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article number 104
article date 02-16-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Grow Your Own Groceries: 1924 Guide to Oklahoma Gardening
by Clarence Roberts

From the book, The Business of Farming – A Manual of Farm Methods for Oklahoma.

Investigations show that the food supply of the average family, whether raised on the farm or bought at the store, is valued at $450 a year. The family that raises the food saves this sum of money. The family that neglects the garden, fruit, hens, cows and pigs must take money out of the main crops with which to pay grocery bills.

No spot of soil on the farm is more valuable than the garden. It will well repay the time and money spent on it. The vegetables from the garden will replace a large part of the grocery bill. It takes less work to grow vegetables than it does to grow other crops with which to buy groceries in tin cans and sacks.

When we buy food at the store we pay for the packages it comes in, pay a profit to the grocery man, and other to the wholesaler, the charges and profits of manufacturing, two or three freight bills and some other charges, all in addition to the price which the farmer who grew the raw product received in the first place. The family that raises its own food supply does not pay any of these charges, which in the course of a year amount to a large sum. All food is raised on farms somewhere. The best and cheapest farm on which to raise it is the one whereon it is eaten.

Under the direction of the home demonstration agent, these club girls are learning how to can all kinds of vegetables. As a result of what she learns, each club girl will be able to help her family lower the grocery bill.

Location of Garden

The best place for the garden is near the house, where it will be handy to do work at odd times and from which the housewife can quickly gather the vegetables. To protect against the chickens and rabbits, a tight fence will be necessary. A windbreak on the south and west sides will protect the young vegetables against the strong spring winds. Such a garden is a good investment to make, and one that will pay large dividends.

A Rich Soil

The garden soil should be made quite rich with manure. In eastern Oklahoma large amounts can be plowed under the soil at one time. In western Oklahoma, less amount should be used. For both sections the manure should be plowed under in the early fall. A light coat of well-rotted manure each fall will give better results than a heavy coat each two or three years.

The garden should be broken out in the early fall just as soon as the last vegetables are gathered. This will give time for the manure partly to decay before spring. The soil should be left rough to freeze and thaw, and catch any fall and winter rains that come. Such a soil, by being full of humus, will stand the dry weather much better than a harder, tighter soil lacking in humus.

Use Wide Rows and Horse

By spacing the rows of vegetables from 24 to 36 inches apart, the garden may be cultivated with a horse. This will save much of the labor of hand cultivation. If a horse is used to cultivate the garden the work is far more likely to be done right and done on time. A garden of one acre may be cultivated in two hours’ time or less with a horse. After being so cultivated it does not take much time for hoe work to clean out all the vegetables.

Too often the garden is cultivated only after all the other crops have been cared for. This practice often results in neglect of the garden. The ground dries out and the weeds and grass grow unchecked. And yet it will pay better to work in the garden than in almost any other crop, unless it be at harvest time. If a certain period each week is set aside for the garden work and it is done at that time, it will not be neglected. Let no one think that garden work is too small a job for a man. If making an easy living and getting ahead mean anything to a man he will be glad to work in the garden.

Grow an Early Garden

Oklahoma gardens must be planted as early as the conditions of the soil and weather will permit. Very often early gardens are the only gardens we grow, due to the early summer droughts. If we fail to grow an early garden we grow none at all. An early garden depends on being ready to plant at the right time. This calls for the garden to be broken out in the fall, the seeds ordered and on hand long before actual planting time and all the plants grown in hot beds or boxes, ready to set out just as soon as the weather is warm enough. Unless a little foresight is used in doing these things, planting time will arrive, the gardens hastily broken out, seeds picked up anywhere and planting done hastily. Nearly always this moans a poor garden that year.

Cultivate Often

Vegetables thrive on good care. The time to begin cultivation is right after planting. Weeds and grass will more easily choke out vegetables than field crops. The cultivation should be kept up until each vegetable is gathered. Often the garden is given good cultivation in the spring and is then neglected daring the summer. This is a mistake. When vegetables are maturing they need all the food and moisture in the soil. If the weeds and grass are growing at this time they will rob the vegetation and a part of that food and moisture. Even after the vegetables are gathered, it is well to keep down the weeds and grass so they will not mature seed for the next year’s garden.

Grow Tried and True Varieties

Nearly all kinds of vegetables do well in Oklahoma if the right variety is planted early. The garden should provide more than some lettuce, radishes and onions early in the spring. It should be filled with beans, peas, beetts, corn, tomatoes and other kinds which are not only eaten fresh but may be canned and dried for winter use.

Different varieties are best adapted to different sections of Oklahoma, since some are much more hardy than others. When a variety is discovered which does well in a given garden, it should be planted each year and not be thrown aside for some newer variety which is highly recommended. Varieties which do well in other states often fail in Oklahoma. It is well to try out the now sorts, but let us do it on a small scale and hold to those which have proved that they will do well in Oklahoma.

