Thinking About Starting a Vegetable Garden This Season in West Virginia? Here Are Some Tips To Get Started
Those first sixty degree days in March always seems to trigger the inner gardener in all of us! As the sun climbs higher and temperatures start to rise in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, now is the time to plan your vegetable garden. Here are some ideas:
Build a hothouse for your tomatoes
Want to be the first in the neighborhood with red tomatoes at the end of May? Well, there’s a simple process to get delicious tomatoes to your table.
First, start your tomatoes indoors in mid-to late-February. Simply place the seeds of your favorite tomato plant in a pot, and cover with soil and water. Once mid-March rolls around, the young tomato plants are ready to transfer to the garden.
After you transfer, you will need to protect the plants during the unpredictable and fluctuating temperatures in the Eastern Panhandle. The best way to do this is to make a hothouse, which, in effect, simulates a greenhouse and can be done in under five minutes. All you need is a tomato cage and some plastic wrap.
Take the plastic wrap and start from the top. Wrap around the wire cage taking care to overlap about ½ of the width of the plastic wrap. Work your way down and then back up to the top. Leave about 8” on the bottom where the cage gets stuck into the ground.
After you’re done wrapping, press the panels together to iron out seams and air between the two layers, as well as help the plastic adhere to the wire. Position the cage over the plant – and be careful not to damage the leaves. You might need to help the leaves into the middle section while covering.
For chillier nights and days make sure you cover the top with something like a heavy plate to keep the plants nice and cozy. Remove the plate on warmer days to allow the sun and warm temperatures to reach the plant. By late May, you’ll be able to add your tomatoes to pasta sauces and salads! Photo credit: Liz West
Raise your bed
A good garden is often constructed in raised beds. Why? Good drainage and ample soft soil for roots and in-ground vegetables to grow. Raised beds can be made simply with concrete wall stones or with wood. If using wood, stay away from pressure treated products because, while they are rated for ground contact, you don’t want the chemicals potentially leaching into the soil and into your vegetables. Cedar works well for such applications.
A raised bed also makes it easier to create a barrier to keep your favorite fuzzy critters from snacking on your hard earned work. Simple stakes and stapled netting work very well and can easily be removed to work in the garden at your convenience.
The picture on the right shows a repurposed dresser being used as a raised garden bed. Photo credit: Mazaletel
Don’t chuck it, compost it!
Anything you put down your garbage disposal as well as plant waste can be used to compost. Composting is easy and provides nutrients to growing plants and increases the ability of the soil to control water.
Making your composting bin is easy. Simply drive four stakes in the ground then wrap with mesh. Items you can throw into your compost bin include coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit peels, vegetable tops, and tea leaves.
The key to keeping the microorganisms active for fast decay is to keep the composting material moist but not soggy, and by adding a nitrogen fertilizer like manure or commercial fertilizer.
Once your peat-like humus is ready, simply mix it into approximately twelve inches of soil. Your plants will be very happy and reward you with great tasting vegetables! Photo credit: Kessner Photography
Vegetable gardens can save you hundreds of dollars off your yearly food bill. They also can produce tasty and very nutritious vegetables.
Linda Kilroy is an experienced real estate agent in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties of West Virginia. Many of the houses she’s helped buy and sell in Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, and Inwood are perfect for a new vegetable garden. Contact her today to find the perfect home – and future garden plot – for your family!