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Vegetables: VEGETABLE INDEX

Tips for the Spring Vegetable Gardener

Topics: Soil Preparation, Site Selection, Varities, How Much To Grow, Links To Fact Sheets

1. A well-tended vegetable between two houses and shared by two Tulsa neighbors.
1. A well-tended vegetable garden between two houses and shared by two Tulsa neighbors.

 

That first bite of a fresh, juicy homegrown tomato is in our dreams right now. New seed catalogs arrive daily promising the fulfillment of that dream. But, in Oklahoma it can turn into a nightmare. Why? The reason is usually our climate. A gardener once told me this is the only place he has lived where a vegetable garden will just up and die if not carefully tended. While prospects for beginners are not all that bad, things can go wrong.

To make it all work follow these steps: Select a sunny location....with eight hours of full sun per day (Photo 1). Locate the garden near water, and very importantly within eye sight. "Out of sight, out of mind" will result in a mediocre garden. Gardens thrive on daily attention.

 

2. 'Vulcan' variety Swiss chard...a beautiful vegetable.
2. 'Vulcan' variety Swiss chard...a beautiful vegetable.

 

3. A beautiful winter garden with a patterned planting of ryegrass and clover                                     cover crops.
3. A beautiful winter garden with a patterned planting of ryegrass and clover cover crops

 

The Tulsa City-County Library has a new book available titled "Kitchen Gardens of France". It's absolutely inspiring to we gardeners who know that raising vegetables brings beauty to the home garden. This book emphasizes how beautiful they can be if located near the house. (See photo 2 and photo 3) .

 


 

4.  Properly prepared vegetable growing soil in Collinsville, OK.
4. Properly prepared vegetable growing soil in Collinsville, OK.

 

Prepare the soil properly. A quick roto-tilling of a Bermuda grass lawn does not make ideal vegetable growing conditions. Add at least two inches of compost to the top of a weed free soil, then spade it in (photo 4) .


   

5. Healthy tomato transplants.
5. Healthy tomato transplants.

 

Choose varieties adapted to Oklahoma. See OSU Fact 6032, Vegetable Varieties for Oklahoma. O.S.U. has spent years testing different vegetables to see what grows here. Also, check our vegetable growing fact sheets (see the list of links at the bottom of the page). Our "Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden" fact sheet lists varieties especially suited for home culture. And, here's a tip: Start tomatoes from seed on Saint Valentine's Day....that provides eight weeks for a nice, large, healthy transplant to plunk down in the garden on April 15th. (Photo 5).


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6.  A small, but productive vegetable garden in Muskogee, OK.
6. A small, but productive vegetable garden in Muskogee, OK.

 

Grow enough to enjoy, but don't plow up the whole yard. We can have a very enjoyable vegetable planting in just a ten by twenty area. That's enough room for five tomato plants, a few peppers, some lettuce and a few rows of beans. It's better to have a small success the first year, than a whopping failure full of weeds and bad memories (Photo 6).


   

7. Giving young pea plants a bit of help by trellising.
7. Giving young pea plants a bit of help by trellising.
8. Frequent harvesting of leaf lettuce results in higher yields.
8. Frequent harvesting of leaf lettuce results in higher yields.

 

Take good care of it. Someone once said: "The best medicine for a garden is our daily footsteps through it". Check frequently for insects, weeds and possible disease. Tie up plants as needed, or train them to a trellis to take advantage of limited space and avoid disease problems. Harvest frequently to keep crops in a bearing mode (Photo 7 and Photo 8).


 

9. Well-mulched peppers in Red Fork, OK
9. Well-mulched peppers in Red Fork, OK

 

Mulch will be your friend. Plan to mulch tomatoes and other heat loving plants in early June. This will conserve water, but even more importantly: the roots will be happy. Most vegetable roots stop growing if soil temperatures get too high. Mulch will keep the soil cooler, resulting in active root growth. Also, microbes living in the soil will remain active, processing nutrients for ready plant availability (Photo 9).

If trouble crops up in the garden , bring a sample to the Tulsa County OSU Master Gardener office. They'll be happy to provide unbiased advice on how to fix an insect or disease problem.

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10. Early spider mite infestation....slightly pale foliage with tiny brown spots             
            indicating feeding
10. Early spider mite infestation....slightly pale foliage with tiny brown spots indicating feeding

11. 'Spingtide' bokchoy  in a Tulsa garden.
11. 'Spingtide' bokchoy in a Tulsa garden.

 

The main problem with tomatoes is spider mites. Our remedy works: Apply horticultural oil (highly refined for summertime use) to plants beginning in early to mid June at the very first sign of spider mites. Repeat a time or two if needed. See OSU Fact Sheet 6012 in the list of links at the bottom of the page.

If the spray schedule is forgotten and spider mites get out of hand, remove the plants and begin a fall garden with fresh tomato transplants that are not so burned out by bearing all that fruit! (photo 10) .

 

 

 

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12. Green and wax beans harvested from a Tulsa garden.
12. Green and wax beans harvested from a Tulsa garden.

 

13. Bell peppers fresh from a Choctaw, Ok garden.
13. Bell peppers fresh from a Choctaw, Ok garden.

 

To learn about specific vegetable culture wander through our web site. O.S.U. has dozens of fact sheets written by folks with years of experience on everything from bok choy to bell peppers and even green beans (Photo 11, Photo 12, Photo 13).

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14. Tomatoes and hamburgers...a winning combination.
14. Tomatoes and hamburgers...a winning combination.

 

There's nothing quite like fresh food from the garden. With proper siting, planning and care, those red, ripe tomatoes will be here just in plenty of time for that 4th of July cookout (Photo 14).


As mentioned earlier, check out the following list of links to OSU's "growing vegetables" fact sheets. Please note that some of the fact sheets are in PDF format and require Acrobat reader to view. If you do not have this program, it can be downloaded free from the Adobe web site. A link to this site is provided on the home page. It is free!

Photo credits:
Photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13: Sue Gray, Extension Horticulturist, Tulsa County
Photo 6: Phil Pratt, O.S.U. Northeast District Area Plant Pathology Specialist Photos 5, 7, 8 and 14: The National Gardening Association