CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Clean it up now and you'll be a happy gardener in the spring. That's what I've said every fall, and this year I seem to be ahead of the game. Maybe it's that empty nest.
Here's a short list of four garden chores (all starting with C -- how convenient!) that will make your spring garden a much nicer place.
Dead plants and small piles of garden waste are great hiding places for bad bugs. Clean them up, tossing them onto the compost pile, roots and all.
Store your tomato cages and clean out those decorative pots, putting them in a safe place away from the elements, if possible.
Rinse hand tools, dry thoroughly, and apply a light coat of oil to all metal parts. Store them off the ground and away from the elements. Check the blades and sharpen or replace them.
Hone and maintain the sharp edge of all cutting tools with a medium-grit sharpening stone. Most digging tools aren't sold sharpened, so you should sharpen them from the start. File the working edge to a 45-degree bevel with a coarse file, according to the experts at True Value. They also recommend wiping a dry handle down with a heavy coat of linseed oil at the end of the season to rejuvenate and protect the wood over the winter months.
Remove the fuel from your mowers, trimmers and chain saws before storing. Don't just dump it -- run the motor until it runs out of gas. Remove the batteries from your riding mowers and tractors.
Check the pH of your soil. John Porter, WVU/Kanawha County extension agent, has a deal for you!
"Folks can either stop by the office and pick up a packet with the information and a mailer envelope or they can visit our website and print off the appropriate paperwork and get instructions there. The soil testing page (with links to a how-to video) is at http://kanawha.ext.wvu.edu/agriculture/soiltest.
"To encourage folks to get their soil tests done in the fall, which is the correct time of year to sample, I will make the following offer: I will accept soil samples at the extension office until Sept. 26 and will transport them to the lab free of charge," Porter said. He offers these basic steps for soil testing: