By ROB W. ANDERSON
In recent years, gardening in Oklahoma has become a formidable experience. Extreme weather conditions have made it nearly impossible to grow certain plants, while others continue to flourish under any condition.
The Tahlequah Public Library hosted a plant swap April 16 to give local gardeners and lawn enthusiasts the opportunity to trade out a plant, a seed or gardening tool, while sharing conversation about what works and what doesn’t work in the garden. Contained gardens, or controlled-condition growing, seems to be the trend.
Tahlequah resident Louise Evans enjoys the library event and is using contained gardening methods.
“The past two years, I put tomatoes in pots,” said Evans. “I’ve got cucumbers in pots this year. I tried squash and zucchini in pots last year, and they didn’t do too well. I don’t know why.”
Oklahoma State University Extension Educator Roger Williams attends the plant swap to answer questions and talk with people interested in learning more about growing conditions and other related topics. Current conditions are ripe for planting broccoli, cauliflower, onions, potatoes and beats, he said.
“We’re kind of in between now when people want to plant tomatoes. If the temperature wouldn’t get down into the 30s, where it’d be perfect, and you could get them into the ground,” he said. “We’re just probably a week, maybe, away from being able to put them into the ground and not having to worry much about them.”
Williams said knowing about the plant or flower you are trying to grow, and location of the garden, are the key.
“You just have to know what you’re planting. Some things can be put in the ground and covered up maybe once, and some don’t even need it,” he said. “Of course, pansies made it through the winter. I even had some petunias that made it through the winter, and that’s really odd. Different little microclimates exist around the county and even around each house. If you’re on the south side with a brick wall to protect the garden from the wind, you might over-winter something or you might get something in a little early, as opposed to somebody that sticks it out on the top of a hill somewhere.”
Indian Meadows resident Terry Ann Armstrong knows conditions are rough for growing things, but she still enjoys the experience.
“I get the gratification of growing something. I love putting a seed in and watching it grow. I can’t go fishing any more, so I garden,” she said. “I grow herbs, and I got some [at the plant swap] last year. I have a chocolate mint that stayed green all winter. Last year, about all I got was peppers, and of course, I love eggplant. They are almost like potatoes in that you can do so much with them.”
Evans’ sister, Gail Going, drove down from Owasso to attend the plant swap, and said she has to use controlled conditions to grow items.
“[My tomatoes are] still in the front room. We’re going to do the container garden this year,” she said. “My back yard just doesn’t have good top soil.”
Williams observed that the lack of an early spring this year, in combination with above-average rainfall, could make for a good start to the growing season.
“Luckily, we didn’t have May in March, and that’s what happens to us so much of the time. Every time we have such a wonderful March, that’s what kills us,” he said.