Plenty to Can and Dry

This canning club girl is canning a liberal supply of fruits and vegetables for winter use. The grocery bill of this family will be mad much lower as the result.

The chief value of a garden does not lie in raising a few early vegetables. These are welcome enough in the spring time, but they have a small money value as compared to the later vegetables which supply us with real nourishment. An abundant supply of fresh vegetables from the garden has less value than the canned and dried vegetables. The fresh vegetables usually last only two to three months at most. But canned vegetables will supply us with good things to eat the other eight to nine months. Thus, if the garden is made to do its full part, an abundance of vegetables must he raised for canning and drying.

Methods of canning have been worked out by which every garden vegetable can he kept for winter use. These home-canned vegetables are just so good in every way, and often better, than the vegetables bought at the store in cans. Full directions for canning may be had from the Extension Division, Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, which if followed, will give the housewife just as wide a variety of vegetables as any store can boast of.


In addition to the canned and dried vegetables a plentiful supply of cowpeas and dried beans wilt help to hold down the grocery bill. Both the bush and pole lima beans are extremely hardy and will supply fine eating, both fresh and dried. Pinto beans do well in parts of western Oklahoma, while in eastern Oklahoma certain kinds of white beans do well. A supply of seed of these beans, which have proved to be adapted to the Oklahoma climate and soil, may often be had from a neighbor or friend. They are valuable and should be carefully kept from year to year.

Irish potatoes if dug when the first leaves begin to turn yellow and kept out of the sun will keep through the fall, if put in a cool place. A cellar or storm cave is an excellent place to keep the potatoes and many farmers store away and keep a plentiful supply for the whole winter. Sweet potatoes can nearly always be kept at least until Christmas if stored in a dry, warm place. A hill of late turnips will add its bit, to the winter food supply.

By making full use of the fresh and dried vegetables from the garden, a big supply of canned vegetables, and potatoes of both kinds (in addition to the food supplied by the hens, hogs, cows and fruit) the grocery bill will be reduced until it will amount to very little. Do not think this is a small detail of farming; it is a big item in any program for farm prosperity.

Use a Hot Bed

A hot bed will help the gardener to get his cabbage, tomato, potato and other plants ready for early setting. Success in growing these kinds of vegetables depends very largely upon having large, sturdy plants ready to set just as soon as the weather permits open field growth. If we wait until warm weather to plant the seeds of these vegetables, hot weather will arrive before we can make a crop. If large, sturdy plants are set out early a crop will usually be made before the dry weather arrives.

A diagram which shows exactly one way to build a hot bed. A hot bed helps a farmer to grow his plants for early setting, and thus enables him to have a much earlier garden.

A hot bed is made by digging, a pit about five feet wide and as long as is needed. It should be two feet deep. The front part of the frame should be six inches high and the back part 15 to 18 inches high. Fresh horse manure to the depth of 18 inches should be put in the bottom of the pit and six inches of fine soil on top. In two to three days the soil will be warm enough to plant the seeds. A covering of canvas or glass is placed over the bed for protection during cold weather.

Much to Learn

There are many tricks to growing a good garden. Success is a matter of attention to small details. Plants seem to grow better for some folks than others. These folks nearly always get good stands of vegetables and nearly every plant they set out grows right off. But that is because they know the needs of plants. They have learned by experience and observation just how deep to plant each kind of seed, how to set out the plants and space each kind to get best results. If a person likes to grow a garden, he will nearly always have a good one. If he does not like to grow one he should learn how just the same. A good garden will save money for every farmer, and is a saving easy to make.

Garden Insects

Insects will often damage the vegetables unless we take means to destroy them. Most insects are divided into two classes, those that eat the foliage and those that suck the juices from the plants. The first class (those that eat the foliage) are easily controlled by spraying the plants with a poison spray. The best spray to use is one made by adding one-half pound of powdered arsenate of lead to 12 gallons of water. The spray is applied to the plants as a fine mist. One part of the arsenate of lead may be mixed with seven parts of sifted wood ashes or seven parts of lime and the mixture dusted on the plants through a cheesecloth bag.

The sucking insects cannot he poisoned since they do not eat the foliage, but suck the juices through their mouth parts which they insert in the plants. They must he killed by a “contact” spray which closes up the pores of their bodies. One of the best sprays known is nicotine sulphate dust. The dust is easier to apply to the under-side of the leaves than is a liquid spray. The sucking insects that do the most damage are the plant lice. A careful watch should be kept for them and they should ‘be dusted or sprayed before they multiply and spread to other plants. If lice are thick on a plant it is better to burn that plant and all the lice with it, which will often stop the spread of the insect. Spraying is a subject that justifies careful study by the farmer gardener.


1. How does a garden save money for the farm family?
2. Why is a rich soil so highly desirable for the garden?
3. Explain the value of wide rows in the garden.
4. Why should cultivation be kept up in the garden?
5. Explain the value of vegetables for canning and drying.
6. How are garden insects controlled?

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