Grow This 2023 brochure
Welcome to year six of the Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge.
This year, we’re trying some out-of-the-ordinary crops: Cosmic Purple carrots, mini bell peppers and Red Ursa kale. Inside this brochure, you’ll find growing instructions for these crops.
But if you need additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local WVU Extension office. That’s why we’re here!
We hope this year’s crops will add a little extra color to your garden and your kitchen table. And start looking forward to 2024 – because we’re already coming up with ideas to make Grow This’s next six years bigger and better.
Kristin McCartney — Snap-Ed Coordinator, WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program
Step 1: Select your spot
Plant your garden in well-drained soil – somewhere water doesn’t pool after it rains. Your garden should also receive 8 to 12 hours of direct sunlight each day. Your soil should have a pH balance of around 6.5. (Contact the WVU Soil Testing Laboratory at soiltesting.wvu.edu or 304-293-5375 for a free soil test.)
If you’ve grown carrots, kale or peppers before, it’s a good idea to plant your vegetables in a different space. Certain pests can linger from year to year, so replanting crops in the same spot might lead to bug problems.
Step 2: Start your bell peppers
Start your miniature bell peppers indoors about six weeks before the final spring frost, which usually occurs in mid-May in West Virginia. Put the seeds in a warm, sunny spot. Keep the soil moist but be careful not to over-water – a spray bottle works well.
Step 3: Plant your spring kale
Cold temperatures make kale sweet and tender. For a spring crop, plant seeds directly in well-drained soil three to four weeks before spring’s final frost. That means most West Virginians should plant their kale in early April.
Kale grows best in full sun, but some shade is okay. Avoid planting in soil where another member of the cabbage family grew the previous season.
Space plants 2 to 4 inches apart in rows 1½ to 2 feet apart. Cover with ¼ inch of soil. Firm the soil gently and water lightly. Seedlings should emerge in five to 10 days. Make sure they get 1 to 1½ inches of water each week.
This is a “cut and come again” crop. Harvest mature leaves from the bottom of the plant and your kale will keep producing all season long – just don’t remove more than two-thirds of the leaves at any time.
Step 4: Plant your spring carrots
Carrots require very loose soil to obtain a good shape. If the soil in your garden is hard and clay-like, it might be best to grow these in a container filled with potting soil. Choose a spot that receives full sun. Carrots can be seeded in April for a summer crop.
Sow seeds directly on top of light, loose soil, then press 1/8 inch down. Space plants 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 8 to 10 inches apart. Keep the soil moist, but water carefully. The seeds are small and light; they can get washed away with too much water. Seedlings should emerge in two to three weeks.
For the same reason carrots need loose soil, crowded carrots also will not obtain a good shape – or may not develop at all.
When the tops of carrots are 2 inches high, thin the carrots to 2 inches apart, removing smaller plants from the ground. Once the tops are several inches high, thin the plants again to 4 inches apart.
The key to a good carrot crop is even watering throughout the growing season. Harvest after two-and-a-half months. The crowns should be sticking up slightly from the ground with a diameter of about ¾ inch.
Step 5: Move peppers to the garden
Transplant a six- to eight-week old plant into your garden after the final frost. Choose your strongest seedlings and plant them in soil that receives 8 to 12 hours of sun each day. Plant ¼ inch deep, spacing seedlings 14 to 18 inches apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Peppers will be ready to harvest in about three months. Pick them when they are fully formed and their colors are fully developed.
Step 6: Plant your fall kale crop
For a fall crop, plant kale seeds directly in well-drained soil in late July. Follow directions under step 3.
Step 7: Plant your fall carrots
For a fall crop, plant carrot seeds directly in well-drained soil in early August. Follow directions under step 4.