The Garden Begins

It’s a stunning weekend here in Oklahoma, one of many in an astonishingly mild winter. As we get closer to the traditional last-frost date for where we live (typically around March 31st), it’s time to start really thinking about what we want to plant this year.  We actually started thinking about that last summer, since you always have to plan a bit ahead if you want to have any real success with a garden. There is, of course, a small wrinkle.

Duncan, Oklahoma, is in the middle of a particularly nasty drought. The local lake we get water from (Waurika Lake) stands at a bit under 30% capacity. The marinas are far from the water, and many of the old snags from trees that were submerged when the dam was built are now once again on dry land. As a result, Duncan has enacted Stage 5 watering restrictions, thereby prohibiting the outdoor use of water for anything other than watering around the foundation of your house. (The purpose of that is a bit fuzzy to me, but I’m thinking it’s for some decoration and for people who have shrubs to protect their windows from creepers.)

As a result, you’d think our plans for a garden would be over before they began, but we have a secret weapon: three rain barrels that capture rainwater, as well as the condensate from our air conditioner. Even though we have a small home, on a semi-humid summer day we can easily get 30 to 40 gallons of water from the air conditioner, which is more than enough to keep our plants watered. Since this isn’t city water, we’re free to use it as we please.

Our 3 big planters, as well as various flower planters and pots. (Cameo by SolarBox)
Our 3 big planters, as well as various flower planters and pots. (Cameo by SolarBox)

We have 3 large wooden planters (based on a design I saw on Steve Ramsey’s Youtube channel) and a dozen or so small planters and pots. We’re going to have to be extremely careful about not over-watering in order to make our supply last through the summer (assuming we have few to no storms in July and August), but the math says there should be enough as long as everything is well mulched.

Our big planters should work out like this:

  • Planter 1: 36” x 18”, 20” deep (Onions and Peppers)
    • 2/3 planted with green onions. I always let a few onions winter over each year so they can flower the following year and give us seeds. These seeds were harvested last fall from onions I planted in 2013.
    • 1/3 planted with bell peppers. The peppers are currently inside in our seed tray germinating their little hearts out. Once we’re past last frost, we’ll transplant them outside. For now, this area of the planter is covered over.
  • Planter 2: 36” x 18”, 12” deep (Spinach and Broccoli)
    • This planter is not yet planted. The spinach has to be sown directly in a few weeks, and the broccoli is germinating inside our seed closet right now. It’ll get transplanted outside after last frost. Once they’ve been harvested, we’ll replant with something else (to be determined) and then replant the spinach and broccoli in the fall.
  • Planter 3: 36” x 18”, 12” deep (Herbs)
    • Cilantro is all the rage among my coworkers this year, so this planter is going to be ¼ to ½ full of cilantro plants (8-12 in total.) The cilantro is currently inside in the seed closet and will be transplanted after last frost.
    • 1 row of dill. We tried dill in a pot last year and loved it so much we decided to give it some more room this year. This will be planted after last frost.
    • 1 row of basil. We don’t need much basil but it’s easy to grow and the dishes we use benefit from it. Once again, we’ll plant after last frost.
    • ½ row of sage. Because chicken.
    • ½ row of parsley. Because it’s good.
    • ½ row of rosemary. Also because chicken. And potatoes.
    • 2 rows of garlic. The cloves Heather buy often end up sprouting since they’re not coated in bud nip, and we had a lot of success planting them last year. This will be a rotating section of the planter.

In a few months, we should have planters that look a bit more like this:

1/4 of last year's onion crop. We had more than we and 2 families could eat!
1/4 of last year’s onion crop. We had more than we and 2 families could eat!

We’re also going to have a number of flower planters and small pots, but those are often more spur-of-the-moment decisions. By that, I mean we haven’t decided what to do with them yet.

Are you planning or beginning to plant a garden this year? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook- we’d love to share ideas and tips!

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