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New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Posted by momofsteelex3 7 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 12:30

Hi. I'm Bre, stumbled upon this gem of a forum via Pinterest. I am new to Oklahoma this spring, and to a garden of this level. I have decided to take it above the stick a few tomato, okra and pepper plants in the ground to lets see what I can grow to survive on for a year. So my husband tilled me up a nice little plot about 10ft wide by 26 ft long, I have spent hours and hours pulling Oklahoma boulders out of the ground and trying to prime it for my list that's a mile long.

And now, because of the rain, I am afraid it would wash my seedlings away, and this freeze, I am behind the game. I am wanting to get beets and onions in today, or this weekend, but it looks like 5 more days of rain. And I am doing potatoes in containers. And my hubby decided he wanted to give spinach a try.

Should all this rain have me worried?
What tips can you all offer me?
Any advice for this newbie would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks-Bre



Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Hello Bre.

There are always a lot of variables which go into the question "Do I plant now or wait?" Especially this time of year. The weather forecasters are calling for lows close to freezing this coming Monday and Tuesday across a large part of the state. And they are not calling for rain after Tuesday. That's not very much time from now. So a short and easy answer is "Wait". A few more days will not make much difference in the growing season.

You might be able to get out there, plant, and not have any problems. But waiting six more days will remove most of the risk you are concerned about.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Bre,

It is hard to comment on what you want to do without knowing your exact forecast for the next few days. I wouldn't hesitate to put transplants in the ground or to plant seed potatoes or sow seeds today or tomorrow or the next day (in fact, I worked in the garden all day until almost sunset) but I'm far enough south that my forecast for next week stays slightly above freezing and we aren't going to get a great deal of rain either.

If you have freezing temperatures in your forecast or if you're expecting a lot of rain, waiting a few days likely would help more than it would hurt.

However, and this is a big however, for most cool-season crops, the OSU-recommended planting dates are February 15-March 10 and you're already more than two weeks late in terms of getting cool season plants or seeds in the ground. Is two weeks a big deal? Maybe. Maybe not. Since none of us knows exactly what the weather will do, it might be a big deal to be 2 weeks late some years and might not be a big deal other years. Understand that in Oklahoma we often go from 'too cold' to 'too hot' practically all in the same week and in a year like that, planting a couple of weeks late can sometimes have a real negative effect on your yields. What happens is that about the time that late-planted crops are going to start producing a harvest, the weather gets too hot and they crash. That's the potential danger in planting too late.

Now, for the flip side.....if ever there was a year to plant cool-season plants and seeds late, this might be it. We are stuck in a weather pattern that is persistently sending cold fronts way down south to us and that pattern seems likely to continue well into April. Planting late may have a negative effect on your yield, but that doesn't mean you won't get a harvest....just that it might be a smaller harvest.

For beets, you can sow the seed through the end of March and still should get beets. Beets are very interesting....you can plant them when the soil is still really cold and they'll take forever to sprout, but eventually they'll sprout as long as nothing eats the seed or it doesn't rot in cold, wet soil. Or, you can wait and plant them 2 to 4 weeks later than that when soil temps are warmer and they'll sprout at about the same time they would have sprouted from the earlier planting. This is because they sprout more quickly in warmer soils.

With spinach, it can sometimes be slow to sprout in cold soils. You can speed up the process by putting your spinach seed in a cup of water and setting it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you sow the seed in the ground. When you plant spinach late, you run the risk that it will bolt or have unpleasant flavor. When planting late, be sure to choose a bolt-resistant variety.

With potatoes in containers, be aware that you'll have the best luck with them when you plant them early or on time. The reason is that containers are above-ground and the soil in them can heat up more, and heat up earlier, than grade-level soil or soil in raised beds. The ground helps insulate the potatoes from heat, and you don't get that same insulation with plants in containers. Why does this matter? Potatoes grow best when air temperatures are between 60-75 during the day and 45-55 at night. The plants need to set and size up their tubers before soil temperatures begin exceeding 85 degrees regularly. Once your soil temps are at or above 85 degrees, new tubers are slow to form (sometimes they just stop forming completely once it is that hot, but not always) and all tubers size up more slowly. Why is this more of an issue with potatoes in containers? Since they sit above ground and are exposed to sunlight and heat, their soil gets hotter faster than soil in the ground which is more insulated by the ground around it. To some extent, you can work around this by putting some sort of insulation around your containers once the temperatures are getting too hot. I've used hay bales to insulate a very large container (4' diameter metal stock tank) and have used smaller containers of flowers and trailing foliage plants placed around potato containers to absorb the brunt of the direct sunlight that otherwise would hit the potato containers. When I have grown potatoes in containers and in the ground in the same year and planted them at the same time, my yield in the ground has been at least twice as high as the yield from plants in containers. Nowadays, I tend to only plant them in the ground.

You can find lots of cool ways to grow potatoes in containers (potato towers, bags, boxes, wire fencing cages filled with straw, etc.) and those methods likely work fairly well in climates where a hot summer day hits 85 degrees. In our climate, where some of us already have had some 85 degree days this spring, those containers are problematic. Please note, I'm not saying you won't get any potatoes, just that you may get a lot fewer.

With onions, all the varieties of bulbing onions begin to bulb up when the number of hours of sunlight hits a certain length. There are three general categories of onions grown in the continental US, plus one new one. The three are short-day(bulb up when day-length reaches 10-12 hours a day), intermediate day-length (bulb up when day-length reaches 12-14 hours a day) and long day-length (bulb up when day-length reaches 14-16 hours a day). If you were planting on time, you could plant short-day or intermediate day onions in OK and know that you'd get a good harvest regardless. Some folks very far north in OK can plant long-day types. However, you're kinda late to plant onions, so if I was planting this late I'd be sure to plant an intermediate day length because it already is kinda late to expect a good harvest from short-day types planted now....or 5 or 6 days from now. You'll get onions either way, but with short days, they'll start to bulb up fairly early so that means they won't have much time to produce the leaves needed to give you nice, large bulbs. The fourth type of onion is a fairly recent development that is day-length neutral, which might be the best type to plant when planting late. In general, onions give you one 'layer' of onion flesh for each leaf the onion plant has when the onions begin bulbing up. To get really big onions, you need 11-13 leaves present on the plants at that time, or for huge onions you need at least 15. Planting this late, you might have to settle for fewer leaves and smaller onions. This isn't a big deal unless you have your heart set on raising huge onions this year. If that is the case, once you transplant your onion plants into the ground and they start growing, push them hard with regular feedings of nitrogen and with lots of water. Your onions need to get roughly 21" of water, via either rainfall or irrigation, in order to give you the maximum size they're capable of producing. If you are talking about planting dry onion sets that look like little tiny onion bulbs, you'll likely only get green onions (scallions) from them. If you're talking about sowing onion seed now, it is way too late for that. Since one family can eat only so many radishes at any given time and since radishes can mature in as little as 23 days, you can succession sow them weekly through mid-April.

Finally, with regards to your mile-long list...I assume you have a mile-long list of things you want to grow. Want to share the list with us? Half of gardening in OK involves planting at the right time, but there also is the undeniable truth that you can only put so much in a garden of a specific size. Believe me, I try every which way to squeeze in more stuff and there's still a limit to how much I can put into my garden. When you are new to gardening in general or new to gardening in Oklahoma, it is probably better to start with a few things and master them first, Then, each year, add a couple more. If you try to plant too many things that are new to you or just new to you in our climate, it may end up becoming overwhelming when our weather whacks out like it so often seems to do.

