Starting a Fall Garden in the Sweltering Heat of Oklahoma

For the past two years I have attempted to start a fall garden near this time of the summer. Here in Oklahoma, the temperatures are over 100 most days in August, so getting any seeds to germinate is tough to do. You can germinate them inside, but then you have to keep them under a light. The light heats up the house even more, so it’s annoying to use in the summer.

Gardening with kids

This year, me and my Little Sprouts were super lucky because we had a few cold spells in the summer. It actually got down in the 50’s at night for a few days. These temperatures are unheard of here. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen that. I have been looking ahead at the forecast and watching the temperatures. We were able to put in plantings during two different cold spells and get some things to germinate outside. One of them even came with some rain. What a blessing! We planted seeds outside for carrots, lettuce, peas, green beans, and parsnips.

Here are a few tips for fall plantings: Mulch very well to keep moisture in the soil and roots cooler on these dog days of summer. Gardens need more water when it’s so extremely hot, so here, even though we usually water once a week, we have been watering 2-3 times per week to keep the plants from drying out. In addition, plant seedlings and seeds underneath larger mature plants that will be dying out soon from the heat. This gives your tender vittles a little shade to stay cooler as they sprout. Most of our summer plants are starting to die back or will be soon, so we planted ours among them to give our seedlings some protection as they start.

Kids planting seeds

We also planted seeds in flats inside. They have not done very well, but we planted cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. I found a few seedlings online for kohlrabi and broccoli so I ordered those and we planted them in the garden. This past weekend I visited an organic nursery in Tulsa and got some cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I also got a few plants of dill since ours has died off for some reason.

Kid's gardening

The Oklahoma State University website has information on what can be grown in the fall in Oklahoma. You can check it out here: http://osufacts.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1114/HLA-6009web.pdf

Here are the planting times they list for each kind of plant:

Beans, Bush Aug 10-20 Seed

Beans, Cowpea July 15-Aug 1 Seed

Beans, Pole July 15-30 Seed

Beans, Lima Aug 10-20 Seed

Cilantro July 15-Aug 1 Seed

Corn, Sweet July 15 Seed

Cucumber Aug 10-20 Seed or Plants

Eggplant July 15 Plants

Pepper July 15 Plants

Pumpkin July 15-30 Seed or Plants

Summer Squash July 15-Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Winter Squash July 15-30 Seed or Plants

Tomatillo July 15 Plants

Tomatoes July 1-15 Plants

Beet Aug 1-15 Seed

Broccoli July 15-Aug 15 Plants

Brussels Sprouts July 15-Aug 15 Plants

Cabbage Aug 1-25 Plants

Chinese Cabbage Aug 1-25 Seed or Plants

Carrots July 15-Aug 15 Seed

Cauliflower Aug 1-25 Plants

Collards Aug 1-Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Garlic Sept 1-Oct 15 Bulbs (cloves)

Kale Sept 1 Plants

Kohlrabi Sept 1 Plants

Leaf Lettuce Aug 1-15 Seed or Plants

Leek Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Onions Sept 1 Seed, Sets, or Plants

Peas, green Aug 15-Sept 1 Seed

Rutabaga Aug 15-Sept 15 Seed

Spinach Sept 5-25 Seed

Swiss Chard Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed

Turnip Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed

As you can see there is still time to plant quite a few things for a fall garden. I have been helping the kids plant seeds all summer long. It doesn’t hurt to try it any time and seeds are not that expensive, so we have been doing a lot of experimenting around here.

What have you been up to in your garden?

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Delicious Brussels Sprouts

Most of my kids love Brussels sprouts.  My family likes them and they are one of my very favorites.  When I was a kid I hated them, but most people over cook them and that makes them really really not yummy.  When they are lightly cooked and fresh tasting, they are amazing!

We planted some Brussels sprouts in the spring and it took forever for them to produce so we cut them down in the heat of the summer.  Any greens, or cole crops can become bitter when harvested in the heat.  For my Brussels sprouts, a quick blanch was all it took to take the bitterness out of them.  If your sprouts aren’t bitter, no need for that step.

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts.  This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow.  Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew.  I was amazed that the plant was this big!

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts. This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow. Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew. I was amazed that the plant was this big!

 

I cut the leaves off of the stalks.  This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there.  So cute.

I cut the leaves off of the stalks. This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there. So cute.

 

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

 

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in.  I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens.  I blanched them for 3 minutes.

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in. I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens. I blanched them for 3 minutes.

 

Then I plunged them into ice water.

Then I plunged them into ice water.

 

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them.  They are delicious at this point.  You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them. They are delicious at this point. You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Next I cut one piece of bacon into small pieces and browned it in the skillet.  I added the Brussels sprouts and sautéed them in the skillet for about 2 minutes until they were just tender, but still bright green.  I use salt and pepper to taste.

sauteeing brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, boiled, sautéed, or roasted.  I have never tried them any way I didn’t like them except for over cooked.  I know some pretty picky eaters that enjoyed them with this bacon method.  I cook a lot of vegetables with a piece of bacon for flavor because it helps picky kids take interest in them.  But I cook them for my family and my kids without bacon and they still enjoy them.  Just salt, pepper and olive oil and throw them in the oven until they are lightly brown on the edge, or grate some parmesean cheese over the top as they finish roasting and that is delicious as well.  If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, try cooking fresh ones yourself and if you don’t over cook them, I’m willing to bet you will like them too.