According to local gardening experts, now is the time to prepare for the spring gardening season.
Courtney DeKalb-Myers, a horticultural educator at the Oklahoma State University Extension in Cleveland County, said the best time to think about the spring growing season is when the ground is still cold.
“Having a New Year here, some gardeners may already be suffering from the spring heat,” she said. We still have a lot to do.”
One example of planning, says Dekalb-Myers, is that gardeners need to think carefully when choosing a planting site. A good site prevents frustration later in the season.
“The ideal location for vegetables is fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of sun exposure. If your site has poor drainage, high clay, or shallow topsoil, raised bed or container gardening is a better alternative. It could be instrumental,” she said.
Planters can also start thinking about irrigation systems. Because successful gardens are planned near water sources.
“Avoid slopes and keep gardens away from trees if possible,” said Dekalb-Myers. “Most of the tree’s roots can extend twice his diameter in the canopy, competing for water and nutrients.”
She recommends that planters assess soil fertility by conducting a soil test that can be completed through the Cleveland County OSU Extension Office. A typical test costs $10 and includes analysis for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
To collect soil samples, Dekalb-Myers recommends that planters take 15 to 20 random cores 6 inches below the area of interest.
The cores are then mixed in a clean bucket, placed in a quart-sized Ziploc bag, and taken to the extended office.
Processing of results takes approximately 2-3 weeks, with extensions including fertilizer recommendations.
“Now is also a good time to research new vegetable varieties,” said Dekalb-Myers. “Colorful seed catalogs can be a comfort for gardeners during this cold season, but evaluating options can be overwhelming.”
Gardeners need to research how disease-resistant these new varieties are and how they thrive best in the climates they want to grow, says Dekalb-Myers.
“Some varieties, such as broccoli and tomatoes, are hotter and slower to fruit,” she said. “Choosing hardy varieties will help when you’re trying to plant your garden early.”
Dekalb-Myers also recommends organizing your desired plants by writing down the crop name, desired quantity, available plot dimensions, and planting date. This information can be used to determine the proper number of seeds to order.
For specific planting dates and other information, read OSU’s Fact Sheet HLA-6004 Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide. This is available at the Extension Office.