As a reminder for everyone already reading our letters, and as an explanation for those who haven’t previously, Carol from May Dreams Gardens (Zone 5), Mary Ann from Idaho Gardener (Zone 6) and I so love books like Dear Friend and Gardener and The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters Between Two Eccentric Gourmet Gardeners, that we decided to create our own 1,000 mile garden project. This gardening season, we’ll be exchanging letter
s with each other about our vegetable gardens, and we’re now in week eight. We hope you’ll enjoy our travels around three different hardiness zones.
Dear Carol and Mary Ann,
It’s a cloudy, gray day in red dirt country this morning. Yesterday, the sun was all smiles, but today, he’s pouting behind the cloudcover. That means it’s a good day to transplant, and transplant I did. I spoke in Claremore yesterday at the Everything Gardening Festival put on by the Master Gardeners of Rogers County. While I was there, I also made a stop in Jenks to visit the Tomato Man’s Daughter. She actually lives on their family homeplace in Sand Springs, but she was selling tomatoes at the festival. The last two towns are suburbs of Tulsa to give you some bearings. Natalie Mikles of The Tulsa World did a very nice piece on how Lisa took over her father’s business after he passed away a year ago. Now, other than interesting, I bet you’re wondering what this has to do with my own garden. The Tomato Man, Darrell Merrell, was the father of one of my friends, Pam. She sent me the link to the online article, and while I was in Claremore, I had to stop by. I decided to try ‘Carbon’ which is one of Lisa’s favorites (a cousin or sibling to ‘Cherokee Purple’ and much blacker) and the 1884 Tomato, just because I like the sound of its name. I was going to pick up another ‘Royal Hillbilly’ tomato plant. Darrell chose and named this variety out of his own garden. The name bespeaks his teasing nature. I started some from seed, but they look really pitiful out in my garden. It’s my own fault. They were very small when I transplanted them, and now some critter is eating them, and their leaves look speckled with buckshot. I’m pretty sure it’s flea beetles because the eggplant are also being affected.
I know better, but sometimes I rush things.
I still have some plants held in reserve, but I’m also hedging my bets. I think I’ll go to Guthrie Greenhouse this afternoon because they have heirloom tomatoes this year. I love the heirlooms, but it is my opinion that any tomato you grow yourself is a good tomato. On Examiner, I posted my tomato planting tips for those who want to read them. In Oklahoma, one of the biggest tips is placing eggshells in the bottom of the hole. For some reason, we’re often low on calcium, and the eggshells are a good way to boost this nutrient which stops blossom end rot.
The red chard is growing nicely. So is the blue kale. The lettuces are up and growing, but I’m a bit concerned. We’ve had some very warm days, and lettuces don’t like warmth. I’ve been sampling leaves here and there as I thin, and some were bitter. I hope I get some good salads this year. The spinach growing in partial shade seems to be very happy, and while I’m out there weeding it, I’m also eating the strawberries planted next to it. I figure they are my payment for weeding and if none get to the table, others should help weed.
The sugar snap peas and snow peas are climbing their fence. We’re in that stage where I’m on the lookout for bad actors like weeds and bugs. I can’t stress how much weeds hurt a vegetable garden. Most veggies grown are annuals, and they need all the nutrients to produce their fruit. I’m still mulching with chopped leaves, but I’ll add some gorilla hair (shredded pine bark) soon.
It’s time to plant beans, squash and melons, The southern part of Oklahoma can also plant okra, but I think I’ll wait awhile. For the Oklahomans who read my blog, here’s a link to the Extension Service showing vegetable planting dates. My summer bean picks are: Tricolor pole beans, a mix of ‘Blue Lake,’ ‘Yellow Pole Wax’ and ‘Purple Peacock.’ I hope they are pretty in the garden. I’m also planting more ‘Blue Lake’ pole beans by themselves because I love the taste. A new bean to our homestead is ‘Lazy Housewife.’ It’s an heirloom from the Seed Savers Exchange. Boy, did I have fun on their website. It was educational and good reading besides. On to the summer squash, which is a great crop in Oklahoma as long as you don’t get squash bugs. ‘Early Summer Crookneck’ is an heirloom. I love the flavor, but I must pick it early to avoid pithiness. I’m also growing ‘Park’s Straightneck’ because it has such good yields. ‘Ronde de Nice’ zucchini is a cute little thing and good stuffed or fried. I also bought a tricolor zucchini pack of ‘Clarimore,’ ‘Golden Dawn’ and ‘Raven.’ I’m doing a seed exchange hosted by Willi Galloway at DigginFood. It was fun to choose which seeds to send. Next week, I’ll share what I sent along with the recipe.
I’m waiting to plant my melons and okra next week.
Til then, mi amigas.