Lay-by, The Busiest Time of Year for Row-Crop Farmers in Johnston County

By: Bryant Spivey, County Extension Director
Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service

Lay-by is a term that farmers understand very well.  Some farmers may call it “hilling” or something else.  The term lay-by describes the time of the season and in the crop where the farmer has essentially completed all the in-row tillage and weed control.  It is the farmer’s last time in the season to work in the crop before the canopy closes or the crop gets too big for tractor traffic.  At this time, farmers often apply the last fertilizer, do the last tillage, and apply the last herbicides to carry the crop to harvest.  In addition, for crops like tobacco and sweet potato it is farmer’s last opportunity to establish a high and wide row ridge for drainage, hence the term “hilling”.

This time of the year, late May through June, tends to be one of the very busiest for many farms in Johnston County.  During late May and early June farmers are hilling tobacco, transplanting sweet potatoes, planting soybeans, side-dressing corn, harvesting wheat, applying weed control in soybeans and cotton, and the list goes on and on.  After sweet potatoes are transplanted then there is cultivation and fertilization of that crop, weed control, hilling, etc.  Toward mid-June topping and suckering tobacco along with applications of sucker control materials will begin in earnest and tobacco harvest preparations for early July.

It is somewhat simple to list all of the tasks that need to be done, but it is much more difficult to accomplish all of those tasks.  To be successful farmers must manage equipment and labor while juggling all these different tasks.  And to complicate all of this, they have to manage all of these things around the weather.  When you see a successful farmer, you should know that the individual is an excellent business manager.

Farmers work very long hours on the days that will allow because they know the importance of timeliness.  There is an old saying, “to make hay while the sun is shining.”  The point of the saying is that you must use the time you have wisely because you do not know when it will be raining or too wet.  As you know, this saying applies to many things in life.  So, when you see the tractors and the workers late and early you know that it is crunch time on the farm.  When the tractor on the road is in the way, you know that he is in just as big a hurry as you are.  Oh, and by the way in my earlier list of farm tasks I forgot to mention the cutting and baling of hay!