I picked the worst year to really start gardening!

AmyArr1234November 5, 2011

Hi everyone. I'm brand spankin' new on this forum, as this was suggested to me by the very kind Remy of sampleseeds.com.

I'm in Lawton, and this year, I decided to start a real garden. I've planted a few things before, but this was the year that I wanted to get serious about it. It's mid November now, and I can honestly call this a complete flop! Between heat, dogs, squirrels, well-intentioned children "helping", blazing sun, drought and wind, only morning glories and lantana grew. Even my mint died! Yes, mint!

The lantana and MG's seemed to have a lot of hummingbird and butterfly visitors, so I'm counting that as a small success, but still, I'm pretty frustrated.

I'd like to try again next year, because this year's weather seems to be a bit out of the ordinary. By then, hopefully the kids will learn a bit (and not weed the things I'm trying to grow) and the dogs will calm down. Who knows, maybe the dogs will take an interest in chasing squirrels rather than digging up transplants-- but maybe that's TOO much to hope for!

Does anyone have any suggestions for plants that will give me at least a fighting chance at having something grow? I'm not terribly picky, and would like to grow veggies, herbs and flowers. Any suggestions or tips are more than welcome!

Thank you in advance,


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shot the squirrels, fence out the dog, farm out the kids, etc. No, not really. Amy this was just a really bad year and if you had success with anything, then you did OK.

What did the squirrels bother in you garden? I have a lot of squirrels but the only time they really spend a lot of time in my garden is when I till the soil. Then they walk back and forth to see if I have un-earthed their buried nuts or anything else they want to eat. I think it is wise to have a water source outside your garden that the birds and critters can get to because sometimes they are just searching for water.

Your dog will probably do a lot of damage before he learns what he is not allowed to do. Is there any way you can fence the garden to keep the dog out? My biggest animal problems are from the neighbor's cat.

My best advice would be to keep experimenting and to read this forum. Even in the same State we have different growing conditions, but someone on here will understand your problems, answer your questions, and help you along. This is a friendly group and there is a wealth of information and experience here. Welcome, and visit often. Carol

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ha! The dog is learning manners, so he should be much better next year. Still, fencing wouldn't hurt a thing. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

Come to think of it, Im not sure if in fact the squirrels actually did any damage. I know I saw them in the tilled bed, but you're right: it is entirely possible that they were merely walking around and looking for water. Poor things, I've been blaming them, but perhaps they didn't do any damage at all.

I've also recently (as in, a few minutes ago) learned that the company I used to order plants from has overwhelmingly bad reviews. I'm not going to name names, but it appears that a LOT of people, many with much more experience than I have, have had trouble getting anything from this company to grow. That could be a major part of my problem too, and coupled with the rotten weather, I see that I probably didn't stand much of a chance at all.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 3:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Amy, Welcome to the forum. I'm new to gardening this year too. I did a veggie garden and also started some new flowerbeds this year. Someone here recommended the wintersowing to me and I plan on starting alot of my own things that way. You can learn more about it by going to the Winter Sowing forum.

Lots of great advice is here for the reading. Carrots were troublsome for me...but I finally have some growing. It took me 5 packs/tries but I got the Divas going!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 4:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Amy. Welcome to the forum. You'll find lot of good advice and very helpful folks here. After many years of not having a veggie garden I also picked this year to try it again, and it was, to say the least, very frustrating. For Oklahoma, which is known to have extremes of weather, it was way over the top. I agree with Carol's advice to read the forum. There are many threads with great advice about which flowers, veggies, and herbs will have a better chance of doing well here. My personal experience this summer was that basil did the best in terms of herbs, some of the drought-tolerant perennial flowers such as coneflowers and gaillardia did well, Laura Bush petunias and zinnias flowered all through the heat. I can't really say that any of the vegetables did well, although the cucumbers, zucchini, and squash did fairly well until the squash bugs did them in. Oh, and the Hale's Best cantaloupe did well. Hang in there .... there's always next year!


    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 1:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Me too! For my birthday in Feb, I got a 300+sf veggie garden tilled for me and a seed shelf light setup in my garage. With as much success as I had this year (and it wasn't a lot) it was enough for me to get really excited about what I could do if Ma Nature wasn't trying to crush me at every turn!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 11:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Y'all just have to get used to Mother Nature because she likes to slap us gardeners around a bit. Sometimes she wins, sometimes you win, and sometimes it is a draw.

Amy, Welcome to the forum. You did pick a challenging year to start, but you know, there's always a learning curve when you are gardening in a place that is new to you, or if gardening is new to you altogether, and this year's weather was just a bigger part of the learning curve than usual.

For every challenge, there are solutions.

