As spring approaches you are probably thinking about planting or seeding something no matter if you are a home gardener, vegetable farmer or a livestock farmer. This month I would like to discuss a few things to be mindful of when planning for your spring farming and gardening activities this year.

One of the very first things anyone should consider is soil testing. This is a service provided by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that can help save producers and home gardeners a good bit of money for just a small investment of time spent going out to collect the samples. Soil testing is the best way to make sure, as a producer, of exactly what an area of land needs as far as amendments go to best grow a certain crop, whether that be vegetables, fruits or pastures. This allows producers to only apply the necessary amount of amendments needed rather than guessing and applying more than is needed and ultimately wasting time and money – as well as wasting the excess amendments that were applied. If you are interested in soil testing, you can obtain the paperwork and sample boxes needed to submit your samples to NCDA&CS at your local Cooperative Extension Office.

If you are a livestock farmer, I would encourage you to think about a couple of things following soil testing. Think about seeding some pastures or incorporating some annuals or clovers into your existing mix of forage. Our typical fescue pastures are cool season pastures, which means they have very minimal growth during the hot months of June, July and August. This leaves us a window of opportunity during these three months to incorporate something that will have growth during that time, such as a summer annual. Summer annuals would include the old standbys of pearl millet or sorghum-sudan hybrids, but there are some new ideas out there around crabgrass or lespedeza.

Clovers or any kind of legume can be very beneficial to your livestock as well as the overall health and sustainability of your pastures. Research shows that a stand made up of 30 percent clover will provide all the nitrogen needed to allow the grass component to have optimum yield, which can save the producer time and money spent supplementing nitrogen to those pastures. Legumes are also higher in protein and can provide needed forage during those warmer summer month mentioned above.

To obtain seeding recommendations based on your individual pasture/grazing situation, contact Kendra Norton, area livestock agent, at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Office at 586-4009 or by email at

Coming up:

Upcoming livestock workshops and events for March:

March 13: Jackson/Macon/Swain Cattlemen’s Association meeting, 7-9 p.m. at the Macon County Fairgrounds.

March 20: Jackson County 4-H Livestock Club meeting – “Raising and Showing Lambs,” time TBD, at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Office.