To Attend The Home Water and Septic System Workshops 

On October 22, 2018

To Attend The Home Water and Septic System Workshops 

Penn State Extension, in partnership with the ELANCO Source Water Collaborative, will offer two free workshops about home water systems. The workshops will be on Monday, November 5 in the Terre Hill Community Center, 131 W Main St, Terre Hill, PA. You will have two opportunities to attend, in the afternoon at 2-4pm or in the evening at 6-8pm. The talk will include protecting, testing, and treating private water supplies. Septic system inspection and maintenance will also be discussed. 

Free drinking water testing will be provided for the first 30 households to register at each workshop. Water will be tested for coliform bacteria, E. coli, pH, total dissolved solids, and nitrates. Results from these simple educational tests can help guide you in future testing by accredited labs. Sample collection instructions will be provided after you register. In Pennsylvania, over 40% of wells have never been properly tested.

Register by Wednesday, October 31 at or call 877-345-0691.

Private wells supply water to over 53,000 homes in Lancaster County, mostly in suburban and rural areas. Many residents also use on-lot septic systems to treat and dispose of wastewater. Learn how to protect your family and community, your property, and our shared water resources.

For additional information contact Jennifer Fetter, Water Resources Educator

Penn State Extension – Dauphin County, (717) 921-8803 or email

To Learn About Grazing, Cover Crops and Soil Health

Healthy soils lead to increased production, increased profits, and natural resource protection. You can learn more about this topic at a USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Healthy Soils field day on Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon, at Verdant View Farm, 429 Strasburg Road, Paradise, PA 17562. 

The speakers include Patrick Fleming, owner of Verdant View Farm; Dave Wilson, Agronomy Educator, Penn State Extension; Jeff Graybill, Agronomy Educator, Penn State Extension; Kefeni Kejela & Mark Myers, Soil Conservationists, NRCS. For more information and special accommodations call 717-874-2513 or email 

To Manage Forages For Winter Survival

Fall is an important time to ensure that hay fields are properly managed, and attention should be paid to details that will help to ensure their survival through the winter.  Extension Agronomist Jessica Williamson explains fall harvest management can be the greatest determining factor of forage stand longevity.

Regardless of whether the hay field is grass or legumes, residual height should be a primary concern for the last cutting of forage.  Ensuring proper residual height will allow the forages adequate leaf material to photosynthesize and regrow top growth, as well as store carbohydrates at the base of the plant to overwinter.  Grasses should not be cut lower than 4 inches in the fall, but a residual height of 5 inches or greater would be preferred.

Historically, it is recommended that the final cutting of alfalfa be removed no later than 4-6 weeks before the first killing frost – and this advice is still viable today!  This will help ensure plants have adequate time to regrow and store the necessary nutrients to over-winter and begin growth in the spring.  Before deciding whether or not to make a final harvest later than the traditional, “safe” harvest window of 4-6 weeks before a killing frost, several aspects should be assessed.

With more winter-hardy varieties of alfalfa available, tradition is beginning to be tested with producers taking their final cutting later into the fall.  If winter-hardiness is part of the improved genetics utilized on your operation, the improved winter-hardiness could possibly allow the alfalfa to withstand a slightly later cutting.  

Alfalfa stand age is also indicative of whether a later cutting should be removed.  Typically, older stands of alfalfa are more prone to winter kill and should not be mowed past the recommended 4-6 week “critical period” before a killing frost.  If the alfalfa stand has not been allowed to flower at least once during the growing season, no matter the variety, it is at a much higher risk for winter kill and therefore should not be harvested after the 4-6 week period before a killing frost.

If there is proper soil pH and fertility, as well as being well-drained, a later cutting is a possibility.  Fall cuttings of alfalfa should have no less than a 4-inch stubble height to ensure enough plant material is present to photosynthesize and rebuild carbohydrate stores necessary to over-winter.  It is important to remember that taking a later cutting (after the critical period before a killing frost), spring yields may suffer, especially with the first cutting.  So when deciding whether or not it is worth it for your operation, the benefits need to be weighed with the risks.

In both grass and legume hay fields, the fall is an ideal time to apply lime if the soil pH is not ideal for the desired crop.  The weather patterns throughout the winter allow the lime to neutralize the soil during the non-growing season, in turn resulting in a less acidic pH in the spring during the growing season.  A current soil test is the best way to determine if and how much lime is recommended for a hay field.

Quote Of The Week: “Remember, a strong will isn’t a ‘condition’ or a ‘syndrome’– it’s a gifting.”  Lisa Jacobson