Now is the time to get serious about your backyard garden

It’s time to get serious about a backyard garden.

We have a spot in a corner of our spacious backyard that is our primary garden.

In years past, we have planted every inch with everything from corn (that didn’t work) to jalapeno peppers to carrots and sweet potatoes. We got peppers but they weren’t too hot. The carrots never got too big and the sweet potatoes were delicious – but a whole lot of work.

Last summer, we cut back a bit and only planted half the garden space. Our thought was that we would let half of the garden rest for one year and then switch sides the next year to keep the other side fresh.

One major addition last year was a new 10x10x8-foot tomato cage that is enclosed with chicken wire. This was designed to keep the squirrels out of our tomatoes and it works. Previously, we have a similar tomato cage covered with netting. The squirrels figured that one out. We did put rocks around the base of the new cage to keep the squirrels from tunneling underneath.

We will pick the cage up and move it to a new spot soon. Funny thing – our neighbors walk by and drive by and ask us what the cage is and if it works. It helps us get to know our neighbors a bit more.

This year, we will plant tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Susan has become an expert in growing delicious tomatoes and tons of cucumbers – some of which she cans as sweet pickles and dill pickles.

I have grown pumpkins for a few years. I messed up last year and overwatered and ruined my vines. I won’t make that mistake this year.

Pumpkins (I grow the sugar pumpkins for pies) need a lot of water but too much moisture on the leaves invites mildew, which will ruin the vines.

There are several reasons why we have a garden. One is so we can learn how to grow things. That’s an important part of life and it’s something that our parents and grandparents knew very well.

Eating produce from your own property is a bonus. I would never grow green peppers or cauliflower because I wouldn’t eat those. I don’t grow regular potatoes because sweet potatoes are more expensive to buy and more fun to eat. They store a long time, too.

We have some blackberry bushes that we planted a few years ago on the side of our home. They did well and they were delicious. We replanted strawberry plants last year and we are hopeful they will bear much fruit this summer.

Susan always does well with herbs. She has a rosemary bush that has produced for years. It’s a real treat to have fresh basil every summer, too.

We have a 30-gallon rain barrel in our back yard that gets runoff from our roof when it rains. As much as we can, we use that water on the garden to avoid the chloramine that is put in Tulsa’s tap water.

Preparing the soil is perhaps the most important part of a successful garden. You can buy a test kick for the PH balance of your soil at Stringer Nursery at 7203 E. 41st in Tulsa. Or you can have the OSU Extension Service at 4116 E. 15th St. (at the Fairgrounds) to get your soil tested.

Some plants like acidity, some don’t.

Some plants do better when seeds are planted in your garden and others are better when they are started indoors and transplanted. Stan Bunnel and his employees at Stringer Nursery can get you this kind of information.

Susan also like to plant flowers. I didn’t think much of that idea until I found out that flowers help attract bees and other insects that are necessary to pollinate your vegetable garden.

Our grown kids have no interest in gardening. If they were still little, I would spend time showing them how much fun it is.

Maybe someday, like us, their interest will arise.