New gardener in Broken Arrow...

kaitsmama(6B)January 24, 2010

Hello Everyone, I have been exploring the site, and feel like I have learned so much, but I am a little overwhelmed by all of the information available! I am very, very new and would like to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (yellow, zucchini, and butternut), sugar snap peas, onions, lettuce, carrots, sunflowers (for the chickens we are adopting), and potatoes (for starters).

I seem to be finding conflicting information about the best varieties to grow, though. Any help from gardeners in our area would be so appreciated!! Also, when should I be able to plant sugar snap peas, and should they be started inside?

Thank you so, so much for any helpful advice you are able to offer!!

Laura (and Kaitlyn)

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Hi Laura,

I start my peas around the middle of February. I've done it earlier. But then, one of those years, I lost half of them to a very hard freeze. This year, the temps seem to be fluctuating a lot. So, I'm going to wait.

Gardeners often have great differences in preference regarding varieties. I think you'll find that Okiedawn suggests many that are approved by OSU, and then again, many, which some would simply consider kind of exotic. But she's one who has tried many varieties. Jay, (elkwc)is also very good for many of the same reasons. I often grow varieties which are practically not grown by others, with some exceptions. For instance, I've adopted Sioux, which is an older variety which produces well in Oklahoma heat. It does tend to crack, and doesn't have the best shelf life. But it does have excellent flavor and production. I also grow Roma, a determinate (smaller plant) paste tomato. Roma does not have very good flavor, for fresh eating, but it is absolutely dependable and a great producer for canning. Last year was my first to grow Black Cherry. I'm going to grow it every year! That was the best flavored cherry I've every tried, and it is productive.

If you tell us what you like in a tomato, I'm sure you'll get some great input. Just remember... beware the enablers (Dawn & Jay). They'll have you digging up your whole yard and planting gadzillions of tomatoes ;)

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 7:16AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Laura & Kaitlyn,

Welcome to the Oklahoma Forum. You're receive lots of answers to your gardening questions from all the experienced gardeners here.

I'll leave the pea questions for the experienced gardeners at your end of the state because I'm at the southern end of the state where it often gets too hot too early in the year for peas to make a crop. In the years when I do grow them, I start them inside in plantable pots. I hope Dorothy will see this thread and tell you how she grows peas because she gets a good crop most years and geographically her conditions are more like yours than mine would be.

Of the crops that you listed that you'd like to grow, let's draw the distinction between cool-season and warm-season crops. The cool-season crops are those which can be planted before the last frost in your area and which can handle a certain amount of cold weather. On your list, sugar snap peas, onions, potatoes, lettuce and carrots are cool-season crops.

The remaining vegetables on your list (sunflowers, tomatoes, squash are warm-season crops and should not be planted until after your last frost date. In addition, you need to be aware that the average frost date for any given area is an 'average' which means that in half the years, you'll have your last frost on or before that date and in the other half of the years, you'll have your last frost on or after that date. So, to play it safe, watch the forecast carefully around the last frost date and don't plant yet if the 10-day forecast has temperatures lower than about 40 degrees in it. It usually is fairly safe, in terms of freezing temperatures, to plant most warm-season crops a couple of weeks after your average last frost date. There are a handful of very warm season crops that go into the ground even later, including sweet potatoes, southern peas (blackeyed, pinkeye purplehull, crowder, cream and zipper peas) and melons because they like really warm ground.

For varieties, if you're going to buy seeds in a local store like Wal-Mart or Home Depot, your choices will be limited by what they have there. If you live in an area with a full-line nursery, you'll likely find a somewhat better selection of vareties. A lot of us order online so we can get exactly the specific varieties we want to grow. Here's some suggestions for the crops you want to grow:

ONIONS: Plant onion plants that you'll see in the stores beginning in January or February (they're in our local stores here now in southern OK and have been for a couple of weeks now). You want to buy the plants sold in bundles of about 60. They're usually outdoors (at our stores, might be inside in colder areas of Oklahoma) in wooden shipping crates, although this year our Wal-Mart and Home Depot both have the bundles lined up in rows in flats. You DO NOT want to buy net or plastic bags of onion 'sets' that look like little tiny bulbs. The success rate with sets is generally very, very low. Any onions sold in bundles of plants here in OK will be appropriate for our climate. Some of the ones commonly seen here include Texas Supersweet (aka Texas Sweet 1015Y), Candy, White Granex or White Grano, Red Southern Belle, Burgundy Red, or sometimes they are simply labeled as Red Bermuda, White Bermuda and Yellow onions. Regardless, you buy your bundles and plant them beginning in about mid-Febuary and ending by about mid-March.

