Kanawha County Agriculture & Natural Resources
There are a variety of programs related to horticulture, agriculture and natural
resources available for the residents of West Virginia. For a complete listing
of all the information we have about
lawns, gardens and pests, visit the main Extension website. If you’re a producer,
whether with large-scale animals or vegetables for your local market, visit our
farming section for more in-depth information about agriculture.
If you’re interested in learning about the all the things that make West Virginia wild and wonderful, including information on our natural resources, follow the link to learn more.
Soil testing is the easiest and most reliable method of assessing a soil’s nutrient
status. It provides a basis for recommending the correct amount of lime and fertilizer
to apply for crops and pastures. Soil testing also allows an expert to predict
the probability of obtaining a yield or growth response to lime and fertilizer
View the video for a quick guide to soil testing or read further for more detailed
How Often to Sample
- Row crops and hayfields: Every one or two years or when crops are rotated.
- Permanent pastures: Every 3 - 4 years.
- Vegetable gardens: Every 1 - 2 years.
- Lawns and turf: Every 3 - 5 years.
West Virginia University offers free soil analysis to residents. Your county Extension agent can assist you in your effort to collect good soil samples and also to understand the results of analysis.
When to Sample
Soil samples taken in late summer and fall are better than those taken in winter through early spring because they come closer to representing the soil’s nutrient status as it affects crops. Avoid taking samples when soil is wet or frozen because it will be difficult to handle and mix them. Do not take soil samples immediately after applying lime or fertilizer; wait several months or even longer if the weather is dry.
Send samples to a soil testing laboratory well before you need the recommendations. Allow about three weeks for the samples to be processed and the results to be sent to you. Samples sent to the laboratory between March and June may take longer to process. Avoid delays by sending samples between July and December.
Where to Sample
Adequately assess the nutrients that plant roots may encounter in soils, at least five to ten randomly selected soil borings should comprise the composite sample submitted to the laboratory. Five to eight borings will be enough for small areas such as lawns and gardens. If a field is large, subdivide it into 10-acre sections and take at least 20 borings from each 10 acres (or about two to three borings per acre). In West Virginia, it is helpful to divide the field into distinct slope/soil classes and take borings within each class to make a sample. Different slope classes generally have different parent materials and different soils.
Exclude or take separate samples from areas not characteristic of the field, lawn or garden such as wet spots, eroded areas, bare spots, back furrows, field edges. When the field has several soil types or crop conditions, take separate borings for each soil type or slope class and send a separate sample for each. No single sample submitted to the laboratory should represent an area larger than 10 acres.
How to Sample
Using an auger, shovel or spade and a clean plastic pail or container, take small uniform cores or thin slices from the soil surface to the recommended depth (see the following paragraph). Gently crush the soil and mix it thoroughly, discarding any roots or stones. Do not send wet soil, but air dry it on a clean surface in a shady spot before mailing. Not only does wet soil cost more to mail, but your results also will be delayed because the laboratory must still air dry the sample. Do not heat the sample.
Send at least 1 cup (a handful) of soil to the laboratory in a plastic bag. (The
WVU soil test mailer contains a sandwich bag to fill and place in the cloth bag.)
Remember to include your name and address and other information on the sheets provided
by the laboratory.
How Deep to Sample
Sample the soil to the depth in which your crops are or will be growing.
- Permanent pastures: Remove organic debris from the soil surface; sample the top 2 inches.
- Hay fields: Remove organic debris from the soil surface; sample the top 4 to 6 inches.
- Row crops: Sample the soil to the depth of tillage.
- No-till crops: Sample the top inch and take a second sample from the depth of 1 to 6 inches.
- Vegetable gardens and planting beds: Sample the soil to tillage depth.
- Lawns and turf: Sample the top 2 inches in established lawns and turf and the top 1 to 4 inches in new turf plantings.
Reading the Results
The soil test analysis tells you if key soil elements are present in low, medium,
high, or very high levels based on the land use (garden, pasture, etc.) The results
also provide recommendations on what additives, if any, are needed to bring the
soil nutrients to an optimum level.
Kanawha Urban Ag Alliance
To support the efforts of community gardens around Kanawha County, an association has been established, the Kanawha Urban Ag Alliance. The Alliance started out as the Kanawha Community Garden Association, but growing interests have led to the designation as KUAA. All gardeners participating in community gardens and persons interested in urban agriculture are invited to attend.
Meetings are scheduled for the fourth Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the WVU Kanawha County Extension Office. Contact Jessica Hudson at 304-720-9573 for more information.
Register Your Community Garden! Are you a garden leader interested in adding your
community garden to our organization?
Kanawha County and the Charleston area are home to numerous community gardens. Community gardens are any plot of land that is gardened by a group of individuals. These gardens are a great way to give people access to healthy fresh produce and for the sharing garden knowledge between generations and cultures.
Many of the gardens around Charleston focus on producing food for non-profit organizations that feed people in need. These gardens are excellent places for individuals and groups to volunteer. Manna Meal garden is one such example.
WVU Kanawha County Extension Service provides support to groups wishing to start
new community gardens in Kanawha County. Support includes organizational development
to encourage long-term sustainability of the garden group and gardening technical
For community garden assistance, please contact Jessica Hudson.
Kanawha County Master Gardeners
The WVU Extension Master Gardener Program provides people interested in gardening with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and sharpen their skills by taking part in Basic/Level 1 and Advanced/Level 2 training programs that provide in-depth training in various aspects of horticulture.
The program helps residents better understand horticultural and environmental issues
through community engagement in gardening and beautification projects at schools,
parks, public institutions, community organizations, and locations throughout the
How do you join?
The first step is to see if your county offers the program. Many of those in West Virginia do, so even if yours doesn’t, a neighboring county may. Call your local WVU Extension Service Office for information and watch for meetings in your area.
Once you’ve found a program, you’ll get 40 hours of training during a 12-week program where you’ll learn about a variety of things including: botany, plant propagation, entomology, pesticides and pest management, plant disease, soil and fertilizers, turfgrass management, vegetable gardening, gardening equipment, tree fruits, small fruit, pruning, landscape design, woody ornamentals, indoor plants, herbaceous plants, garden animals and teaching methods.
From there, pass a test and complete 40 hours of initial volunteer work and you’ll have earned the right to call yourself a WVU Extension Master Gardener.