Shawnee News-Star Blog June 28, 2016 Becky Emerson Carlberg The okra experiment is currently in progress. I was unable to get to Don's Plants on Thursday after being alerted about his plant sale. On Saturday, after the Deep Fork Audubon Field Trip, Don's was my first place to visit to see if his nursery [...]

Shawnee News-Star Blog June 28, 2016

Okralings

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The okra experiment is currently in progress. I was unable to get to Don's Plants on Thursday after being alerted about his plant sale. On Saturday, after the Deep Fork Audubon Field Trip, Don's was my first place to visit to see if his nursery was open and what plants were still looking for homes. Plenty of herbs and annuals, but I spied a pot of small okra seedlings. I love okra and had to have them. Another pot was thrown in for free, so I went home with 23 baby okra plants. Where in the world would I put them?

Two of us pondered the dilemma. Who in their right mind would even try to start okra the beginning of July? Me. Looking at my collection of remaining pots, all of which were too small, my little mind remembered the old stock tank. Twenty five years ago we bought this 100 gallon galvanized steel tank to catch rainwater. It did an admirable job, but the bottom began to leak after many years and the tank was placed next to the shed and forgotten.

Perfect. It already had drain holes. My partner, who by now was convinced I was nuts, fetched the dolly and managed to roll the tank to our garage-less concrete pad. Some day we will have a garage built on top of the pad, but the concrete floor has proven invaluable as a place to spread out wet carpets, provide a nice weed-free area to grow plants in pots, furnish a level surface for chairs where one can sit and cool off, offer a good spot for the rain gauge, and I can see the whiskey barrel from the kitchen door. The whiskey barrel was to become a fountain with lovely water plants, but something happened and it turned into an algae-filled, bug infested tub of stagnant water where frogs love to lounge.

There had been a Leopard frog that spent last year as well this past winter in the whiskey barrel. From what I have been able to determine, there are now only mosquito larvae in the green gunk. What happened to the Leopard frog? It didn't take me long to figure out the answer. I sat in my chair gazing outside and here comes the roadrunner. It bounced up the driveway, did an erratic walk around the concrete pad, ducked down here and there, danced across the sidewalk and hopped up onto the porch. The inquisitive bird stared into the glass storm door, and here is when I saw two small green legs dangling from its bill. Not the least bit concerned, the roadrunner continued bobbing and walking to the end of the porch, then disappeared. I know what happened to the Leopard frog. I also know why the lizards and skinks that used to run on the porch are no longer there.

The stock tank was placed in the sunniest section of the garage-to-be pad. Three layers of old ground cloth were laid above the holey bottom. Two partial sacks of sand were spread over the ground cloth followed by 3 small sacks (1 cubic feet) of lava rock. Over the rocks I leveled 2 cubic feet of bark mulch, and above that 3.5 cubic feet of Miracle Gro Garden Soil that had to be wet down several times. The final layer was 4 cubic feet of Sta-Green Flower and Veggie Garden Soil + Fertilizer and more water.

The little okralings were planted in their giant pot, and several handfuls of mulch, full of stems and bark, were carefully wedged around the leggy plants. Everything was lightly watered. These okralings had it made.in the sun.

The sun, I discovered, became a problem the next day. It was a bright, sunny, hot day and the okralings had apparently spent their early formative days in partial shade. The collapse of all plants over the mulch was a sad sight indeed. I grabbed some white was coated packing paper and spread it carefully above the okralings. The paper edges were weighted down with clothes pins. After the sun had set, I lifted off the paper. The babies had revived. Today I re-applied the paper cover in the afternoon. Eventually the little ones will adapt or the paper will blow away and the heartiest will survive. There may be 10 okra plants when it is all said and done. Well, that's 10 more than I had. If all the okralings give up the ghost, there stands a dandy raised bed ready for fall crops.