SUGAR SNAP PEAS: George and the other gardeners at your end of the state can tell you which varieties they favor and when they plant. I like 'Wando' because it is the most heat-resistant which is important down here in southern OK where the heat often arrives surprisingly early. Other good ones that are generally easy to find include Sugar Snap and Super Sugar Snap.

POTATOES: You purchase your seed potatoes at local stores in January or February for planting in February or March. Because you plant potatoes deeply, you don't have to worry quite as much about cold weather hurting them since it will take them a while to emerge from their deep planting. Some nurseries and feed stores will have bulk seed potatoes available, generally one or two red-skinned varieties and one or two brown-skinned varieties and you buy them by the pound. Big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot or Wal-Mart normally have seed potatoes in little bags similar to the way you see flower bulbs packaged. They usually have at least one or two red-skinned varieties like Red LaSoda or Norland red, a blue-skinned variety like All-Blue or Adirondack Blue, and then a couple of brown-skinned or golden-brown-skinned potatoes like Yukon Gold or Kennebec and some type of Russett. Any seed potatoes you find here generally grow and produce well here.

CARROTS: Carrots can be planted anytime in March in most parts of Oklahoma. Seeds of many kinds are available and they all do equally well here. If your soil is sort of thick, heavy and dense and has a higher clay or rock content, go with the shorter varieties like Parmex, Little Finger, Short and Sweet or Danvers Half-Long. If your soil is loamy and fluffy and has good tilth, you can plant any carrot seed you wish.

LETTUCE: Lettuce can be planted anytime in late winter or early spring but you shouldn't plant it until you feel like cold temperatures will not be going lower than maybe 28 or 30 degrees because lettuce plants suffer freeze damage at around 25 degrees, and young plants (of all types, not just lettuce) suffer cold damage more easily than larger ones. Any lettuce seed you find on seed racks here in OK will produce a good seed crop. If you plant the leaf lettuce types like Green Salad Bowl, Red Sails, Black-Seeded Simpson, Simpson Elite, Oakleaf, Royal Oakleafor New Red Fire, you can harvest them using the cut-and-come again method for quite a long while. Romaine (Cos) types do well here but take longer to reach a mature size. Little Gem and Parris Island are two of the many Romaines available. In the buttercrunch category you'll find lettuces like Buttercruch and Summertime.

You can grow any kind of sunflower you want. If you are wanting to grow the sunflowers for their seeds, be sure to choose a type that produces large amounts of seed like Russian Mammoth or Greystripe. Avoid some of the fancier 'cutting sunflowers' developed for bouquets because some of them do not produce seeds since one goal in breeding cutting sunflowers is to eliminate pollen because it falls from the flowers and stains tablecloths.

CUCUMBERS: You didn't specify if you want to grow cucumbers for pickling or for fresh eating, but be sure you know which kind you want and select the appropriate variety to suit your needs. For pickling, I prefer National Pickling, but Picklebush is a great one for a small garden or even for container growing. Other pickling types include Alibi and Patio Pickle. Slicing types include Burpless, Sweet Success, Salad Bush and Sweet Slice. An unusual heirloom that's fun to grow and tasty too is Lemon Cucumber.
Any zucchini you buy and plant will perform well here. I prefer Cocozelle but other varieties for which seed is easy to find include include Gold Bar and Gold Bush (both are golden zucchini), Black Beauty, Caserta, Seneca, Spineless Beauty and Eight Ball.

