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Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide

Well-planned, properly managed home gardens can furnish Oklahoma families with flavorful, high quality, fresh vegetables from spring through fall, as well as for processing or storing for winter.

 

The amount of money invested in seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and a few tools is more than offset by the enjoyment, healthful outdoor exercise, and fresh homegrown flavor.

 

Choosing the Site

The selection and preparation of the garden site is an important key to growing a home garden successfully. An area exposed to full or near full sunlight with deep, well-drained, fertile soil is ideal. The site also should be located near a water supply and, if possible, away from trees and shrubs that would compete with the garden for light, water and nutrients.

 

While these conditions are ideal, many urban gardeners have a small area with a less-than-optimal site on which to grow vegetables. Yet, it is still possible to grow a vegetable garden by modifying certain cultural practices and types of crops grown. Areas with light shade can be used, such as those under young trees, under mature trees with high lacy canopies or in bright, airy places which receive only one to two hours of direct sun per day. There are several vegetables which will grow under these conditions, including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, spinach and turnips. Size and form of harvestable plant parts will be reduced depending on amount of light reaching plants. Fruiting vegetables may benefit from afternoon shade during hot periods in the summer.

 

If the site is poorly drained or the topsoil layer is thin or has too much sand or clay, raised beds or container gardening may be a better alternative. With a raised bed garden, a good-quality garden soil should be used and non-soil growing media are used in container gardens.

 

Planning the Garden

The chart on page 2 should be of help in determining family requirements of the different vegetables.

 

Perennial vegetables (asparagus, rhubarb, winter onions, etc.) should be planted at one side or end of the garden for efficient operation. The hardy vegetables planted early in the season should be planted together, so they may be followed with late-season plantings of the same or other vegetables. Vegetables requiring similar cultural practices should be grouped together for ease of care.

 

Perennial vegetables (asparagus, rhubarb, winter onions, etc.) should be planted at one side or end of the garden for efficient operation. The hardy vegetables planted early in the season should be planted together, so they may be followed with late season plantings of the same or other vegetables. Vegetables requiring similar cultural practices should be grouped together for ease of care.


The recommended spacings are based on best practices in the traditional row method of gardening. Smaller spacings can be used in alternative gardening methods such as container or square-foot gardening. In these situations, compact varieties of plants such as tomato and eggplant are a good choice.


The chart groups vegetables as cool season or warm season crops, indicating under which conditions they grow best. Crops classed as cool season may be planted earlier in the season and do best under cool conditions (average daily temperatures of 70 F or less), while those grouped as warm season crops grow better during warm temperatures (average daily temperatures ranging between 70 F to 90 F).


Based on the temperature the plants will withstand, vegetables are hardy, semi-hardy, tender or very tender. Hardy types may be planted before last frosts or freezes in the spring and are tolerant of cold weather in late autumn. The semi-hardy ones will be injured by a hard frost, but will grow in cool weather and not be harmed by a light frost. Tender plants are injured or may be killed by a light frost but can withstand cool weather, while the very tender are injured by cool weather.

 

Differences in suggested planting dates range from the earliest for southeast Oklahoma to the latest for the northwest part of the state. Planting dates also may vary when season extension techniques are used.

 

Gardening Tips

In order to have a successful garden, the gardener must follow a few guidelines. The following tips may help to prevent some common garden problems from occurring, or help overcome those that do arise:

  • Sample soil and have it tested every three to four years.
  • Apply fertilizers in the recommended manner and amount.
  • Add organic materials such as yard waste compost or composted manure to improve soil organic matter.
  • Use recommended varieties.
  • Thin plants when small.
  • Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds and reduce fruit rots.
  • Avoid excessive walking and working in the garden when foliage and soil are wet.
  • Examine the garden often to keep ahead of potential problems.
  • Keep the garden free of weeds and diseases.
  • Control only those insects in the garden that are known to be pests.
  • Wash and clean tools and sprayers after use.
  • Rotate specific crop family locations each year to avoid insect and disease buildup.
  • When possible, harvest vegetables during the cool hours of the day.

 

Avoid the Following Mistakes:

  • Planting too closely, which prevents walking or working in the garden, may favor diseases and interferes with normal plant development.
  • Placing fertilizer directly in contact with plant roots, stems, or seeds.
  • Cultivating deeply, resulting in injury to plant roots.
  • Planting varieties not recommended for your area or the season; however, do try newly released varieties.
  • Watering frequently or excessively so that the soil is always wet and soggy.
  • Allowing weeds to grow large before elimination.
  • Applying home remedies, fertilizers or pesticides in a haphazard manner, or without reading and following product instructions. (Remember, these materials are being applied to your family’s food!)
  • Using chemicals not specifically recommended for garden crops.
  • Storing leftover diluted spray.

 

Table 1A. Garden Planning Guide, Cool Season.