Finally, one important thing to know about gardening in Oklahoma is that there is a misconception that we have a very long growing season here and that you can grow anything and everything throughout that season. That just isn't how it works. While our frost-free season is very long, it really is comprised of several mini-seasons and you have to plant things so they are growing during the right mini-season. We plant most cool-season crops in February and early March so they can mature before the summer heat arrives in June. We've had issues the last two years because the summer heat has arrived in May, April or March, depending on where you are in OK. We have a very narrow window of opportunity for the cool-season crops to perform before the heat shuts them down, and planting even a couple of weeks late can be a problem some years. Then, we need to put some of our warm-season crops in the ground as early as we can so they can set fruit (especially true with tomatoes and sweet peppers) before the air temperatures get too hot for them to set fruit, but we cannot plant them when it is so cold that they might freeze, since freezing would kill them.

Meanwhile, there are other veggies, like winter squash, southern peas (blackeyed, purple eye pink hull, cream, crowder, etc.), sweet potatoes and melons, that like really warm soil so we plant them later in spring. Getting the timing right takes some practice, and just because you figure out the timing for an average year does not mean that same timing will work out the same way in a warmer-than-average or colder-than-average spring or summer. Gardening here would be a whole lot easier if the weather would behave the way we need for it to behave.

The good news in all of this? We get a second chance with cool-season crops in fall, although this often means we have to be planting those cool-season fall crops in June-August in order for them to produce at the right time in fall before freezing weather sets in.

My own personal rule for myself is that if I don't have a cool-season crop in the ground by April 1st, I skip it for spring and wait until fall to grow it. I know from 14 prior years of gardening here in this climate that any cool-season plant I plant later than April 1st won't have much of a chance of producing a harvest before it gets so hot that the plant shuts down. People farther north in OK than I am might be able to plant as late as April 15th and still get a harvest, but if that is true, they'll have to tell you that themselves. Not living further north, I have no clue about how late someone up there can plant a cool-season crop and still get a good harvest.

Right now, as March comes to a close, we are at that awkward time when we ought to be finishing up the last of our cool-season plantings while gearing up for the warm-season plantings. Well, technically, some of us who are far south in OK can sweet corn already....but since it is a very cold March and the forecasting models show some interesting weather for early March, we likely shouldn't.

In case you haven't seen the Oklahoma Planning Guide with recommended planting dates on it, I'll link it below so you can see what you should begin planting in the next couple of weeks. You don't have to abide by OSU-recommended planting dates, but using them as a guide is a good way for a gardener new to OK to kind of figure out what to do when.

Good luck and I hope the weather cooperates with you a little more now than it has in recent days.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Umm...on second thought,...what okiedawn said ;-)


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Scott, lol lol lol

I hope you noticed that in general I agreed with you that waiting until next week would be okay if Bre's forecast includes a lot of rain or freezing temps. I just went into a lot of detail on each type of veggie and why late planting 'could' hurt. With forecast models showing continued cooler than average weather, it might not be an issue to plant cool-season crops this week or next....if the models are right.

What I have found is that when new/new-to-OK gardeners plant cool-season crops too late and don't get much of a harvest, it can be a trememdous disappointment, especially if they are waiting for cool-season crops to finish up so they can replace them with warm-season crops. Sometimes it is better to skip cool-season plantings if you're really late (particularly if south of the Arbuckle Mtns because we warm up fast down here) and just do warm-season plantings on time and save the cool season stuff for fall.

In the early through mid-2000s (which now seem 100 light-years away) we kept having "hot" winters here in my region and my cool-season crops would burn up or bolt before they could produce, so for about 5 years I didn't plant many cool-season crops at all--just carrots, onions, radishes and potatoes. I saved all the rest for the fall.

Dawn


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Where to begin?! Thank you both Scott and Dawn for everything so far! Keep it all coming!!

So, I am north, I am north of Wagoner, right on Fort Gibson Lake. I am a transplant from from Wichita, Ks, and wouldn't have thought the growing seasons to be much different here, but just from what I have heard around they are by about 2-4 weeks. A local farmer told me not to plant until Easter? So that's why I am on this forum talking with fellow Okies.

My ground here is awful and I have had to put A LOT more work into then we thought we would(should have gone above ground). There is clay/HUGE sandstone(?) rocks that we have had to take out/some sand. Its like a nice buffet. I have worked it and worked it, composted, mulched, picked out rock after rock.

I have a 26ft long by 10 wide area on the northwest side of my house that I have busted into 6 mini plots, one is only for cool weather crops, so that I can rotate those in and out freely without feeling time constraints. And its in a cooler/shadier part of the plot then the others, so I don't think it will heat up as fast, I also plan on storing my potato containers on this side.

Dawn- we did just have 3 nights of freeze warnings here, and last week was rain/snow. With a chance of rain tonight, Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday. BTW, thanks for the link to planting guide, had not seen that yet!

SO my planting list is:
beets
onions
spinach
potatoes
Would like to try broccoli if its not too late?
tomatoes*
okra*
bell peppers*
jalapenos*
corn*
cucumbers*
lettuce
green beans
carrots
watermelon*
cantaloupe
strawberries*

I starred the ones that we have grown before. But I have never grown anything from seed. We were your typical city gardeners-go to the greenhouse, get the plant, put it in the ground. I will try any method though.

I do know from reading on here before I even posted that I had already got the WRONG kind of onions. I did get dried sets. I didn't know better. But alas, they were already bought, and opened, so they will be going in the ground. Its not what I wanted, but I can try again right? And I have no idea where I would find what I need?

I guess I would be disappointed if I didn't get much harvest bc I am trying to prove to my hubby that we can store/can and save money on groceries this way, and the way my kids go through pickled beets and at the farmers market here at $7 a jar.. but, its also a learning experience, and a hobby, so there wouldn't be much loved lost, it would just make me work harder next time.

Any questions, feel free to ask, anything I am saying that you know I am doing wrong, by all means, please tell me, any advice is more then welcomed! I appreciate everything and every ounce of knowledge I can take from anyone!

Bre


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Bre,

I live in bristow, work in Muskogee which is about 15 miles from wagoner. You may want to make the drive to Muskogee, there is a place called Arnold's. It's on Shawnee bypass. They have a lot of seed, or used to and they sell plants. Also, there is a Lowes in Muskogee and Tahlequah that have seeds and plants. Several places in Tulsa have what ya need as well. As for Wagoner, well, I dunno. Walmart I suppose :) Also, you may want to check out the Oklahoma Food Coop. I'm not sure the web address but google it and you will find it. They sell live plants. I know you said you were starting from seed a lot of stuff, but doesn't hurt to have backups. If you are looking for heirloom tomato plants, a lady in Tulsa sells awesome plants, she is known as the Tomato Mans Daughter. Again, I don't know the web addy.

I've lived in OK my whole life, from North central OK to western ok to NEOK. I also am behind in the game. I have a lot of work to do in my garden. I'm probably not gonna get to plant onions or potatoes....boooo! Good luck to ya, hope I was a little help.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Bre,

I don't think any of us start out with ideal soil here, though some folks in OK do have a nice sandy loam that is easier to "fix" then those of us who start out with dense clay, sugar sand or rocky soil. At least you are in the beautiful northeastern part of OK where rainfall is adequate most years (prior to 2011 and 2012 anyhow).

I assume the farmer who told you to wait until after Easter to plant was referring to the planting of warm-season plants and not cool-season ones. Most of us need to plant cool-season plants in mid-February through early March so they can produce a harvest before our insane heat arrives. Some years, you can plant broccoli the first week in April and still get a good harvest especially if you are planting the variety "Packman".

I can link lots of other goodies as questions arise. I'm the queen of links!

I am afraid our weather is going to shock you. I don't mean that the heat will shock you, or even that the roller coaster weather from cold to hot to cold to warm to cool to blazing hot and back again will shock you. I just think it is the unpredictable nature of it that sometimes shocks people who come from areas that otherwise are surprisingly similar. Earlier this week we had a low temp of 19 degrees at our house. Tomorrow it is supposed to be 80 degrees here. Then, in three or four nights, we'll be down near freezing again. Our weather is insane and it sometimes drives us to the brink of insanity too.

Beets---I think that if you plant from seed in the next week, you should get a harvest.

