Your Show-Me Garden: MU Extension brings you gardening tips from experts around the state.

MARBLE HILL, Mo. – Feed your garden and it will feed you.

The past two years left some wondering if their garden has gotten old, tired and worn out, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist Donna Aufdenberg.

“The last two years have been challenging to say the least,” Aufdenberg says. Rain, lack of rain and temperamental temperatures put gardens to the test.

But gardens do not wear out, she says. They just need extra attention and proper nutrients when they fail to produce.

“Vegetable gardening is a give-and-take,” Aufdenberg says. Year after year, vegetables rob soil of nutrients that need to be replaced.

Do a soil test every three years to learn what your soil needs, she says. Don’t throw random nutrients at your soil and hope the right one sticks.

“Too much manure, wood ash, sand or sawdust may only worsen the problem,” she says. “More is not always better!”

Years of manure causes high salt. Too much wood ash leads to high pH and potassium. Extra sawdust raises carbon levels too high. Feed the soil with leaves, grass clippings and vegetable refuse to keep it healthy. Add nutrients based on soil tests.

Another common problem is tilling for weed control. “Gardeners love operating their tillers,” Aufdenberg says. “Tilling every week or even a couple of times a month can destroy soil structure and cause soil compaction. Plants do not grow well when the ground is compacted. Limit tilling to just a few times a year.”

To find an MU Extension horticulturist in your area, go to this coverage map. Contact the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory at 573-882-0623, or visit

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