Gardening will break your heart, but each time, you fail, you learn something about yourself and the plants you’re trying to nurture.
Gardening is tough. I know these are hard words, but it’s true. Everyone fails. Everyone makes mistakes. Even when you become an experienced plantswoman or plantsman, you will still fail. Get used to it.
Prairie climates are especially challenging.
The weather, especially in prairie climates, is extremely changeable. You can’t change the weather but just wait a minute (apologies to Mark Twain.) In fact, look at this weekend’s forecast. Starting tonight and going through Monday, Oklahomans are supposed to get a “North Dakota snowstorm.” I really don’t want North Dakota’s weather, but temperatures are bitter all over the country right now.
Meteorologists are predicting -13°F Tuesday morning. That isn’t the windchill. It’s the actual temperature. It is 7°F out there right now. I went outside today and gathered firewood. Bill and my son, Brennan, went to town to fill up the propane tanks for the greenhouse where inside, it’s a balmy 67°F. I go out there to just breathe in the moist air.
Although it is quite a storm, this weekend’s snow is actually a good thing for our gardens because it will insulate some of the plants below the snow line. Above, things will die back. I expect to lose my crapemyrtle trees again down to the snow line. The last time this happened was over Christmas in 2009 when we received 14 inches of snow. We had another record-breaking snowfall in early February 2011.
Gardening will break your heart, but don’t give up. Also, try not to make the same mistakes. Learn from them instead.
Here are some ideas to make gardening more successful for you this season.
There is an impulse in every new gardener to try and grow everything all at once. I still fight this impulse every spring, and some years I do better than others. My latest seed order is a good example. It is just fine to grow most plants in a few containers on your deck or patio provided you have a good watering system (drip on timers is best in our climate), and your containers are in at least six to eight hours of sun each day. A covered patio will not work for vegetables and fruit. Yes, if you have large enough containers, you can grow a dwarf fruit tree in them. Just remember that containers are two zones colder in winter than your in-ground gardens.
Tomatoes grow great in containers.
Last summer, I grew almost all of my tomatoes in containers. I’m going to do it again this summer because it was so easy. For more tomato tips, here’s an article, Tomato Time, I wrote for my column in Oklahoma Living Magazine. After the season was over, I emptied out some of the potting soil and put it in the potager. Then, I folded up my containers and put them in the barn. In the largest pots with the most expensive, Redbud soil, I’m going to try to reuse the potting soil with amendments. After this year, I’ll get rid of it too.
If you’d like to learn more about gardening in containers, the first section of my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, is all about that life. I tell you how to choose containers and all of my thoughts about balcony, patio, and deck gardening. Then, we move on to raised beds which are just large containers.
Winter may be grabbing the headlines right now, but don’t try to grow summer lettuce in Oklahoma.
It’s still going to get very hot this summer.
Say you’re looking in Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog, and they have a section on summer lettuces. Can you grow summer lettuce in Oklahoma in summer? The short answer is no. You could, but it would either bolt or turn bitter, and that’s assuming you could get it to sprout in hot weather. Lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, turnips and peas, all like to sprout in cooler temperatures. Best to plant these in fall or early spring to get a head start before summer rears its fiery head.
The best and easiest vegetables to grow in Oklahoma.
Here are some of the best and easiest vegetables to grow in Oklahoma. Start cool-season crops early. I’m starting my onion seeds this week to transplant out later in spring. You can also grow onion sets for spring green onions if you like. For bigger, mature onions, I think seeds perform better. I try to get all of these in the ground by the end of February because Oklahoma’s last average freeze date for my area is around April 20. Here’s the average last freeze map for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
Grow a summer vegetable garden
There’s a good reason most people grow tomatoes, okra, corn, green beans, peppers, and eggplants in Oklahoma summers. Usually, gardeners are pretty successful with these plants because our summers are hot and dry. As long as you provide plants with good water, full sun and excellent drainage, hot weather, summer vegetables want to grow for you.
For more information, here’s how to grow an Oklahoma summer vegetable garden.
I hope this pep talk encourages you to garden this summer. The snow will melt, and temperatures will climb even as early as next weekend. Order your seeds or run to your local nursery and buy them there. I’ve noticed online seed catalogs are selling out, but I saw a lot of seeds at various places throughout the metro. I even bought two packets of ‘Mammoth’ sunflower seeds at Target the other day.
If you’d like more garden inspiration, Carol and I talked about morning glories and sweet potatoes, both easy-to-grow plants in Oklahoma, this week. A few weeks ago we talked about sunflowers which are the National Garden Bureau’s 2021 Annual of the Year. We hope you enjoy our podcast. We sure enjoy recording it for you.
Phoebe Albright says
It’s always motivating to see post such as this one. Make me want to try again after a very long time. Thanks again Dee.
Dee Nash says
Hi Phoebe, yes, please try again. This year is rough, but we can all do it.
Robin Ruff Leja says
I continue to marvel at your harsh winter this year. It didn’t get below zero here at all this winter. As a matter of fact, we really only had three weeks of real winter, in early February. The snow even stayed on the ground all that time, which I’m grateful for, as it made a cozy blanket for my plants.
The snow continues to fly here in the Chicago area. We got another eight inches overnight with more on the way! The highs have stayed around 5 degrees and I’m so grateful for this snow and what it’s doing for my precious garden. Great post, Dee!