Onions--if it is okay with you to get smallish onions, go ahead and plant them from bundles of purchased plants for bulbing onions, or from dry bulbsets for scallions. You still should get a harvest, but the onions obviously will be smaller than they would have been if you'd planted them 3 to 6 weeks ago.

Spinach--from seed sown very soon....a good harvest is likely but not guaranteed. It just depends on how hot we get in April and May and on how early the heat arrives.

Potatoes--it isn't as late for these as for some of the above. I think they'll still produce well if planted soon, as long as you can keep them from overheating once the hot temps arrive.

Broccoli--I sometimes don't even plant it until the first week in April, and that is because late frosts often freeze it back to the ground when I plant it "on time". With broccoli, variety selection matters a lot here....and Packman does better for me than any other variety. It usually is available in stores at transplants. I have found broccoli harvests to be highly variable and all related to the arrival of the heat. Some years are good broccoli years and others aren't and it always is a risk, but a risk I take every year.

If your forecast includes temps in the low or mid-30s next week like mine does, if you go ahead and plant in advance of the cold, cover up the plants with something to protect them. Or, hold them and plant them as soon as the cold nights end. Broccoli shouldn't freeze in the 30s, but can freeze in the mid 20s. Hopefully the mid-20s are behind us all now. With purchased plants, though, you do not know how much prior cold exposure they've been subjected too, so that's why I said you should cover them up if you transplant them into the ground ahead of the approaching cold front.

Tomato-The key to success with tomatoes here is to get them in the ground as soon in spring as you can without subjecting them to freezing temperatures. Normally, our temperatures reach the point where it interferes with pollination/fertilization in late June or early July, but in 2011 it arrived as early as May. Last year, our last freeze was in March and a lot of us planted extra-early and got high yields. The heat did shut down pollination and fertilization in summer, as always, but not as early as it did in 2011.

I think that in general if you transplant your tomato plants into the ground two weeks after your county's average last freeze date, they'll be fine. Just check your 7 or 10-day forecast for cold nights before you put the plants in the ground. Also, watch your microclimate. I am in a low-lying microclimate and can have frosts or freezes 2-4 weeks later than some of my gardening neighbors who live on only slightly higher ground. You'll have to watch your area and see how your temperatures perform there compared to your county's mesonet station.

Corn--you can put corn seeds in the ground as early as about March 23-25 some years, particularly standard sweet corn. With the supersweets, you need to wait until soil temps warm up a bit more. With standard sweet corn, seed can go into 50-degree soil but with the supersweets, you need to wait for 60 degree soil temps or even 65 degree soil temps. We can get a good harvest most years. However, in 2011 the weather got so hot so early that a lot of people had pollination/fertilization issues. That's not real common here.

Cucumbers--you can plant any time after soil temps hit 55 degrees. I like to get the cukes in the ground as early as possible because so many pests plague it here. I have found it does better trellised than lying on the ground. I don't know if you've had to deal with cucumber beetles before, but they're already here in my garden now, and they will attack pretty much any plant, not just cucumbers. They spread disease so choose disease-resistant varieties. I usually plant County Fair because it is resistant to bacterial wilt.

Lettuce--it is pretty late to start lettuce from seed, but if you can find transplants, it isn't too late at all. With lettuce, even the heat-resistant and slow-bolting varieties will not give you a good harvest once the high temperatures reach a certain range. It will begin to get bitter and will blt. The lettuce I planted earlier in the winter is now large enough to harvest using the cut-and-come-again method. It should produce at least through the end of May, depending on what the soil temps do. The Summercrisp line of lettuce varieties have pretty good heat tolerance and I grew several of them this spring after having heat arrive insanely early the last two years. We also still are harvesting from Sea of Red lettuce plants and a couple of others from last fall's garden.

Getting two seasons of harvest from winter lettuce: the winter lettuce planted in late fall or early autumn produced all fall and winter, but was starting to get tall in February and I could tell it was going to bolt. It was growing in a large cattle trough. So, I cut it back to a couple of inches tall, dug up the plants and replanted them in the ground in the main garden. Those plants now are about 8" tall and producing great yields. When I moved them, I figured I had nothing to lose because otherwise I was just going to toss them to the chickens to eat. It worked. We are eating from those plants now. Meanwhile, I had started winter/spring transplants inside under lights and grew them on in the unheated greenhouse for a while. I transplanted those into the cattle trough, black concrete mixing tubs and wheelbarrow where I grow lettuce and they, too, are large enough now to harvest. Thus, we have lettuce coming out of our ears. How long it will continue to produce just depends on how fast the heat sets in to stay. I'd always heard that you could stop lettuce from bolting by cutting it back, digging it up and transplanting it because these actions would put it back into a vegetative cycle, so I wanted to try it. Based on early evidence, I'd say it works.

Okra--I usually wait for soil temperatures to reach 68-70 degrees before sowing the seed, and I like for the soil temps to have been in that area for 3-5 days before I sow the seed. It sprouts well and sprouts quickly as long as you're using seed that is not too old. Okra is one of the few things we grow that can tolerate almost endless amounts of heat as long as it is getting some water occasionally.

Peppers of all types do just fine here, and we usually begin with transplants to get them off to a fast start to beat the heat. They need slightly warmer soil and air temps than tomato plants do, so I usually put them in the ground a couple of weeks after transplanting tomatoes. Because our endless heat can be brutal on them and because pepper fruit sunscald so easily, I like to plant them where something else can shade them in the afternoons. Often, I plant them where they'll get after shade (dappled shade) from an adjacent pecan tree in the afternoons, or plant them with okra so the okra plants can shade them some.

Green beans--you can sow bean seeds into the ground as soon as your soil temps reach 60 degrees. Lima beans need 65 degrees. I plant both bush and pole beans in spring. The bush beans always produce well. It is more iffy with the pole beans. Eventually they'll produce well, but sometimes not until fall. It just depends on when the hot air arrives. Once we are having high temperatures (especially in combination with high humidity), the blooms often drop without forming beans. The good news is that you can plant both pole and bush beans again for fall. For me, bush beans are more reliable in spring than pole beans, likely because they tend to have shorter DTMs so they beat the heat. I have had great pole bean harvests in summers where the weather is milder, but usually the pole beans do better in fall for me.

Carrots--you still should get a great harvest from carrot seed sown soon, but I wouldn't wait too long. Carrots that grow in excessively hot weather aren't as sweet as those that mature in cooler weather, but carrot seed also sprouts slowly in cold soils that are colder than 45 degrees. We can get two separate carrot crops here---from seed sown in spring and from seed sown later for a fall harvest.

Watermelon--needs lots of heat and can be grown from seed or transplants. Full-sized melon plants take up a lot of room, but the varieties known as refrigerator melons produce quite a few small melons in relatively small space and can be trellised. For sowing seed directly, wait until your soil temps have hit 70 degrees and are staying there.

Cantaloupes--Can be grown from transplants or from direct-sown seed. Can sow the seed once soil temps are staying at or above 60 degrees. I also trellis these to save space and allow me to grow more in the space I have.

Strawberries: can do well here in the right soils and with good pest control. They don't do well in my clay, but I've had some good years with them in containers. However, I have to fight every wild animal and wild bird for the berries and that drives me up the wall. If space is precious, I wouldn't give a lot of space to strawberries. I lost all my plants in the drought of 2011. Once our high temperatures were in the 110-115 degree range, it didn't matter how much I watered them...they just couldn't take it. Maybe someone who successfully grows strawberries in your part of the state will tell you how they do it. I love strawberries, but our summers are unkind to them and I have a very large garden so don't have time to pamper anything too much.

