What are the best and easiest vegetables to grow in Oklahoma? First, growing anything in Oklahoma is a dare. You never know if spring will suddenly end, and hot weather will linger for days, or if a hail storm or a tornado will foul up your spring planting.
Oh, and God bless the freakin’ deer, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels. What they don’t eat, they dig up and tear apart. Now, with those caveats aside here are the best and easiest vegetables to grow.
Here are my best and easiest vegetables to grow in Oklahoma.
- Lettuce. Sow seeds directly outdoors at the end of February, and you should have success. Spinach isn’t always so accommodating. I find it’s easier to grow in the fall vegetable garden. Lettuce also grows well in containers, so if you have even a tiny balcony, you can still have fresh salads. Leaf, bibb, and romaine lettuce types are the easiest to grow in that order. ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ lettuce, a favorite of mine once grown by my grandmother, is a classic.
- Kale and Chard. Plant seeds outdoors at the same time as lettuce. They are easy, but being a cole crop, kale can be attacked by cabbage moth larvae. Occasionally, cabbage moth caterpillars also attack my Swiss chard, but they don’t do as much damage.
- Green or spring onions. Plant onion sets (those little bulbs you see at the nursery) at the same time you plant your lettuce or start onion seeds indoors under lights.
- Snow peas and sweet podded peas. Both of these types of peas are easily grown in Oklahoma. Shelling peas are harder to grow here because our spring weather can suddenly turn hot before the pods are fully filled out.
Do not confuse any edible peas with sweet peas, which are beautiful, sweetly scented, and poisonous.
- Mediterranean herbs. Most herbs love containers, so they are another excellent deck or balcony choice.
- Basil. I usually buy one or two basil plants to get a head start and then plant seeds. There are many different types of basil. Get the one you want for the cooking. I especially enjoy growing Everleaf Emerald Towers basil–which never goes to flower from Botanical Interests Seeds–and Thai basil, but I have grown many others. Here’s an article I wrote for Family Handyman about how to grow basil.
- Parsley, both curly and flat, is easy, but the seeds are very slow to germinate. I usually buy transplants or start them indoors early.
- Thyme is easy to grow, but I buy transplants. The only type of thyme I’ve ever had trouble with is the fuzzy type. It wouldn’t grow for me.
- Sage is an easy and hardy perennial.
- Oregano was aggressive in my garden, so I would only grow it in a container.
- Mints are bad actors who want to take over, so, again, use containers. I especially like spearmint and chocolate mint.
- Rosemary is a tender perennial that likes good drainage. Sometimes it overwinters, and sometimes it doesn’t. I still plant it from transplants when I need to replace it. You can now get rosemary varieties with blue flowers, like Hill’s Hardy, but I’ve found them even less hardy. Here’s an article I wrote about how to grow rosemary for Family Handyman.
- Summer squash. What would summer in Oklahoma be without summer squash sauteed, wok-fried, or floured and fried like my Grandma Nita used to do? Our family loves zucchini, yellow crook neck, straight neck, and spaghetti squash. If you want to grow summer squash organically, you will need to try several methods to keep squash bugs off of your plants. Also, remember to pick the fruits small. No one likes baseball-bat-sized zucchini.
- Tomatoes. You can start seeds indoors under lights, but the easiest way to grow is to buy tomato transplants. Plant transplants well after your last frost date (approx. April 20 in central Oklahoma.) If you’re an inexperienced gardener, stick with disease-resistant hybrids. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and agony. Heirloom tomato varieties taste fantastic, but so does almost any homegrown tomato compared to those in the store. Heirlooms can be more finicky, but ‘Cherokee Purple’ is a great variety tested throughout the U.S. Other tomato favorites are: ‘Super Fantastic,’ ‘Park’s Whopper,’ ‘Rutgers’ (often listed as an heirloom, but it was developed at Rutgers University), ‘Beefsteak’ and ‘Supersteak’ for my main season slicers. For cherry tomatoes, Supersweet 100, Sungold, Yellow Pear, Chocolate Cherry, and Sweet Million. You can easily grow tomatoes and other vegetables in pots, and cherry tomatoes especially adapt well to container gardening.
- Beans, especially green beans, are oh-so-easy. The easiest beans for me are the bush beans like ‘Contender’ and the ‘Blue Lake.’ I find pole beans harder to grow.
- Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are pretty simple fruits to grow in our heat with cantaloupe being the easiest. Melon flowers are also beloved by pollinators. Our favorite cantaloupe is ‘Ambrosia.’
- Pumpkins and other winter squash are pretty simple to grow too. They require a long warm season to develop, so read the package to ensure you get your squash planted at the right moment. You don’t want your pumpkins to ripen way before or after Halloween.
- Potatoes, most any kind do well if you plant them by St. Patrick’s Day, easy to remember because he’s one of the patron saints of Ireland. I like new, red potatoes so that’s the type I grow. I always eat them before they mature to full size. I must have something with my green beans.
- Okra, a relative of hibiscus, adores our weather and needs its space, but it is also easy to grow. Remember to pick okra daily once it starts forming pods. Large pods become inedible.
- Corn is wonderful if you can keep it from the raccoons. I especially love the variety ‘Bodacious.’
- Strawberries. It takes about three years before you get a decent berry crop. You’re supposed to pinch off the blossoms the first summer, and yes, I know it’s hard, but your berries will produce better in the following year. There are ever-bearing, June-bearing, and day-neutral types. My friend and co-podcaster, Carol Michel, wrote a great article about how to grow strawberries.
If you want more information on starting a summer vegetable garden, check out our podcast episode on how to do it.
This year, no matter what size garden space you have, try growing some of your own veggies. You’ll be amazed at the taste. Just start with a small raised garden. Then, just water and wait, but don’t forget to weed. You’ll thank me in a month or two. Oh, and be sure to plant a few flowers for the pollinators. The flowers are pretty, and lure beneficial insects into your garden.