With the garden beds ready to go, you're ready for a successful growing season.
Tips for fixing soil
When it comes to fixing up soil, Suzie Bryant, the garden center manager at Valley Gardens, 1109 Piedmont Road, recommended adding organic matter, such as compost, and tilling it into the top 6 inches of the soil.
"I think that makes a huge difference," she said.
However, Bryant said she was partial to a particular kind of compost.
"We prefer mushroom compost," she said. "We sell that here, but you can buy it in bags or get it in bulk."
Bryant said mushroom compost is basically horse manure taken from stables and broken down into a soil-like product that's very rich in nutrients.
"It makes a wonderful organic matter," she said. "I've had some customers with raised beds who say they can plant straight into it. They've filled their raised beds with the stuff."
The Valley Gardens garden center manager advised small, neighborhood gardeners to try raised beds, but to be careful about the soil they use. She said gardeners want good topsoil, which can be fixed with organic matter like the mushroom compost. What they don't want is straight-up store-bought soil, the kind usually purchased in big, plastic bags.
"That's not soil at all," she said. "That's something synthetic."
Bryant said soil tests make sense because it can vary from place to place, due to a whole host of factors, including what's growing nearby.
While not every kind of plant is particularly sensitive to the pH balance of the ground, many are.
"Flowers and vegetable gardens are like your lawn. They like neutral soil."
Neutral soil, she said, has a balanced pH of 7. Below 7 is acidic; above 7 is alkaline.
However some flowers, like azaleas and rhododendrons, and some fruits, like blueberries, prefer more acidic soil.
"You add sulfur or peat moss to make it more acidic," Bryant said.
For soil that's too acidic, most people use lime, she said.
"It really doesn't hurt to get your soil tested."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.