money saved.
Soil sample results will also show the current pH and recommendations to correct it for the appropriate plants, in turn helping the plants optimize available nutrients. For soil sampling instructions, forms, mailing containers and possible delivery, you may contact the Extension Center at 910-671-3276.
For our residents who don’t garden, you still have an incredible opportunity to enjoy fresh produce. You can visit the Robeson County Farmers Market in downtown Lumberton, at Eighth and Elm streets, on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
There is still a plethora of locally grown okra; turnips; mustard; collards; tomatoes; cucumbers; squash; pumpkins; sweet potatoes; bell peppers; hot peppers and ornamentals such as gourds and loofah sponges, also originating from gourds.There is also locally produced honey, soap and eggs.
Fresh produce will have more nutrient value being at or near the peak of ripeness when purchased and will require more immediate processing by the consumer. Spending local only helps to strengthen our economy.
Another option for fresh produce locally grown is to join a Community Supported Agriculture. This concerted effort between Cooperative Extension and the Farmers Market allows patrons to pay upfront for a weekly offering of seasonal items from area vendors for a limited time, currently five weeks. Anything from aloe plants to zucchini, honey, eggs and even locally produced meat for an additional fee.
I encourage you now to plan for next year’s garden; if not then visit the Robeson County Farmers Market.
For information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticulture agent, with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.