Variegated sage

Vegetable garden in early spring

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I know it’s been forever since we’ve chatted, but Oklahoma is sporting a very cool and wet spring. Until now, there hasn’t been much progress to report in the vegetable garden. I harvested peas and mache–corn salad–for supper tonight. I also have some radishes and several other varieties of lettuce. Not much production outside of that. In the few warm days we had, my spinach and tatsoi bolted. I ate them anyway and gave some to the chickens.

Variegated 'Alaska' nasturtiums

Variegated ‘Alaska’ nasturtiums

I planted all of my tomatoes. Some didn’t appreciate the cooler weather, and the rain washed one away. Part of the larger vegetable garden is on a hill. I guess I didn’t plant it in the ground securely enough. Things happen. Gardeners kill plants, and then we buy more. We learn not to weep over small deaths, like when a cutworm or rain removes one of your plants for you.

one strange and beautiful pea blossom (1 of 1)

A strange and beautiful pea blossom on my snow peas.

I’ve been using the Jobe’s organic all purpose fertilizer in the vegetable garden when I dig holes to transplant. I just work it into the soil. I like it because it’s granulated and doesn’t blow around. I’ll give the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers another dose when they start blooming. I also like Jobe’s tomato food.

View of the large veggie and cutting garden. The plants are still very small.

View of the large veggie and cutting garden. The plants are still very small.

I planted the ‘Glass Gem’ corn Carol from May Dreams Gardens sent me. I also made half of my large vegetable garden a cutting garden because three people don’t need such a large a vegetable garden. Remember I have the potager too. In the cutting garden, I sowed seeds of cosmos, several kinds of zinnias and sunflowers, celosia, nicotiana and red amaranth. This week I thinned the plants so they have room to grow. You might notice, above, that we used horse panel fencing cut in half instead of chicken wire around the garden. The chicken wire was so flexible it was hard to keep the garden edge trimmed. Plus, we tore up the chicken wire with the weed eater. We hope this arrangement will be easier. The red okra is up and growing. It has its first true leaves. I also planted vining and bush green beans. That garden is on a hill which explains why one tomato plant couldn’t hold on. You can see the slant of the vegetable garden in the background of the photo below.

New garden cart with assorted plants.

New garden cart with assorted plants and fertilizer.

My orange tree is performing well. I have tiny oranges on it.

Tiny orange on my potted tree. Republic of Texas.

Tiny orange on my potted tree of Republic of Texas.

I overwintered it in the greenhouse, and I was afraid I would lose it to black aphids. I began spraying with Neem oil and another organic spray to save it. I also doused it with water twice a day first to try and convince the aphids to take a hike. I barely kept them under control, and at one point, the tree lost most of its leaves. It still leafed back out and bloomed. This is one tough orange tree. Once the pot was outside, everything settled down, and it’s performing well. Lady beetles are the best garden aphid eliminators.

Ruby Swiss chard. Isn't it pretty?

Ruby Swiss chard. Isn’t it pretty?

We’ve received more than fourteen inches of rain in the month of May so far. It is raining again today, rain is forecast for the entire Memorial Day weekend. My plants and I need more sun, but I won’t complain. The spigot will soon be switched to the off position. In the meantime, I plan to soak up all this moisture. Oklahoma has been too dry for too long.

Rain chain flowing with water in Oklahoma is a sight to see.

Rain chain flowing with water in Oklahoma is a sight to see.

Hugs to all of you and keep growing.


Planted seeds today

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Cabbage, onions and poppies in the kitchen garden. Planted seeds today

Cabbage, onions and poppies in the kitchen garden

I planted seeds today in between the snows. Snow last weekend, and snow in the forecast for tomorrow. Then, seventies later in the week. If I don’t get the chard and other cold crops planted now, the weather in Oklahoma will get too hot too soon. I want beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach and other tender spring greens for salads and such.

Here’s the seeds I sowed directly outdoors in my spring vegetable garden the first week of March. This sowing makes me one week behind my normal dates. Let’s hope for a long and cool spring.

