This month, CFSA asks about garlic, root crop storage, cover crops and mobile processing units

Jeanine Davis – Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU
Alex Hitt – Peregrine Farms in Graham, NC
Ken Fager – Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro Greg Hoyt – Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center Casey McKissick – NC Choices Coordinator
Thanks also to Debbie Roos, Chatham County Coop. Extension

When is the best time to plant garlic in the Carolinas?

Plant garlic from mid-September to November based on your location in the Carolinas. Photo from

JEANINE: In North Carolina, garlic should be fall planted from mid-September (western NC) through November (eastern NC). The cloves must be planted early enough for large root systems to develop before winter. A well-established plant will grow rapidly in the early spring as temperatures begin to rise. Spring planting of garlic is not recommended because the bulbs from spring planted garlic are usually very small and must often be allowed to grow a second season to reach marketable size.

When is the latest that I can plant a cover crop this fall? And what is best for late planting?

ALEX: While Sept. and Oct. are the best times for seeding winter cover crops. I have planted cover crops up to early Dec. with some success. Grain Rye is really the only thing that has consistently done well late for us.

KEN: Good advice from Alex. A general rule is to plant covers at least 6 weeks before the development of consistent hard freezes in your area.

GREG: A good source of info. about cover crops and when to plant is: Guides/Burley/burley.pdf. See chapter 6. Although it was written in the Burley production guide, it’s useful for most crops.

Can I leave some of my root crops in the ground for the winter and harvest them as needed?

JEANINE: I’ve had varying degrees of success with this method. It works best in moderate winters that are not excessively wet. Beets, carrots, rutabagas, winter radishes, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, and parsnips can all be left in the garden where they grew. Mulch with a thick layer of straw or leaves to protect them from freezing. Dig when needed. Expect to lose some to rot, rodents, and cold damage.

Another way to store the same vegetables is to dig a deep, wide pit (3+ feet deep) in a dry area where water will not stand. Line it with heavy plastic. Put a thick layer of straw in the bottom, then alternate a layer of vegetables with a layer of straw. Finish with a layer of straw, forming a mound above the ground. Put a loose sheet of plastic on top, but do not seal it in around the edges. The idea is to keep water out but allow the pit to breathe. Put enough soil on top of the plastic to hold it all in place.

This makes the vegetables a little harder to get at, reducing loss to rot and rodents.

I own and operate a small produce farm and am interested in rowing small batches of chickens for meat. I want to process my birds myself under the on-farm exemption but don’t have my own processing equipment. I keep hearing about Mobile Processing Units, but there isn’t one available near me. Should I build one and rent it?

CASEY: There are currently only a small handful of inspected facilities for poultry that are open to independent growers and there are many miles between them. Many farmers have turned to using Mobile Processing Units (MPUs) to solve this problem. An MPU usually consists of a pull behind trailer equipped as a small processing facility, complete with scalder, plucker, evisceration table and cooling vessels. Units designed for inspected processing can cost up to $70,000. However, a cooperating group of poultry growers who live close to one another can profitably design and build an MPU for exempt processing for $5,000 or less. The group can choose to rent their unit to other growers in their area to generate revenue. I certainly recommend contacting your state’s meat regulatory department before beginning exempt processing with MPUs.

More information on building and managing an MPU can be found at:

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