PARKERSBURG - The end of summer on Saturday didn't mean the end of gardens.
A fall garden planted in August or September usually consists of greens such as lettuce and spinach. Broccoli and onions can be planted early in the season, and last through freezes and other harsh weather, said John David Johnson, agriculture and natural resources extension educator with the West Virginia University Extension Service for Jackson County.
According to the 2007 census, West Virginia has 3,697,606 acres of farm land, with 88,991 acres in Wood County. The value of agriculture products sold during 2007 was $3,536,000.
Photo by Mandi Cardosi
John Sheets, of Parkersburg, explains his Maypop plants, the flowers and what the fruits can be used for.
The first step in creating a successful personal garden is placement, Johnson said.
Vegetable-growers should make sure the plot of land chosen gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day. The next steps in the process should be making sure the area is well drained, and he recommends taking a soil sample.
"We eat vegetables to get their nutrients," he said. "They (vegetables) get nutrients from the soil, so we (gardeners) need to know what nutrients to add to the soil."
Some easy and inexpensive ideas for planting include corn and tomatoes. Planting these vegetables is easier if the tomatoes are the disease tolerant ones, also a healthier and heartier option. Corn is also an easy vegetable to plant and care for. Potatoes require more maintenance, as growers should make sure to keep potato bugs away and make sure they are getting attention, and being watered often.
Johnson said in preparation for summer months, vegetables that can be planted include tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and beans. Some of these can be planted as early as March and the spring months, but they are most likely to succeed in warmer months.
The extension offices in the area offer master gardening classes. In these classes, people are taught how to maintain a garden with the aid of a community garden, located near the extension office. Johnson said the good thing about the plot being located on the grounds is not only can people call him with questions, he can respond to their needs immediately.
"We are here to help," he said. "I like to offer a list of producers, or encourage them (people who don't grow their own vegetables) to go to the farmers market."
Edelen Wood, a Parkersburg resident and nationally recognized expert on wild foods, took the Wood County Master Gardeners course. An author and president of the National Wild Foods Association, she is most interested in what grows naturally.
"I myself am a wild food person," said Wood. "Things that come up in the garden, I value as extra food."
Wood said when tomatoes, peppers and potatoes come up in her garden, she is excited but she likes when edible grains and various uncommonly used wild greens pop up as well.
"I had a project where I was trying to find 40 commonly used wild herbs, like peppermint," she said. "I planted 40 different kinds, went out in the wild and tried to find the equivalent, which I did."
Wood said she planted the wild herbs next to the cultivated ones and the two did not pair well together. The wild plants grew in various locations in her garden, while the cultivated ones only took up the space she initially planted them.
When Wood was attending the course she noticed others wanting to add their own twist to what they learned.
"In the back of my mind I had my own spin on what I expect a garden to be," she said.
John Sheets, a fellow Master Gardener, received the Wood County Master Gardener Award a couple of years ago for his growing of a wild flower called Maypop. Wood persuaded Sheets to make jelly and a punch-type drink from the fruit, that usually ripens in the fall.
Sheets and Wood are both yearly participants in the Nature Wonder Wildfood Weekend, held this past weekend for the 45th year at North Bend State Park. Over the years, the event has chronicled the growing interest and national awareness of free food given by the land.