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RE: Dry, shade recommendations. (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: susanlynne48 on 05.06.2012 at 07:16 pm in Oklahoma Gardening Forum

Dry shade is a problem for a lot of shade loving perennials in Oklahoma, but I have found the following work well. My backyard is all part shade surrounded by trees, which soak up the moisture quickly. Hence, dry shade. The following have worked well for me and survived last year's drought without skipping a beat. I did not water at all in my back yard.

Acanthus mollis - it may die back without any water, but it grows from a tuberous tap root, so once it is established, it will survive. The tall flower stalks remind me of Foxglove.

Variegated Solomon's Seal. Patch will increase each year and they really brighten up a shady spot.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Interesting plants in the Aroid family. Grow from tubers.

Spigelia marilandica = heautiful plants with red tubular blooms that hummers love.

Grape Hyacinths - spring bloomers.

Hellebores - foliage evergreen in winter; blooms very early spring.

For shrubs, Itea virginicas do well; white bottlebrush blooms in spring; red foliage in fall. 'Little Henry' is a nice cultivar.

Mahonia aquifolium or Grape Holly is a very attractive evergren shrub.

Holly ferns do very well in dry shade.

Epimediums are known for their tolerance to dry shady conditions.

Carex - ornamental, small grasses - just about any - come in colorful shades and interesting growth habits.



clipped on: 05.13.2012 at 06:11 pm    last updated on: 05.13.2012 at 06:11 pm

RE: Curling Leaves on Tomatoes (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: okiedawn on 07.12.2011 at 11:22 pm in Oklahoma Gardening Forum

You're welcome. I had a typo above, and it should read "72-75", not "72-85".

The plants should produce just fine once we have cooler weather as long as they are healthy and have adequate moisture.

Even if we get a spell of cooler weather that only lasts a few days, often you'll get fruitset during that time as long as your plants have blooms at that point in time.

One way to manipulate your plants into flowering when a cool spell is expected is to feed them a Bloom Booster type water-soluable plant food 5 to 7 days before you expect the cool temperatures. It won't guarantee fruit set, but it increases the odds. I have some plants blooming now, but the only ones setting new fruit are Ildi, SunGold, Matt's Wild Cherry, Tess's Land Race Currant, Husky Red Cherry, Black Cherry, Mountain Magic and Jaune Flammee'. Of those, only Jaune Flammee' is not a bite-sized tomato. Normally plants that produce bite-sized tomatoes are not as affected by the heat as plants that produce larger fruit. Once the high temps are over 100 though, even the bite-sized varieties slow down.

Heat affects tomato fruitset in different ways. One way is that it can make the pollen 'sticky' so that it doesn't move around easily inside the flower. (Tomatoes are perfect flowers, which means the flowers fertilize themselves, but for that to happen the pollen has to shed from the anthers, and sticky pollen doesn't shed well.) To help out that sticky pollen, thump each blossom or gently shake each plant daily, preferably early in the morning, to help the pollen move around inside the flower.

Another way the heat hurts is by denaturing the pollen which renders it sterile. The return of cooler temps puts an end to the denaturing of the pollen.

Flowers that don't set fruit within a few days wither and fall off the plant, and this is known as blossom drop. In this case, it is heat-related blossom drop.

Here in Oklahoma we are always in a mad rush to get our tomato plants into the ground (or containers) as early as reasonably possible without having them freeze in order to get the plants large enough to flower and set fruit well before the high temperatures arrive. In a more normal year, we might see the temps getting high enough to impede fruitset sometime between mid-June and mid-July. This year we started having those temperatures in mid-May in some areas. A lot of plants didn't get a chance to set much fruit because of that. It is a problem in many parts of the state this year, and in lots of other hot southern states as well.

Patience, patience, patience....and some better weather would be really helpful too. : )


clipped on: 04.05.2012 at 05:42 pm    last updated on: 04.05.2012 at 05:42 pm

RE: Drought Resistant/Tolerant Vegetables (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: okiedawn on 01.21.2012 at 01:39 pm in Oklahoma Gardening Forum


Because my part of Oklahoma is routinely plagued with summer drought at least 8 out of 10 years, I routinely plant varieties that have proven the most drought-resistant in our heat and soils here. With different soils, they may or may not produce well in drought, but I'll list them for you.

