Oklahoma Summer Gardening & Watering!

We are definitely in the high heat of our Oklahoma summer season and watering continues to dominate our garden and landscape priority lists.  Please make certain you walk your yard regularly and soak or water thoroughly your trees, shrubs, perennials, vegetables, color plants and lawn to avoid extreme stress.  The shallower a plant is rooted in, like color plants and vegetables, they will need water more often than deep rooted plants like trees and shrubs that can pull moisture from deeper in the soil.  The soil closer to the surface gets hotter, has surface evaporation and is supporting more plant roots so it will dry out quicker and more often.  You can help cool the soil and reduce surface evaporation and drying by mulching the soil surface with two to four inches of bark mulch or hulls like cottonseed hulls, pecan hulls, cocoa hulls or pine straw.  Soaking style watering replenishes moisture deeper into the soil and is more effective and long lasting than squirting or syringing and just wetting the surface which inspires shallow roots instead of deeper roots.

Even as we enjoy the harvest and beauty of our spring and prior year plantings it is time to plant ahead for our fall vegetable gardens.  Gardening is a good metaphor for life in that we are rewarded for thinking ahead and taking action to get what we want or dream of.  This is the time to get your plants of tomatoes, tomatillo, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers planted if you want a fall harvest before our first freeze which is usually in early November. These crops need sixty to ninety days from planting to harvest so fall vegetable plants should be planted at once.  We usually say to plant from July fifteenth to August tenth.

You can plant seeds of cowpeas, bush beans, pole beans, or Lima beans to get a harvest in fifty to eighty days after seeding.  You can plant seeds of sweet corn, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash or cilantro to get a fall harvest.  All these should be planted this weekend or next week to assure plenty of time to raise and harvest your crop before the winter freeze, that seems so distant as we deal with the triple digit temperatures of summer.

These fall garden crops are usually grown in the ground but you can grow limited amounts of most all these crops in container gardens on your patio, porch or even setting in flowerbeds.  Remember all of these young plants and seedlings will need careful attention to watering as they will have a small root system and can dehydrate quickly.  They will become more tolerant as they grow and get bigger and deeper root systems.

You can reduce your water use and get more even and efficient water to your vegetable garden and flowerbeds by using drip irrigation.  Next best is the use of soaker hoses.  If you have a automatic sprinkler system consider upgrading to smart irrigation by adding a soil sensor and rain sensor to your controller so you will not waste water by watering when we do get blessed with rain.  The soil sensors can measure moisture tension in the soil and only water when dry to conserve our precious water while still caring for your plants water needs.  You can use hose end water sprinklers or water your crops by hand as you evaluate and enjoy your garden.  It is much more pleasant to do your summer gardening activities, including watering or planting your fall garden, early in the morning or in early evening as the temperatures moderate.  Enjoy your garden meditation as you water and remember fall will be here soon.

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