For yellow summer squash, both Early Prolific Straighneck amd Yellow Crookneck grow perfectly fine here, and there are lots of hybrid varieties of both available like Horn of Plenty crookneck and Gold Bar straightneck.

Any butternut squash seed you find here will grow well here. Some varieties you might see in stores include Early Butternut, Waltham Butternut, and Frisco Butternut.

Tomatoes: There are thousands of varieties available. If this is your first time to ever grow tomatoes, I'd stick with some proven performers to ensure success and then expand to other varieties in future years. Good, reliable tomato varieties for new gardeners include Early Girl, Better Boy, Park's Whopper, Celebrity, Jetstar, Nepal, Goliath or Bush Goliath, Lemon Boy, Jubilee, Arkansas Traveler, Traveler 76 or Bradley Pink. If you want to grow paste types for salsa or sauce, Roma VF, LaRoma, and Viva Italia are usually readily available in spring. For small bite-sized types (and kids tend to love these), you cannot go wrong with Black Cherry (actually a purplish-maroonish-red, not really black), SunGold (bright golden orange fruit), Grape (red grape-shaped), Large Red Cherry, Sweet 100, Sweet Million or Sweet Baby Girl. Many children love the bite-sized Yellow Pear tomatoes because their flavor is very sweet and mild. Tomatoes are best started as transplants and not as seed directly sown in the ground. If you want to raise your own, sow seed in flats under lights about 8 weeks before your last frost date. If this is your first year to raise veggies, I'd just buy transplants at the stores in April and maybe try growing transplants from seed in some future year.

If you want to order your seeds, I'd recommend Texas-based Willhite Seed because they offer only varieties proven to do well in this part of the country, so you don't run the risk of selecting a variety that's more suited to Maine or New Hampshire for example. They also have great prices, pack a LOT of seeds into the packets and ship quickly. I've linked them below

Good luck with your garden,


Here is a link that might be useful: Willhite Seed

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:08AM
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Laura and Kaitlyn, Like George, I plant my sugar snaps, (Usually Super Sugar Snaps) in midFeb. I plant with bottom heat on a bench on a glassed porch which is never allowed to freeze. I soak the seed overnight, then keep them damp until I can see which ones are going to germinate, then plant in either peat pots or paper cups. I put them under 4 ft shop lights and give them only two weeks indoors. Then the first of March they go into the garden with a generous helping of blood meal and human hair to keep the rabbits and deer from eating them. May not be a problem if you're in town, but I'm not. Like George said, sometimes lose them and have to start over, but most years they do fine.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:49AM
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You have received some of the best advice above. George and Dawn are very knowledgeable. I feel most has been covered. I agree as a new gardener it is best to grow what is dependable and what I call more fore giving. I hate to see a new gardener get frustrated. I will add a few things as I can't resist the opportunity to ramble a little.

You didn't mention okra. But if you ever grow it. Make sure the ground is real warm when you do. I'm asked every year why my okra germinates and does so well. I usually plant mine here the first of June or later. I'm on the Kansas OK line in the Panhandle. As you go south and east I'm sure you can plant a little earlier. Peppers is another plant that likes it warm. Some start their pepper seeds 7-14 days before their tomato seeds as they take longer to germinate so they can transplant at the same time. I start mine at the same time and on the average transplant 7-14 days later. I've found they do better this way. And it also means I don't have as many plants to transplant at once.

On tomatoes my favorite crop along with chili peppers. Dawn's suggestions are very good. And she has a better idea what should do well for you. And sure Carol will chime in as she is closer to you also. I grow a few hybrids and a lot of open pollinated varieties. The other thing is what type do you prefer? Or do you want a mix of several types? Along with the suggestions Dawn gave you I will add Big Beef hybrid. Not one I grow regularly but one that some of the tomato guru's think is one of the better hybrids. Usually easy to find and has done well for me when I've grown it. Jetsonic hybrid did well for me last year. And the Goliath hybrid she mentioned usually does well for me. My reliable standby in most years. Not sure you could find the other hybrids I raise. Another suggestion I will make is from your location is in the spring you might make a trip to the "Tomato Man's Daughter's " place by Jenks I think. She sells tomato plants and pepper plants also I think. And should be able to tell you what does well in your area. I'll include the link.

