I have so much to tell you for the vegetable garden update this month. It has rained almost weekly in Oklahoma since late spring. These aren’t true drought busters, but still good news for the vegetables, herbs and fruit grown in the potager and the rest of the garden. It’s bad news for grassy weeds. They’re growing like . . . well, weeds, and keeping up with them is more work than almost any gardener can do.
Pole beans climbing the teepee.
The green bean harvest is ongoing, but I planted squash late to avoid squash bugs. The little plants are up , but still small. There are also two kinds of melons growing, one being ‘Collective Farm Woman.’ I also noticed in the larger veggie garden, i.e., the jungle, that I have volunteer watermelons. This happens when you grow heirlooms.
Some of the French green beans I’ve harvested.
The garlic is ready or nearly so. I’ll harvest it next week. The potatoes in bags have been very successful in spite of all the traveling I’ve done this month and last. Yes, my son watered while I was gone, but we also had rain which helped more than anything. The potatoes are blooming so I’ll be harvesting soon.
Garlic ready to harvest and ‘Gray’ zucchini which actually does have gray on its leaves. The grassy weeds are also difficult to fight.
I planted heirloom yellow crookneck squash and ‘Gray’ zucchini because they are considered more resistant to squash bugs. I also planted seeds of a ‘Lemon’ zucchini that was given as a bonus in an order. I inspect the plants everyday for squash bug problems. I planted the squash, melons and cucumbers in the potager this year for crop rotation.
‘Carmen’ sweet Italian frying pepper.
In the big garden is corn, okra, tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers. Italian frying peppers are isolated from the hot peppers in case I want to save seed. I also planted some zinnias and sunflowers in the larger garden for beauty and to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.
One of the sunflowers in the Drop Dead Read collection from Botanical Interests seeds.
I had an infestation of striped potato beetles on my eggplant. I picked them off for two weeks, but I finally decided to spray them with pyrethrum. I waited until there were no other insects on the plants, and I only sprayed what was needed directly on the potato beetles. I hated to spray even though pyrethrum is organic, because it is a broad spectrum insecticide. I try never to use even organic insecticides unless I must. I did save the eggplants which are already looking better this morning.
The jungle, a/k/a the large veggie garden. It is full of tomatoes, hot peppers, green pole beans, sunflowers, zinnias, eggplant, corn and okra.
Well, that’s it in this report from Oklahoma. What do you have growing in your garden this month? Join our Garden Club and tell us what you’ve got growing.
I finally figured out how to make a Mr. Linky type of list for our Dear Friend and Gardener posts. I’m using InLinkz because I blog on WordPress instead of Blogger. We’ll see how it goes.
Isn’t this romaine a/k/a cos lettuce simply beautiful with the sunlight behind it’s tender leaves?
In the garden, things are really starting to grow. My pole beans are climbing their poles. The tomatoes are setting down roots, and the small eggplant plants are barely surviving. Maybe I put the eggplant out too early and too small. We had a lot of unseasonably cold weather after I planted them. Oh well, these things happen. It’s supposed to get hot this week. I say bring it.
Garlic I planted last fall with red and green leaf lettuce.
We are inundated with lettuce and tatsoi right now. It’s all so good, and the spring or green onions are delicious. I’ve made Grandma Nita’s wilted lettuce salad several times. Here’s the recipe if anyone wants to make it.
Grandma Nita’s Wilted Lettuce Salad
3 slices bacon (or three tablespoons of a good vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Four cups of leaf lettuce like Black Seeded Simpson – rinsed, dried and
torn into pieces
5 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1. Fry bacon, remove from skillet, crumble and set aside.
2. To the still-hot bacon drippings, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly. (Be careful during this step so that the drippings don’t splatter you.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce and green onions. Add the warm dressing and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and enjoy.
I’ve also expanded my salad repertoire. Last night, I made one with leaf lettuce, spring onions, mandarin oranges, dried cherries and pecans. I also made my own poppyseed dressing. We hardly ever buy bottled dressings anymore. It’s so easy to whip up something quick after the salad greens are washed. As for washing, I use a salad spinner like this Progressive CSS-2 Green Collapsible Salad Spinner – 3 Quart Capacity. Mine is an older model, but I like that it collapses for easier storage.
The larger vegetable garden. It’s hard to believe these tiny plants will grow into towers of great tasting vegetables in less than two months.