Beets ‘Blood Red’
Calabrese ‘Green Magic’
Chard (Bieta) ‘Blonda Di Lione’
Chard ‘Flamingo Pink’
Kale ‘Tuscan’
Kale Chinese ‘Kailaan’
Lettuce (Lattuca) ‘Franchi’
Lettuce ‘Parella Rossa’
Mache ‘Large Leaved’
Nasturtium ‘Alaska’
Nasturtium ‘Mahogany’
Pac Choy ‘Canton Dwarf’
Radish ‘Gaudry’
Snap peas ‘Sugar Snap’
Spinach ‘Merlo Nero’

Calendula is easy to grow from seed sown directly outdoors.

Calendula is easy to grow from seed sown directly outdoors.

I’m saving my other cold crops for the fall garden. I’ll hit my local nursery today for some organic potting soil, and my next post will again be about starting seeds indoors and when you should start. I also plan to buy some calendula seeds at the nursery, along with onion sets and potatoes. I’ll do the potatoes in bags like I did last year.

Potatoes in Smart Pots are easy to grow. Just make sure you have water for them.

Potatoes in Smart Pots are easy to grow. Just make sure you have water for them.


"We grow organically." A sign from our friends at Guilford Gardens. I couldn't agree more.

Buying seeds and the cold frame

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Just a quickie. It’s been so long since I’ve written a post for this veggie blog, but I wanted to steer you over to a post I wrote on buying seeds for Red Dirt Ramblings. Not much veggie growing going on here except in the cold frame. I do have some mustard, kale, lettuce and spinach growing in there. The mustard is ready to harvest. As you can see, I have to water my cold frame during the winter because it’s so dry in Oklahoma. That can be tricky so I use the hose we installed in the greenhouse. It just stretches to cold frame outside. Before that, I would hook up the hose with the quick connect, water, take everything apart and drain it.

It’s a pain in the rear, but in a climate where we can go from 50F to 2F if an afternoon, it’s necessary. Trust me, a frozen faucet is bad news.

Watering plants in the cold frame.

Watering plants in the cold frame.

Have a beautiful day, and if you’re interested in seeds and seed catalogs, head on over to RDR.


Favorite beautiful herb Holy Basil (1 of 1)

The vegetable garden is completely out of control

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A very messy late garden, but better after Bill weedeated the grass in rows.

A very messy late garden, but better after Bill weedeated the grass in rows.

While I was away so much this summer, the vegetable garden got completely out of control. The grass overwhelmed everything, but my husband, Bill, used the string trimmer to bring back the big garden. Believe it or not, warts and all, it’s much better now. Because I have a lot of work to do, writing-wise, for the next couple of weeks, I fear the harvest of late peppers and tomatoes will be the last one for this summer.

There’s a lesson in this. Don’t plant a big veggie garden when you’re going to be out of town a lot promoting a book.

Cleanup of the potager.

Cleanup of the potager.

Another lesson. There’s always next year, and I can still plant for fall. Beautiful, lovely fall with moderated temperatures. I’ve already started lettuce and spinach seeds indoors. I transplanted them along with sowing chard and kale seeds yesterday when the weather cooled. I’m also planting beets and turnips from seed. If home sooner, I would’ve planted more bush beans to be ready just as fall comes upon us.

I placed shredded leaves, about one, five-gallon bucket per raised bed, in the kitchen garden.

I placed shredded leaves, enough to fill about one, five-gallon bucket per raised bed, in the kitchen garden.

As for the potager, I completely rehabbed it. I pulled out everything that was overgrown and topped it off with shredded leaves. Anything I don’t plant for winter will be covered in chicken manure in a couple of weeks too. Then, over the cold months, the earthworms will work the leaves and manure down into the soil, and all will be ready at the end of February when the cycle begins all over again.

Another view of the rehabbed kitchen garden.

Another view of the rehabbed kitchen garden.

How is your garden doing? Mine is a beautiful mess. And, it’s okay. Oh, one more thing, purple holy basil is the most beautiful herb I grew this summer. You should try it next year. Collect seeds as they mature or  buy some online and then sow in place next spring. Here’s a shot of holy basil close up. Gorgeous stuff, isn’t it?

