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Monday, January 21, 2013

Ozarks Garden Planting Schedule

It’s always interesting to listen to someone who’s moved to the Ozarks from states farther north, talk about when they intend to plant their garden. The Ozarks climate is different than even northern Missouri, and with the repeating pattern of heat and drought in mid summer, here are my recommendations for planting schedules. Actually these are the times I use every year, but with the climate changing, it’s even more important to take advantage of early planting.

Beginning in early February
(Valentine’s Day is the traditional time in the Ozarks), I plant peas, onions and potatoes. It’s also the month to trim back sage and lavender plants by half to encourage better blooming and production, and to prune grape vines. Peach and apple trees should be pruned in mid to late February, as well, but wait until late March to prune rose bushes.

is time to sow parsnips and the first plantings of lettuce and radishes. Planting more lettuce and radishes every  2 or 3 weeks insures a continuous supply of those. Spinach and kale can be planted this month, as well.

In April, I till the garden beds, getting ready for peppers, tomatoes and carrots, even though I won’t plant those until about the third week of the month. Our average last frost date in much of the Ozarks (except for valleys or lower elevations) is May 1. For the past 2 years, the last frost I’ve had in my garden was in the last week of March.

I like to have my first planting of corn and beans in the ground by about the 20th of April.  I use a soil thermometer to check the soil temperatures. If it’s still too cool, I wait on planting corn for a few more days, otherwise the seed will rot.

Dark-colored beans can be sown in the garden in April but white-seeded beans need more soil warmth to germinate so I wait until after May 1 to plant those. By the end of April or first of May, any garden crop can be planted safely.

This year I’m looking at varieties of vegetables that are listed as, “does well in dry conditions.” Look at the descriptions in your seed catalogs. Check especially in Seed Savers, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Southern Exposure catalogs. Here are some varieties I'm planting this year, that are better suited to dry and hot conditions.

Beans: Cherokee Trail (Seed Savers); Empress (Seed Savers). Most beans do well in hot summers.
Okra: all okra varieties do best in hot summer conditions.
Tomatoes: virtually no tomato will set fruit when temperatures are above 94 degrees, but these can take more heat than some other varieties: Early Girl, Super-Sioux, Legendary (which is a determinate tomato). Cherokee Purple.
Malali watermelon

Watermelon: Malali, a variety that requires hot, dry conditions, from Seeds of Change. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Gardeners

As a new garden season approaches, here are some suggestions for making the gardening experience a better one than last year. They’re like New Year’s resolutions, but for the garden.

1 - I will not blame myself for past gardening failures. Last year’s drought was Mother Nature, not me. Just because my tomatoes or other crops didn’t grow, the circumstances were beyond my control.

2 - This year I won’t be afraid to ask questions. A simple Google search can answer most any question I might have about crops, pests or fertilizers. Neighbors, garden center employees and our local Extension Service, all have information to share if I will just ask.

3 - I will try something new. Just because I’ve planted the same tomato or carrot varieties for the past several years, doesn’t mean they are the best ones for my area. By looking in the seed catalog or on-line, I can find vegetables and herbs that are drought-tolerant and best suited for this region.

4 - I will share my knowledge with others. With encouragement, most children can learn about growing and eating homegrown vegetables and herbs. Maybe you will be the reason your grandchildren learn to like food from the garden.

5 - I will make a better effort at composting kitchen scraps. Instead of sending vegetable kitchen scraps to the landfill, I can just as easily make a composting spot - even a small hole in the garden, where the scraps get buried (no meat, no bread or other things that will attract varmints). Composting makes my garden soil richer and more fertile.

All very simple resolutions, meant to help us forgive ourselves for past mistakes, and give encouragement for the garden season ahead.

Kids learning how to safely use a knife when cutting fresh herbs.

If you would like to help a kids garden project, visit my website ( and click on the “Order Seed, Help Kids” button, on the lower left corner of the page. It is linked to and for every packet of seed you buy from her, she will donate 25% to the Health, Environment and Wellness Children’s Garden project, which is helping kids, grades 1 through 6 to learn about gardening. Happy gardening!

Kids working in the school garden kitchen.

Visit my Gardening Adventures blog, for what's happening in my garden this week.

Copyright, 2013 Jim Long