Last week, I went through the larger vegetable garden and weeded everything. I still need to place straw as mulch between the remaining rows. My pole beans weren’t quite large enough to being attaching them to the poles. When I do this, I will use Luster Leaf Rapiclip Light Duty Soft Wire Tie 839 because it’s easier on the plants than twine, and it doesn’t seem to slip. I use it for all of my roses too. As I hoed the garden, I also hilled up the soil around the sweet corn and side-dressed it with manure. Corn is one of those high maintenance diva plants in the garden, but it’s worth the trouble. Now, that we have hotter weather, I think I’ll sow cucumber seeds in the potager and okra seeds in the larger garden. I noticed my sunflowers and zinnias are up and growing well in the larger garden. I think having flowers in the vegetable garden just makes sense to increase pollinator activity and also, beautify the space–not that vegetable gardens aren’t beautiful anyway.
Things in the garden are heating up this week, and I’m traveling to Austin to be on Central Texas Gardener–I’m thrilled to say–and I’m doing a radio appearance on Field and Feast on Austin’s local NPR affiliate. I will also be at The Natural Gardener, one of Austin’s best nurseries, where I’ll speak on all things edible. I hope you’re both having a wonderful spring.
For any of our gardening friends who want to join in on the fun this month, join up by adding a link to your blog below. Leave a comment here too if you’re so inclined. That way I can find and visit you!
Black Seeded Simpson and red lettuce with garlic. I planted the garlic last fall. It will be ready for harvest this spring.
When I was a new vegetable gardener, I was scared to grow any vegetables I couldn’t directly sow outdoors. I was afraid to start seeds inside, and who could blame me? I was new at this gardening adventure. So, I scoured the nursery catalogs looking for any seeds that I could sow directly in the ground. Here’s the list I came up with long ago.
Salad bowl I grew for The 20-30 Something Garden Guide last year.
2. Spinach. Although our cool spring weather is very short to grow spinach, I get a nice fall crop every year. If you live in a cooler area, spinach is one of those greens that tastes so much better from the garden.
3. Tatsoi. I simply love this Asian green. You can direct sow it, and it will easily come up and grow.
4. Radishes. There is nothing easier to grow than a radish. I grew ‘Purple Plum’ this year, and it was simply the prettiest radish I’ve ever grown.
5. Onion sets. You can grow onions from seed too, but it takes so much longer. Instead, try onion sets. I grow purple ones mostly because I can buy yellow and white organic onions at the store, and I don’t have the space to deal with them. Onion sets are just immature plants so they’re not really seeds, but you set them out at the same time. Fresh green onions are a real delicacy from the garden.
6. Peas. Whether you’re growing edible podded peas like snow peas or sugar snap, or you’re growing shelling peas, know that peas are super easy to grow. Children especially like sowing peas because, like beans, they are easy for their small fingers to handle. There is nothing like peas from the garden. If you have a very short spring season, try sugar snap or snow peas first. You can always plant shelling peas next spring or fall.
Late Spring Into Summer:
Green, bush beans.
1. Beans, any type, pole or bush. What’s the difference between pole and bush beans? Pole beans bear throughout the season and need support to do their thing. Bush beans put all of their energy into a harvest that lasts about a month before plants tire or become diseased. I grow both types, but I like bush beans best because they are so easy to pick. However, I grew a beautiful dark purple pole bean last year that I’m very fond of. To get a harvest throughout the season, plant bush beans every two weeks. Also, if you want your harvest to last, pick beans when they’re young. Once pole or bush beans begin to ripen their pods, any additional harvest is over. Whether you’re growing them for green (immature) beans, or waiting to shell and eat them, beans are super easy to grow. Some of my favorite varieties are:
‘Blue Lake 274 or 47’–55 days. If you want the traditional round podded green bean like those in the can or freezer bag, ‘Blue Lake’ is for you. It is still my husband’s favorite green bean although I’ve kinda moved on. ‘Blue Lake FM1k’ is a pole type of this variety.
‘Contender’–40-45 days. I don’t like the flavor as much as some other beans because ‘Contender’ is very mild. However, I’ve listed it here becaues it matures more quickly than many other bean varieties.
‘Kentucky Wonder’–57 days. ‘Kentucky Wonder’ comes in both pole and bush bean varieties. It’s a great bean for many reasons including the flavor. The pods are flatter than some of the other beans, but the plant holds the beans up off of the ground making for easier picking.
