Small Space Gardening

On Monday night, the Lincoln County Oklahoma Home and Community Education club hosted a seminar on gardening with a busy lifestyle and small spaces. We invited Jennifer Steelman Jackson, a Master Gardener from Payne County to speak to us. She said that anyone can have a garden, no matter how busy or how small your yard.  photo 2

How can someone with very little, or no, yard have a garden? Containers! Jennifer shared lots of ideas for container gardening, which can be used with a very small yard, or with no yard at all. Almost anything can be used as a container for plants. If it will hold soil, and you can drill or punch a hole in it, it can be used.

When gardening in containers, the important thing to consider is size.  Different plants need different sizes of containers because of their individual root systems. Below are some common container plants, pot sizes, and sun needs. Keep in mind that in Oklahoma, we have an extremely hot and dry climate during growing season. Full-sun might mean morning sun, afternoon shade to keep plants from completely burning in our brutal heat. I grow my herbs that way with success.The Oklahoma summer is just too harsh for the delicate leaves of herbs.  Also with full-sun plants, water evaporates much more quickly from containers than from gardens in the ground.  It is important to keep an eye on the moisture in the container and water when needed- which might be more than one time a day, especially during the later summer months.  Same goes for nutrients in the soil.  Soil nutrients are more quickly depleted from a container.  For more information on soil fertility, contact your Cooperative Extension office.

Asparagus Fern Unique, green foliage 1.5 gallon container, hanging Can hold 3 plants Needs sun-part shade
Verbena Red, pink, purple or white flowers 1.5 gallon container, hanging Can hold 3 plants Needs full sun
Hosta Large waxy leaves 5 gallon container Can hold 1 plant Needs shady spot
Lettuce Bibb, salad bowl, prize head 3 gallon container Can hold 3 plants Needs full sun
Okra Emerald, Clemson spineless 5 gallon container Can hold 1 plant Needs full sun
Peppers Jupiter, Ma Bell, Melody, Jalapeno, Hungarian Wax 3 gallon container Can hold 1 plant Needs full sun
Tomato Any type 5 gallon container Can hold 1 plant Needs full sun
Basil Sweet, lemon, Cinnamon 1 gallon container Can hold 1 plant Needs full sun

I searched Pinterest to find some fun container ideas:

Creative-Containers-Wooden-Wagon-600W container18 Shoe-Organizer-Herb-Garden-Vertical

If you have a little more space, but not a lot of time, raised bed gardening might be for you.  With a raised bed, weed control becomes much easier, and you can grow more than you can with containers. You can grow just about anything you want, just the way you would with a full sized garden. The advantage to a raised bed is that, depending on how high you raise it, you may be bending and stooping less and it’s easier to keep out unwanted growth of weeds and grasses with little to no herbicides. It’s also much easier to control insect pests with little or no pesticides because it’s just easier to see them.

A raised bed garden can be as long as you want it, but should only be as wide as you can easily reach across. This is the way I prefer to garden in my backyard. I live in town, so I have a fairly small area to garden. I have four raised beds that are about 3 feet by 8 feet. They are not fancy, just small boxes framed with scrap wood. My husband painted mine white, but painting is not necessary.

Here are a few ideas for how to build your own raised-bed garden:

100855014.jpg.rendition.largest Raised bed gardening layouts

This is a GREAT way to teach your children about food and where it comes from. There are so many kids who grow up in urban areas and think that all food comes from the grocery store. Some experts are now saying that this disconnect from food production is contributing to unhealthy eating habits in our youngsters. Gardening with kids can be a fun activity to bring the whole family together, while learning about the science of plants. It gets everyone outside, and kids are more likely to try the vegetables they helped to grow!


If you have any questions at all about small-space gardening, feel free to contact your county’s Cooperative Extension Educator for Agriculture or Horticulture.  In Lincoln County, that is Cody Linker.  The number to our office is 405-258-0560.  In Payne County, that is Keith Reed.  The number to their office is 405-747-8320.

Happy gardening!

Photo Sources:

Herb garden picture:

Wheelbarrow garden:

Pallet garden:

Different raised bed configurations:

Strawberry tower:

Spring Cleaning: Staying Green Can Mean Saving Green

Can you believe that February is almost over? With March drawing near, days growing longer, and temperatures rising (somewhat) higher in Oklahoma, you may be starting to think about spring cleaning. Before you run away screaming, hear me out. I really enjoy spring cleaning.  After having the house closed up for the winter months, and having the heater going, my house needs to be aired out. It’s like the air just gets stale by the end of winter.

Before having kids, I never really thought about what cleaners I purchased or used in my home. I would buy what was on sale, or whatever I thought smelled nice. Now that I have a toddler, I am more conscientious about chemicals in my home. We have child locks on our cabinets, but those aren’t always effective and some most chemical cleaners will leave a residue that can be picked up on little hands and ingested when those little hands go immediately into a little mouth. Aside from ingestion, many chemical cleaners emit volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) into the air, so everyone in the house ends up breathing that in and it can contribute to a whole host of respiratory problems.

