This week, I will try to touch on several topics and remind you on upcoming events in and around the Gordon County area. First, I would like to discuss the current drought. I know the ground is damp with moisture and we are seeing some routine showers, but we are still dry in general. I have worked for UGA as a county agent for over 22 years and this has been the busiest start to a new year for me in my career. Many of the phone calls have been on the decline of many woody ornamentals and trees. Most, if not all, of these situations can be traced back to the drought. Some of the ornamentals may make it, but many will not. Send me pictures via email and I can make site visits. Just keep in mind that a lot of the problems are drought related.

Also, note that we may see a spike in insect issues due to the stress in our woody ornamentals and trees. If we get into a similar weather hot and dry pattern this spring and summer, you need to be prepared to irrigate. If you plan on planting ornamentals and trees, make sure you do so correctly, including proper spacing. A lot of trouble I see with landscape items such as Leyland cypress is being planted too close, no mulching to assist with water conservation and folks not giving irrigation when needed. Leyland cypress are not very drought tolerant and folks planting them extremely too close does not help them in dry times.

One question a county agent will receive from time to time is when a client has some acreage and they want to start an ag venture. The question normally asked, “I have too much to mow, what can I grow?” I totally understand the situation. A person is lucky to have a small tract of land and wonders if instead of mowing the grass, could they make it into a small ag business that is making money. On April 21, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gordon Extension along with other area county extension offices will team up with the UGA Small Business Development Center and will center on this topic. Extension will cover topics such as gardening and horticulture, backyard poultry and livestock for small farms, agritourism and organics. The UGA Small Business Development Center will give information on business planning, marketing and social media, and how to obtain business loans including legalities and tax information. The event will be held in Carterville at the Bartow County Library. You need to register prior to the event by contacting UGA SBDC at 706-622-2006 or can register online at www.georgiasbdc.org/rome. The cost for the day is $49 per person. This event could be a great way to start you on a path to an Ag based business.

Next, I want to remind you on the importance of soil testing and even take it a little farther on the importance of forage testing you hay in 2017. In fact, I am going to challenge our agriculture community to be testing their hay crops more this year.

First, the goal of a properly taken soil test and sending to our UGA soil test lab is a great start to managing your land. A soil analysis will give you a pH reading of your soil and also will check the nutrient status in the ground. From those readings, you will get liming and fertilization recommendations. A soil report should take out the guesswork for you in terms of lime applications and fertilizing. Many folks will fertilize annually the same way they have done for years whether it is a lawn or a hayfield. Many areas have not seen a lime truck in years. We need to keep soil pH for most items grown between a 6.0-6.5 pH. When you dip lower or more acidic in pH, the roots cannot use the fertilizer as efficiently so in a sense you may be losing money.

I also wanted to mention doing forage testing on our hay crops. Many livestock producers and owners are still buying hay. Some of the hay, you may have been given a forage report while others are simply hoping it is quality hay. I challenge you to do some hay testing in 2017 so you can better match the hay to the animals. Many farmers like to keep some hay in the barn in case hay is in shortage. Well, 2016 was that year. Many folks have fed every bale they had in the barn, plus we do not know how well our grass will grow this spring and summer. Every quality bale you can store in the dry this year can truly matter in 2017.

We are going to hold a Pasture Restoration and Cow Herd Management meeting here in Calhoun on April 19, with promotional flyers coming out soon. For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.