Beautiful shot of purple holy basil from this year.

Beautiful shot of purple holy basil from this year.


News about The 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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Our friend, Jennifer, who is twenty-one and just starting to garden.

Our friend, Jennifer, who is twenty-one and just starting to garden.

One of the best parts of an author’s job is spreading the news about one’s book. Not for sales so much, but because you get to meet so many people who are as enthusiastic about your subject as you are. I talked to reporters all over the country about Millennials and what drives them to be the fastest growing group of garden buyers in the county. Before I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, I did a lot of research on this exciting and energetic group of gardeners. What I found was that they were very engaged with the environment, and like so many of us, they want to grow their own food even if it’s in pots on their balconies and patios.

You don’t have to grow everything you eat after all–unless you want to of course.

I was fortunate to talk about 20-30 Somethings and their love of gardening with George Weigel of PennLive through The Patriot News. 

I thought you might enjoy it so I’ll share it here. I may share some of the other online stories from the rest of the year too. Thanks for reading.


The great tomato palooza

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Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter in one great tomato palooza.

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere! It’s more than an abundant harvest at this Oklahoma red dirt ranch. It’s a tomato palooza, all because the head gardener and planner made a rookie mistake even though she’s gardened for 30+ years. You would think that someone who wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff wouldn’t have fallen for the oldest trick in the world, but she did. I confess. I overplanted, and here’s how it happened. I always start seeds for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant along with flowers I can’t find locally in the spring . I also buy two or three tomato plants from my local nursery, like ‘Rutgers’, ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Supersteak’, proven varieties that perform especially well in Oklahoma. So, I usually plant about twenty tomato plants in total, some are determinate and others indeterminate. That way, I get a good crop of tomatoes all at once which makes my mother happy, and I also get a steady harvest from the indeterminates over the entire season.

'Black Krim' tomato sliced and ready to eat.

‘Black Krim’ tomato sliced and ready to eat.

However, this year, I got sucked into the happy neurosis of seed starting by names like ‘Pink Furry Boar’, ‘Black Krim’ and ‘Sherry’s Sweetheart.’ When all these young plants I’d nurtured from their first days grew into larger seedlings, I managed to whittle things down to three plants apiece. You can only imagine how hard it is to cull seedlings, one-by-one, but I did it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Here are the varieties I grew this year excluding the three or four plants I bought at my local nursery. I’ll give you my quick reviews next to each variety. First, the cherry tomatoes:

  1. ‘Black Cherry’–Absolutely delicious. Makes larger fruit than some of the other cherry varieties and a little less yield, but cherry tomatoes always produce too much anyway.
  2. ‘Sungold F-1’–Still one of the best yellow tomatoes ever produced. Delicious sweet flavor. Beautiful color.
  3. ‘Sweet 100 F-1’–Classic tomato flavor. Red fruit. Huge yield.
  4. ‘Sweet Gold F-1’–More orange than golden once ripe. Larger fruit than on ‘Sungold’ and sweeter. Delicious.

Then, there are the oddities:

  1. ‘Pink Furry Boar’–Super cute, medium-sized pink tomato. Taste is pretty good and skin is delicate. Not my absolute favorite tomato though. Probably won’t grow it again.
  2. Sherry’s Sweet Heart‘–Red fruit is distinctly pointed on the bottom and somewhat heart shaped. The taste is good. I might grow it again. However, ‘Lumpy Red’ tomato will probably win out next year.
  3. ‘Purple Dragon’–Prettiest tomato I’ve ever grown. When ripe, it’s purple near the stem and golden yellow on bottom. See below.
'Purple Dragon' tomato is the size of a medium egg and is the prettiest tomato I've ever grown.

‘Purple Dragon’ tomato is the size of a medium egg and is the prettiest tomato I’ve ever grown.

