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Oklahoma crops thrive this season

Rodd Moesel writes about gardening in Oklahoma.
BY RODD MOESEL Modified: July 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm •  Published: July 16, 2012

Oklahomans already are enjoying nice harvests on our tomatoes, peppers and squash. Watermelons, cantaloupes and okra are coming along nicely as long as you have been attentive to your watering responsibilities.

We have been blessed with more moderate daytime temperatures than last year, with nighttime temps in the 70s, instead of the 80s and 90s. That difference in nighttime temperatures is huge, giving our plants a chance to relax from the intense stress of the summer heat.

Last year we got almost no tomatoes across Oklahoma because we had super hot days and the night temperatures from late May on hardly ever dropped below 80. Tomatoes were hard to find because they don't pollinate above 80 degrees. No pollination means no fruit on tomatoes.

This summer also is much better for ornamental and vegetable crops. It is important to be diligent about your watering. Learn to “read” your plants for when they are under stress or very dry. They will often wilt or display droopy leaves or stems when crying out for water. Many plants will get pale or turn a grayish or lighter bleached-out green color when dehydrated and screaming for your watering assistance.

Observe and watch your plants; they will do a good job of communicating with you when they have an extreme need for water. If you miss these early signals, they often will “sunburn” or scald either big brown spots on the leaves of broadleaf shrubs or plants or will burn around the perimeter or outer edges of tree leaves. You can reduce watering requirements by adding polymer gels or liquids to your soil or by mulching the top of your gardens and flower beds with a layer of 1 to 3 inches of hulls or one of the many choices in bark mulches.

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