With the onions, it is just a matter of "live and learn". Plant the sets and you'll at least get scallions from them. Most of us buy onion plants in bundles of 60-80 plants in February or early March. You usually can see those bundles of plants in wooden crates in garden centers as late as May, although if those are the very same plants they had in February (I saw them in stores here in southern OK in early or mid-January this year which is too early), they may be too dehydrated to grow. You might find a bundle of plants and plant them this week or next. You'll still get onions from a late planting. They just won't be as big as they would have been if planted on time. A lot of us get our onions from Dixondale Farms, which produces a very high quality produce. However, I've also planted onions bought locally from stores that carry plants from Bonnie Plants or Brown's Omaha and they've grown just fine. I order my Dixondale Plants online for delivery in early February, but Seedmama puts together a group forum order here every year that lots of folks in central and NE OK participate in. Google Dixondale Farm and check out their onion growing guides that are there online. They are very informative.

I grow a lot of my family's produce and can, dehydrate and freeze huge amounts of it. I also put lots of root crops into our tornado shelter, which doubles as a root cellar. You can do it. Lots of us do it. However, we didn't do it the very first year we had a "real" garden that produced lots of produce. We started smaller and got bigger, and as we got bigger, we learned how to preserve the excess produce. Once we got good at preserving it, we began planting even larger amounts of produce specifically for preserving. Just take your time and learn as you go. I try to preserve in a two-year cycle.(Three years would be nice, but I only have so much time available for food preservation in summer as it is.) For example, last year I preserved at least two years worth of tomato products, but not nearly as many cucumbers. So, this year I am hoping to preserve two years worth of cucumbers as pickles and I may not preserve too many tomatoes at all. Then, next year, the focus will be back on tomatoes. You will drive yourself stark raving mad if you try to produce and preserve a mega-harvest of everything every year. Just start with a reasonable amount of planting and food preservation in one year, and work you way up from there.

Preserving food requires a lot of time and you have to be organized and able to multi-task. During a busy harvest period, I often have food dehydrating at the same time that I am canning. Then, while a batch of something is in the canner, I'm using another burner on the stove to blanch veggies before freezing them. Once you are preserving a whole lot of food, which I do most years, you can spend up to 18 hours a day just harvesting and preserving the produce. So, don't plant more for canning than you can harvest and either eat or preserve. This is definitely one of those areas where you want to start small. We only had one deep freeze when we moved here, and now we have three. :) That didn't happen in one year. I added a new freezer about once every 5-7 years. Then once I was good at filling up three freezers, I started canning and dehydrating the rest. You can do it....but you cannot do it all your first or second year. You have to work your way up to it in both the planting and preserving of large quantities of food.

I don't know if my husband was totally onboard with the endless amounts of money I spent acquiring new freezers, dehydrators and canning equipment way back in the early years. Know what got him on board? Giving home-canned jellies, salsas, pepper products, etc. to all his coworkers for Christmas. He is, so to speak, a rock star at work during the holidays. If I tell him I need to buy 20 cases of canning jars, he doesn't even bat an eye. Seeing how much our friends, relatives and coworkers love receiving home-canned food as gifts seemed to really give him a whole new appreciation for the bounty that flows from our garden.

Dawn


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Hello ladies & gents, I'm not just new to Oklahoma I'm really pretty new to gardening. So any information on how to grow good crops in the Muskogee area would be great, but keep in mind I'm a newbie!

This year my husband has agreed we finally have the yard space to give me a good size garden. So far I've got 5 broccoli plants, red and white onions (Maybe 8-10 each), 1 green bell pepper plant, 4 tomato plants, 2 zucchini plants and 2 summer squash plants.

I plan on getting green beans and I also really want to grow sweet potatoes, because my 5 month old daughter is going to be starting to eat solid foods in a few months and I would really prefer she be eating good produce from our garden.

Things that would be helpful to know are: where to buy good plants from other than Lowe's? When is the best time to grow certain plants? Early Spring for Broccoli? Early summer - like June - for sweet potatoes? When for tomatoes and zucchini and squash?

I know I can grow slips from a sweet potato but do I just grab a sweet potato from wal-mart and put it in water or soil to start growing slips? Or is it too late to grow slips now if I want to plant in early June?

If I have a raised planter bed, is that the best place to grow most of the plants that I have? I was actually contemplating on growing any sweet potatoes in my front flower bed as I'm about to tear out all of the old landscaping from the previous owner's and start fresh, and the front flower bed gets partial shade from some mature trees out front.

Any info you guys could impart would be great!

(Last question, I promise! This is a flower question rather than a vegetable garden question.) I love having fresh flowers I can cut and put in vases around the house. Should I just get a packet of flower seeds & plant those in the landscaping bed for fresh flowers in the house? Or what flowers should I plant that would be good for fresh cut flowers? Also, I have 3 great roses bushes, but I know very little about roses and how to care for them. When is the best time of year to trim back rose bushes? Over this past summer when we moved here, they grew out of control and are now taking over the space. But I don't want to trim them back and end up damaging them or killing them because I didn't know what I was doing!


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Bre, Until you a growing your own beets, try this. Buy two cans of sliced beets, discard the juice and put the beets in a quart jar. Add one cup of sugar mixed with one cup of vinegar, put a lid on the jar and refrigerate it overnight. Wa-la, a good sub for pickled beets. Pickling spices can be added, but I would probably heat the vinegar if I added pickling spices to it.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Bre and astergherr,

I forgot to mention, Connors State college does a plant sale fund raiser thing with their horticulture department. They may have some plants you are looking for. There is also a hardware store in Muskogee at main and okmulgee that sells a limited number of plants. Also, there is a green house in Muskogee that sells plants called blossoms. It is on Hancock between York and country club road. I'm not sure when they open, if they aren't already. Good luck. I'll report back if I remember anything else!


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

astergherr,

For answers to your questions on the timing of your plantings, click on the Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide from OSU that I've linked below. It not only covers recommended planting dates but row spacing, etc.

You can start your own slips from a sweet potato or you can buy them. I usually start seeing them in stores in southern OK in mid- or late-April, though we usually aren't warm enough to plant them until May. It is not too late to start slips now for a May or June planting. Or, you can order slips from Gary at Duck Creek Farms. Just Google Duck Creek Farms OK to find his website. His extensive listing of many sweet potato slips is on that website.

The best place to raise your veggies is wherever you have the best soil and adequate sunlight. Most veggies need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Not knowing anything about your existing raised bed planter, we would be guessing whether it would be good or not. It depends on how much sunlight it gets each day, how good the soil is, etc. Sometimes people luck out and have great soil, but a lot of us have had to work for years to turn heavily compacted clay into decent gardening soil. You cannot grow good plants in bad soil, so if you feel like your soil is inadequate, amend it first before you plant.

You can plant your cutting flowers however you want. Often a cutting garden is not in a prime location because you're going to keep cutting the flowers leaving big 'holes' in it where those blooms were. Instead, some people put their garden in an out of the way place where they don't care if it looks bare at times because they've just cut an armload of bouquets for flowers. Others just put the flower beds where they want them and walk around the yard cutting the ones they want for bouquets. I do a little of both. If you're talking about annuals for flower bouquets, you cannot go wrong with zinnias. They are quick and easy from seed, come in a multitude of colors and sizes, and are both heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant. You also could grow salvia, tithonia, celosias, dahlias, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, Shasta daisies, coreopsis, cockscombs, gomphrena, yarrow, scabiosa, etc. for your cutting garden plants. I hesitate to list too many if this is your first experience growing cutting flowers. I don't want to give you such a long list of flower options that your head spins. Don't forget to plant something to use as filler around the larger flowers. Basil makes a nice filler in bouquets and so does dill. As a bonus, you can harvest the basil and dill for use as culinary herbs. I usually grow statice and veronica, among other things, to use as filler. If you find you enjoy having a cutting garden, in future years you may want to invest in some perennials that will come back year after year. A lot of my cutting garden plants are perennials, but I grow annuals and some biennials as well. Peonies are wonderful for bouquets and so are some of the plants we can raise from bulbs, tubers, rhizomes or corms like daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, dutch iris, iris, gladiolas, cannas, daylilies and lilies.The possibilities are almost endless....but be careful not to choose flowers with weak stems or very short stems that are meant more for use as bedding plants than as cut flowers.