Also, how well the veggies do in any given year varies depending on when the rainfall was scarce. For example, when spring has a decent amount of rainfall, many veggies become well-established early and produce well for months after the rain stops falling. However, if there is little moisture in February, March and April when the plants are becoming established, they will struggle with drought in the hot months due to smaller, less vigorous root systems.

Temperature and relative humidity plays a role in veggie production too. For example, some tomato varieties set fruit very well in my area in August despite the heat as long as the RH remains pretty low, but with higher RH combined with the heat, those tomatoes don't set very well at all.

In general, when planning for drought conditions, I choose varieties with shorter DTMs in an effort to get good production before the worst heat arrives. When I choose a variety with a later DTM, it generally is one that is widely-reputed to be drought-tolerant and which has performed better than average in past drought years.

In the early 2000s we had a string of several years back to back wit very warm winters. In those years, I almost totally stopped planting cool-season veggies, except for potatoes and onions, because it got so hot so early in the spring that I could plant warm-season crops early and get good yields before the worst summer heat arrived. I couldn't do that, though, if the cool-season crops were taking up all the space so I dumped a lot of cool season crops so I could get an early start with warm season crops.

In general, these vegetables produce best for me in drought years: some tomatoes, okra, southern peas (pinkeye purple hulls, blackeyes, cream, zipper and lady pea varieties), a few snap bean varieties, squash and C. moschata winter squash/pumpkins, some lima bean varieties, some pepper varieties, and some cucumbers. There are a few corn varieties that produce well in most drought years, but not many greens that do.

Here's some variety suggestions:

Tomato: SunGold, Heidi (paste type but good for fresh eating too), Sioux, Rutgers, JD's Special C Tex, Jaune Flamme', Bush Goliath, Porter and Porter Improved.

Chilli/Peppers: Bird pepper, Habanero (with irrigation), Yummy Orange (sweet, not hot), Biker Billy Jalapeno and Chichimeca Jalapeno. With sweet peppers, a decent amount of irrigation is needed with most of them. The plants that produce mini-bell peppers produce very well with only moderate irrigation, and Blushing Beauty is one that produces early and heavily as long as it receives some irrigation or rainfall.

Beans: I use a dual approach, picking our favorite ones with short DTMs for early production, and the most heat-tolerant ones for later production.

Bush Beans: Contender, Speedy, Fowler, Tanya's Pink Pod*(*the most drought-tolerant bush bean I've ever grown, producing well in 2010 and 2011), and I'm trying a new one from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year called Kebarika. It is from Africa, so it is supposed to have great heat tolerance.

Pole Bean: Dean's Purple Pole and Smeraldo for early production, Rattlesnake for drought-tolerance later in season, and Garrafal Oro which has the best combination of great flavor/heat tolerance.

Lima Bean: Dixie Speckled Butterpea (produced well for us in 2011), Willowleaf White, Worcester Indian Red

Asparagus Bean: Red Noodle

Cucumbers: County Fair, H-19 Little Leaf, Armenian Cucumber

Squash/Zucchini: Raven, Cocozelle, Horn of Plenty, Trombocino

Beets: I am not sure any of these are any more drought-tolerant than the others, but usually get good yields from Golden Beet, Bull's Blood and Chioggia.

Carrots: In drought years I stick to shorter, smaller ones that mature relatively fast (Short 'N Sweet, Petite 'N Sweet, Little Finger, Paris Market) and somewhat longer ones with shorter DTMs like YaYa and Napoli. Since heat can make carrots' have bitter flavor, I plant as early as possible to beat the heat.

Spinach: I only grow it as a fall crop because the weather at our house heats up too early in the spring. Nobel Giant is pretty heat-tolerant and so are America and Melody.

Spinach substitutes for hot weather include New Zealand Spinach, Egyptian Spinach, Orach and Malabar Climbing Spinach.

Sweet Peas: I only grow edible podded peas and their performance varies greatly depending on air temperatures more so than moisture. Mine stalled in last year's early heat, but then produced pretty well later in spring when significant rain fell and cooler air temps prevailed for a brief period. The Gold Sweet peas produce pretty well in heat but so does Sugar Snap or Super Sugar Snap. Shelling peas/English green peas never produce well enough for me to justify devoting space to them, even in a wet year

Greens: Spinach and Tendergreen Mustard Greens, and Collard Greens grow well in hot springs. For summer, you're limited to the leafy forms of Amaranth and to Swiss Chard, along with the hot-weather spinach substitutes I listed above. All varieties of Swiss chard produce equally well for me in summer.

