Homegrown ideas

Courtney Keck growing fresh vegetables during pandemic

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Courtney Keck, of Yukon, horticulture educator for the Canadian County Master Gardeners, OSU Extension Service, is gardening in her home backyard, and has vegetables growing. (Photo provided)

By Robert Medley
Managing Editor

More people this year seem to be gardening in containers, in backyard beds in the ground or in raised boxes in Canadian County, said, horticulturalist Courtney Keck.

People want to supplement their store-bought groceries with fresh vegetables, and these days, in a pandemic, people sheltering in place may need healthy outdoor work.

Keck says she has heard from families who want to start gardening this year, and many of those people are quarantined.

“A lot of people are concerned about their mental health, anxiety and depression, and I think gardening helps with relieving anxiety and depression during the quarantine,” Keck said.

She grew up in Devil’s Den State Park in northwest Arkansas and has always loved gardening, she said.

At home, where she has also had to work recently while county offices were shuttered, she has started her cooler season crops and those that thrive in hotter weather.

Once those cooler season crops bloom, such as lettuce and spinach, the plants can be pulled out and composted.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are still small in her garden, she said, and her plants were grown from seed.

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“A lot of people bought their cucumbers, tomatoes or eggplants from the store and may be further along than I am,” Keck said..

For the beginning gardener, make sure you pick a spot that will have a full day of sun, or at least six to eight hours.

“99% of your vegetables will not grow well without full sun, six to eight hours at least. The cooler season vegetables will tolerate more shade, but okra, tomatoes, they love the heat.” Keck said.

Horticulturalist Courtney Keck’s row of spinach are growing in her backyard in Yukon. (Photo provided)

Herbs are popular these days, she said, such as cilantro and mints.

Drip irrigation works best for vegetables to avoid various diseases hardware stores have kits for drip irrigation systems. Otherwise, a soaker hose can work or watering with hoses on the ground in early morning or late evening.

Keck said in central Oklahoma gardens, said corn does not do well because it generally needs more space than most backyards and corn uses a lot of the soil nutrients and water.

She said while radishes and carrots thrive best during the cooler weather, the vegetables can be grown year-round.

Also, a lot of people will over fertilize this time of year, she said..

Horticulturalist Courtney Keck’s row of spinach are growing in her backyard in Yukon. (Photo provided)

So she says people should have their soil tested by taking it to the office in El Reno.

“After doing seven years of soil tests that we send off to test I get the results and for so many years I know the only thing we need are urea nitrogen.

“Get your soil tested, you will safe money in the long run,” Keck said.

Gardeners can take about 10 samples of soil dug out from about 4 inches deep and then mix the samples together in a bucket or container, and take a sample in a plastic bag to the local extension office.

The Canadian County extension office is located in El Reno. People can drop off samples at the front door, 218 Country Club Road, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

She said people can supplement their food supply at home, but should not expect to grow enough to say goodbye to shopping at the store.

“I still get stuff at the store, and I have three kids so I still have to go to the store,” Keck said, who was recently on maternity leave and has a 10-week-old daughter.

More information can be found about the Canadian County Master Gardeners on their Facebook page.