Sunday, June 17th, 2007...6:58 am

Veggie Garden Help


TheGardenLady received this question from Carrie.

This is the second year that I have tried to grow a veggie garden in south east Washington.  The location is the previous owners’ garden location.  I know I have plenty of water and fertilizer but my plants still insist on being small and not very impressive.  I’m running out of ideas.  How can I improve my garden?

The first thing you must do to help answer your gardening problem is to get a soil test. This will give you the most important answer to what is causing problems in your veggie garden. Every good gardener or farmer has his soil tested every few years. And even if someone had success with their garden, soil needs amendments every few years to bring it up to its optimum level.

How do you get a soil test? The easiest answer is to go to your local Master Gardener Office (some of the phone numbers can be found here or at your state agricultural extension office-call them and they will probably tell you to go to the Master Gardener Office which is really part of the state agricultural extension- and buy a soil testing kit. This kit will cost you just a few dollars- in TheGardenLady’s state the kit cost less than $15.  The people selling you the kit will tell you how to use the kit plus the instructions are in the kit for you to review when you get home and are doing the work.

TheGardenLady will also tell you what you do. You take the kit home. Get a bucket and go out to the veggie garden. Now you dig some of the soil in different parts of the site where you are going to make your vegetable garden. Do not dig in just one place, but dig soil from all different parts of the veggie garden.  TheGardenLady repeats: Take soil from ONLY where you want to plant the vegetables, not from the lawn or where you are having your flower garden.  But take soil from different parts of that vegetable garden site.

Put all  the soil you are digging into the bucket. Then mix it up- use your gloved hand. You want all that soil mixed together from all the digging you did in different parts of your vegetable garden. Then take the kit and put as much of that mixed soil as you can get into the tiny bag in the kit- it will just be about a fistful. No weeds or plants please. Return the rest of the soil from the bucket to your garden- you don’t need much soil but you want it mixed so that the sample is from all over the garden. Be sure the soil is dry when you put it into the soil kit bag. Fill out the label on the kit with whatever information  is requested and be sure you have your return address on the kit. Put postage on the kit and mail it to your state extension office- their address will be on the kit. Depending on when you send the kit in will determine when you get the answer; if it is a busy time of year for soil testing, of course, it will be slower getting your kit analysed.  In a week or so, you will get a detailed response about what your soil is lacking and what you need to do to amend it. If you do not understand what you have to do or what the response means, go back to the Master Gardener office and volunteers will explain what you have to do.  Without knowing what your soil needs, you are just guessing when you put out fertilizer or plant plants. Most vegetable plants need the same kind of soil but some vegetable plants might have specialized needs. 

Good luck with your test. Let TheGardenLady know the outcome of your test and what you had to do to amend the soil.  If you still have problems, TheGardenLady can write about the special needs of the vegetable plants you plant.

You should get a soil test kit and the soil tested for each different area of your property. Then you will know how to get the soil to its optimum level for what you are growing. For example you should also have your lawn area tested or your flower garden area tested. A separate kit for each area should be used.

PS – If you live in Washington State, that is the state that started the Master Gardener program thirty years ago.

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