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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Keep Cool, Gardeners: Get Out Of The Heat And Get Online

blueberries growing on a bush
PhreddieH3, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Silly gardeners. While we've been sweating and struggling in the summer heat, the smart folks at the NC Cooperative Extension Service have been coolly building a giant online resource for us. Sponsored by N.C. State University, the Extension Gardener Handbook can solve just about any problem -- and enhance the experience of gardening for everyone. So pour yourself a cold beverage, find a shady spot, and check it out. 

The landscape design of a garden is as important as what grows there. Demystify the terminology and see real-life examples of design principles in practice. A handy, color-coded chart is a user-friendly reference for the best planting times and conditions. Hint for Carolina Piedmont gardeners: Get ready to plant arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and turnips in August.

If you love berries, the Small Fruits page will help you choose between planting highbush and rabbit-eye blueberries. Pole beans looking puny? Here's a case study to help you trouble-shoot them. 

Community gardens are growing in popularity. Learn how to start your own, and also discover the benefits of youth and therapeutic programs.

Want to encourage wildlife to visit? Walk through the steps of creating an enticing habitat. Or maybe you're plagued by pesky little voles. Here's how to deal with them.

There's more to composting than simply tossing your kitchen scraps into a pile. Learn whether hot or cold composting is for you. (Just don't drink the compost "tea.")

A deep dive into diagnostics explains the process for identifying pathogens. But what if you just can't find the answer to your question? Get a personalized reply using the Ask an Expert function. A drop-down menu will direct you to an expert in your area. You can even upload a photo of the bug or blight you're fighting. But if crawly creatures make you queasy, you may want to avoid the explicit photos of "Common Non-Insect Arthropod Pests of Plants or People in the Garden."

The Extension Gardener Handbook resources are thorough but not yet complete. Soon the site will have sections that focus on herbaceous and woody ornamentals, tree fruits and nuts, container gardening, and more. What to plant, when to harvest, how to save seeds; plus countless links to everything from pruning to propagating are already in place. And we think that's pretty cool.

Amy Rogers is the author of Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas and Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits. Her writing has also been featured in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, the Oxford American, and the Charlotte Observer. She is founding publisher of the award-winning Novello Festival Press. She received a Creative Artist Fellowship from the Arts and Science Council, and was the first person to receive the award for non-fiction writing. Her reporting has also won multiple awards from the N.C. Working Press Association. She has been Writer in Residence at the Wildacres Center, and a program presenter at dozens of events, festivals, arts centers, schools, and other venues. Amy Rogers considers herself “Southern by choice,” and is a food and culture commentator for NPR station WFAE.