Good morning everyone. I see you’re searching for how to grow an Oklahoma summer vegetable garden.
Good for you! Garden on my friends!
But, wait. We have an entire week of stupid, low, morning temperatures, and you need consistent overnight lows in the 50s before you start sowing seeds or planting transplants to grow an Oklahoma summer vegetable garden. I wrote a little bit about this in my spring garden update.
I’m trying to save you some angst.
Last year, on the Gardenangelists podcast, Carol Michel from May Dreams Gardens and I did an entire episode on how to grow a basic summer vegetable garden. We record our podcasts weekly, and we always talk about flowers, veggies, and all the best dirt. You can subscribe to get the podcasts downloaded to your phone or listen online.
Also, years ago, I wrote a post about the best and easiest vegetables to grow in Oklahoma. Y’all have been tearing that one up.
Do you know what that tells me? You’re a little worried about our food supply in the age of Covid-19, and maybe you’ve decided this is the year to grow a vegetable garden. In fact, the National Garden Bureau, which is celebrating its 100th year of helping gardeners, is calling it Victory Garden 2.0. It’s a double entendre which I think is rather clever. With that in mind, I’m going to give you a little more information.
Your winter hardiness zone in Oklahoma ranges from 8a in the south to 6a in the north. I live in zone 7a, and I also live east of I-35 so my soil is sandy with pockets of red clay. Even so, I still grow all of my vegetables in containers and raised beds. It’s just easier. I know because I’ve done it the other way too.
Check out the map above, courtesy of the Agricultural Research Service and Oklahoma State University. Remember, you need soil temperatures to be consistently warm for summer seeds to germinate instead of rotting underground.
Also, don’t transplant anything that loves the heat until after your Average Last Freeze Date. If you’re reading this from another state, search for your state’s map. I bet you’ll be able to find one online pretty easily. Here are my other tips.
- Know your hardiness zone. Know your average last freeze date.
- Find a sunny spot. Veggies need 6 to 8 hours of sun a day.
- Know your soil. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start in containers or raised beds first. Containers are easy. Look into Smart Pots manufactured right here in Oklahoma. I am growing most of my tomatoes in 20-gallon Smart Pots with handles. Most of my containers happen to be green, but the black ones are great too. Use good, organic potting soil in your containers. Don’t use regular garden soil.
- If you want slightly more of a commitment and have crummy soil, build raised beds. I show you how in my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. This modular raised bed is also cool.
- Plan ahead on how you’ll water your garden. Use soaker hoses like this GREEN MOUNT GM04070M Garden PVC Flat Soaker Hose 1/2” x 50 ft, with a Gilmour Single Outlet Electronic Water Timer and Heavy Duty Brass Garden Hose Connector Tap Splitter (2 Way) (brass ones are best), or install irrigation which is more of a commitment. You can definitely use a Raindrip R560DP Automatic Watering Kit for Container and Hanging Baskets too. Again, I show you how in my book. Note: hanging baskets are really difficult to keep watered in Oklahoma. Keep that in mind.
- At this point, keep things simple and buy tomato, pepper, tomatillo, and eggplant transplants. You can find these at most nurseries, and local nurseries really need our help right now. Many are doing curbside service. Others are scheduling shopping times. Locally, for tomatoes, I would go to Under the Sun, TLC Gardens, Lowe’s, Westlake Ace Hardware, or Home Depot. It is probably too late to order tomatoes online because seed and nursery companies are overwhelmed with orders. If you do decide to shop in person, follow all COVID-19 precautions. I want you safe. If you live in the Tulsa area, or like me, don’t mind a drive, you can order plants online from the Tomato Man’s Daughter. They will bring them out to your car on your appointed date and time.
- Try to grow a mix of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. You never know what kind of summer weather we’re going to have. Sometimes, hybrids perform better. Other years, heirlooms do.
- Learn the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Get tomato cages or stakes to support your plants. I like these galvanized tomato cages, 5 Pack for determinate tomatoes and these tomato towers for the larger indeterminate heirloom tomatoes. They also come apart and fold for storage. You may like staking your tomatoes better, but it’s more work.
- Plant tomato plants deep with only their top leaves showing above the soil. All the stems underground will form roots and make the plant stronger. Push the plant tag or a large nail next to the tomato stem to stop cutworms from cutting off your transplants at soil level.
- Grow other vegetables from seed. Seed companies are having trouble keeping up with demand so try Botanical Interests Seeds at your local nursery. Many local nurseries carry them. Westlake also carries Ferry-Morse seeds, and some of the box stores carry Burpee. In summer, I often grow okra, green beans (we like bush beans), melons, cucumbers, and summer squash, but you will probably have to battle squash bugs.
- Keep weeding your garden and remember to pick vegetables as they grow. Keeping them picked keeps them producing.
- Buy a few easy flower seeds for beauty and to attract pollinators. Try growing sunflowers or zinnias for example.
Okay, that’s my short explanation of how to grow an Oklahoma summer vegetable garden. We can dig more into fall later this year. I hope you enjoy growing, and if you’d like to follow me on Instagram, I’ll share more there about my garden’s progress. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also join our Gardenangelists Garden Club on Facebook.
You can also always email me questions or put a comment here. I’ll try to answer as soon as I can. Happy growing!