Gardeners planting crops for fall and winter need to make sure the flora gets enough sunlight, which can sometimes be hard to come by in Oklahoma.
According to the Cherokee County Oklahoma State University Extension Office, plants have huge variation in the amount of sunlight they need, and flowering failure has often been attributed to insufficient sunlight. Other things to consider are water and management practices, such as pruning, special requirements, and pest control.
“You also have to look at the plants themselves,” said Jodie Parolini, agricultural educator with OSU’s Cherokee County Extension Office. “How much work are you willing to put into this plant/crop? Is it an annual, biennial or perennial? Does it grow in your area? »
One garden that has seen success this year – and recently provided its first harvest for tribal children and elders – is the traditional community garden of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Stilwell. The garden contains traditional crops, as well as plants and crops that represent indigenous culture.
“We approach it as a food, seed and cultural garden with food sourced from the garden for the child development center and the senior center with the extras saved for seeds for the next growing season and the tribal members,” said Roger Cain, UKB tribal ethnobotanist and garden manager.
Ethnobotany is the study of how people from a particular culture and region use native plants.
Cain said the UKB garden is not a traditional garden in the sense of Western-style practices. They not only grow food for the tribesmen, but also medicinal plants. Two native plants are kochani, a cut green coneflower, and lamb’s quarters, or goosefoot.
“Both plants are super nutritious and part of our ancestral diets back then,” Cain said. “This year we were able to grow the kochani in direct sunlight and watched it blossom into a huge plant that you don’t see in the wild, but we watered it once. a day and sometimes two. But it has been found that this plant can tolerate full sun, if kept up with water. Lamb’s Quarter grows at the outer edges of the garden on the fence, and is l one of my favorites for teaching how easy it is to grow food, and it’s super nutritious.
Cain also uses the design of the garden and its plants as a teaching tool.
“The design of the garden is to inform the tribesmen of the many ways to grow food and cultural plants,” he said. “The garden has Sun Circle Mounds with a central flower garden for pollinators to show how our ancestors grew food and medicinal plants before colonial farming methods were adopted.”
The Seven Clans Medicine Garden has seven raised beds of medicinal and vegetable plants, representing the seven clans of the UKB. Cain said that over the years the beds will eventually be filled with herbal medicine for each specific clan medicine. The garden also has a Three Sisters Garden area, which consists of flint corn, gourds and beans. The corn will be used this fall to make hominy to accompany kvnvtsi’s traditional Keetoowah meal.
As for planting seasons and what and when to plant, Cain said it depends on what you’re growing and what you want to accomplish.
“This year’s harsh and hot summer has impacted the growing season,” he said. “As for food crops this year, we have approached them as summer and fall crops, so we are just looking at two growing seasons for vegetables in the garden. The cultural plants we grow – such as kochani, river cane, passion flower, lamb’s quarters, gourds, senna, indigo, beauty berry and wild ginger – have only only one growing season, but we are adding more native food/medicinal plants this season and next.”
Leftover seeds from the spring garden planting can be used in a fall garden if the seed is stored in a cool, dry place or in a refrigerator or freezer. Typical crops that can be planted and are ready to harvest in the fall and winter include onions, white potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, cabbage, pumpkins, lettuce, beets, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potato, cowpea, beans and New Zealand spinach.
Parolini said there are several different methods to start planting crops.
“You can sow directly into the ground or garden bed, you can start the plugs indoors and then transplant them into the garden plot, and you can also plant starters,” she said. “The method you choose depends on the plant itself. For example, lettuce can be transplanted or direct sown – I often do both to have a continuous harvest.
She said crops that are slow to harvest are usually transplanted or taken as cuttings, as appropriate, so that they can possibly harvest earlier or at a more desirable time.
The type of soil and the fertilizer to use in the soil can also vary. According to the OSU Extension Office, some plants will only thrive in sandy loam soil. Others require much more organic matter and water-holding capacity than sandy loam soil. The soil should absorb water easily, not form a crust as it dries, and drain sufficiently so as not to become waterlogged. Porous soil contains more air, which is necessary for root growth.
“A lot of people sometimes overlook soil health, but it’s so important when it comes to gardening,” Parolini said. “Each crop has slightly different requirements, but generally vegetable crops like a pH (potential of hydrogen) of 6.0 to 7.0. Some crops like a certain pH that is in this range, others love more.
Parolini added that without the right pH, nutrients won’t stay in the soil. The county extension office is planning its fall educational garden to see what can be grown this year.
“If your pH isn’t at the right level, your nutrients won’t be available to the plant,” she said. “So to start, make sure your plants have the proper pH and nutrients available.”
UKB’s garden beds and mounds were made with recycled shredded office paper and debris from the tribe’s lumber program. Although there are several different planting methods, Cain said water is still the key to successful growth.
Cherokee County residents can visit the OSU Extension Office to get a free soil test that will determine the amount of pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. For the fee to be waived, the individual must be willing to share soil test results with the Cherokee County Conservation District.