Small home gardens may ease shortages

George McLaughlin trims a Roselle plant, which he said grows easily in Tahlequah.

While area residents might be reluctant to go out in public due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they can find solitude, and nutrition, by starting vegetable gardens at their homes.

With a little sweat and ingenuity, it’s not too difficult to begin a little plot of vegetables. Experts might have a large tract of garden space to maintain, but those just beginning might want to keep it small at first, as those who overextend their gardens might have a hard time with upkeep.

“So it’s much better to start small, and then next year, if you have no trouble keeping up, then expand,” said George McLaughlin, founder of Green Country Seed Savers.

The first thing new farmers should do is find a piece of land to work on. While they can use containers to plant vegetables, many people prefer planting directly in the ground. The land selected should also receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.

“You’re going to have to be very careful, because this time of year, it’s really easy to pick out a spot that gets six hours a day, but then the trees get their leaves and you don’t get six hours a day anymore,” said McLaughlin.

Gardeners can attest to the fact that eradicating Bermuda grass is essential for a healthy plot. Some folks lay down cardboard or another type of barrier to suppress the grass, and then cover the area on top with mulch. However, it’s not uncommon for novices to underestimate how much mulch they actually need.

“So the best to do is dig it out,” said McLaughlin. “I usually use either a 2.5-pound mattock that you can buy at Lowe’s, or a really high-quality spading fork, which you cannot buy locally. I use both tools.”

Soil should not be wet or waterlogged when grass is dug up, or else it could ruin the texture of the soil. Once the dirt is ready, it is time to begin planting. During this time of year, crops like onions, potatoes, lettuce, beats, carrots, peas and cabbage can survive easily. People should wait until around mid-April before they begin planting vegetables that require warm weather or are not frost-resistant.

Gardeners should make sure to pull the weeds and sprigs of Bermuda grass as they pop up around their new vegetable gardens. Plants should not be watered on a schedule, as it’s common for folks to overwater their veggies.

“You need to water according to need – when you see the plant showing some stress, or if you can dig down 4 to 6 inches and it’s powdery dry,” said McLaughlin. “I see new people who go out and water every day, and they end up making their plants sick or die, because they get too much.”

Area residents might also consider planting their gardens as close to the doors they walk in and out of most, as it could encourage them to maintain their plots.

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