The Heirlooms:

  1. ‘Rutgers’–After some research, I see that the ‘Rutgers’ I’m growing may not be the one I grew a few years ago. It’s done okay anyway. Nice, round red fruits with a good acid balance. I like slightly acidic tomatoes. You may like super sweet ones. Pick accordingly. I’m also making a note here to try Ramapo‘ next year. I wonder if it will become another favorite. It’s considered the true Jersey tomato.
  2. ‘Black Krim’–Huge fruits that are black to pinkish when ripe. ‘Black Krim’ has really outdone itself this year producing a ton of fruit. The taste is very good and sweeter than I usually like. However, it’s a beautiful tomato and performs well in hot summers.
  3. ‘Abe Lincoln’ –Consistently round, medium sized, red fruits. Excellent producer. Fruit has slightly tough skin, but delicious and acidic. Old-time tomato taste. It’s an heirloom and indeterminate so expect fruit over a long period.
The perfect weekend breakfast, two slices of whole grain toast, two poached eggs and a 'St. Pierre' tomato sliced.

The perfect weekend breakfast, two slices of whole grain toast, two poached eggs and a ‘St. Pierre’ tomato sliced.

Basic tomatoes:

  1. ‘Roma’–Very disappointed in this one. It has consistently had blossom end rot where none of the other tomatoes have. I won’t be growing the plain ‘Roma’ anymore. I’ll replace it with another Italian tomato.
  2. ‘Super Sioux’–Good, basic slicer. Taste is very good. Nice round tomatoes, medium size. Plants are considered semi-determinate. I can attest that this tomato does perform well in hot and dry conditions. I often grow it.
  3. ‘Saint Pierre’–Wins hands down as the best tomato I’ve grown this year. It is a French salad tomato, and I bought the seeds from Franchi Seeds of Italy. I can’t say enough nice things about this wonderful red tomato. It’s isn’t a huge slicer, but the flavor is good and production is superb. The fruit is on the smallish side, but don’t have a tons of seeds and would be good for canning.

Now, add to this three or four tomato plants I couldn’t resist at the store. You see what happened. I have five rows with eight tomatoes each. That’s a lot of plants so it’s a tomato palooza at my house right now, and I don’t even mind. I’m giving fruit away, and I’m freezing some for winter too. This post is part of our Dear Friend and Gardener Virtual Garden Club series. Join us if you’d like. Link back to the badge, and I’ll add you to the clubhouse. Meanwhile, Carol at May Dreams Gardens has a postcard from her garden. Just check out the vegetable haul she had.


Vegetables harvested after vacation

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann,

It’s hard to take a trip in the summer. when you’re a gardener. It’s even harder when you’re a vegetable gardener. Most vegetables are annuals or tropicals grown as annuals, and they want to produce like crazy in summer’s heat. Oklahoma also had abundant rain this year. and the vegetables are all the more happy for it. I did this crazy thing and planted five rows of tomatoes with at least eight plants each. I started most of these from seed, and I made the classic mistake and planted too many plants.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

I know better, but I couldn’t stop myself. So, this is a going to a be a tomato year to the max. I also harvest one of the three kinds of garlic I planted last fall. I can’t think of the name right now, but it’s a hardneck variety. Beautiful stuff. I’m using it in a shrimp sauté tonight with spaghetti squash as the base instead of noodles. It should be good. We’re also going to have the eggplant. I’ve fought potato beetles all spring on that poor eggplant, and I’m finally getting a few fruits for all of my labor. I grew the eggplant from seed too.

Corn and eggplant I grew in the garden this year.

Corn and eggplant I grew in the garden this year.

There’s corn too. Yummy, yummy corn. I knew it was ready when the I found corn husks in the yard. The bad raccoons are on the corn prowl. Well, I harvested most of it. They will be sad they lost out. I don’t have squash or cucumbers yet because I planted them late. I waited on the squash because I’m trying to outwit the squash bugs, and I simply forgot cucumbers until recently.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

So, that’s my harvest. Good stuff all from a few packets of seed. For more vegetable gardening tips and ideas, see The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.

That’s all from the Red Dirt Ranch for now. What’s growing your garden? Share your links below so we can visit.

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