Well-planned, properly managed home gardens can furnish Oklahoma families with flavorful, high quality, fresh vegetables from spring through fall, as well as for processing or storing for winter.
The amount of money invested in seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and a few tools is more than offset by the enjoyment, healthful outdoor exercise, and fresh “homegrown” flavor.
Choosing the Site
The selection and preparation of the garden site is an important key to growing a home garden successfully. An area exposed to full or near full sunlight with deep, well-drained, fertile soil is ideal. The site should also be located near a water supply and, if possible, away from trees and shrubs that would compete with the garden for light, water, and nutrients.
While these conditions are ideal, many urban gardeners have a small area with a less than optimal site on which to grow vegetables. Yet, it is still possible to grow a vegetable garden by modifying certain cultural practices and types of crops grown. Areas with light or thin shade can be used, such as those under young trees, under mature trees with high lacy canopies, or in bright, airy places which receive only one to two hours of direct sun per day. There are several vegetables which will grow under these conditions, including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and turnips. Unfortunately, few vegetables will grow well under full, dense shade. If the site is not well drained or if the soil is thin, the use of raised beds can help with this problem.
Planning the Garden
The accompanying chart should be of help in determining family requirements of the different vegetables.
Perennial vegetables (asparagus, rhubarb, winter onions, etc.) should be planted at one side or end of the garden for efficient operation. The hardy vegetables planted early in the season should be planted together, so they may be followed with late season plantings of the same or other vegetables. Vegetables requiring similar cultural practices should be grouped together for ease of care.
The chart groups vegetables as cool season or warm season crops, indicating under which conditions they grow best. Crops classed as cool season may be planted earlier in the season and thrive best under cool conditions (average daily temperatures of 70oF or less), while those grouped as warm season crops grow better during warm temperatures (average daily temperatures ranging between 70 to 90oF).
Based on the temperature that the plants will withstand, vegetables are hardy, semi-hardy, tender, or very tender. Hardy types may be planted before the last killing frost. The semi-hardy ones will be injured by a hard frost, but will grow in cool weather and not be harmed by a light frost. Tender plants are injured or may be killed by a light frost but can withstand cool weather, while the very tender are injured by cool weather.
Differences in suggested planting dates range from the earliest for southeast Oklahoma to the latest for the northwest part of the state.
In order to have a successful garden, the gardener must follow a few rules. The following tips may help to prevent some common garden problems from occurring, or help overcome those that do arise:
• Sample soil and have it tested every three to four years.
• Apply fertilizers in the recommended manner and amount.
• Make use of organic materials such as compost where available.
• Use recommended varieties.
• Thin plants when small.
• Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds, and reduce fruit rots.
• Avoid excessive walking and working in the garden when foliage and soil are wet.
• Examine the garden often to keep ahead of potential problems.
• Keep the garden free of weeds, insects, and diseases.
• Wash and clean tools and sprayers after use.
• Rotate specific crop family locations each year to avoid insect and disease buildup.
• When possible, harvest vegetables during the cool hours of the day.
Avoid the Following Mistakes:
• Planting too closely, which prevents walking or working in the garden.
• Placing fertilizer directly in contact with plant roots or seeds.
• Cultivating deeply, resulting in injury to plant roots.
• Depending on varieties not recommended for your area; however, do try new releases.
• Watering frequently or excessively so that the soil is always wet and soggy.
• Allowing weeds to grow large before elimination.
• Applying chemicals or pesticides in a haphazard manner, without reading label directions or proper mixing.
• Using chemicals not specifically recommended for garden crops.
• Storing leftover diluted spray.
Other OSU Extension Gardening
BAE-1511— Trickle Irrigation for Lawns, Gardens, and Small Orchards
HLA-6005— Mulching Vegetable Garden Soils
HLA-6007— Improving Garden Soil Fertility
HLA-6009— Fall Gardening
HLA-6012— Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
HLA-6013— Summer Care of the Home Vegetable Garden
HLA-6032— Vegetable Varieties for Oklahoma
HLA-7313— Home Garden Insect Control
HLA-7625— Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part I: Diseases Caused by Fungi.
EPP-7626— Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part II: Diseases Caused by Bacteria, Viruses, and Nematodes
EPP-7627— Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part III: Diseases Not Caused by Pathogens
EPP-7635— Diseases of Cucurbits (Watermelons, Cucumbers, Cantaloupes, Squash, and Pumpkins)
EPP-7640— Solar Heating (Solarization) of Soil in Garden Plots for Control of Soil-Borne Plant Diseases
EPP-7646— Diseases of Asparagus in Oklahoma
Extension Consumer Horticulturist
Extension Consumer Horticulturist