Vegetable Garden Varities
Whether you choose to grow in the ground or in containers, it’s important that you start with a good soil. It should be rich and deep, well-draining and able to hold plenty of water.
It is also a good idea to use seeds rather than transplants. Seeds will be less expensive and more likely to germinate and grow.
By Liz Breitenkamp
Hello April! My, how we’ve missed you!
This month marks the true beginning of gardening season.
It begins with bed preparation. Remove all debris and get control of weeds before planting. Soil tests are recommended for determining fertilizer needs. Soil test bags are available at the OSU Extension Office.
Amend your soil with 3 to 4 inches of composted organic matter and work it into the top 6 inch of soil. This improves soil aeration, drainage, encourages healthier root development and makes it easier to plant and manage.
Check the soil temperature before planting too early. Cold, damp soil can cause new plantings to fail. Soil temperature can be monitored in various ways, but my favorite is through the Oklahoma Mesonet. www.mesonet.org
For cool-season vegetables, soil temperature at the depth where the seeds are planted should be at least 40 degrees. Warm-season annuals should not be planted until soil temperatures are in the low- to mid-60s.
Whether you start seeds indoors of vegetables and flowers or purchase young transplants, they should be hardened off outside in partial protection from sun and wind prior to planting in their permanent homes. This lets the young plants become accustomed to the harsh outdoors before being planted.
After planting, add a layer of mulch a couple of inches thick. This aids in weed reduction, as well as moderating soil temperatures and moisture. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be kept watered. Proper care can mean the difference between success or replacement.
In the lawn, fertilizer programs can begin for warm-season grasses this month. As our lawns begin to green up and return to growing, mowing can begin. The cutting height for Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass should be 1-1 ½” high. In my own yard, I have found that if the grass is left a little taller, it will choke out weeds, shade the soil and require less irrigation. Win, win in my books.
As spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, etc. finish blooming, if possible, allow the foliage to turn yellow and die back. The leaves should be easily removed by just tugging on them when they have completely died back. Allowing the leaves to remain on the plant until they turn yellow allows the photosynthesis process in the green leaves to replenish the bulb with plenty of energy for next year’s blossoms. Removing them too early robs the plant of food needed to produce spectacular blooms. Giving the bulbs a light feeding after flowering, but before leaves turn brown will help in developing stronger plants.
In the vegetable garden, wait a little longer for it to warm up before planting curcurbit crops and okra. Plant vegetable crops in successive plantings to ensure a steady supply of produce rather than harvesting all at once. As a general rule, the longer you wait in the month of April to plant vegetables, the better success rate you will have due to the last freeze date. Oklahoma weather can be more than tricky some years.
Best of luck in your gardens this year, and happy gardening.
Breitenkamp is a member of Garfield County Master Gardeners.