With the roses, now is a good time to prune them back. Just google and read and follow the instructions on pruning roses. There are different kinds of roses, and without knowing what kind you have, I hate to offer suggestions about how to prune them. I used to grow a lot of roses, but got tired of dealing with black spot and took out all of them except one David Austin English rose called "Graham Thomas" and a handful of climbing roses I brought with me from Texas. I prune back the climbers hard just after they finish blooming in early Spring, but prune back the David Austin rose before it blooms. Not knowing what roses you have, it is hard to say when to prune them. Normally you do not and cannot kill a rose bush by pruning it back as long as you don't prune it off below the graft line where the rose plant was grafted to the rootstock. The worst thing most people do when pruning roses is that they get confused and prune spring-only bloomers right before they bloom, thereby accidentally removing all of this spring's buds before they can blossom. That doesn't kill the plant---it just means you wouldn't have flowers until next year.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Kevokie- thanks! I have always wondered about Arnolds when I drive by it! And I will check out Conners and the other places over there too!

Soonergrandmom- That is exactly what my grandma told me to do!! It works, but let's be honest...just not as good!

Dawn-you are just a wealth of knowledge! How did you learn this all? I find myself taking down notes so I can refer to them as I plant.

I planted potatoes yesterday and it started raining last night and into this morning..Our poor yard is flooded-not that I should complain about this, but I worry that the potatoes might get too much water.

If it dries out some today/tomorrow since we will be in the upper 70's, the plan is to try and plant beets, spinach and onions, carrots but then its suppose to rain Monday through Thursday. :( I may be tossing the lettuce, I was looking for plants yesterday and they looked just awful, so unless I run into some better ones, it will wait.

Then broccoli/corn next weekend.

Dawn- all your notes has me making my own planting calender according to weather, etc! My husband is going to roll his eyes so hard they might fall out. His idea was to just throw it in the ground and what produces does, and what doesn't oh well. He can't believe the hours I have spent in that soil getting it just right. And there is the wooden pallet pieces I got from the neighbor to make the fence look "cute". I even went as far as making a "blueprint".

As far as the cucs and the melons go, I have them on the fence line so that I can train them to trellis up it. Then the strawberries..not my idea, that is my 7 year old daughter. And my 3 year old son picked grapes. They are on the outside of the garden and in a planter box. I am not expecting much from them, as they aren't really my plants to care for. It was more a lesson in teaching my kids about gardening and giving them something to do besides tramp all over the veggies.

I definitely don't spend all my time picking and preserving. And we still have pickles from last year. With 5 tomato plants, and 1 of those being a cherry tomato, we will see how many we actually have leftover to can after we enjoy them fresh in every form! My main canning focus this year is beets, and so whatever I don't get this spring, well you can bet I will be back asking for the wealth of knowledge on how to plant them for the fall harvest!

And Dawn- I would love to see pictures of your garden!!


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I heard long ago to plant a $5.00 plant in a $20.00 hole, since then I have spent much more time on the soil than I do on the plants, it seems to work.

Larry


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Thanks so much guys for all the GREAT information!! (I'm sure Bre would agree, you guys are a wealth of great information and I'm already incredibly grateful. And sorry Bre, I wasn't trying to take over your forum, I'm just new to the area as well and had some questions. I hope you don't mind!)

Okay, maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you insure that the soil in your garden is good soil? (Or as Larry said, a $5 plan in a $20 hole?) I know some plants need higher levels of nitrogen in the soil or the ph needs to be higher or lower for certain plants to grow the best and etc. But how do you accomplish this for a garden that has several different varieties of plants?

My current plan is actually to plant sweet potatoes in my front landscaping bed since it's a large area that the plants can spread out and sorta take over. I'm also planning on planting some in the raised vegetable garden bed my husband is going to build me and I'll compare at the end of the season to see which location produces better. The raised planter bed we were planning on filling with top soil from a local nursery - though I'd yet to find a nursery and call to see if the have top soil available and how much it costs. I know my folks in Texas get a truck bed load of top soil for about $30 bucks, but I have no idea how much this area charges.

Should I be investing in a ph soil tester? I also have a friend from Tulsa that has access to horse manure and a lot of mulch, so I was planning on mixing the manure with the top soil as a natural fertilizer and then the mulch on top. Does it sound like I'm on the right track towards providing good soil for my plants to grow and produce well?


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

astegherr,

In response to the soil test kit, they may be nice but I have never owned one.

Purchased soil, I have never bought any, I just amend what I have.

Raised beds, I garden in a raised bed fashion, but with no solid borders. I dig the soil at the edge and toss it on top of the center soil, and amend it all, then fill the edge with mulch. The inside area gets mulched also after the weather warms up some. Because the mulch in the "ditch" rots faster I just toss it on top of growing area and re mulch the ditch.

The ditch helps with drainage and also helps in weed and grass control.

I will show a picture of what I am talking about. The first picture is of my south garden where I have re mulched the south side. The second picture is of my north garden where I have not harvested the rotted mulch. You can see water in the ditch where the rotted mulch is. It has been so wet here I have not been able to get a lot done

Larry
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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Thanks so much Larry! Your garden looks great!

When you say you "amend" the existing soil, what exactly does that mean?


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

astegherr, thanks for the complimenmt on the garden, but they need a lot of work, but it has been so wet for so long I may never get caught up.

For me amend means organic matter, and more organic matter. I use grass clippings, hay, shredded leaves, and even compost from the Ft. Smith land fill. The compost is my last choice because I dont know what is in it, plus it is very trashy with shredded plastic bags. If I were younger I would compost more at home, but to compost properly can be a lot of work. I do however pile organic matter up and let it rot. The top picture is where I added fresh oak shavings to the south side of the south garden. The second picture is where I will dig out what is left of the shaving from last year and toss them on the garden (which will help amend the soil). The hay you see in the first picture is at least a year old. (but just placed over my potatoes a couple of weeks ago) The hay will not rot very fast if left in a pile without adding some form of nitrogen and moisture.

I would suggest that you save all the organic matter you can to place on your garden.

Larry


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Larry- what a nice looking garden! You say Ft. Smith, do you live in Arkansas, or is that just where you go to get your compost?

astegherr- you said you live around Muskogee? Where abouts if you don't mind my asking. I am north of Muskogee, my address claims Wagoner, but we actually live north of there, right out by Ft. Gibson Lake.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Momofsteel, I live about 20 miles south of Ft. Smith in Arkansas, east of a small town in Oklahoma called Cameron.

Larry


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Everyone is giving great advice already but I just wanted to chime in with one thing - for taking notes in GardenWeb you can use the 'Clippings' feature, it is in the upper right corner of each response and says 'clip this post' and can be helpful for corralling all the words of wisdom!

The other thing - I just ran across this blog today, onehundreddollarsamonth.com and although the growing climate she is working in is radically different, I thought it was a cool idea. Many, many people - including me - would say gardening in Oklahoma is good for a hobby and not as a money saver - I tried that line with my husband for a while and a few years later finally sheepishly admitted it was a losing proposition. He'd long ago figured that out and chalked it up to being something I enjoyed doing so much it was worth throwing money at it, even if we don't break even, let alone save money. He just wants me to be happy and I find a lot of peace and joy dabbling in the dirt!

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Blog


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Hello Mia.

Often it depends upon a few very important factors as to whether vegetable gardening is a money saving endeavor or a money pit. With good soil quality, knowledge/wisdom, correct plant varieties, and hard work a person has a decent chance of saving money from gardening. Some years will be net gains and some net losses. The past couple of years were net losses for a lot of folks. But some of the previous years were net gainers, and hopefully this year will be also. (Farmers and gardeners are always optimist about the next year.)

