Back to Garden Basics
The WVU Extension Service Garden Calendar is produced and distributed each year as a service to West Virginia’s many home gardeners and agricultural producers. The annual calendar is just one of many meaningful projects, programs and outreach efforts provided by WVU Extension Service throughout West Virginia’s 55 counties.
If you have gardening questions or want more information, please contact your county’s WVU Extension Service office.Download the 2019 Garden Calendar Get a Garden Calendar at Your Local County Office
This PDF download is provided as a convenience for printing the document at home.
The WVU Extension Service is committed to providing reasonable accommodations upon request.
Fresh from the Garden Calendar
Gardening with Limited Water
Depending on where you garden, water may be a limited resource. Or perhaps you wish to be more resource conscious and reduce waste. Regardless, there are strategies for you to use in your garden that can significantly lower your water needs.
Soils high in organic matter tend to have higher water-holding capacity. Think of your soil as the largest water container you’ll ever own. Maintaining healthy soil high in organic matter allows the container to hold the water both you and Mother Nature add.
Seed Saving Basics
Many homeowners can probably remember seeing their grandparents save seeds from the garden to plant the following year. This practice skipped a couple of generations, but now that people are more interested in growing their own food, seed saving is popular once again.
For the best results, use seeds from your healthiest plants with well-formed leaves and fruit. Collect only fully mature seeds so the embryo will be able to survive the drying process. Fine mesh bags work universally well for collecting seeds and seed structures.
Methods That Prevent Garden Pests
When insect pest control is necessary, try the safest alternatives first. Removing insects by hand or pruning infested plant parts are often the simplest and safest ways to prevent the buildup of pest populations and their damage.
Other alternatives to chemical control, such as sanitation measures and exclusion techniques, can be effective depending on the insect pest you are targeting. Removing materials that provide shelter or moisture for an insect pest can be an effective way to reduce its presence.
Creating a Pollinator Haven in your Yard and Garden
Pollinators are vital to the reproductive success of more than 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Hummingbirds, moths, bees, beetles, flies and butterflies are some of the common pollinators found in West Virginia.
Pollination happens when pollen grains from a flower’s male parts (anthers) are moved to the female parts (stigmas) of the same species and fertilization occurs, producing fruit and/or seeds. While wind and water can move pollen for some plants, most depend on pollinators to move it from one flower to the next. Crops, like tomatoes, peas and beans, are self-pollinating, but they still have to be shaken by the wind or need bees to release the pollen inside flowers. Other crops, like melons, cucumbers and squash, are entirely dependent on pollinators for fertilization, because they have separate male and female flowers. Without pollination, most fruits and vegetables will not set fruit, have incomplete or misshapen fruit or have a low yield.
Trellising Made Simple
An ideal way to conserve space in the garden is to train vegetables, flowers and fruits to grow upright using a trellis. In addition to saving space, they allow more light for photosynthesis; higher quality crops; less disease and insect damage; easier harvesting; and more fruit crops that require pollinators for cross pollination.
Have you ever tried traditional gardening, only to have your garden fail year after year? Or maybe you don’t have the best space or enough time for a full-size garden? Container gardening could be just the solution you’re looking for.
Square Foot Gardening
Would you like to grow vegetables but don’t have the time or space for a large garden? You might want to consider square foot gardening.
Using this system, you can grow enough vegetables for one person in a garden that is 4 feet by 4 feet in size. This technique uses a box or frame made from 2-by-6 untreated boards, cinder blocks, bricks or a similar material. The constructed 4-by-4 frame results in 16 square feet of garden space. Expand the garden to 8 feet by 4 feet for two people, 12 feet by 4 feet for three people, etc. The 4-foot width is desired so you can easily reach halfway across the bed from either side to avoid stepping into it and compacting the soil.
Companion planting is the practice of growing several different types of crops within close proximity of each other to enhance crop production. Interplanting, the practice of planting different crops between one another, is especially ideal for small gardens to maximize space and improve productivity.
Planting fruits and vegetables with flowers, herbs or other vegetables can provide
a number of valuable natural resources to your garden. However, when planning out your garden, consideration needs to be taken to ensure
you’re growing supporting plants next to one another rather than competing
plants. For instance, onions and beans should not be interplanted. Though
onions repel pests for many other crops, it will stunt the growth of beans.
Companion planting can help your garden thrive and be beneficial to plant mates. It can help deter harmful pests, provide support for crops, improve soil quality, offer shade to smaller plants, provide weed suppression and attract beneficial insects to your garden. The scents and bright colors of herbs and flowers confuse harmful pests and attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
Building Garden Soil
When planning the garden of your dreams, the best place to start is underfoot – with the soil. A healthy soil is alive with the right kinds of organisms and rich with nutrients, making it the key to a successful garden.
If you’re lucky, you may live on a piece of property that already has a fertile soil. However, you’ll more than likely need to put forth a little work to get a nice, healthy soil.
Choosing a Garden Site
Selecting the right garden site can mean the difference between a rewarding experience with healthy, productive plants or one that brings trouble with stressed plants, diseases and insect problems. Examine your site and assess your abilities in order to best place a garden. Think about how far you will travel to get to the garden and how much time you can invest in maintaining it. It is much more rewarding to have a small productive garden close by, than a large garden out of sight that gets away from you.
Start by sketching the property. Note locations of buildings, hose bibs, septic fields, sidewalks, trees and any other significant items. Think about how each of these things could impact your garden site. For example, sidewalks that are de-iced in the winter can cause toxic buildups of salts in nearby soils, damaging sensitive garden plants. Also, tree roots live in the top 6 to 10 inches of soil and tilling through them to install a garden may kill your tree.
