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Gardeners prepare for planting season

Spring has sprung and it's almost time to get out in the garden.

To guide new gardeners or seasoned veterans eager to learn more, the University of Maryland Extension Carroll County office will hold twilight meetings as part of its Maryland Master Gardeners program the third Monday of the month in the Grow It Eat It Demonstration Garden, directly behind the Shipley Arena at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster.

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The meetings start Monday, run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and are offered at no cost.

"If you didn't prep a garden last fall and you're just starting, make sure you soil test first. It's very important; you can't just guess at it," said Kay Sedlak, a Carroll County Master Gardener.

Sedlak said gardeners can get soil test bags from the Carroll County Extension office, at 700 Agricultural Center Drive in Westminster.

Most of Carroll County's soil is hard clay and often requires a lot of organic matter, she said.

"We incorporate organic material like compost, different kinds of manure or shredded leaves," Sedlak said.

Sedlak said most gardens in Carroll are not ready to plant in until mid-May because crops are still in danger of frost.

"There are no guarantees," Sedlak said. "Most people use Mother's Day as a planting date, but you need to consider your site."

The Master Gardeners use raised beds with 50 percent organic matter and 50 percent topsoil in their demonstration garden.

"The great thing about raised beds is that it warms up quicker," said Butch Willard, leader of the Grow It Eat It gardening team.

Sedlak said the group uses row covers made from spun polyester to protect its early crops from frost.

"The soil has to be 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for seeds to germinate," said Bill Corun, manager of the demo garden.

Greens, cabbage, root crops and peas can be planted first, Willard said. The meeting on Monday will feature Cool Season Gardening tips. The group has also had luck with tomatoes, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries, garlic, asparagus and currants.

"The instruction we present is all research-based," Sedlak said. "You know you're getting good info. … You can't believe everything you read on the Internet."

Future meetings include Edible Landscaping/Vertical Gardening on May 18, Composting on June 15 and Weed Control on July 20.

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For more information about classes, the Master Gardeners Program or the University of Maryland Extension please contact Steve Allgeier at 410-386-2760.

410-857-7873

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If you go

What: Grow It Eat It twilight meetings

Where: Grow It Eat It demonstration garden, directly behind the Shipley Arena at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster

When: Third Monday of the month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m, starting Monday, April 20

Cost: Free

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