To save money gardening must be approached as a business. Everywhere you can save money or cut costs get you closer to making the garden a financial asset versus a liability. On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with approaching gardening as a hobby with benefits. It might cost you money, but so does golf and most every other hobby. At least with gardening you get at least some return on your investment: exercise and good things to eat.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Hi Scott - I completely agree. It certainly has to do with individual circumstances as well. Since I am pretty much the only one in our household to eat from my garden, I couldn't possibly eat enough to "break-even" on what I plant. However, I like giving produce away to co-workers, family, etc., and if I didn't have a garden, I wouldn't head to Wal-Mart and buy those people produce, so it makes me feel rich in spirit to garden and give away the proceeds. In my circumstances, due to time constraints, I might have to hire more out and spend more than someone who has the time and ability to DIY everything, thus I might have more cost, too.

I have no doubt that someone else might save grocery money gardening (like okiedawn and soonergrandmom - both experienced gardeners) but I don't think most people will do it right away with so many of the start-up costs associated with getting a successful garden up and running in our climate/soil conditions - you can cut corners all you can but still have some costs, either time or money, to getting a garden started. I'm enjoying the journey and not so focused on the destination so I don't get discouraged and quit.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I do think you have to garden on a larger scale to have great financial benefits from it, and for brand-new gardeners there will be a learning curve the first few years that may limit their production. With experience, though, a home garden can become amazingly productive. It is unfortunate that start up costs can be high if you are buildling raised beds and erecting fencing or putting in a drip irrigation system, but they pay off over the years they're being used.

Still, even on a smaller scale, particularly with some cooperation from the weather, a small garden can produce a bounty of some items that are ridiculously high-priced at the grocery store, like salad greens and fresh herbs. Our winter garden produced hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of lettuce and mesclun greens all winter long. There was so much that I fed our two dozen chickens all the fresh greens they could eat virtually every day this winter, and we were having enough rain that I hardly had to water the lettuce at all, which was a nice break from the usual routine of watering through the dry periods. Of course, some of those greens come back to us in the form of fresh eggs too. You wouldn't think a winter garden would give you a large harvest, but as long as you plant early enough in fall (or, actually, in late summer), you can harvest various greens and root crops almost all winter long.

My favorite illustration of how productive a small garden can be is Rosalind Creasy's 100 square foot garden bed. She decided to track the costs and harvest from a 100 square foot bed and then she wrote about it. Granted, she is in a different climate from ours but I think that with careful planning and cooperative weather, any of us could raise just as many pounds of produce in a 100 square foot bed. I'll link an article about her 100 square foot bed below.

I never approach gardening as a money-saving proposition because some years it might not be one. However, in other years, we definitely save more than we spend. Last year was one of those, and the harvest was about as good as it gets. We still have hundreds of jars of canned food from the garden and the freezer is still half-full. We need to get busy eating more of that food from the freezer or I won't have any place to put this year's excess. I do think too many new gardeners have high expectations of high harvests, and the high harvests tend to come as you gain experience in dealing with the weather and pests.

I don't think Tim ever expects our garden to be a money-saver so it always surprises him when it is. One light-bulb moment for him was one year when we were in Central Market in either Fort Worth or Southlake and he saw little jars of jelly in flavors similar to the ones I was canning at that time. (That was a 700-jar year.) He was quick to note that an Apricot-Habanero Jelly was selling for about $7 a jar. I teased him and said "Well, then, our jelly closet is worth thousands of dollars right now." Those great years make up for the horrific drought years like 2011 when i barely put up anything from the garden at all.

Even if we lost money on the garden every year, I'd do it anyway because it makes me happy. Another thing I think people forget is that, if they are gardening organically and if they always buy organic produce, then they are saving a lot more money than people who buy conventional produce. Sometimes the prices for organic produce are just ridiculous.

Also, eating from the garden allows us to eat more veggies than we normally would. A couple of years back we had a great sugar snap pea year. I think we harvested 34 pounds of them. We ate them real often and froze the excess to eat over a longer period of time. I doubt that organic sugar snap peas stay in production long enough each year for me to ever buy 34 pounds of them at the store, and at the then-price of almost $4 for 10 oz. of organic sugar snap peas, I wouldn't have bought 34 lbs. of them in one year even if they had them in the store every single week.

We spent a lot of money on the garden in the early years, most of it on fencing, lumber for the building of raised beds, soil amendments, etc. Our costs have been a lot lower since then, and they'd be even lower if I didn't want to grow 5, 15 or 25 different varieties of everything I plant. I am pretty frugal, watching for seeds on sale in the fall, for example, and I can make a packet of some seeds last 10 years with good storage.

We haven't even addressed flower gardening either. People who grow tons of flowers can fill their homes with bouquets from early spring through at least late fall. I never would buy as many bouquets of fresh flowers as I am able to cut from our cutting garden beds. I spent more money this year for flower seed, bulbs, tubers, corms, etc. because I want more flowers. The last two years I cut way back on the flowers and I am determined to have a lot more flowers this year, drought or no drought.

Here is a link that might be useful: $700 of Food From A 100 S.F. Raised Bed


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Oh I'm so behind here, every time I come to sit down to post a response my daughter is usually demanding my attention or time instead.

Lol, I don't have any delusions that my garden won't really save me any money right now. I'm doing because it's something I want to get better at for one, and for two, I have a real passion for knowing where my food comes from and eating as healthy as possible. And thirdly, I like the idea of gardening with my daughter the same way my mother did with me while I was growing up, so it's a nostalgic thing for me. (My mother still gardens in Texas and I look forward to every summer that I can go and spend some time with her and my dad and working in their garden. My husband is in the military and is gone sometimes for weeks or months at a time, so last year I got to spend several months with them. My garden this year will be the first I've ever done on my own though, I'll admit to being a little intimidated!)

Okiedawn, thanks for all the advice, especially on the flowers and roses. This weekend I'm planning on cutting them back. (Though I'm worried I've missed my window and now it's going to be too late. They haven't bloomed yet though, I'm hoping that maybe it will be okay. They are horribly overgrown.) I do have a question though, I'm not a huge fan of the placement of these particular rose bushes. Is it possible to transplant them? They were put in last summer by the previous owners of the house we bought. They actually still have a tag on them that says they are Double Knock Out Shrub Roses. If I try to transplant them to a different location, will I kill them? Should I try to move them after or before I cut them back? Or maybe just transplant them this year and cut them back next spring? LoL, sorry for the 20 questions.

Bre, I'm a bit south of you and actually in Muskogee. Are you familiar with the Lowe's here in Muskogee on the Bypass? My house is fairly close to it, if that gives you any idea of the area I'm in.

Okay how are you suppose to plant anything when it RAINS so much?!? At my house, my back yard is perpetually soggy, muddy, and filled with water. I haven't planted a thing even though I desperately need to get my broccoli and onion plants in the ground weeks ago! But even this last week here we had at least 2 nights that were freezing again. How are you suppose to plant when it's so constantly wet and cold? Will my broccoli and onions not produce now because I'm going to be planting them so late?

Ashley


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Hi, everyone! I'm new here. I live in the OKC area. I just wanted to comment about whether gardening saves money or not.

I've been gardening on and off for about 10 years here. Initially it was just to have better tasting produce. Now that I have learned how much chemicals are sprayed on produce and how much less nutritious conventionally grown produce is, I wanted to buy more organic but the increase in cost is not in the budget. So this year is the first time I'm determined to grow enough to have an abundance to put away for the winter.

In comparison to organic/locally-grown produce, I am definitely saving money. When in season, I see locally grown tomatoes going for $3-4/pound. Well, I can get conventionally grown tomatoes for $1/pound in the middle of the summer. My family can consume an extraordinary amount of tomatoes, so that is a huge savings for me to grow them rather then pay $3-4/pound.

That's just one example but like Dawn mentioned the savings are huge with fresh greens and herbs.