Lettuce: A few varieties are more drought-tolerant than others. I avoid head lettuces and plant mostly leaf lettuces and butterheads, and sometimes the more heat-tolerant romaines. The best heat- and drought-tolerant ones we grow are Simpson Elite, Oakleaf, Red Salad Bowl, Ben Shemen and Anuenue. I also plant Drunken Woman lettuce in all but the worst drought years, and it actually did really well last spring in a container where I could keep it moister than lettuce in the ground.

Broccoli: Piricicaba survived last summer and produced all autumn until a hard freeze got the plants around mid- to late-December. It is the most heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant broccoli variety I've ever grown.

Cabbage: In hot years, I stick to smallish ones like Ruby Perfection and Early Green Gonzalez.

Sweet Corn: For a hybrid, I go with the one that produces earliest for me: Early SunGlow. If I plant by late March, I harvest around Memorial Day at the end of May. For summer production, I stick to proven O-P varieties with great heat-tolerance like Texas Honey June, Black Aztec and Country Gentleman.

Watermelon: I stick mostly with small, refrigerator types in drought years because of their shorter DTMs and because, being smaller, they don't need huge amounts of water. I usually plant Blacktail Mountain and Yellow Doll or Sugar Baby. For larger melons, Desert King and Rattlesnake are the two most drought-tolerant ones I've grown, and Moon and Stars is pretty drought-tolerant too.

Okra: Most all okras have good tolerance of drought and heat, but hte ones that perform best for me in those conditions are Beck's Big Buck and Stewart's Zeebest.

Southern Peas: This category of peas is large and produces better for us than just about anything else in summer. A few of the most drought-tolerant and productive ones are Big Red Ripper, Knuckle, Six Week Pink Eye Purple Hull, and Cream 40.

Pumpkin/Winter Squash: I mostly stick with the C. moschata types because they have the best combination of pest-tolerance and drought-tolerance. Seminole is my favorite. It is just indestructible. It is a very rampant plant and I let it go wherever it wishes, which means it often climbs the tomato cages and the garden fence and then climbs up into neighboring trees. Green Cushaw, Long Island Cheese and Tahitian Melon are very drought-tolerant.

Radishes: Obviously these are not a warm-season crop because heat adversely affects their flavor, but I usually grow at least Purple Plum and French Breakfast. This year I am trying Spanish Flat. One warm-season radish is Rat-Tail Radish, but you grow it for its seed pods and not its root portion. Rat-tail Radish seed pods are great in stir fry dishes.

Sweet Potatoes in general have great heat tolerance, but less drought tolerance than I'd like, so I skip them in a year when very severe drought is expected. With heavy, dense clay, I have only one area in the garden where the soil drains well enough for sweet potatoes, and it is more of a sandy, silty clay loam that is perfect in an average year, but which stays too dry (even with irrigation) in a bad drought year. Gary probably could tell you the varieties he has found most drought-tolerant over time.

Don't forget the less common heat-lovers like lentils, garbanzo beans and moth beans, although I have no specific variety recommendations for those veggies.

You can find a lot of drought-tolerant varieties at Native Seed/SEARCH's seed shop, but you have to research their varieties carefully because some of their varieties that tolerate high heat are grown at higher altitudes where they benefit from relatively cool nights. Bountiful Gardens also has many heat-tolerant varieties because of their work with agriculture world wide. I've linked their website below.

I also get lots of heat-tolerant varieties from Willhite Seed because they are based in Texas and choose the varieties that traditionally have done well there, and from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for the same reason. They have great southern peas and beans at SESE, for example. Seeds From Italy ( is a great source since many of the varieties that grow well in Italy also are very drought-tolerant. Many of the varieties sold at Seeds From Italy are from the Franchi-Sementi seed company.

Don't forget that many herbs show extraordinary heat tolerance even though they do need some moisture.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bountiful Gardens


clipped on: 03.23.2012 at 10:34 pm    last updated on: 03.23.2012 at 10:37 pm