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Preparing for early garden production

By: Brandy Brabham, WVU Roane County Extension Agent

The last month provided a lot of temperature extremes. While plans for the 2018 garden season should be taking shape by now, a good production risk management strategy is to consult notes from last year as a starting point. What areas were planted with what plant families and varieties and what areas should be rotated to a different crop this year? If this is a first year for production or notes are incomplete, plan organization strategies to make this year’s records provide the detail needed for next year’s planting.

At this stage, garden cleanup should have taken place prior to tilling ground to lower the number of pests that survived the winter in dead or diseased plants and plant residue. Soil testing is another cold weather chore that should have been completed. Soil sample analysis is free from West Virginia University and can save considerable costs by eliminating unnecessary fertilization and contributing to healthy plants that are more pest resistant.

The annual publication provided by WVU Extension Service throughout West Virginia’s 55 counties known as the “Garden Calendar” should have been consulted. Why? It provides excellent guidance from Extension experts on planning and planting a variety of garden fruits and vegetables and gardening methods. It is especially helpful to take note of the planting zones (growing season days) throughout the state. Also, the calendar helps in planning with tips on seeding, transplanting and planting dates as well as a garden maintenance schedule throughout the year. Consult Extension experts on recommended cultivars or varieties; days to maturity and in planning sequences so that a garden area can be replanted most efficiently. Other considerations will include seeds per foot, row or plant spacing, and planting depth. This will be useful in laying out the spacing and arrangement for the garden.

A number of plants could be planted soon. Many trees and shrubs can be safely transplanted now. Perennial vegetables such as asparagus and some early vegetables like kale, peas, cabbage, lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radish, spinach and turnips might be considered. There is always risk associated with the early plantings, but it may lead to the early harvest.

Find some new favorites by experimenting with new varieties, but practice some caution. Plant only small amounts initially. Allow a variety to be proven successful in the environment and management of your garden. Experiment with season extension methods to extend the growing and harvesting seasons.