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Native soil: WVU Extension continues class offerings

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Oct 16, 2020

A soil sample should be taken from a minimum of four to six inches below the surface in a garden space. Courtesy photo

CHARLES TOWN — The newest offering by the West Virginia University Extension office is a virtual class about soil testing.

Soil testing is vital to any crop or plant, and determines if the nutrients in a specific soil are at an adequate level for the growth of various plants. Nutritional needs from soil vary, depending upon the type of plant. For example, plants like soybeans and clover fixate nitrogen into the soil, while corn is a heavy user of nitrogen. The soil test allows the grower to find a happy medium and apply the correct amount and type of nutrients needed.

According to the WVU Extension Office, fall is the best time to take a soil sample. If a soil has a low pH, it needs lime to be added to it, and fall is the best time to apply the lime so it has enough time to react with the soil before a new crop is planted in the spring. Waiting until the early spring, just before the planting season begins, to add nutrients to soil is less effective than doing so in the fall, as the ground may still be frozen and not allow enough time for added nutrients to take hold.

For those seeking to establish greener grass or better gardens, the first step is to obtain a soil test. It is a simple process. The main thing to remember is that the sample is meant to represent the average of the lawn, garden or field.

With that in mind, one should use a small garden spade or soil sampling probe, if available, and take at least 10 samples across the entire area to be tested. For lawns and pastures, the sample should be taken between two and four inches deep, while a garden sample should be taken from six to eight inches below the surface. For those taking a sample of a larger field, move across in a random pattern, avoiding spaces that may skew the results, such as shady spots or spots along fence rows.

Once gathered, the soil samples should be mixed together. Any rocks, roots or other plant material should be removed from it, before it is allowed to rest and air dry. The soil testing can then be conducted free through the WVU lab, with postage being the only expense. Visit soiltesting.wvu.edu to get the test information and mailing instructions.

To learn more about the soil test and how to complete it, one can log into a free lunch and learn webinar on Tuesday, from noon to 1 p.m. To register, call the WVU Extension office at 304-728-7413, ext. 2 or visit the website at www.extension.wvu.edu/Jefferson for an online registration form.

In addition to the soil testing information, the office is offering a six-part online short course called Annie’s Project to teach female farmers and agribusiness owners more about holistic business planning and risk management.

The course is in a flexible, virtual format. Though it began Oct. 12, the course is a self-paced, independent study, with modules released every month through April. The online course will be accompanied by monthly virtual meet-ups, November through April, which will include various learning opportunities.

From managing finances and taxes to diversifying operations and exploring specialty projects, this educational program has something to offer every female farmer at an affordable price. The cost is only $15, which includes access to the virtual meet-up meetings each month. Visit the extension office website to register.

One additional offering through the local WVU Extension office is the Dining with Diabetes series. The popular series, provided jointly by the Extension and WVU Medicine, is returning in a virtual format, offering courses on healthy meal planning, exercise, nutrition and medical information. The courses will be offered via Zoom in four Tuesday morning sessions on Oct. 27, Nov. 3, Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. Participants are expected to attend all four classes. Registration for the Dining with Diabetes classes can be done online at extension.wvu.edu/Berkeley/family-community or by calling 304-264-1936 or 304-728-7413.