The other suggestion I will make is to prepare your garden area as soon as possible if you haven't already. If you don't get it prepared don't worry about it. As there have been years I've been preparing and planting at the same time. But like it better when I have things prepared in advance. Just less stress.

Wishing you great luck with your new garden. Jay

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Man's Daughter

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:59AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm glad Jay mentioned Big Beef because I forgot to include it and it is one of the better-tasting hybrids, and I'm glad he mentioned The Tomato Man's Daughter. If I lived at that end of the state, I'd be at The Tomato Man's Daughter every weekend buying plants.

Also, we have a seed and plant 'swap' every spring, usually on a Saturday in the latter half of April. At some plant swaps, you have to bring seeds/plants to swap one-for-one, i.e. "I'll trade plant x to you in exchange for plant y that you brought". Our 'swap' really isn't that kind of swap. Ours is more the 'here are my extra plants, so come and get 'em" type swap. LOL Usually, those of us who grow veggies and flowers from seed raise too many and bring oodles to the swap to give away, so if you come to the swap, you could pick up some proven varieties right there. DO NOT feel like you cannot attend the swap because you don't have anything to bring to trade. We fully expect 'newbies' to come empty-handed their first year. You've got to start somewhere and the swap is a great place to start. I promise you won't leave the swap empty-handed. It is a family event too, so bring the family, bring a covered dish for the luncheon and expect to have a lot of fun and receive some plants to take home with you.

Paula will be coordinating the swap plans since she has graciously offered to host the Spring Fling at her place this year. Watch for swap info here on the forum as the date draws closer.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 11:34AM
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I almost cried reading all of your responses (Ok, I did a little but I am blaming my hormones). I have been so worried that I would not be able to do this because I have no idea what I am doing, but you are all SO helpful! I am more excited than ever about starting my garden! Thank you to everyone, and my daughter says, "Tell Okiedawn extra thank you for me for reminding you to plant baby tomatoes for me!"

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 4:10PM
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I love Jay and Dawn. They've got me planting 6 different kinds of tomatoes and I don't even like em except in tomato sauce LOL. DH and the kids are thrilled though cause they love em in just about every fashion :-D I even got Tess's Land Race simply because I want to watch the monster it becomes. *sigh* I think I'm addicted to the gardening part more than the eating part.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 5:53PM
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We're starting our seeds on Valentine's day I think.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 6:20PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Trust me. Y'all can do this. Not only can you, but you will. And, best of all, you'll have all of us cheering you on through the happy moments and holding your hands through the difficult moments. We simply will not rest until y'all are thoroughly in love with gardening and having a lot of fun with it too. And please tell Kaitlyn "you're welcome".


Well, honey, Jay and I are on a mission. We want for everyone else to be as tomato-obsessed as we are. Tomatoes are SO GOOD for you....just full of antioxidants. Keep growing them and you'll gain an appreciation for their flavor. They'll (ahem...bad pun intended) grow on you. If you don't let the taste of raw tomatoes, I have lots of recipes for cooked ones, including tomato cake and tomato pie (neither of which actually tastes like tomatoes, OK)...and what about salsa? pico de gallo? fried green tomatoes? Tomato marmalade? Now I'm getting hungry.

I think mid-Feb. is a great time for y'all to start seeds by the way, and since we're expecting a big cold spell in mid-Feb., starting seeds inside will give you a hopeful, 'springy' thing to do as winter hangs on and hangs on and refuses to go away.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 7:10PM
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LOL. You're doing very well on your mission and so is Jay. I'm planning for more and more everytime I revise my plan! I do actually like the TASTE of tomatoes but rather am not too hot on the texture. That's my problem with most vegetables but I'm getting over it slowly but surely. I've graduated to getting all that jelly goop out of them and dicing them I'm working on it :-) I like the taste of salsa but my husband has always been horrified that I dip the chip and pull it up empty of "the goodies"...he jokes that he wonders what he ever saw in me LOL. He's a tomato lover. No to pico and fried (I don't eat anything fried) but the tomato cake sounds like it might go good with a soup???? hmmm... I'm going to try drying some smaller ones like Tess's this year and see if I like em that way. If not I'll just add em to soup...they seem to be okay to me in soup.

