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Test It!

If you want to start your garden right, learn what your soil needs for plants to thrive

Why are you so hesitant to have your soil tested?
    Now that spring is here, interest in gardening is on the rise. No matter where I go, people approach me with gardening problems. Most are directly associated with nutrient deficiencies in their soils.

How to Prune Raspberries and Blackberries

I know how to prune raspberries, but I’m not so sure about blackberries. I would appreciate it if you would enlighten me.
   –Barbie Walter, via email

When pruning blackberries, remove the canes that produced fruit last year. Then select no more than three new canes, removing all others, and prune their lateral branches to within three buds from the main cane.
    With raspberries, leave the strongest new canes, allowing six to eight inches space between each.
    Mulch with compost after pruning both berries.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

Gardening through the Seasons

Fans of The Bay Gardener will want the bound volume of his wisdom. Enough Said: A Guide to Gardening Through the Seasons, compiled by the Annapolis Horticulture Society, is on sale for $20 at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian and at Grauel’s Office Supplies in Deale. For direct orders — DR.FRGouin@gmail.com — add $6 postage. The Bay Gardener will inscribe your book and send it by return mail.

    For the past three years, the same gentleman has asked me to recommend the proper fertilizer to use in his vegetable garden to correct hollow hearts of broccoli, small and soft tomatoes and peppers, poor yields from his potato planting and few snap beans on his plants. Each year I recommend that he have his soil tested.
    Finally, he asked to borrow my soil auger. With it I gave him instructions on how to take and submit a soil sample. But why, I asked, was he taking my advice this year? His wife refused to can tomatoes and beans last year because they were of such poor quality.
    I had a sneaky suspicion what his soil problem was, but I did not anticipate how bad the situation was. His phosphorus and potassium levels were so high that the soil-testing laboratory had to make a second dilution to determine the levels. There were only traces of boron present. The soil pH was ideal for growing blueberries and azaleas — not vegetables.
    My recommendations were to apply a half-pound of Solu-bor per 1,000 square feet to supply boron. Next, I prescribed 85 pounds of dolomitic limestone per 1,000 square feet, with calcium nitrate fertilizer as a side dressing. I also recommended that he apply four cubic yards of LeafGro per 1,000 square feet before tilling the soil prior to planting. The soil test indicated that he had only 1.5 percent organic matter in his soil.
    Go to www.al-labs-eastern.com and follow their instruction for submitting a sample. If your soil is sandy, I strongly recommend that you have the S3 test.
    If they receive your soil sample by Tuesday, they will e-mail your results to you by the following Friday. If you want me to make the recommendations, don’t indicate a crop but provide them with my email: Dr.FRGouin@gmail.com.