After some research, I learned from Gina Peek- OSU Extension State Specialist for Housing that “green cleaning” is just as effective and sanitary as using commercial, chemical cleaners– AND it’s much less expensive! The key is to keep things simple. There are just a few ingredients needed to make your own all-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner. You can make up just a small amount at a time so that you don’t have to store the cleaners under the sink, and it only takes a few minutes. Here are some recipes from Georgia Cooperative Extension Service:

all-purpose cleanerglass cleanersoft scrub

In our convenient world, you may not know where to find some of these ingredients.  I got ya covered. Washing soda and borax can be found near the laundry detergents in the store.  Vegetable oil based soap is more commonly known as castile soap. It can be found at natural and health food stores, but may be available near the laundry detergent as well. Any of these recipes can be scented with essential oils, also found in health food stores.

Be buyer aware: I have noticed in my local store that there is white vinegar in the grocery department that is labeled “cleaning vinegar,” and it costs quite a bit more than regular old white vinegar for the kitchen. Please know they are the same thing…one is just marketed for cleaning, and costs more for no reason.

As easy as these recipes are, you still may prefer to purchase a commercial green cleaner. If that’s the case, be sure to choose wisely. Some companies claim to be green or environmentally friendly, but really aren’t. There are a couple logos to look for that indicate the specific product has actually been tested for environmental safety: green sealepa

Let us know what types of cleaners you prefer to use. What green cleaning tips have you picked up?

Valentine’s Day With Kids

It goes without saying that once you have kids, things change. Life changes. One of those changes is Valentine’s Day. My husband has never been into V-Day, so the change in my life was not drastic, but last year I wanted to do something special for my daughter who was then two-years-old. I decided to make chocolate pancakes. Not chocolate chip, but chocolate batter pancakes. I found a recipe on Pinterest, which was a complete disaster!

I have a college degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. I consider myself a “foodie” and a pretty good cook.  These pancakes were awful. This year I plan to redeem myself… but I will not be making chocolate pancakes again!

A big breakfast hit in our house has been what Amelia dearly calls “bunny sandwiches,” which is actually not a sandwich at all.  Last year I used a bunny shaped cookie cutter to cut a piece of buttered sandwich bread, placed the bread buttered side down in a hot skillet and cracked an egg into the hole.  I cooked it a few minutes, flipped it over, and cooked it until the yolk was solid (because I do not like over easy eggs).  That would be really cute done with a heart shaped cookie cutter.


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Another idea would be to place the heart shaped cookie cutters (metal or heat resistant) directly in the skillet or on the griddle, pour regular pancake batter into them and have heart shaped pancakes.  Top these with strawberries and vanilla flavored yogurt for a more balanced breakfast!  I also saw an already cooked pancake with a heart cut-out and the hole was filled with blueberries.  Yum.


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For parents who do not have a lot of time in the mornings, here’s an idea you can do the night before: unroll refrigerator cinnamon rolls, then roll from both ends to make a heart shape.  Put in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap in the fridge over night.  Pop them in the oven (following package directions) when you first wake up in the morning so they can bake while you get ready for work/school.


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Small children will love their heart shaped breakfast foods!



I never had a tornado shelter growing up.  In fact, my family lived so far out of town that we were no longer in the zone of the emergency sirens either.  My husband and I had a shelter installed in our garage this past  year, so this will be my first tornado season with a shelter.

In February 2009, an F3 tornado ripped through Carter County in southern Oklahoma.  While a tornado this early is rare, it is possible.  I am so glad that my husband were able to add our shelter, and the peace of mind that comes with it.  If you are new to tornado alley, you may want to know some basic information on tornadoes.  I have a great little tornado fact sheet on our extension website.

Now that we have the shelter, it is time to start putting together our emergency kit and family emergency plan.  Do you have either one of those?  To find a list of suggested items for a family emergency kit, click here.  FEMA and came out with this list, and I adapted it just a bit.  Your family’s kit should be tailored to fit your individual needs, and during tornado season it should be stored in the place where your family will take shelter during violent storms.  For my family, that will be down in our new shelter.  Last year it would have been under the sink in our main bathroom.  How you keep your kit together also needs to work for you.  These kits can get heavy, so a rolling suitcase would be a good option, but so would a heavy canvas bag, plastic storage tote, or a milk crate.  Whatever works for you is fine!

Looking at the list, you may feel overwhelmed.  Don’t be.  I had many of the items on that list already on hand.  I shopped in my own home first.  I ended up having to purchase some extra batteries, non-perishable food, water, and a whistle.  I didn’t buy a fancy first aid kit, I just put one together myself in a gallon size zipper bag.

Although I have thought a lot about it, I have not yet written a family emergency plan.  That is something I need to sit down with my husband and do.  It is important to know where each of us will be in the event of an emergency so that we can find each other later.  Missouri Extension has put together a simple and easy template for this kind of plan.

Another little item on my to-do list to prepare for spring is to inventory our home.  This IS  a daunting task, but I have seen first hand how important it is to do BEFORE an emergency happens.  There are several ways to do this.  You could do a photo inventory, simply taking pictures of the rooms in the house and making notes about the photographs.  Put all of the photos and notes on a cd and put in a safety deposit box or fireproof box.  I could list everything out in a word document and save that to a cd or flash drive.  What I plan to do is a little different.  I heard about a website,, that is specifically for doing a personal home inventory.  You can sign up for a free account that can be accessed from any computer, then start adding in items a little at a time.  Tip:  Include the value of each item.  Not just what was paid for the item, but how much it would cost if you had to replace it today.