‘Dragon Tongue’–60 days. This is my favorite bean just for looks. The pods are so pretty I can hardly harvest them. ‘Dragon Tongue’ makes a great green bean and is wonderful harvested later when beans are mature.
Bumblebee pollinating cucumber blossom.
2. Cucumbers. Whatever type of cucumber you decide to grow, they are pretty easy. Choose seeds of varieties that are disease resistant and know that the bitterness in cucumbers is what deters cucumber beetles. So, pickling cucumbers often have less trouble than slicing types. I’ve also grown ‘Lemon Cuke’ and ‘Dragon’s Egg,’ and they both fared well. Note that you can still eat pickling cucumbers out of hand, but their skin tends to be spiny so you may want to rub these off with a towel before slicing, or you can peel the skin which will take away some of their bitterness.
3. Melons. This group includes any melons you want to grow. We like ‘Ambrosia’ cantaloupe in our house because my husband doesn’t find it as difficult to digest. I think ‘Tuscany’ looks delicious too. I’ve grown ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon along with other melons, but I must be honest…I have trouble growing watermelon. I don’t know why.
4. Corn. Although corn is not the easiest crop to grow, the seeds are very simple to sow outside. I’m not going to lie–corn is labor intensive and a heavy feeder. You’ll need to top dress it with compost and manure or another type of high nitrogen fertilizer, and corn needs soil hilled up around it to keep stalks from blowing over in the wind. Still, fresh corn tastes like nothing like that you buy in the stores.
Summer squash container at Sunset Magazine.
5. Summer and winter squash. I don’t grow much winter squash because I just don’t have the room. Plus, we aren’t as “into” it as we are summer squash. Summer squash, including yellow varieties and green zucchini are among my favorite plants. I grow organically so I’m waiting until mid-summer to plant my squash. I’m hoping the squash bugs will have moved on by then. One can hope…. I did find that ‘Gray’ zucchini is extremely resistant to squash bugs as is the heirloom ‘Yellow Crookneck.’ I grow both of these in my garden.
‘Bowling Red’ okra is a red heirloom variety.
6. Okra. I love okra any way it is prepared. Fried is of course my favorite because my grandmother and mom both made it this way. I adore ‘Burgundy Red’ okra because of its color and tenderness. ‘Bowling Red’ is wonderful too, but you must pick it early because pods quickly toughen. The old standby ‘Clemson Spineless 80’ is a great variety too. I’ve also grown ‘Annie Oakley’ with success.
These are the easiest seeds to sow directly in the ground, and it’s time to plant those summer crops. Let’s get growing, shall we?
A few days ago when I started this post for our Dear Friend and Gardener Club, I was potting up and moving out seedlings of most of the flowers I started from seed. In the photo below are Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset,’ a seed strain of beautiful black-eyed Susans that contains double flowers, along with those that have complicated eye zones. I find I have much better luck with many perennials if I start the seed myself. I know it’s easy to be lured in by a pretty face in an overstuffed container at the box store, but try planting seeds instead. When most summer-blooming perennials are doing their thing, it’s too hot and dry to get them started. Plus, my seeds don’t have growth regulators and lots of fertilizer. Prairie plants like rudbeckia don’t need this. I also sowed seed for R. hirta ‘Irish Eyes’, a green-eyed rudbeckia.
Blooms of ‘Cherokee Sunset’ Rudbeckia hirta courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.
There’s also parsley. Parsley is so slow! I bought two plants of parsley from the local nursery to get the garden started faster. I like flat leaf parsley better than curly, but that’s just personal preference. It’s good to have plenty of parsley and dill for all of the ravenous Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars. Fennel is really good too. I have the bulb type and the bronze.
Parsley and Rudbeckia hirta in the greenhouse. I moved them back inside so Bill could water them all together while I was out of town.
We had a freeze on April 19. It got down to 26F in my garden. Some plants, like the Wisteria frutescens, American wisteria, may not bloom this year because they took a direct hit. All of the roses and Japanese maples had already leafed out too and are still burned. I noticed today that my wisteria is finally coming out of shock. Other plants sailed through the freeze with almost no damage even though I didn’t cover anything.
Bill tilled the larger vegetable garden. Although I don’t like to till, it was necessary this year. The ground is still pretty new, and it was very compacted from last year. I worked on my garden plan before I planted. At the north end, I sowed sunflower seeds in shades of red with large yellow sunflowers in front. I love a sunflower border in the garden, don’t you? In front of the sunflowers, I planted my corn. I have two varieties this year, one is ornamental, and the other is sweet corn. Therefore, they must be separated like children who don’t get along. I may plant the ornamental corn at the bottom of the back garden far away from sweet corn if I get to it.
