I am writing this blog post on the sun porch of my son’s house in Clearwater, Florida. It is a beautiful day outside and as soon as I finish here I will be heading to the beach one last time before heading home. I decided to take my vacation in January this year for two reasons. One, it is currently snowing and 26 degrees at home and two, it is the only time I feel safe in leaving the gardens for two weeks.

While here I got to spend a couple days with my sister who lives in a rural part of Florida’s west coast outside of Spring Hill. She and her husband started a garden late last summer and the remnants were still growing. I had brought some heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange and we had a fun time going over the different varieties. While she appreciated the seeds and visit, she was very excited to learn about the wonderful resource of The Extension Service.

In Florida, the Cooperative Extension Service is based in Gainesville at the University of Florida. I know all you UK fans out there really don’t care much for our SEC rivals but this is different. We went on their website and in no time found the AG page and my sister was ecstatic. The UF Extension agriculture department has compiled a monthly “to-do” list for each region of Florida. My sister was bookmarking and saving and soon she was lost in the wonderful world of vegetable garden planning. It made me smile.

I have shared the UF Extension website with my eldest son too who is a real urbanite and is trying to reestablish the lawn at his house. In fact right now he is outside fixing his sprinkler system. The UF Extension has an entire section devoted to lawn and shrubs and he is researching the best grass seed for his sandy soil.

And that is really what this post is about, to point you to your best resource, your Extension agent. The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide educational network that is a collaboration of federal, state and local governments and a state land-grant university. The mission of the Cooperative Extension System is to disseminate research-based information on topics as varied as nutrition, child rearing, agriculture, horticulture, husbandry, small business and personal finance. Every U.S. state and territory has a central state Extension office at its land-grant university. Each state Extension serves its residents through a network of local or regional offices staffed by professionals in their field. (http://gardening.about.com/od/gardenprimer/a/CoopExtension.htm)

So for all of you new Grow Appalachia sites and families and anyone else reading this blog, if you have a question about anything, not just gardens, anything, start with your extension agent. If they don’t already know the answer, they will find it for you. Simply search using key words Extension Service and your state’s name and soon you will have connected to the best free resource available.

Now for some vacation pictures.

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My sister’s garden is 16×16 and surrounded by tall pine trees. I have suggested she get her soil tested by her Ag agent.

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Her valiant tomato plants had been through three hard frosts since December but were still hanging on.

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This year she is going to try planting in patches instead of rows to get more produce from the space.

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January 23rd and this valiant tomato is blooming.

Home Depot 2

We went to Home Depot today for sprinkler repair stuff and I couldn’t help taking this picture. It won’t be long now-if you consider 89 days not long. Hurry up Spring!