BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Rising food prices are leading to more home gardens which can be a big undertaking.  The WVU Extension Services can be a great asset for free education, tips, and advice for folks looking to grow their own veggies.

WVU Extension Services Agricultural Agent David Richmond said his offices has seen an increase in home gardeners, farmers looking to cut costs, and folks interested in starting a garden for the first time thanks to current world events creating higher prices and uncertainty.

“Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen an increase in people wanting to get back to raising their own food. And then with all the international problems we’re having in Ukraine, you know, it’s it’s driven the cost of food in your grocery stores. And so people are looking to supplement their grocery bill by raising a lot of their own foods”

David Richmond – Agricultural Agent WVU Extension Service

For some, turning to gardening can be a strenuous and costly endeavor with little to show for it. But there is free help out there for families looking to get started. The West Virginia Extension Services offers classes and online tips going step by step on how to start and maintain a garden as well as what works best in what soil.

Richmond said, “You need a sunny spot in the yard if that soil has not been you know if it hasn’t been a garden spot, the past, you got to start thinking about tillage, how to turn this all over or get the sod the grass broke down and loosened it up. One of the best management tools that we offer is a soil testing program.”

Soil composition is key, and often the first step to a healthy and sustainable garden. Depending on what you grow, pH levels can help or hurt your crop. Acidic soils are great for blueberries but can harm pea or bean crops. Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and other nutrients are vital to plants. Too much or not enough of one or more could mean a lot of work, time, and money is wasted trying to grow a garden.

The WVU Extension Service offers free soil testing to West Virginia residents. A guide on how to gather a sample and where to send it can be found here.

Once you know what is in your soil, you can begin to correct it for the plants you hope to grow. Guessing or just buying any planting soil or fertilizer could be a costly mistake later on thanks to price hikes in fertilizer prices.

Richmond said, “That shotgun approach to fertilizer is not going to work this year. You know, where you just go out there and throw down 300 pounds to the acre and be done with it. You need to know what the soil’s wanting.”

With time still left in the pre-gardening season, planning could ensure a healthy garden this season. Home gardens can be a great addition to a home for their beauty as well as helpful to the family budget if done correctly.

With free classes, helplines, and informational walk-throughs, the West Virginia Extension Service can help any family wanting to save a few dollars at the grocery store. They can even help with crop selection or give advice on growing a plant that’s harder to find in stores these days like eggplants or rhubarb. They dedicate an entire section of their website to gardening 101. From there you can learn how to capture rainwater to reduce the burden on your home water bill. They even have tips on specific crops from fruits to veggies and even herbs.

If you manage to set up the perfect garden and find you have more than your family needs. A home garden can go from a cost savings project to a profitable one. There are farmer’s markets and events in Beckley the Extension Service puts on for home gardeners and farmers.

Supply chain issues along with other impacts have caused harder-to-find produce to become too expensive or have vanished from store shelves. These hard-to-find crops like eggplants from big AG. has turned the crop into something of a commodity among local farmer’s markets.

Whether you are looking to save money at the grocery store, improve an existing garden, or want to beef up your crop production, the West Virginia Extension Services can help. For West Virginia residents, a lot of that help comes at no cost.

To find out more about services or to browse their self-help topics, visit their website. For our area, the WVU Extension Service Raleigh County Office is located at 410 Neville Street in downtown Beckley. Richmond says his office is just a phone call away at 304-255-9321.