Transplants in the large vegetable garden in early spring.
I also planted tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers in the larger vegetable garden. Many of these I sowed indoors in February. The plants look minuscule in such a large space, but they will quickly grow into their larger selves. I put sweet peppers in the potager where they can grow without mixing pollen with the hot peppers. Although the sweet peppers might not taste hot this year, if I saved seeds, all of my peppers next year would be hot. I also sowed pole and bush beans because our weather appeared more stable and even hot in the longterm forecast. Now, tonight is supposed to be 38F which sucks for the warm weather veggies and ornamental coleus I planted outside. Spring in Oklahoma is full of surprises, but I’m not covering my plants. We’re told the mercury will rise to 90F by this weekend, but that’s hard to believe with the wind howling out of the North.
I have several varieties of indeterminate tomatoes so I’m considering doing the post and string method of support. I’ll let you know if I do. For the determinate varieties, I’ll just simple use tomato cages.
I didn’t always start seeds indoors. I still buy some plants, especially tomato and pepper hybrids, because they are readily available. I don’t need to start things that I can find locally and organic. Instead, I start all of the weird and unique plants I want to grow. To know which ones are best started indoors, I always look at the seed package.
Black-Seed Simpson and red lettuces, garlic and romaine lettuce in the kitchen garden.
The potager is full of lettuce and stir fry greens, along with garlic, onions, shallots and chives. The sage and lemon thyme came back in spite of the brutal winter weather, but my large rosemary succumbed to extreme cold. I bought a few plants of rosemary locally, and they are already growing outside. The chives are blooming at the ends of the kitchen garden/potager, and we’ll have loads of garlic in a couple of months. The snow peas and purple radishes are also growing quickly now.
Four o’clocks still in the greenhouse. I haven’t decided where to plant them yet. You can see the greenhouse is overflowing with tropical plants.
I’m not planting tomatoes in the raised beds of the potager this year because I have root knot nematodes. This is a bummer, but it’s all a matter of rotation, rotation, rotation of different plants in the beds.
Well, that’s it from Oklahoma this week. I’m wondering what everyone in our virtual garden club is up. If you comment and link to your post, I’ll make sure to come by and visit. I’ll also feature your post on my 20-30 Garden Guide Facebook page and tweet it out. Let me know what everyone is up to. Happy Spring!
For years I failed at hardening off seedlings. I would read in gardening books about putting seedlings out in full sun for a couple of hours everyday for two weeks. Well, this probably works well in the northeast where a lot of early garden books were written, but not in the South. Our sun is too intense for such young plants.
My other problem was that I would faithfully put seedlings outside only to promptly forget them. Guess what happened? I would go outside a few hours later to find all of my young plants dead or dying. This was very disheartening until I changed my tactics.
In the South, it’s a good idea to harden off seedlings in partial shade instead of full sun.
I solved this problem three ways.
I put my seedlings in partial shade when I set them outside for the first few days. It’s too hot here to set them in the sun. After all, they’re baby plants with immature root systems, and they aren’t really in soil anyway.
Potting soil is a mixture of things usually with peat moss or coir (coconut hull fiber) as the main ingredient. These two items dry out quickly so I make sure plants are watered well before I leaving them outside. You’re exposing plants to different levels of light and wind. Wind, especially Oklahoma wind, will dry out your plants faster than you say “Let’s buy more seeds.”
I set a timer. It may sound simple, but this is the best way to remember to bring my plants back indoors. I set one on my computer or even my kitchen stove. Since the plants are in the shade, I usually leave them out longer–about four hours a day. I then bring them back inside and set them in a window.
Don’t forget to gently water seedlings before putting them outside. You don’t want them to dry out in the wind.
So, your baby seeds have grown up and are ready for a new home. Let’s talk transplanting 101. How do you transplant seedlings and avoid shocking them to their very core? Very carefully. If you spread your seeds in a shallow container and now need to pick them apart to get them loose, that’s okay. This process once scared me. I was just sure I was going to kill my little plants. I’ll take a deep breath, and you do too. Let’s get started. Below is a slideshow explaining the process.