For the heat, shade cloth and careful positioning of plants where they can get some relief from the heat will help a lot. While many plants love having full sun from sunrise to sunset in some parts of the country, in our climate with the intense sunlight and summer heat, many 'full sun' plants do fine on only 4 to 6 hours of direct sun. It has taken me a lot of trial and error to learn that tomato plants that get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight at our house produce better than those that get 12 hours of direct sun or more per day, for example. Peppers are the same. Nowadays, I position peppers where taller plants to their west can shade them during the worst heat of the day, and I position tomato plants where a very tall pecan tree to their west shades them from about 1 or 2 p.m. on. If I have those plants in an area where there's no trees or taller plants, I put shadecloth over them beginning in July to mitigate some of negative effect of the endless sunlight/heat.

With dogs, a fence is your friend. Our dogs have a fenced dog yard where they stay. When we let them out of the dog yard to run and play fetch and swim in the big pond, they've been taught to stay in the play area with us and not to run to the flower beds, or fenced edible garden. The veggie and herb garden, along with many flowers, are fenced in with fencing the dogs cannot dig under nor jump over. This is what works best for us. While our dogs are good dogs, they still are dogs and love to dig, roll on plants, etc. and I am happiest when they do not get into the garden and engage in that behavior.

Kids will learn if you take time to teach them. They are so sweet and only intend to help, but you have to teach what to pick or pull, or not pick or pull, etc. One technique that works really well is to give each of them a small space, maybe 3' x 3' or 4' x 4' and let them grow whatever they want in that space which is their own personal garden. Then, establish with them that they can dig or pull up "weeds" in their garden, but not in yours unless they are with you and you are surpervising them. Once they understand the groundrules, I have found children are very eager to comply. When our son was little, I liked to plant bean teepees large enough that he and his friends could sit inside them. They could grow beans, cucumbers, gourds, mini-pumpkins, peach/mango melons, etc. on their teepees and it kept them away from my smaller bean teepees whose purpose was to grow beans. I also planted sunflower houses which doubled as forts for the boys or playhouses for the girls. Giving them their own gardening space encouraged them to respect my garden space and my son, his friends and my nieces and nephews as well as the grandchildren of our friends always enjoyed being in the garden and did relatively little damage to it.

Squirrels are not a problem for me. We certainly have them here. After all, about 10 acres of our land is heavily forested with oak, pecan, walnut and hickory trees, among others and with that many nuts, you'll have squirrels. However, I've never seen the squirrels harm anything. I do keep a pan of water in the yard for the wildlife to drink from, which I believe discourages them from going after fruit or veggies just to get water. The squirrels annoy me by burying nuts in the veggie garden beds in fall, but I just pull up any little trees that sprout in the spring, or dig them and move them to some area on the property where we need a tree. If you are in a town or city, you might have more trouble with squirrels than I have here in our rural area because there may not be as many natural food sources available to them.

Drought is a constant in Oklahoma. I cannot speak for any other county but my own. In Love County where I live, our soils do not hold water well, so it only takes a 3-week-period of low rainfall or no rainfall for us to find ourselves experiencing drought conditions. Thus, we have at least summer drought part of almost every summer. Generally it happens in July and August, but sometimes starts much earlier. You learn to deal with it by planting as early as possible, mulching heavily, improving the soil to encourage better water retention, etc. We've had two flooding years since we moved here 13 years ago, and they've caused me much more garden grief than the droughts have.

With wind, once you have decided where to place your permanent plantings, work to plant something that will serve as a windbreak. You can use small trees or shrubs, fencing, or the placement of tallish perennials or fast-growing annuals. For years I used a row of cannas to provide a windblock on the west and southwest side of my garden. Some year's I've used hollyhocks, lion's tail, sunflowers or grain amaranths and even all of them in combination. Other years I've used ornamental striped corn plants or broom corn plants. Ofen, the wind blows them down too but they still slow down the wind some before it reaches the veggies, herbs and flowers inside the big garden. My favorite windbreak is a woven wire fence (erected to keep the dogs, deer, rabbits, etc. out of the garden) on which I grow a wide variety of annual vines, including morning glories, moonflower vines, black-eyed susan vines, cardinal climber, mina lobata, purple hyacinth beans, etc. Those vines grow so quickly that the fence is covered pretty early in the season and it blocks a lot of wind. Some people use wooden privacy fences, or plantings of dwarf to semi-dwarf fruit trees, or position their garden so a building protects it from the worst of the southern or northern winds. You'll just have to find the solution that works best for your specific location.

As far as what plants will grow best for you, it depends on what kind of soil you have: sand? sandy loam? dense clay? clay and rocks? caliche clay? sandy-clayey mix? Also, we'd suggest different plants for full sun versus dapppled shade versus heavy shade. So, if you'll tell us what kind of soil you have and whether you want plants for full sun, full shade or something in between, we can suggest plants we think would be most appropriate for your specific requirements.

