How can you improve your garden this spring?

Start with $15 nutrient test with UT Institute of Agriculture, attend free organic workshop in April.
Start with $15 nutrient test with UT Institute of Agriculture, attend free organic workshop in April.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 3:25 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:24 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tempting juicy tomatoes and a bounty of green beans in your garden later this year start with work you do now from the ground up. Experts at the University of Tennessee’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center - Organic Crops Unit recommend you try testing your soil just like they do at UT’s organic farm.

“If you’re missing one of those major nutrients in particular, you might have just not as good of a harvest,” said Internship Coordinator Samantha Flowers at the Organic Crops Unit. Flowers said the basic $15 nutrient test the lab in Nashville can do for gardeners will determine amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in a soil sample.

“That’s going to tell you your big three nutrients, some of the micronutrients, your pH and a few other things. It’s going to have detailed descriptions of how to improve your garden soil based on those results.” Flowers suggested starting with one sample from the entire garden, or focusing on the area for a favorite crop like tomatoes.

UT Plant Sciences Professor David Butler explained that soil test results are instrumental in helping you decide what to use for amending the soil. Organic farming and gardening can rely on a variety of natural alternatives to synthetic fertilizers. These can include animal byproducts, cured manures, cover crops and vegetable peelings from your kitchen. “All the waste that you produce in the kitchen, the vegetable waste would make quite a bit of compost,” said Butler. “Composts are great because they have both organic matter which helps the soil properties. But it also releases nutrients that your plants will take up and use during the season.”

Both Butler and Flowers say it’s not too early to send off your soil samples and start preparing the area where you plan to grow food this sprig. Free demonstrations and advice are all part of the Organic Farming and Gardening Field Day planned for 9:00 am on April 28.

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