Personalize a digital slideshow
Gently prick seedlings apart with either your fingers or a small tool like a chopstick. I use my fingers. Make a hole in the soil of the transplant container (usually a four-inch pot) and gently put your seedling in it. Firm up the soil around seedlings. Tomatoes and peppers can be planted deeper than there were in the original seed tray because they form roots all along their stems. The deeper you plant them the better root system they’ll establish. Also plant them deeper in the garden. A tomato or pepper with a deep root system will grow better and can also survive heat better.
If you planted your seeds in a cell tray, you should ease them out with damaging as much of the roots as possible. If a root or two, gets caught though, don’t worry. The plant will be fine with water and a little organic, liquid fertilizer. In my part of the world, it won’t be long until it’s time to set the plants outside and start hardening them off. My tomato plants are already getting large. I’m running out of space, but this is normal. Sometimes, I moved the larger plants into a sunny window now, turning them every day to keep stems straight and strong.
Dear Carol and Mary Ann, I’m so glad we started up our Dear Friend and Gardener letters again. I think having a virtual garden club will be loads of fun. I hope others join us by grabbing the badge below and putting it on their sidebars with a link to the club page. So far, we have several members. I hope our readers will visit their blogs too.
Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.
Although I read that Carol is in early spring, our spring in Oklahoma is coming in at full steam. We’re supposed to reach 85F today, and there is a strong chance for thunderstorms, including hail and possibly tornadoes, tonight. Am I worried? No, I’m a native Oklahoman, and I’m used to crazy weather each spring. My seedlings are growing like gangbusters, and I put some of the tomatoes outside in a shady spot to start the hardening off process. I won’t plant out tomatoes until probably after April 20 unless I just can’t stop myself. Although the ambient temperature says summer, the ground is still not warm. Plus, there’s still a chance of frost although the extended forecast looks very warm.
Lettuce and snowpea seedlings in the potager. I hope they have time to grow.
Very warm isn’t good for my lettuce sown outside in late February, because it is just now getting its true leaves. If the temperatures stay too high, the lettuce will turn bitter, and I won’t get any salads from my garden until I replant in fall. I also planted snow peas, purple radishes, pak choy and a stir fry mix in the potager, with potatoes in Smart Pots on the bricks next to the potager. Some of the potatoes have sprouted, and I’m watching for the others to do the same. I’ll add soil as they grow the same way I would normally hill up potatoes grown in the ground.
My messy vegetable garden. I should’ve cleaned it up last fall.
For the larger vegetable garden that is still a mess from last fall, I want a broadfork. I’m looking at broadforks from Meadow Creature. The reason I’m going with a broadfork instead of tilling is to support the structure of the soil and the creatures in the garden. When we’ve tilled in the past, we’ve hurt the earthworm population and made a soil that is too fine, so I’m changing how I do things. Although that garden doesn’t look its best right now, it’s okay. I’ll have it ready soon. In the potager, I’m thining seedlings because they are now jumping up out of the ground. We’ve got to give them room to grow.
Thinning seedlings in the potager. This is a stir fry mix.
So, we’re in that in-between place where I can’t plant the warm weather vegetables yet, but the cold weather ones may be over soon. That’s the thing about gardening–you can learn all about it and work very hard–but the truth is, you never know it all. Mother Nature always throws you curve balls. I think that’s why I find it so satisfying.
The daffodils bloom all around St. Francis. This small bed was my second garden. It was once vegetables.
If you’re wondering what else I’m doing, I’m still pruning the roses and clearing away debris from the perennials in the other parts of the garden. I’m enjoying the daffodils as they bloom. You gotta love narcissus because they are reliable, and nothing–including deer or voles–will eat them. I’m watering the tulips in the layered pots I made last fall. So far, they seem to be working well. I won’t put muscari with tulips anymore though because the tulip foliage hides the muscari. Another lesson learned.
See the muscari (grape hyacinths) trying to bloom between the tulips. That wasn’t well planned on my part.
Everything else is coming up gangbusters and growing. The windows are open in my house, and I can hear birds singing their spring love songs. All is well in my world. I hope it is in yours too. Happy Spring! P.S. Would you like to join our virtual garden club? If you grow your own food or flowers and have a garden blog (or even start one), we would love to have you join. Just go to the home page for Dear Friend and Gardener, grab the badge, put it on your blog with a link back to the club page. Then post about your veg garden about once a month during the growing season. We want to hear all about your growing adventures. Let me know you’ve joined, and I’ll include you and your blog on the club page. Let’s get gardening!