Plant a Victory Garden
Time to plant your Victory Garden!
Here's my advice on what plants and whether to buy plants or seeds at the garden center.
Wow! Victory Gardens are getting a lot of attention!
Did anyone else notice the Miracle-Gro "Victory Garden" commercial over the weekend? It's so new, I can't find it Miracle-Gro's Youtube channel yet, so I hope you did and if you've found a link, please send it to me. I'd love to share it.
The rampant increase in Facebook group membership that I mentioned in my post last week has also been discussed in the media too. Not my article specifically, :( but how popular those kinds of groups are.
Before we jump in...
How much: For questions about how many plants needed to have a steady supply of food for your family, take a look at this fact sheet. Experienced gardeners in Oklahoma know this fact sheet like the back of their hand so consider bookmarking it and referring to it often.
How to store: If you're planning to freeze, can or otherwise preserve food from your garden, you need to visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. In addition, only follow recipes on the NCHFP website or on the Ball Jars website to ensure your food will be safe to eat.
Deadly diseases can be transmitted in food that's been improperly stored, but the recipes on those sites have been tested and will be safe if properly followed.
Plants for your Victory Garden
In the OSU fact sheet I referenced above, you might notice that there are two plant lists - a cool-season list and a warm-season list.
Some plants like the cooler weather we have in late Winter and early Spring (cool season) while others like it nice and warm - the kind of weather we're finally transitioning to.
Even on the warm-season list, there's a spectrum which is why planting dates listed on the fact sheet vary so much. Some vegetables like it when it's just getting warm and others don't want to be planted until it's hot.
The recommendations I'm about to make assume that you're in Oklahoma or a similar climate. If you're in another state or climate, check with your local land-grant university for something specific to your area.
Buy these as plants:
Peppers - all types
Why? The seeds for these plants take a long time to get going and established, time that we just don't have.
Even though they're "warm-season," tomatoes do not like to be sweltering hot and they think 90-95 degrees is sweltering. Wimps!
If you try to start seeds now, your plants will be old enough to make tomatoes in mid-June. Guess what else happens in mid-June? Our afternoon highs start averaging in the mid-90s.
Tomatoes are temperamental little plants. They are hard to grow and keep happy but if you want tomatoes before September and don't have plants ready to go in the garden right now, buy them. Buy them soon and plant them as soon as you get home.
Peppers and Eggplants are more tolerant of heat but they're slow to grow up - it takes a long time before they start producing.
I left off tomatillos because I've never seen plants at the nursery but if you want to grow them and find plants, buy them. It's way too late to start them from seed.
Seeds or plants, it's your call
Melons (except watermelon)
These plants will perform equally well whether started from seeds or plants purchased from the nursery.
They like ground temperatures a little warmer, too so there's not a rush to get them going. You could buy seeds now and wait a few weeks. Bonus... no plants to keep alive in the meantime.
Seeds are best (and easy)
Cowpeas (AKA: Black-eyed peas, southern peas)
Usually, you can't even find these for sale as plants in the nursery and for good reason.
They get fussy when their roots are disturbed (ie: taken out of the pot and put in the garden). It is possible to start them in pots, but they won't like it and sometimes will tell you about it through their poor performance.
They are also super easy to start from seeds and your plants will perform better in the long run.
What I grow (warm season)
Slicing tomatoes (6-8 plants)
Cherry tomatoes (6-8 plants)
Tomatillos (2-3 plants)
Bell peppers (12-16 plants)
Jalapeno peppers (2 plants)
Shishito peppers (4-5 plants)
Stringless bush bean (as many plants as I can squeeze in)
Black beans - pole (as many as I can - about 12 this year)
Okra (20 ft row)
Sweet potato (16-20 plants)
Growing in a suburban backyard limits the number of plants I'm able to grow. I aim to have a steady enough supply that I don't have to purchase these things from the grocery store or farmers market.
What I can't produce on my own and in the off-season, I purchase from local farmers (first choice) or the grocery store. My list probably wouldn't change much if I had more room, I would just grow more and store more.
I intentionally left off... squash
Growing squash in Oklahoma - particularly in the space I have - is a fool's game or a lunatic's game, maybe. I say that in jest with a lot of truth peppered in.
The squash bugs in partnership with the squash vine borer bugs will take out any squash plant grown anywhere in our state just to watch humans squirm.
A successful squash harvest involves closely evaluating plants multiple times per day looking for eggs and squishing them or removing the leaves. Even after that, the plants must be closely monitored for signs of damage - which is usually the plants starting to die. Literally. That's not sarcasm.
Farmers at markets with squash to sell are constantly starting more squash plants in protected greenhouses. This way while out in the garden, they can pull plants the moment they notice damage and replant - typically in a different part of the garden - hoping the new vine will produce a few mature squashes before the bugs get it.
That is NOT my idea of a relaxing and fulfilling hobby so I skip it and am happy to support my local farmers doing that work through the farmers market.
Next Monday, I'll talk about herbs. Some of them have seasonal preferences too!
The following Monday, I'll talk about getting started with compost. Coincidentally, that will be International Compost Awareness Week. Can't wait!