I'm a sad case aren't I?

Laura, Kaitlyn--welcome to the forum. If this great group of folks can turn me into a gardener they can turn anyone into one :-)


    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 8:46PM
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To find a lot of plants for transplanting instead of starting from seed, I suggest your nearest Atwoods or Carmichaels in Bixby in March or April. Those are the two best in the area IMO.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 8:52PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Welcome, Laura! (I thought for sure I posted here saying howdy earlier but I must have dreamed it.)


    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 11:22PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


I live in BA also. I'm going to add Conrad's as a good place for plants, as well as the herbal fairs in the spring. You can get any kind of plant that you might want. I always go to the Jenks' Herbal Affair. Also, the Broken Arrow Farmers' Mkt is a great place. I don't sell veggies, but have a booth for butterfly plants there. Everyone is wonderful, and you can get all kinds of plants locally grown.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 5:13PM
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....and I highly recommend visiting Sandy's booth of butterfly plants. She has all kinds of info on growing host plants and nectar plants, and some beautiful plants to go along with all that knowledge!

Mandy, you remind me of my son, who also does not like the "jelly goop" in tomatoes, which usually covering the seeds and all. I just wash the seeds and jelly goop out of the tomatoe with cold water when I am preparing them for him, so he just gets the meat of the tomatoe.

I am going to grow about 4 different tomatoes this year so I'll have some good ones for eatin' I hope. My problem is not growing them, but finding the space to grow them. But they are going to find a place in the garden if I have to dig out a butterfly plant by gosh! Oh, no, did I actually say that???

Sandy, I am sooooo glad you are going to go, maybe we can ride together????


    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Laura, Welcome to the forum. I don't think I have any advice that hasn't already been given. Be sure to plant an edible pod pea, like Sugar Snap, because they do well here and are wonderful in the spring. We love to eat them raw, in the garden. I have started them both outside and inside, but I will probably start them inside in small paper cups or pots this year.

Dawn and Jay are both enablers and they will have you digging up your yard to plant tomatoes. They are also like walking text books of gardening info so you need to listen. Macmex and mulberryknob have a climate more like yours so they will be a help to you as well.

I think Jay gave you good advice on visiting the Tomato Man's Daughter in Jenks. In fact, if I were a new gardener, I would depend heavily on transplants for tomatoes amd pepper. A lot of the other things you mention will be easy to grow from seed. It isn't that the others are that hard to grow, but require a inside light set-up and a lot of time. In fact, if I only planted 6 or 8 tomato plants, I probably wouldn't bother with seed starting at all.

Dawn writes glowing reports about tomato varieties that make my mouth water, and Jay has adopted me, I think, and sent me lots of new seed to try, so I MUST plant seeds. LOL

I have never been the type of gardener that tries to grow everything we eat, but I have grown many different things over the years which we ate as fresh produce. This year I am changing my gardening style and will plant much more than I have in the past. I am glad I have gained experience and can tackle a bigger garden without fear.

We are happy to welcome you to Oklahoma Gardening and hope you will visit often. There are many here that will help you through ever step. We don't volunteer to come weed for you, but we can probably talk you through a lot of problems. LOL

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 9:59PM
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I look forward to checking out all of the suggested sites for plants. Sandy, I can't wait to bring my daughter to see your booth of butterfly plants! When does the farmer's market open?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:49PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

The market opens in April. I usually have some kind of caterpillars for the kids, so my booth is a "kid magnet"! I look forward to meeting you! I share my BF garden with folks. Some days I will have over a hundred butterflies in the garden. I raise hundreds of butterflies each summer.

Susan, I would love to come by and get you on the way to the plant swap. I'm glad you asked, I just hadn't gotten around to it! Laura, I'll have room for you, if you are interested (and your daughter).


    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 10:50AM
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