You CAN grow your own food!
If you have always wanted to grow your own vegetables or herbs, this is the time to get started!
Growing produce is a fun and rewarding hobby, especially if you enjoy cooking.
The Oklahoma State University Extension Service has a helpful series of fact sheets, such as No. 6004, “Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide,” which can be found at http://factsheets.okstate.edu/. You also can stop by your county extension office to pick fact sheets up.
If you would like to create a new garden site especially for vegetables, here are a few considerations to help you choose the best site.
First, observe sun exposure and be sure to find a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Southern exposures are ideal, and if possible, afternoon shade will provide some late summer heat relief if you still get at least six hours of direct light. Also, make sure the site is situated near a water supply.
Soil tests should be included as part of garden preparation. It is easier to amend soils and add nutrients before planting, rather than after. To collect your sample, use a soil probe, shovel or even a small bulb planter and collect samples to a depth of six inches. In a large garden, as many as 15 to 20 cores should be taken.
Combine them in a clean bucket and remove 2 cups into a single, representative sample. Bring the sample to your county extension center. Tests cost $10 each and will evaluate soil pH, nitrate nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium contents.
Well-drained soils, such as sandy loam, provide ideal conditions for growing vegetables. Soil pH near 6.6 is optimal. Be sure to avoid steep slopes where erosion will be a problem. Adding compost or other organic matter to your garden soil will help improve it and the fact sheet No. 6007, “Improving Garden Soil Fertility,” will give you more information on improving your soils.
If you have very poorly draining soil or a heavy clay, raised-bed gardens are an excellent way to grow vegetables. The OSU Extension Fact Sheet No. 6033, “Raised Bed Gardening” can help you with creating these beds.
If you have existing vegetation and weeds, you may have to spend the summer preparing an area for a fall garden. There are several methods available to kill off vegetation. A common method is to apply an herbicide, but there are other non-chemical methods such as solarization and smothering. Fact Sheet No. 7640, “Soil Solarization,” can help you naturally kill grass and vegetation.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden space, you may consider growing vegetables and herbs in containers. Larger containers are generally required. Tomatoes and peppers would require a 5-gallon container. Five-gallon buckets, with drainage holes added, are cheap and work well. You still will need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight for this to work, and be sure to use a high-quality potting soil and perhaps some added compost to your container. You will benefit from fertilizing heavy feeders, like tomatoes, at planting time and side dressing about 4 weeks after planting with a synthetic or organic garden fertilizer.
If you would like information on gardening workshops and events, like us on Facebook at okcountyosuextension.
Email Julia Laughlin, Oklahoma County Extension Horticulture Educator at email@example.com