Once again it is time to start thinking about home gardening and all the fun we are going to have out there when/if spring comes.
URI Master Gardeners have once again set up their free Soil Testing/Gardening Information Kiosk at Paradise Valley Park in Middletown. We will be there from 11-1 every Saturday (rain or shine) from now until the end of September. You can reach Paradise Valley Park by going south on Aquidneck Avenue, taking a left on Prospect Avenue and go down the hill to the Middletown Historical Society's Museum and windmill. We will be set up in the parking lot. Come see us with a soil test, plant, weed or insect id or other gardening questions.
URI Master Gardener Hall of Famers Lucy Huggins and Jim Garman have returned to Paradise Valley Park each Saturday to do soil tests and answer gardening questions. We have a combined total of over 7,000 volunteer hours in the URI Master Gardener program. As we begin this season (and wait for Spring to come) it is the best time of the year to get your soil tested.
For the homeowner as well as the gardener(s) in the family, a soil pH and texture test will provide an excellent base for lawn care, flower gardens and vegetable gardens. A soil test will enable the homeowner make any timely adjustments to improve the quality of their soil.
The procedure for taking a soil sample are as follows:
1. Use a clean trowel and take a sample of the soil at root level (3-4" for lawn and 5-8" for vegetables).
2.Do not sample recenttly fertilized, limed or very wet soil.
3. You may bring one or more samples if you wish. Take approximately one cup of soil and spread it on a piece of newspaper to dry overnight.
4. Put the soil in a paper or plastic bag. Write your name and type of plants to grow in the soil and bring it to us.
Normally, because most Rhode Island soil is acidic, it is often necessary to add lime to improve the soil's quality. Improved soil will enhance the lawn and provide additional nutrients for the flowers and vegetables. Generally, unlimed soil here has a pH in the range of 5.4 to 5.6. This is due to natural conditions as well as the acid rain that we get. Adding lime to the soil at a rate not to exceed 50 lbs. per 1,000 square feet will raise the pH over time approximately .5, often enough to put your soil into ther ideal range of 6.2 to 6.8 for lawns and most crops.
Some crops (peas, potatoes, spinach and especially blueberries and strawberries) like a lower pH. These crops can be planted at this time. Actually they should have already been planted. Each crop that you plant has a different pH range and that information can be provided for you.
As for lawn, there are many factors that can contribute to a poor quality lawn. Low soil pH, compaction, insufficient moisture, too much shade or too much sun all can negatively affect your lawn.
So bring soil samples, weed samples and all your gardening and lawn care problems to us at Paradise Valley Park and we will do our best to help you solve those problems.
Feel free to ask questions at the end of this blog or on our gardening information email address: email@example.com. See you at Paradise Valley Park in Middletown.
P.S. All URI Master Gardeners are today saddened by the death of one of our own. Dave Hughes of Portsmouth was a very thoughtful and serious URI Master Gardener. He was also an outstanding teacher and all of us learned a great deal from his lectures as well as from our casual conversations with Dave. He will be much missed by me and by all URI Master Gardeners.