Gardening is fun. It is challenging. It is hard. I assure you though that for every bit of frustration and heartbreak, you'll have just as many moments of pure joy and delight. And, if you share the process with all of us here, we'll be right there with you every step of the way!


    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 1:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Welcome Amy. Dawn has covered the issues so well, that the only thing I would add is be careful of spacing. Some popular garden books recommend spacing that is too close for water challenged gardens, especially if the soil is well amended. This summer I planted 20 indeterminate tomatoes in a 50 ft row. Next year I will plant only 16. With good soil and ample rainfall in April and May my vines overwhelmed their alloted space. And the cages--6 ft CRW (concrete reinforcing wire) were jammed so close together that I could only pick from 2 sides of them. In July I cut half of those plants out and watered only the remaining half.

Small veggies also need to be planted thinly and thinned early. Lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets all do better if never crowded, even for a little while. I am too lazy to plant small seeds as thinly as I should so often mix seed in with sand to plant.

So as we gardeners always say, "surely next year will be better." Hang in there and try again. Dorothy in Adair Co.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 3:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Welcome Amy! Remy was right. This is a terrific place to hang out while gaining your CEU's in Gardening 101. We all started right where you are and are in various stages of experience from there. This group is extravagantly generous with their knowledge so dive right in and ask away. We love to discuss any and all things growing expecially while we're waiting on the weather to do the 'actual' growing. lol

Oklahoma conditions are challenging, no doubt about it, but we all keep at it anyway. My recommendation would be learning to grow from seed. It's much easier than it sounds and makes me feel so much more invested in my garden. At the very least, you won't have to deal with "iffy" vendors as you referenced above. There are tons of seed starting discussions on this forum with extremely helpful advice so pull up a comfy chair, grab a snack and absorb all you can from earlier threads. If we do our annual seed swap in Jan/Feb, consider joining. It will give you a headstart on getting some varieties that will definitely grow well in Oklahoma. The swap is great and only costs you a minimal investment (postage, mailer, etc.).

Glad you decided to join our little gardening family!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gardenrod(7A OK NE)

Dawn and others have explained it well - gardening is hard work in Oklahoma, but rewarding.
I've given up on trying to "live with" an inconsistant Mother Nature and wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, rats and birds, and put in a lot of hard work to protect my garden beds and containers.
I've fenced in the sides and top of my main tomato patch with chicken wire to fend off the birds, then added hardware cloth to the top to protect against hail. I use bird netting around my tomato containers and added hardware cloth on top of the cages that protect the tomatoes until they outgrow the cages.
I dug aroung the outside of my main "greens" bed and put coated chicken wire about a foot deep and a foot up to protect from rats, then put up 3' chicken wire around the bed to protect it from rabbits.
I use 4' rabbit wire cages around containers that grow veggies to protect from rabbits. I have trouble with squirrels- I've actually watched one squirrel scratch out a hole to bury a nut, then seen another squirrel dig it out soon after. I plant lettuce and spinach lower in my containers so I can place chicken wire over the top to keep the squirrels out.
I water my container plants every day during the summer heat, and water the garden beds every other day.
I have more trouble from the shade from trees that surround my back yard than I do from too much sun.
So - Is it worth it?
What would life be like if you couldn't look forward with anticipation for the seed catalogs that come between Thanksgiving and New Years Day?
Is anything more enjoyable than planning what, when and where you are going to plant?
Is there a better way to get exercise than by carrying bags of soil conditioners, moving compost from the compost pile to the garden, cultivating the soil, moving young plants around as they increase in size, and then actually planting them? Not to mention mowing grass and raking leaves to put in the compost pile.
And finally- even though you can purchase good veggies from local growers, nothing tastes as good as produce that you have started from seeds, carefully nurtured, picked yourself, and eat with the knowledge that you have competed with Nature and produced something that tastes great and that you can obtain nowhere else.
I don't think any of us were completely successful the first time we began gardening, but the rewards that come from hard work and the gardening experience cannot be duplicated.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 11:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I came back to add one more thing that I have learned about gardening. If you like gardening, you become a gardener. Once a gardener, you are a gardener for life. It is addictive, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Gardening is a huge part of my life, and it isn't just something that I do, it it a part of who I am. Gardening is our lifestyle, and as gardeners, everything our family does in our yard and garden and elsewhere on the 'uncivilized' parts of our property affects our garden in one way or another. I cannot imagine a life without gardening.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 9:04AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Can I plant onions yet?
I put in an 8x8 raised bed for onions, bought in some...
More cold air to come
Hi everyone, I figured I'd update what I stated about...
Purchased comppost and soil.
Somewhere recently I read a post that had a phone number...
AmyinOwasso/zone 6b
Cover crops that help with root rot
I just listened to a soil health talk on the web. My...
Rattlesnakes Out in February: Not A Good Thing
Last week, our silver tabby cat, Casper, thought he...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™