By Shyla Stokes
Springtime in Oklahoma means two things: crazy weather and growing greens. We’re focusing on the latter in this article, particularly which plants bloom the best in the red dirt state. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the idea of plants—if you’re like me—you’ve killed one too many. But don’t fret. Below are some of the easiest, most basic plants to grow in Oklahoma. There’s nothing better than fresh vegetables and some therapeutic time outdoors. Follow our simple steps and things will be coming up roses (or kale) in no time.
Lettuce loves to grow, which is good news. The key to a thriving row of lettuce is planting them early enough, even as early as late February. If you missed the boat this year, mark your calendar for next February. When planted early enough, lettuce such as bibb, leaf and romaine types do quite well. Kale and chard are also good options and can be planted at the same time as lettuce.
Typically, tomatoes need to be started indoors and transplanted outside well after the last frost, somewhere around late April. They don’t hold up nearly as well to adverse weather and need a bit more tending to than lettuce, but typically grow quite well in Oklahoma. Be sure to give them plenty of space and use tomato cages to keep them off the ground, avoiding bugs, disease and fungi. Another way to avoid fungi is to water the tomatoes at ground level. Side tip: dig a couple of inches deeper before planting your tomatoes and add Epsom salt, eggshells and some compost to ward off fungus, blossom end rot and to give your plants some extra nutrients.
Beans are some of the easiest plants to grow and particularly great for a children’s garden. They don’t need to be started indoors like tomatoes, and instead do best when seeds are placed directly into the gardening area. The soil temperature does need to be warm, however, so planting them well after the last frost is ideal. Be sure to read instruction based on whether you get bush or pole beans. Bush beans yield fewer beans but don’t need support, while pole beans yield more but need a trestle, pole or fence to climb.
Summer squash like to be planted directly into the ground from seedlings, as they’re a bit temperamental when it comes to transplanting them. Wait until the last spring frost, choose an area with plenty of sun and plant them 2-3 feet apart. Squash can grow quite large, but are best harvested when they’re medium length. If you’re planting winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti or pumpkins, you’ll want to plant them early enough to avoid the first autumn frost, but late enough that they don’t overheat in the late summer. Also, winter squash grow on vines and need a bit more space; think 6-8 feet apart.
Did you know you can grow potatoes in a barrel? Well, you can. And it’s pretty simple. Find a 50-gallon container, such as a trash or whiskey barrel. Next, cut several large holes in the bottom and bottom sides of the container. Purchase seed potatoes (potatoes that are sprouting) at a local gardening market. You can cut them into 1-2 inch cubes, as long as each piece has at least one “eye.” Next, layer the bottom of the barrel with six inches of good soil, then add your potatoes. Add another six inches of soil, compost and water. As the potatoes sprout foliage (about 6—8 inches), add another layer of soil. Repeat this process as the sprouts grow, covering them to leave about half the visible stem each time. The foliage should start to flower in about ten weeks. Once they do, dig down into the barrel and check the top layer of potatoes. If you’ve got potatoes, your spuds are ready. Dump the barrel and enjoy your harvest.
For those of you lacking in space, herbs are lovely, delicious and love containers, making them ideal balcony or front porch plants. Basil, parsley and thyme are all fairly easy. You may have some luck with cilantro as well, just be mindful to harvest some of it every couple of weeks and keep it in direct sunlight.