Lisa at Greenbow says
Seeing your plants from former years makes my heart take a little leap in this cold weather. All I can do it plan away…
Linda Brazill says
You are so right. We have enough snow that my garden will mostly survive. But have lost lots over the last few winters and am getting more philosophical about it all the time.
Dee Nash says
Oh Linda, that ice storm took out so many of my Japanese maples. I may replace them with something else that isn’t as brittle. It’s not the Japanese maples’ fault. They were under trees with very heavy, broken limbs. I know I have to get rid of four or five which makes me kind of sad, but I’m also a realist. It will all be ok. I’m now wondering what native shrubs to plant for the birds and my honey bees. That is truly the best part of gardening, the planning. ~~Dee
Thanks Dee, this was encouraging as I sat here thinking about this extreme cold and wondering what would not survive..
Dee Nash says
Hi Della, I think most things will survive and the snow will help. Thank goodness. Bill just came in and was worried about the red fountain. We put in a heater, but it may not be enough. He said, “Well, if it busts we can always build a new one.” I said, “Or, put a sundial in there.” As I get older, I want things to be a bit easier. We’ll see how I feel in spring.~~Dee
Jeannie Kline says
Dee, thanksfor the pep talk! We have had some hard gardening months in the last year but hope spring eternal! We have done this all before. Stay warm:)
Dee Nash says
Hi Jeannie, there certainly a reason we all long for spring. It is that hope that keeps everyone going. ~~Dee
As always, great advice here. 🙂 Yes, prairie climates and northern continental climates can be so challenging–the extremes of heat and bitter cold are tough on life of all species, including humans. But we have some tough, tough native plants that always make it through. You are so right–gardening will break your heart; but it will mend it right up and nurture it again, too, with continued persistence. 😉
Dee Nash says
Hi Beth, maybe it’s the whole U.S. except for the Pacific Northwest. I think they do have it easier although not last summer. They were too hot. I can usually tell what kind of weather I’m going to have from where storms land on the west coast, but not always. My native plants, if I can get them going, do really well in our crazy weather. I plant more natives now than I ever did before. I like how my garden has changed over the years. You’re right. Persistence is the only way to succeed at almost anything.~~Dee
Becky Kirts says
I love your ramblings…somehow between you and Carol you talk about all my questions and thoughts. Thank you
Dee Nash says
Thank you Becky! I’m glad we at least answer some questions. 🙂 We do have a kind-of-loose script that we follow so that we remember stuff. We both work on it throughout the week although we start it as soon as we finish an episode. ~~Dee
Pat Leuchtman says
Dee – Some time ago I gave your book 20-30 Something to a young friend when when she was moving away. (I have a LOT of garden books and it is easy to share) When I saw your photos of the Smart Pots for tomatoes I thought you are the person to advise me. I have used Smart Pots for tomatoes, but I’m never sure if I should use fresh potting soil each year or if is can remove some and put fresh in only every couple of years. CAn you advise me. Your gardens always look beautiful.
Dee Nash says
Hi Pat, so, the official word is to use fresh potting soil every year. However, I don’t always do that. I usually replace at least 1/3 to 1/2. However, my tomatoes in the 20-gallon Smart Pots had roots all the way to the bottom. On those, I worked the soil into the potager. So, I would for sure replace it every couple of years, but not every year. With that pricey Redbud Soil, I decided to pull out the plants and add some amendments next year. My biggest concern is that diseases will become a problem over time. Also, as you know, tomatoes are heavy feeders so I worry about that too. I hope this helped. I’m not sure I fully answered your question. ~~Dee
Rebecca pryor says
Love listening to your podcasts and all your great information in red dirt ramblings .
Dee Nash says
Hi Rebecca, thank you very much. We enjoy putting the podcast together. It’s a lot of fun. I like writing here too. ~~Dee
We are in the freezing weather too. Just hoping the wind doesn’t get to crazy. I harvested lettuce in my cold frame the week before this started. Crazy KS weather too. Take care! Enjoy the green house.
Dee Nash says
Hey GonSS, it’s even colder in Kansas where you are. I’m so sorry. Enjoy that fresh lettuce. 🙂 ~~Dee
Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening says
Thanks Dee for the afternoon read. We gardeners think of our garden plants like children and the loss of a plant from bad weather can break your heart. We’ve gotten several snow storms this season here on Long Island, more than we have gotten in years. The branches of my newly planted Hoogendorn Hollies (planted last summer) are weighted under a blanket of heavy snow. They are completely flattened and all I can do right now is chip away some of the surrounding heavy snow to take some of the weight off. I don’t want to start moving them in fear that the ice and snow could snap the branches right off. I am keeping fingers crossed and hoping that natural melting will allow the branches to eventually spring back. Good luck with your garden and spring will be here soon (well almost soon!)
Dee Nash says
Lee, I hope your Hoogendorn hollies make it with not too much damage. After the ice storm and last, heavy wet snow, my southern magnolia is broken all to pieces. I know it will survive, but I need to weather to clear up so we can trim off the broken limbs. We got most of our other branches trimmed back. I need spring to happen. I really do. I know it will come again. Thank so much for reading. ~~Dee