HOW TO TAKE A SOIL SAMPLE
• What you need: Clean plastic or metal bucket; quart-size, plastic, zip-lock bag; metal or plastic shovel (not zinc or brass).
•Dig in: Remove excess grass clippings and organic matter from top of soil. Dig a V-shape groove 6 to 8 inches into the soil for a garden test. Take one sample per 1,000 square feet for a yard; 10 or more samples from a garden or flower bed. After the samples are in the bucket, mix them well then take 1/2 to 1 pint of that soil as your test sample. Place it in the zip-lock bag.
• Mark it: Mark the zip-lock bag with your name and a short description of the sample area. Don't send wet soil; wet samples should be air-dried for best test results.
Source: Beaty's Fertilizer Plant
UT Extension Office
• Download information sheets and sampling instructions online at soilplantandpest.utk.edu/soil/index.htm. The site includes information on how to collect and mail samples to the UT Extension lab in Nashville. Soil sample boxes are available, but collecting the sample in a quart-size, zip-lock bag and mailing it in a sturdy, bubble-wrap-lined envelope will work as well.
• Pick up test results at UT Extension Office, 6183 Adamson Circle, off Bonny Oaks Drive
• $7 basic pH test, $15 basic pH test plus added minerals.
Beaty's Fertilizer Plant
• 3697 Michigan Avenue Road, off Paul Huff Parkway, Cleveland, Tenn.
• $5 basic pH test, $25 pH test with added minerals.
• Two- to three-week turnaround for test results.
Robert Hall of Apison has worked a vegetable garden about 50-by-100-feet for 50 years, but there's always something new to learn.
"I love to garden, love to learn about it. I learned something new here today about when to fertilize tomatoes," he says.
Hall was one of three dozen folks who came to Ooltewah Nursery and Landscape on a recent Saturday morning to hear Jim Yates' free advice on how to grow vegetables. The group included gardening veterans like Hall, as well as novices anticipating their first harvest.
"This will be our first garden," says Brandy Shadwick, mom of children ages 3 and 6. "I'm teaching my kids to grow plants from seeds, then we'll plant a raised-bed garden. I want them to see where their food comes from."
Here are a dozen tips shared by Yates about veggie gardening.
1 Garden location: "Choose an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. Vegetables need full sun."
2 Test the soil: "We don't have good soil around here. We need to test our soil. Once you do that and get the results back, you can get your fertilizers or whatever the test results suggest to amend your soil. Test soil every three years."
3 Growing from seeds: Using the accompanying chart, determine how far in advance you need to begin seeds in order to be ready for planting at the appropriate time before or after the last frost. Yates advises that this area's last frost usually occurs between the middle and end of April.
4 Planting: Draw an outline of your garden; keep it for crop rotation next season. Plant rows north-south. Don't till wet soil. Dig deep. Most plants are content with 6 to 8 inches of good ground for their roots to grow. But if planting root crops such as potatoes or carrots, dig to 1 foot. "For a raised bed, the taller the better; at least 1 to 2 feet of soil."
5 Companion plants: Did you know that where plants are placed in the garden can affect how well they fare? For example, beans do not like onions, don't plant them near each other. Don't plant tomatoes where peppers or eggplants were the previous year.
Yates gave out this list of companionable plants, meaning they do well when planted beside each other:
• Leeks/vine crops
6 Watering: "Always water in the morning. If you water at night and the plants don't have time to dry off, it can result in fungus or mold growth."
7 Natural pesticides: Plant flowers such as nasturtiums and marigolds among the veggies; they repel aphids and flea beetles.
8 Container gardening: Place plants in a pot by the height they will grow. Yates' choices for one pot: Kale (the tallest) in the middle, then cabbage, followed by lettuce and strawberries. Strawberries circle the outside because, as they grow, they will spill over the rim and hang down the sides.
9 Nutrients: "Feed the soil, not the plant."
10 Blueberries grow well in this climate: They need acidic soil and two different varieties must be planted so they can cross-pollinate. Yates suggested Rabbiteye as one blueberry variety. "It will get 6 to 7 feet tall."
11 Don't harvest asparagus the first year: Let it grow two years before harvesting.
12 Plant cilantro after the last frost: It needs a space in the garden where it can be harvested then let go to seed. The cilantro plant will produce a flowering stalk, with white or pink blossoms on it; later it produces coriander seeds.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.