Q: When is the next bee school being offered in Forsyth County?

Answer: Forsyth County Beekeepers Association is offering a Bee School that will run from Feb. 1 through April 4. Registration is currently open and can be accessed online at this web address: https://fcba.wildapricot.org/event-3661538. Classes are held on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. until noon at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Forsyth County Center, 1450 Fairchild Road, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27105. This five-week, in-depth course covers hive equipment, honey bee biology, pests, and year-round management to produce healthy bees and productive hives. The school is designed to provide students with a text book, presentations, demonstrations, class instruction and practical hands-on experience. Members will be assigned a mentor who can assist during and after the school. Upon completion students will have the opportunity to take the N.C. State Beekeepers Association Certified Beekeeping Written Exam to earn the title of Certified Beekeeper. The cost for the Bee School is $60 a person which covers the cost of books. Students are required to join the Forsyth County Beekeepers Association, which costs $10 annually. A second family member may register for $40 without a book. The course is taught by experienced beekeepers who are active in the association. The mission of the FCBA is to promote good beekeeping practices and continued education for beekeepers. Registration is requested before Jan. 23 with a limited number of seats available. Registration closes once the seat limit is met. If any seats are available after Jan. 23, a $10 late fee will be charged.

Q: When is the best time to plant fruit trees? What is the best way to plant fruit trees?

Answer: The best planting time in North Carolina is late fall or early winter. The roots will then be able to grow through the winter, resulting in greater tree growth during the first season, which ultimately leads to larger trees. Young fruit trees are commonly shipped “bare root” with the exposed roots wrapped in moist sawdust. Plant the trees as soon as possible after purchase. Be sure to select a well-drained sunny spot with fertile soil. A fruit tree will die when the root zone (18 to 24 inches) is exposed to more than three days of saturated soil. If you don’t have a well-drained site, plant the tree in a raised bed. The beds are formed by shaping well-drained topsoil into beds 18 to 24 inches high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Trees grown in raised beds must be irrigated more frequently during the growing season. If you have a well-drained site, plant directly into the ground according to the following instructions. Dig a hole twice the size of the root system. The sides of the hole should be loose, not packed down by the force of the shovel. Cut off damaged roots at the point of injury. Shorten roots that are especially long and will not fit in the hole. Roots that are not shortened will wrap around the tree hole and eventually girdle the root system, reducing tree growth in later years. When planting a grafted tree, be sure that the graft union is 2 inches above the soil. If the graft union is below the soil surface, the top portion or scion will grow roots and negate the effect of the grafted root system.

After the tree is in place, fill the hole with native soil, not potting soil. Adding organic matter or mulch to the soil can promote growth if these materials are mixed well with the soil. Never add fertilizer to the planting hole. Fertilizers are very caustic and can burn and kill the roots of young trees. After you have filled the hole, be sure to water the area well.

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Mary Jac Brennan is the agent for fruit and vegetable horticulture for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. Contact Mary Jac about commercial production, local foods, and sustainable agriculture questions. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at maryjac_brennan@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2850.

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