Vegetable Time to Plant Feet of Row Per Person Days to Harvest Method of Planting Spacing Between Rows
Cool Season          
Asparagus Fall or Spring 10-20 _ Crowns 4 ft.
Beet March 10-20 50-70 Seed 1 1/2 ft.
Broccoli March 10 80-90 Plants 3 ft.
Cabbage Feb.15 to March 10 10-20 60-90 Plants 3 ft.
Carrot Feb.15 to March 10 20 70-90 Seed 1 1/2 ft.
Cauliflower Feb.15 to March 10 15 70-90 Plants 3 ft.
Chard, Swiss Feb.15 to March 10 10 40-60 Seed 1 1/2 ft.
Kohlrabi Feb.15 to March 10 10 50-70 Seed 2 ft.
Lettuce, Head Feb.15 to March 10 20 60-90 Seed or Plant 1-1 1/2 ft.
Lettuce, Leaf Feb.15 to March 10 20 40-70 Seed or Plant 1-1/2 ft.
Onion Feb.15 to March 10 25 60-120 Sets 1-1 1/2 ft.
Onion Feb.15 to March 10 25 60-120 Plants 1-1 1/2 ft.
Peas, Green Feb.15 to March 10 30 60-90 Seed 3 ft.
Potato, Irish Feb.15 to March 10 50 90-120 Tuber pieces 2-3 oz. 3 ft.
Radish March 1 to April 15 15 25-40 Seed 1 ft.
Rhubarb Fall or Spring 12 _ Crowns 4 ft.
Spinach Feb. 15 to March 10 35 50-70 Seed 1 1/2 ft.
Turnip Feb. 15 to March 10 20 50-60 Seed 1 1/2 ft.

Table 1A. Garden Planning Guide, Cool Season. (cont'd)

Vegetable Spacing Within Rows Depth to Cover Seed Quantity Needed Per Person Frost Tolerance
Cool Season        
Asparagus 2 ft. 6 in. 3-5 Hardy
Beet 4 in 1 in. 1/8 oz. Semi-Hardy
Broccoli 1 1/2 ft.   6-7 plants Hardy
Cabbage 1-1 1/2 ft.   6-15 plants Hardy
Carrot 3 in. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Semi-Hardy
Cauliflower 1 1/2 ft.   6-8 plants Semi-Hardy
Chard, Swiss 3 in. 1/2 in 1/2 oz. Semi-Tender
Kohlrabi 6 in. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Hardy
Lettuce, Head 1 ft. 1/4 in. 1/8 oz. or 20 plants Semi- Hardy
Lettuce, Leaf 3 in. 1/4 in. 1/8 oz or 40 plants Semi-Hardy
Onion 4 in. 1 in. 1/4 qt. sets Hardy
Onion 4 in. 1 in. 1/8 oz. or 75 plants Hardy
Peas, Green 2 in. 2 in. 1/4 lb. Hardy
Potato, Irish 1 ft. 4 in. 6-8 lbs. Semi-Hardy
Radish 2 in. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Hardy
Rhubarb 2 ft. 3 in. 3-4 crowns Hardy
Spinach 2 in. 1/2 in. 1/4 oz. Hardy
Turnip 3 in. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Hardy

These dates indicate planting times from southeast to northwest Oklahoma. Specific climate and weather may influence planting dates. For cool season vegetables, the soil temperature at the depth where the seeds are planted should be at least 40°F.

 

Table 1B. Garden Planning Guide, Warm Season.

Vegetable Time to Plant Feet of Row Per Person Days to Harvest Method of Planting Spacing Between Rows
Warm Season          
Bean, Lima April 15-30 20 90-120 Seed 2-3 ft.
Beans, Green or Wax April 10-30 40 50-60 Seed 1 1/2 ft.
Beans, Pole April 10-30 20 60-90 Seed 3 ft.
Cantaloupe May 1-20 20 80-100 Seed or Plants 3-5 ft.
Cucumber April 10-30 or later 5-10 50-70 Seed or Plants 3-5 ft.
Eggplant April 10-30 5-10  80-90 Plants 3 ft.
Okra April 10-30 or later 20 60-70 Seed 2-3 ft.
Pepper April 10-30 or later 10  90-110 Plants 3 ft.
Pumpkin April 10-30 or later 30 90-120 Seed 5 ft.
Southern Pea May 1- June 10 20 85-100 Seed 3 ft.
Squash, Summer April 10-30 or later 10-20 40-60 Seed or Plants 4 ft.
Squash, Winter May 15-June 15 30 110-125 Seed or Plants 5 ft.
Sweet Corn Mar. 25-April 30 50 80-100 Seed 3 ft.
Sweet Potato May 1- June 10 25  100-120 Plants 3 ft.
Tomato April 10-30 10-20  70-90 Plants 4ft.
Watermelon May 1-20 10-20 90-120 Seed 5-8 ft.

