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Plan ahead for your spring garden

Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s time to plan your garden. Whether you are planning your first garden, have an existing garden, or want to have a patio garden, the first step is giving your soil some TLC to make sure it is ready for planting. 

Bill Shockey, WVU Extension professor and agent, said it is important to have your soil tested. Testing will determine the type of soil and let you know if you have to augment or modify its physical characteristics. For example clay soils need amendments to improve aeration. It needs the addition of organic matter like compost or peat moss. If you use peat moss be sure to have your soil tested.

Making grass clippings into compost requires management but is not difficult, Shockey said.  The organic matter helps hold in moisture. He said the extension office offers free soil testing.   Organic testing costs $6.     

“Most PH levels should be from 6 1/2 to 7.  To know your soil’s PH, get a soil test,” he said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Each crop has different fertilizer requirements. Shockey said the extension office can help determine what the requirements are for the crop.

He said it is also important to rotate crops.

“If you have a smaller area and don’t have the opportunity to rotate your crop, you have to use some type of pesticide,” Shockey said. “If tomatoes blight, the cause can lie in the soil.  That’s why you see it attacking lower leaves first.”

“There are a lot of different vegetables and fruits you can plant,” he said. “It comes down to what do you want to grow and the quantity?” 

He said gardeners should determine if they want to grow just enough to eat with meals in the summer, or do they want to grow enough to preserve food for winter.

“You have to work backwards.  How many people and the serving sizes,” Shockey said. “There are guides that will tell you how much vegetables like squash you can get from a plant.  This gives you the area you need and what will be available for preserving.”

 Starting your plants indoors is the next step.  Shockey said you do this from seed. He said when to start plants depends on location.  If you live in a warmer area like Morgantown, you can start your seedlings now. 

“In Preston County freeze dates can go into May.  Wait until mid-March to plant your seeds,” Shockey said.  “There are guidelines for seedlings.  They should be about six-to-eight weeks old to be able to survive outdoors.”

He said now is a good time to prune  fruit trees and blueberry bushes.

“They are dormant so they won’t get fungus because the sap is not up,” Shockey said.

For more information:

WVU Extension Service garden website:

WVU Soil testing lab:

Extension offices are open from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday. In Kingwood, call 304-329-1391. In Mon County, call : 304-291-7201.

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