Gardening season is upon us. Although we are several weeks from planting many crops, some cool season crops such as radishes, turnips, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas, among others, can be planted now, or very soon.
If you start your own transplants from seed, for vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, they can be started now indoors.
Remember, warm season crops need warm soil temperatures (mid 50s) to germinate as seeds and frost free nights to survive as plants.
Crops in this category include corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, and eggplant.
If you haven’t had a soil test on your garden recently, I would recommend taking one now. If you take one now, you can get the results back in a couple of weeks, which is still plenty of time to add lime or other amendments.
West Virginia University stills offers soil tests free of charge, with your only cost being the postage to get the sample to the lab in Morgantown. Most other states now charge for soil samples.
I have observed of the years that many garden samples are very high in the major soil nutrients, those being phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. When a garden is in the same location for many years, as most are, a lot of nutrients are added annually in various forms.
Nutrients are added in the form of fertilizers, green manure from cover crops, compost, animal manures, organic mulches, and maybe even crop residues. In most gardens, the crops harvested do not remove as many nutrients as are added, therefore, there is a buildup over time.
This is not a problem unless the levels get extremely high, then it can be counterproductive.
This is one area where a soil test can help. If soil nutrient levels are already very high, adding more nutrients (fertilizer) will not help. The only nutrient which may be beneficial is nitrogen. Keep in mind that nitrogen is somewhat volatile and is not included in a normal soil test.
It needs to be supplied annually. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a synthetic fertilizer, organic fertilizer, or a legume cover crop. If your soil test levels are high in every other area and the soil pH in the proper range (6.2-6.4), then nitrogen is the only other nutrient needed.
Soil test mailing kits are available at the Extension Office. A few 2018 garden calendars are also still available.