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.