Dishing the Dirt: landscape color and small farms

Published 3:31 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

One of the best things about my position with NC State Cooperative Extension is that I get to constantly learn. It seems I learn something new nearly every day and that is just the day to day part of the position. This week I’ve had the opportunity to go to two field days. The first was put on by the Center for Environmental Farming (CEFS). The second was at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

CEFS put on their field day at the Small Farms Unit in Goldsboro and it was great! They had several cover crop demonstrations and an equipment demonstration. There were two high tunnels growing vegetables, a bee demonstration, and a great integrated pest management talk for both insect and weed pests. To me, the best part was the high tunnel demo and the multiple cover crops they had planted in the field. They have done a really good job of showing organic production on a small scale farm. The last part was several folks talking to us about what is available through NC A&T University programs for small farms and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The second of the field days, the Landscape Color and Professional Field Day, was at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. This is a really event that I try to attend every year. There are typically arborist talks, herbicide demonstrations, and then the highlight in my opinion, the annual color trials. Then in the afternoon they offer pesticide credit and landscape contractor’s credit talks. These talks help landscapers earn their credits to renew their licenses. This helps them to stay up to date on the latest plants and technical procedures in landscaping.

My favorite part of this field day is always the color trial. There are annuals that are sent from all over the place to compete in this trial. There are shade plants, hanging plants, potted plants, and then there are the beds. As you look across them, they burst with color across the landscape. There are perennial trials as well that are rotated through on a two-year cycle. Some of these are incredible as well. There was a hibiscus bloom that was larger than a dinner plate! If you’ve never been to the Arboretum now is the time to go! The annual color trial will be in place through October but the plants are at the height of their color right now.

The rest of the arboretum is amazing as well. There are so many different sections and gardens to go through from the xeric to the zen garden. What you don’t see, is directly behind the arboretum and that is the Horticulture Field Lab at NC State. This is where so much research is done in horticulture from herbicide trials to breeding to plant nutrition studies.

The next time you’re in Raleigh, take time to visit the JC Raulston Arboretum!

If you have horticulture a question or would like a tour of the teaching garden, call the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers in Beaufort County or Gene Fox, the Area Consumer Horticulture agent at (252)946-0111 or please email Gene at Our Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteers in Beaufort County offer their Greenline service on Mondays and Wednesday from 10:00 – 12:00. Give us a call and let us help you GROW!