If you are new to gardening, all the up front cost makes it seem like you are not saving money. After all the initial cost, gardening does cost much less in subsequent years. This year I bought a lot of amendments and set ups for row covers and trellises so next year that is not a cost to me. I've been composting so I'm hoping I don't have to buy much amendments in the future.

Even if I was just to break even on cost, I would still do it because home-grown food just tastes so much better.

Cynthia


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Ashley,

It is best to transplant the roses in late winter through early spring while they are still dormant. If you can wait until next winter, that would increase the chance they'll survive. However, if they are in a location where they're driving you crazy and you just can't stand them there for another 9 months, cut them back when you transplant , them and hope for the best. I've moved roses at various times of the year when it isn't a good idea, and they've never died. Now, if we were talking about an heirloom rose you grew from a cutting taken from a place of great sentimental value and you'd be crushed if it didn't survive being transplanted, I'd say to play it safe and definitely not move it until late next winter. Whether you move them now or not, ,go ahead and cut them back ASAP. Better to do it a little late as opposed to never.

My first adult garden wasn't too intimidating because my dad's and mom's house (and garden) were just down at the end of the block a few houses away. If I had a garden crisis, I could ask my Dad right away and he could come over and look at the problem plant. In a way, it was liberating to move here and start a new garden anonymously where no one knew me as his daughter, so they didn't have any expectations that I'd be a good gardener. I did miss having him close, but made many new friends here among the old farmer/old rancher crowd and they were fine substitutes for having my dad nearby.

It can be a lot more fun to start a new garden when you aren't being watched too carefully by people you know are fantastic gardeners simply because it takes a lot of the pressure off of you. Just remember that your soil may be quite different from theirs, etc. If they live in a part of Texas where they can plant earlier than you can, keep that in mind too. Whenever my dad would start planting in Texas a couple of weeks before I even could think about when I'd start planting here, it made me antsy and I'd really start getting eager to plant my garden.

How do we plant when it rains so much? That's a great question. I have mostly dense red clay that turns into red concrete when dry and gets a chocolate-pudding type consistency when wet. Obviously, rain ponds and puddle on the surface of the ground and makes me crazy. It was a no-brainer when we moved here that we'd have to build raised beds above the grade level if a garden was to have any chance at all of surviving the wet periods. So, that's what we did. All of my garden does not consist of raised beds, but a lot of it does and those are the areas where I plant first in rainy years. Once the raised beds are filled up, I cannot plant anything else until the ground is dry enough. That can be frustrating. All you can do if you don't have raised beds is wait for the soil to dry. Or, you can mound up soil above grade level and plant into those mounds or hills.

If your soil drains well but is staying wet because of prolonged rain, ,take you cue from plants near your garden. Gardens in well-drained soil can survive a surprising amount of rainfall. If plants near the garden aren't showing any signs of stress from being too wet, then it is likely the garden plants would be fine if you planted them. If it is seeds you're worried about, that can be more of a problem in perpetually wet soil. Some seeds can rot before they sprout.

Is there something specific you're worried about planting or is this a general concern because we've been blessed with so much rain lately?

None of us can say if your broccoli or onions will produce or not because so many variables lie ahead. Onions should give you some sort of harvest, even from a late planting, as long as they are not put into soil so wet that they rot. Broccoli is more iffy. I am assuming you have transplants? As long as they haven't been allowed to get to dry or to get rootbound, there's a good chance they still will produce even if planted now. However, with both onions and broccoli keep in mind that you're planting really lare and that might be reflected in your plants' behavior or harvest. There's no guarantees in gardening. We all just do the best we can with the conditions we've got and hope that it works out well.

Cynthia,

Welcome to the forum! I hope you'll keep us posted on how your garden does this year.

I think you and I made good points, but I forgot the main point and will simply state it this way: while food, herbs and flowers from the garden are nice to have and make me feel like we're getting a good return on the money spent on the garden, I'd garden anyway because gardening feeds my soul.

Dawn


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Thanks so much for the advice Dawn! I'm pruning back the roses bushes and transplanting them TODAY! I'll let you know how they turn out after. (If they die, oh well, I'll plant more next year.)

Okay, quick question for you guys. For my kitchen scraps, what is the best way to use them to put back nutrients in the garden if I do not compost at home?
(I know I should, but we don't collect our lawn clippings and I don't have a ton of kitchen scraps. Nor do I currently have much desire/time to compost myself. It's easier right now since I have a friend that has large quantities of compost already available to me to just steal some of her's than make my own. That's more time and work that I can spare right now. I need my garden to be relatively EASY.)

Should I dig a hole in the corner of my already planted garden and dump scraps into that. Or would something like this "worm tower" described below, be a better option?

"Worm Tower - Drill lots of holes in a pvc pipe. Bury all but 6 inches in garden. Place kitchen scraps in the hole. Worms will come in and eat and then transfer the "goodies" throughout the garden."

I've only just heard about doing this for a worm tower and thought maybe this would be a better option than collecting a bucket of kitchen scraps every week or two and then digging a new hole around the edges of my raised garden bed and putting the scraps into it. Any thoughts??


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I don't know how to answer this because I am not sure if you live in a civilized neighborhood or out in the sticks like I do.

My experience with any food scraps (because I'm in a really rural area with tons of wild animals) is that I have to bury them underneath something (deeply) or the raccoons, possums, skunks or other varmints will find them and gobble them up. That is too much trouble on a daily basis, so I usually side step the issue by feeding the scraps to the chickens. They'll start the process of breaking down the food scraps for me, and I can just clean out the coop and put their bedding/manure on the compost pile. Not many wild animals seem attracted to chicken manure/bedding.

My grandfather used to bury his compostables in his garden pathways, or along the outer edge of a bed, and that was after he moved from the country to the city and had less wildlife to deal with. I don't remember how he did it when he lived in the country. I remember spending summers on the farm until I was 5 or 6 and they moved to the city, but I was more interested in feeding the chickens or riding on the tractor with him than I was in how he was doing his compost.

I think the worm tower could work if you live in a civilized area where you don't have a lot of wild animals running around looking for a meal every night.

Dawn


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

As a flower gardener...I vote we don't keep track of how much money I spend :) However it is great exercise, makes me get out from in front of a screen and occassionally I get to make other people happy with a bouquet from my garden.

Lisa


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Another point about gardening, apart from money savings, is that of skill development. It takes time to learn a skill like gardening. I have heard too many people say, "Well, if the economy crashes, I'll plant a garden." I always think: "Boy are you going to be in for a shock!"

So, to garden with children is ESPECIALLY beneficial. They learn a valuable skill, and, in some cases, a tradition is either born or carried on.

I do try to be cheap. Fencing is probably our biggest expense. Also, when it comes to hand tools, I purchase high quality, like Lee Valley. It costs more. But in the long run, it saves money. Currently I'm working 100 X 16' of new ground. Every time I use my Lee Valley Spading Fork, I think about how something from Lowes or Walmart would soon break under this kind of strain. But my fork is now about 5 years old and showing no sign of weakening.

George

Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Valley Tools


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I live in a "civilized neighborhood" so to reduce the amount of scraps on my compost pile, I run everything through a blender first. Sounds gross I know, but it really isn't bad.

I just blend it all into a smoothie and then pour on my compost pile. It's dried out almost immediately. I figure this breaks it down much faster. It looks nicer and has definitely reduced the chance of the bad smelling compost from happening.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I love gardening because, like Dawn so succinctly put it, it feeds my soul. I won't get maudlin about it, but the benefits far exceed the gratification of growing healthier food to feed the body. I can't really put a monetary value on the rewards I get from gardening.

I've been teaching my GD about growing plants, raising butterflies, learning about insects and other critters, growing and harvesting our own food, and just relaxing and absorbing the activity and beauty of a garden. We just finished planting an herb garden for her and mom at their house, with sage, thyme, rue, lavender, and flowers. We still have rosemary and fennel, a butterfly bush, and some lilies to plant in a raised bed in front. She has done all the soil amending and planting herself. But she really enjoys it.

