Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Your Garden in Shape for the Season

It’s sure been a wet spring this year. Our state climatologist, Jim Noel, told us on a conference call last week that April this year will have about normal precipitation followed by a dry May. With those conditions we will hopefully get away from some of the diseases that have been plaguing our gardens the past few years. This past weekend I was back home in Milan at a friend’s house and his mother wondered how to get their garden ready for the season. I figured I’d share some of the tips I passed along.

First thing is to write a list of what will be in the garden this year. How a garden is managed depends on what will be planted. For example when deciding what pH you should aim for in your garden is dependent upon what fruits and vegetables you want to grow. If you are planting rhubarb the optimum pH range is 6.8 to 7.0. For squash the optimum pH is 6.5. Once you have your list generated you need to arm yourself with information. Visit and click on yard and garden to find all the publications you could ever dream of, for free, on how to properly manage your garden. Here you will find fact sheets on all of our commonly grown fruits and vegetables. Also keep an eye on to see the current Buckeye Yard and Garden Newsletter for current information on what insects, diseases, and weeds are being seen across the state.

Once you have information on the plants you want to grow it’s time to get information on the soil you will grow them in. Soil sampling is the only way to know exactly how much lime you need to correct soil pH and how much fertilizer you need to apply to grow great crops without over applying. Over application of fertilizers on lawns and gardens can have an impact on our waterways by supplying excess nutrients that promote growth of algae and cyanobacteria. For instructions on the dos and don’ts of soil testing and a list of labs to submit samples to search on the Ohio Line website for ‘soil testing’ and click on the first publication – HYG 1132. This will get you the information you need to find out exactly what your plants need.

I had a professor in college who said 90% of our corn management is done by the time the seed goes in the ground. This holds mostly true for our fruit and vegetable crops too, they just require a little more management after being planted. Disease management actually begins before we put a seed in the ground. Different cultivars of a fruit or vegetable plant vary in their resistance to a disease. An example with strawberries is the cultivar Kent which is very susceptible to the disease powdery mildew, where the cultivar Redchief is resistant. Many of our factsheets have tables showing resistance to common diseases. If they are not listed the manufacturer may be able to get you the information you need. Scour the packaging for their contact information but be prepared to be transferred a few times and sit on hold for a few minutes. Those five minutes will be worth the effort though.

Once your garden is planned it’s time to get prepared for the rest of the season. Take a look in the garage or shed and see what chemicals you may have at your disposal. If you have fungicides, herbicides and pesticides that are more than a year or two old you should consider replacing them. These chemicals have a shelf life like any other product we purchase. Also find your pruners, knives and hoe and make sure they have a sharp edge. It’s hard to get a clean slice on a weed just above the soil surface with a hoe if you have a dull edge. A little preparedness when starting a garden can benefit you throughout the season. As always if you have any questions contact Justin Petrosino at the OSU Extension, Darke County Office at (937) 548-5215 or

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