If sending more than one sample, postage is probably cheaper if you put all of your samples in a large padded envelope or box. Several samples may fit in a flat-rate Priority Mail box. You can split the shipping cost by having friends and neighbors take samples, too.
Samples should be dry when they are sent. Wet samples have to be air-dried at the lab, which causes delays.
Deliver samples to Porter at the WVU/Kanawha County Extension Service, 4700 MacCorkle Ave. SE., suite 101, room 103, Charleston, WV 25304. Contact Porter at 304-720-9573 or John.Por...@mail.wvu.edu.
I asked Porter about the accuracy of the test kits available at garden centers.
"They may be able to give you an overall, basic evaluation of soil nutrients, but they are not as accurate as the lab tests. Since there are so many brands and types available, it is impossible to speak as to their individual accuracy.
"The benefit of getting a soil test through WVU Extension Service, which is free for all West Virginia citizens, is that it provides specific nutrient amendment application rates per 1,000 square feet (or per acre for farms), which the home test kits do not offer," he said.
Spread an inch or two of compost over your whole garden. If you don't have enough of your own, buy some from the garden center. Scratch it into the top couple of inches of soil.
Some gardeners say this isn't an effective use of compost, but when time is limited, it helps more than it hurts.
A good fall cover for your gardens will keep that soil from blowing away, and will protect any tender plants from spring freeze and thaw. An inch or two of clean straw is a good solution. Bags of chopped straw are easier to apply than regular straw bales -- wet them down to keep them from blowing away. When it starts to warm in the spring, make sure to remove this layer of protection.
Some gardeners add a fall layer of mulch to their decorative beds, blanketing them in for winter.
Last week, we featured a photo of the old A&W Root Beer stand in a note about a garden event happening at Forren Soil, located on the site of the old restaurant. I received an email from Jerry Waters, who hand-colored the photo and has it on his website, www.mywvhome.com. Thanks for the information, Jerry!
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.