Susan


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Ms Susan,
It is amazing how much joy in the garden the GD adds. She insisted on a fairy garden right next to the veggies. I have a small spot for it (about 40 x 50) and put a mimosa and red spider lillies in the middle (in memory of my mom and granny). That's it so far. I have researched fairy gardens but thay lack the "this works in oklahoma" section.
You are my butterfly and friendly critter guru. Any ideas for this garden? Pretty please?


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I thought I would toss in a couple more pictures of how I use a border-less raised bed. I have very shallow top soil, plus it is very wet in most areas.

The first picture will show just how shallow my top soil is, the second picture will show how improved the soil is.

I started to harvest the rotted organic matter in the ditch, but it was still a little too wet and there were too many worms in it. I like this method better than the bordered raised beds, but it is not near as pretty. The clump in the picture is a piece of sub-soil I pulled out of the ditch.

Larry

 photo 001-57_zpsf28abaa0.jpg

 photo 002-43_zps894d1962.jpg


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Luvabasil, some suggestions include pussytoes (Antennaria), a ground cover native whose flowers resemble cat's paw, and is a larval host plant for American Lady butterflies;

Small Epimediums would be pretty and also drought tolerant once established, as are pussytoes. The common name for them is Fairy Wings, oddly enough.

Grass-like plant include Carex, Fiber Optic, black mondo grass.

For the look of trees, dwarf Alberta spruce come in many varieties.

Others include ice plants, strawberry begonia, violas (can host Variegated Frittilaries),

All of these depend on what your exposure will be, etc.

If I think of more, I will let you know.

Susan


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Thank you ma'am! it is a pretty exposed area; at least for the next few years. There is a red cedar that we are cutting down bit by bit (I don't want to shock anyone that is in it). We are in a fire prone area, and as much as I hate to see it go, it is too close. I was going to use a Nellie Stevens Holly as an evergreen replacement, I'll add the spruce as well.
I do appreciate it. As does the grandchild......


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

I didn't start out to grow so much, it just kind of happened. I was also a military wife and planted small gardens and flower beds in a lot of different climates as we moved from place to place. When we finally retired, I wanted a garden, but we lived in southern Oklahoma at the time and I had only red clay. Although I tried to improve it, I never got it the way I wanted it. When we moved to Grove, I cleared a corner of the back yard, which had once been a garden, but was then a lawn, and I planted a small garden. The soil was really good and it did well. The garden did so well, that I wanted it to be larger, then larger, then larger, until it now takes up the entire back yard. Some Springs we get a lot of rain, and in the beginning, I had such mud that I have had it pull my shoes off when I tried to walk in it. I sometimes had to rescue tomato plants that appeared to be swimming, by digging a trench to drain off the water.

I live in a neighborhood with a lot of trees and many people burn their leaves. Some of them now know that they can just dump the leaves in my north yard. One guy has a huge lot and he just drives here on his lawn mower with his 4x4x4 grass catcher, and dumps them for me. He loves it because he doesn't have to burn them. I love it because he doesn't have to burn them. I not only hate the smoke, but they are great for my garden. I also buy mushroom compost by the pickup load, and I have chickens. Although I still get rain, I just don't have the mud problem that I once had.

At first, I only grew what I thought we could eat fresh because that is what I had always done since I had small gardens and we moved so much. What I discovered was that there were so many great things to grow, that I wanted to grow them all. LOL

I wanted the great taste of fresh produce, I wanted food that hadn't been sprayed with dangerous chemicals, and most of all I just wanted to learn how to grow as many things as I could. I think our economy stinks, and is going down hill each year, so I wanted to learn to be self-sufficient in the event I needed that skill.

Although I plant mostly in the ground, I have 3 raised beds that I use for early crops. One now has asparagus so I can control the moisture level, and I normally plant salad crops in another so I'm not growing them in the Spring mud. This year the third bed is filled with the first onions I planted. I covered it with row cover as soon as I planted because we have a neighborhood cat that thinks any box is just for him.

As far as costs go, I consider gardening a hobby, and a health benefit and a lot more exciting than a gym membership. As my gardening skills improved, my soil improved, and I practiced growing more things, I found myself with all of this food. I can't stand to see it wasted, so we freeze it, can it, and eat it. If I had more space, I would grow even more, because I like doing it.

I could garden for less money than I spend, but I am no longer young and I have some health issues so I need to do things in the smartest way that I can. Like George, I buy Lee Valley tools. I have others as well, but it is the Lee Valley that I normally reach far. My daughter-in-law says that my shovel is so heavy, that you just hold it up and drop it instead of pushing it into the ground. LOL

When I have big purchases to make, I just buy in quantity, but buy for several years. Once you have a hoop bender, then it is cheap to make all of the hoops that you need. One year, I bought 500 feet of row cover which I am still using. I can usually get several years use out of each piece. If it gets holes in it, it is still useful. It is good enough to use over the raised bed that the cat likes, or to lay over the tops of plants that are under a poly low tunnel if we get excessively cold weather, or even to wrap around the sides of a CRW tomato cage to keep sharp winds off small plants. One year I had pepper plants until after Thanksgiving by surrounding the bed with row cover and putting a piece of greenhouse plastic just over the top part of the plants. There was plenty of air flow, but it still provided protection from the harsh cold wind. I still have plenty of unused row cover to use for a few more years.

Last year I bought greenhouse plastic that was 100 feet by 10 feet. It is perfect for use on low tunnels since conduit comes in ten foot lengths. With the conduit pushed into the ground, the ten foot poly works just great. I only needed about a third of that last year, and even that piece is still good enough to use again.

I need to learn to grow more herbs. I am fine with basil, dill, cutting celery, parsley and things like that, but struggle with others. They may get too much moisture, but I'm working on building a new VERY raised bed to try again.

If you saw the location of my garden, you would wonder how I can grow anything because I have trees and buildings all around. Oklahoma has such brutal summers that the shade seems to help, and the buildings seem to take winds mostly over my garden instead of whipping through at ground level, so I think that extends my Fall growing.

Even in the same State, we have many different growing conditions and just like a flower that 'will bloom where it's planted', we have to take what we have available to us and make it work, and just 'bloom where we are planted'. Every year I learn more about my garden. Last year I lost a tree which made a difference, so I have to adjust for that.

Everyone has waste, whether it is paper, cardboard, kitchen scraps, chicken pen cleanings, hay, etc. If you don't, your neighbors do. Just get creative and you can make your soil better for gardening. Spend money if you have it, and want to spend it on gardening, but even if you don't, you can still grow a few things and learn a lot....and most of all..have fun.


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RE: New to Oklahoma gardening and behind already

Thanks for the additional pictures Larry! Your soil looks WAY more dried out than mine does. It's been raining like crazy here, my back yard literally looks like a swamp and I'm beginning to think that the soil will NEVER dry out.

I did manage to get my rose bushes trimmed back, but it's been too wet actually to transplant them just yet.

In my one raised bed, I got the soil amended with peat moss, chicken compost and cow manure & compost. However, my great dane who NEVER walked into the garden before, has since then decided it's a great place to be! He's stepped on 2 of my broccoli plants so far. Between the temperature dropping back down into the mid 30's, the constant rain we've had here lately, and the dog, I feel I'm pretty much doomed to fail on the early spring plants. Oh well, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage would have been nice. Now I'll just be happy if any of them survive! Live and learn I suppose, but I just don't know what I should or could have done differently to help them. Build a fence to keep the dog out, for sure. But what do you do with the uncooperative weather? I was already late in getting them in the ground last weekend and the day after they got planted, it rained for 3 days straight almost and the temp dropped back down to 34 degrees here. Should I have waited to plant them until the weather report says we're suppose to have 10 days of no rain and above 40 degree weather? If I did that, I fear I'll be waiting to plant broccoli until May!


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