As Oklahoma residents continue follow social distancing guidelines, some people are turning to gardening to help pass the time. Although the state has many seasoned gardeners, others are picking up seeds and potting soil for the first time and are getting a little dirt under their nails.
Fortunately, novice gardeners have a wealth of information available for free through Oklahoma State University Extension, said David Hillock, OSU Extension consumer horticulturist.
“Extension has a lot of valuable, research-based information that will help new gardeners turn their thumbs green. Although being confined during these unprecedented times can be stressful, it’s the perfect time of year for people to start a garden,” Hillock said. “We should be past those late-season freezes now, so plants have a great shot to get off to a good start.
“Don’t get overwhelmed at the thought of growing your own food and flowers,” he said. “Some aspects of gardening can be quite easy and rewarding. Following the advice of our more popular fact sheets will help ensure new gardeners will have good luck.”
Here are the five most popular garden-related fact sheets, all of which can be found at OSU Extension’s gardening and lawn care page:
Garden Planting Guide – This informative fact sheets gives a broad overview of gardening, with everything from choosing the site, planning the garden and gardening tips, as well as a section on avoiding common gardening mistakes. Gardeners also will find a handy chart with planting guidelines for both cool season and warm season crops. Now is the time to get those warm season crops in the ground.
- Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden – Tomato is one of the most popular home garden crops grown in Oklahoma. Not much can beat the taste of a tomato picked ripe from the vine. The great thing about tomatoes is they are easy to grow, making them a great choice for beginning gardeners. This fact sheet outlines the steps to take when growing tomatoes, including selecting the growing area, soil preparation, planting, fertilization, care, weed control, watering, harvesting and tomato varieties. For those with small gardening spaces, consider growing tomatoes in containers instead of a regular garden plot.
- Lawn Management in Oklahoma – The backbone of just about any landscape is the lawn. It provides a setting for trees and ornamentals, as well as a setting for outdoor family activity. A well-maintained lawn can increase the value of residential property. This informative fact sheet explains fertilizer elements, soil testing, irrigation, mowing, thatch, aerification, weed control, insect control, disease control and lawn maintenance.
- Landscaping and Gardening for Birds – While a beautiful landscape is enjoyable to the eye, homeowners who have an interest in ornithology also can attract birds with a variety of plant materials. Many Oklahomans enjoy bird watching and landscaping and gardening for birds is gaining in popularity. Birds are not only fun to watch; these feathered friends also help manage insect populations and maintain the ecological balance of outdoor environments. This fact sheet will help gardeners understand birds need three things to survive – food, water and shelter. These elements easily can be supplied in a landscape.
- Raised Bed Gardening – For those budding gardeners who want to grow vegetables and small fruit, consider installing raised bed gardens. These structures not only add visual interest to the landscape, they also are great for those with limited mobility because it raises the garden from ground level. Raised beds can range from a simple plateau of soil to more elaborate beds made of wood, stone and mortar, straw bales or modern snap-together plastic blocks. Raised bed gardens also have advantages such as better soil, water conservation, fewer weeds, extended season and better pest control.
“As we go through this trying time of social distancing, gardening is a good way to get away from the various stressors you may be facing,” Hillock said. “Try to get the whole family involved. Spending some time outdoors digging in the dirt is a great way to spend some quality family time together.”