 Table 1B. Garden Planning Guide, Warm Season. (cont'd)

Vegetable Spacing Within Rows Depth to Cover Seed Quantity Needed Per Person Frost Tolerance
Warm Season        
Bean, Lima 6 in. 1 in. 1/8 lb. Tender
Beans, Green or Wax 4 in. 1 in. 1/8 lb. Tender
Beans, Pole 8-12 in. 1 in. 1/8 lb. Tender
Cantaloupe 2-3 ft. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Very Tender
Cucumber 2-3 ft. 1/2 in. 1/8 oz. Very Tender
Eggplant 1 1/2 ft.   3-5 plants Very Tender
Okra 1 1/2 ft. 1 in. 1/4 oz. Very Tender
Pepper 2 ft.   5 plants Tender
Pumpkin 3-4 ft. 1 in. 1/8 oz. Tender
Southern Pea 4 in. 1 in 1/8 lb. Tender
Squash, Summer 3 ft. 1 in. 1/8 oz. Very Tender
Squash, Winter 4 ft. 1 in. 1/8 oz. Very Tender
Sweet Corn 1- 1/2 ft. 1 in. 1/8 lb. Tender
Sweet Potato 1 ft.   25 plants Very Tender
Tomato 2-3 ft.   4-5 plants Tender
Watermelon 5-8 ft. 1 in. 1/8 oz. Very Tender

 **These dates indicate planting times from southeast to northwest Oklahoma. Specific climate and weather may influence planting dates. For warm season vegetables, the soil temperature at the depth where the seeds are planted should be at least 50°F.

 

Table 2. Common Garden Problems

Symptoms Possible Causes Corrective Measures
Plants stunted in growth; yellow colored foliage. Improper soil fertility or soil pH Use fertilizer and correct pH according to soil test. Use 2 to 3 pounds of complete fertilizer per 100 square feet in absence of soil test.
  Plants growing in compacted, poorly drained soil Modify soil with organic matter, coarse sand. Provide surface drainage.
  Insect or disease damage; Root Knot Nematode Use recommended control treatments.
  Iron deficiency Apply iron to soil or foliage. Correct soil pH.
Plants stunted in growth; purplish colored leaf veins.  Low temperature Plant at proper time. Do not use light-colored mulch too early in the season.
  Inadequate phosphorus Apply phosphorus at soil test recommendation.
Holes in leaves; leaves yellowish and drooping or distorted in shape. Insect infestation Identify the insect pest and use recommended control measures.
Plant leaves with spots: dead, dried areas; or powdery or rusty areas. Plant disease Identify the cause of the symptoms to determine recommended control measures. Disease resistant varieties may be needed.
Plants wilt even though sufficient water is present. Soluble salts too high Have soil tested.
  Soil is too wet Add organic matter; ridge soil for surface drainage. Plant in raised beds.
  Insect, disease, or nematode damage on roots Use recommended varieties and recommended treatments of insecticides and fungicides, and soil insecticides or nematicides.
Plants tall, spindly, and unproductive. Excessive shade Relocate to sunny area. Keep down weeds.
  Excessive nitrogen Reduce applications of nitrogen.
Blossom drop (tomatoes). Hot winds, dry soil Use mulch and water. Plant heat tolerant varieties.
  Low night temperatures Avoid early planting.
  Overwatering or disease Reduce watering, use recommended disease control treatments.
Tomato leaf roll. (Leaf roll may not necessarily affect productivity) Excess nitrogen and water Withhold nitrogen, reduce watering.
  Beet curly top disease Remove plant if diseased.
Downward cupping and curling of tomato leaves. Damage from 2, 4-D or similar herbicides Don’t spray on windy days or when temperature is above 80 F. Herbicides used at distant locations may affect tomatoes and other vegetables due to movement in air currents
Leathery, dry brown blemish on the blossom end of tomatoes, peppers, and watermelons. Blossom end rot Maintain uniform soil moisture and apply mulch. Avoid overwatering and excessive nitrogen. Select tolerant varieties. Protect young flowering plants from windy conditions.

 

Other OSU Extension Gardening Publications

BAE-1511 — Trickle Irrigation for Lawns, Gardens, and Small Orchards
HLA-6005 — Mulching Vegetable Garden Soils
HLA-6007 — Improving Garden Soil Fertility
HLA-6009 — Fall Gardening
HLA-6012 — Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
HLA-6013 — Summer Care of the Home Vegetable Garden
HLA-6032 — Vegetable Varieties for Oklahoma
HLA-7313 — Home Garden Insect Control
HLA-7625 — Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part I: Diseases Caused by Fungi.
EPP-7626 — Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part II: Diseases Caused by Bacteria, Viruses, and Nematodes
EPP-7627 — Common Diseases of Tomatoes, Part III: Diseases Not Caused by Pathogens
EPP-7635 — Diseases of Cucurbits (Watermelons, Cucumbers, Cantaloupes, Squash, and Pumpkins)
EPP-7640 — Solar Heating (Solarization) of Soil in Garden Plots for Control of Soil-Borne Plant Diseases
EPP-7646 — Diseases of Asparagus in Oklahoma

 

David Hillock

Extension Consumer Horticulturist

 

Brenda Sanders
Horticulture Extension Assistant

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