Basics of Succession Planting
Do you want to get the most out of your garden? Try succession planting. Most gardeners believe succession planting means after one crop is harvested, another is planted in the same space immediately. This is true, but combined with careful preparation and planning, succession planting not only will produce more food and extend the amount of time each variety is available for harvest, it also maximizes garden space, improves yield and quality, and provides a continuous supply of fresh vegetables over a longer period of time.
The easiest and most common method is to make several smaller plantings of the same crop at timed intervals, rather than all at once. Quick maturing vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce and other salad greens, are common crops for this technique and are generally planted at two-week intervals. If the weather cooperates, your crop will mature at staggered dates and supply a continuous harvest over an extended period. Variety selection within a certain crop is also important to get an early start or lengthen the growing season. Some varieties perform better in cool/warm weather as well as mature at different times.
Season Extension with Low Tunnels
In West Virginia, the first fall frost usually marks the end of the growing season. However, there are many ways to garden almost year-round. One economical method used to extend the season is low tunnel technology.
Low tunnels allow producers to achieve a four-season garden by creating a protected environment over crops. In the fall while mild temperatures still prevail, low tunnels can be used to raise the average daily temperature, and they also protect crops from low temperature injury and offer wind protection during the winter. The mini-greenhouses provide the means for producers to grow cool-season vegetables and hardy root crops well into the winter months.
What is Perennial Gardening?
Home gardens are typically thought of as an annual project, but perennial gardening allows for a single, one-time planting with a harvest of produce year after year.
When selecting a location for perennial crops, choose an area that will be undisturbed with well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. The outer area of a current garden or in raised beds works well.
Putting the Garden to Bed
Putting the garden to bed in fall is the first step to a successful garden the following spring.
Make a record of the current planting sites in your garden. Crop rotation is key to preventing diseases and pests, and also builds soil fertility. Make a map or video noting where things were planted and problems you experienced.
Fall & Winter Crops in High Tunnels
As fall approaches, most people think that harvesting fresh food is coming to an end; however, if you have a high tunnel, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Planting fall and winter crops in a high tunnel requires some preplanning. You must also be willing to pull some end-of year summer plants in order to plant crops that are ideal for cooler temperatures, like spinach, kale or carrots.
Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens
This time of year not only brings juicy ripe tomatoes and sweet corn bursting with flavor to the dinner table, but it’s also when we come together as communities and celebrate fairs all across the state. The largest of these gatherings in the state, the State Fair of West Virginia, takes place in Fairlea every August. Over 100,000 people come through the gates to take part in the festivities. Many come for the entertainment while others come for their favorite food. One thing is for certain though, the West Virginia University Extension Master Gardeners demonstration garden shouldn’t be missed.
The garden is an example of what the Master Gardener program brings to this state. In 2003, the newly formed Greenbrier Valley Master Gardeners joined into a partnership with the Fair to establish the 50 foot by 50 foot perennial plot. Now it’s blossomed into eight gardens and a high tunnel for fairgoers to enjoy. As you make your way down the path, you will pass by flowers of every variety abuzz with wild pollinators racing to get that fresh nectar and pollen from the new flowers each morning. Guests who visit the garden each year marvel at the beauty and detail, and they get ideas on how to bring that beauty back to their own backyards and communities.
Home Canning Methods
Would you like to brighten up winter with the taste of garden tomatoes? Are you having trouble using peppers from your garden before they spoil or running out of room in your freezer for all the green beans? Home canning is a great way to enjoy food from your garden year-round and make good use of your harvest.
Being a tradition that is passed down through generations, you may have learned how to can from your parents or grandparents. If you are new to canning, you will likely receive advice; however, keep in mind that not all advice is good advice.
Harvesting Crops for Market
A market gardener’s goal should be to run the operation as a business and to make a profit. Just as a home gardener plans their garden plot, a market gardener should plan for marketing crops prior to planting. While a marketing plan helps, it does not guarantee that what is planted will be sold. But, it can help eliminate wasted time, space, crops and money.
Market gardening typically targets local markets, although innovative marketers will eventually expand to other venues.
Community gardens grow stronger communities by helping neighbors work together in a fun, beautiful and tasty way.
Wheeling is home to at least seven community gardens and each has a different structure and goal.
There has been a renewed interest in teaching our youth how food is grown. Since 2013, the Putnam County garden-based learning program has garnered the attention of others in the community and has expanded to now include six elementary schools, reaching over 1,700 students.
The program, funded by four grants from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and support from local businesses and organizations, allows for the installation of school gardens using high tunnels.
Youths Learn from Transplant Production
In-school gardens are a beneficial educational learning tool that covers a range of topics, such as germination, transplant care, spacing and nutrient requirements. Extension agents partner with teachers to implement gardening directly into their classroom curriculum.
In Jackson County, there are several raised bed gardens that are utilized as outdoor classrooms. Students begin the production process by seeding in the classroom or greenhouse. Then, students transplant them directly into the raised beds, which are equipped with low tunnels allowing the plants to get an early start.
Deep Winter Vegetable Production
High tunnels are plastic-covered, solar greenhouses that can be used year-round for vegetable production. The low temperature and light of winter is a challenge for gardeners, but there is an opportunity to grow and market throughout the winter in many regions of West Virginia using high tunnels, which can be constructed and operated at a fraction of the cost of greenhouse production.
Root vegetables are able to be harvested or overwintered from October to April in high tunnels. Root vegetables grown in winter are very nutrient dense and have optimal sweetness from the cold growing conditions. They also adapt to the progressively lower temperatures and light during winter.
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