Time to plant your summer vegetables

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Gold summer pepper is an easy variety to grow in Oklahoma.

Finally, weather has turned warm with a low chance of frost, and we've had some amount of rain, so a gardener's thoughts turn to vegetables in the garden. There are those who will tell you if you can grow vegetables in Oklahoma, you can grow them anywhere.

However, many vegetables do well in Oklahoma because of that wonderful sun and heat during summer, and many favorites are easy to grow with patience and perseverance. Peppers, cucumbers and squash are all good candidates. So let's look at what conditions you need and discuss varieties.

A vegetable garden needs three basic conditions. First, it needs at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Next, it will need plenty of water. Most vegetables aren't drought tolerant, so water them during hot and dry spells. The closer your garden is to water, the easier it will be.

Finally, it needs good soil. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter, like compost or peat moss. It is best to start small, if you are just beginning to garden. Usually a 10x10 plot is perfect for most family needs, or many varieties of vegetables do well in containers on the patio or deck.

In addition to tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans and squash are all good selections for any family garden. Most of the vegetables mentioned are available in your local garden center.

Sweet peppers are delicious and relatively disease free, so they are perfect for beginning gardeners. Varieties such as Red Minibel, California Wonder, Gold Summer, Jupiter and Sweet Banana are great selections for Oklahoma, and these do well in containers. If you like hot peppers, select Anaheim, Jalapeno, Serrano Chili or Mexi Bell; these are also terrific for pickling or for homemade salsa.

Cucumbers do room to sprawl, but if you give them a fence or trellis, they grow easily in a small garden. A trellis or fence should be about 4 feet tall to provide maximum growing room, and placing them on one side of the garden is ideal. Varieties of cucumbers that grow well in Oklahoma include Burpee Hybrid II, Dasher II and County Fair; all these are good for slicing cucumbers. If you prefer the pickling type, choose Fancipak or Calypso. If you want to grow cucumbers in containers, try Burpless and Liberty, both good for slicing.

Green beans are another vegetable that grow well, and they are delicious cooked fresh right from the garden. Bush beans are the best bet, and varieties like Contender and Blue Lake are good selections. If you prefer wax beans, try Goldrush or Resistant Cherokee Wax, and if you like pole beans, select varieties like Kentucky Blue and Kentucky Wonder.

Squashes are among the easiest vegetables to grow. There are many varieties of summer squash, including zucchini, yellow straightneck and crookneck, and scallop. For zucchini, select Eight Ball and Senator. For straightneck, Gold Bar and Multipik are good options. For yellow crookneck, try Dixie and Goldie. For scallop, Peter Pan, Sunburst and White Bush are your best bets.

Squash plants are prolific producers, so you may have to give some away when it comes to harvest time, and they are terrific for baking. Zucchini bread and zucchini casserole are two favorites.

If you want to read about more vegetable varieties best suited to Oklahoma, a copy of the OSU Extension Fact Sheet, F-6032, Vegetable Varieties for the Home Garden in Oklahoma, is available from your local county extension center or at fcs.okstate.edu.

A link also is available at clevelandcountymaster-gardeners.org.

Try some of these vegetables in your home garden. You'll be rewarded with a tasty harvest this summer.

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