Questions and Answers…

If you have any questions about gardening, outdoor living, greenhouse growing or anything else that I might be able to help with, please leave your question in the comments section and I will do my steady best to answer!

Welcome New 2020 Gardeners!

Welcome new gardeners. We have seen the biggest influx of new gardeners this spring in many years. Many folks are tackling food gardening for the first time or with new vigor so it has been challenging to find tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and many other transplants. If you were not successful on your first effort, visit your local greenhouse or garden center again as many have been growing later crops to meet the growing demand and you still have time to plant and get a nice crop. This is the time to sow seeds or buy transplants for cantaloupe, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, okra, watermelon and southern or black-eyed peas. This is also the time to plant sweet potato slips and the final crop of sweet corn. You can plant container grown blackberries, raspberries, and grapes as well as fruit trees to expand your home grown food selection. For established fruit trees the fruit is already formed and our peaches are already 2” to 3” diameter and growing every day.

Food crops are popular this year and we hope most will enjoy the experience and become regular gardeners for years to come. Flower gardening is even more popular as we all seem more anxious to beautify our yards and to create an oasis at our homes where we can escape the craziness and chaos of our modern world and find some comfort, joy, peace and solitude in our yards or on our patio, porch or deck. This is a magical time of year in the garden when the pansies from fall are still spectacular before the summer heat, rose bushes are covered with gorgeous flowers of intense color and the peony’s are in flower. The whole plant world is leafing out, sprouting new growth and many plants are blooming as they celebrate a new spring with warm days, cool nights and an occasional rain. Many of the most popular plants have been in short supply with the extra demand so lots of gardeners have been trying new plants they may not have grown before. Hopefully folks will discover lots of new favorites from planting these new plants species or varieties. If you have not gotten in on the gardening fun yet this year you still have time to shop and plant and get your plants well established before our summer heat. Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials now for years of future gardening enjoyment. Plant annuals for extra color this season and to enjoy for the next six months until a killing freeze. You may have a hard time finding a specific variety of plant but there is no shortage of good plant options for any location, whether sunny or in the shade, in sandy soil or clay soil. Visit with your local grower or garden center to describe your conditions and they can help you select the right plants for your growing applications.

As it warms up we have to start watching for aphids and worms on our vegetables and bagworms on our needle evergreens. May is a good time to fertilize your trees, shrubs and lawn if not already fertilized this season. You can now sow Bermuda grass and other warm season grass seeds.

Watch your soil moisture and water thoroughly if your plants, particularly new plantings, are getting dry or we go too long between rains. Mulching with bark or hulls will cut your watering needs by half and dramatically reduce weed pressure. Explore the great outdoors and enjoy time in your yard watching the wonders of nature as your garden grows.

Shelter In Place Gardening!

We have been blessed with beautiful days, vibrant sunshine and a few life nourishing rains to launch a gorgeous spring in our garden and landscape. Many folks are spending more time at home with “shelter in place” and schedules altered without sports, movies, dining out, parties and other group activities and the interest in gardening, landscaping and do it yourself projects is growing dramatically. It is exciting to see so many new gardeners trying their hand at raising plants in addition to those who have planted vegetables or landscaped with flowers for many years. Gardening not only gives you a chance to beautify your yard and raise some of your own food but it gives you a chance to get outside, be active and exercise while enjoying the healing sunshine and fresh air. There are few better ways to beat the Covid-19 blues than spending time outside in your yard and garden while enjoying the wonders of nature.

This is a great time to garden as our night time low temperatures are now in the fifties or higher and we can plant most everything and have a good chance at success. It is now time to plant even the hot blooded warm season crops like caladiums, sweet potatoes and periwinkle. This is prime planting season when we can transplant most warm season vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, most all annuals and perennials, trees, berries and shrubs. The issue for May plantings is not so much selecting the right planting time as selecting the right location for your plants. A big part of gardening success is getting the right plant in the right home as they can’t get up and move on their own. The right location includes thinking about whether to locate in the sun, the shade or a spot with partial shade. It includes being aware of your soil type and if it is an area that is very well drained or where water can stand sometimes after rains or watering. You also want to be aware of the height the plants grow so you don’t cover up pretty shorter plants with tall plants that cover their view and sunlight.

The sun/shade level is pretty much set by the placement of your home, barns, trees, garage and other physical landmarks. Some plants do best in full sun, some do best in shade and others perform well in partial shade conditions where they are protected from sun part of the day. Visit with your local nurseryman or garden center to discuss your conditions and make sure you get the right plants in the right light exposure. They can also help advise you on the height plants will grow to so you aren’t putting tall sunflowers in front of dianthus or tall marigold or salvia in front of begonias, petunias or geraniums. The soil type and drainage are issues you can help solve by adding more organic matter to the soil like sphagnum peat moss or good compost. If water stands regularly, you need to select plants that work in those conditions or determine a way to drain the area. Another great solution for successful vegetable or flower gardens is to build raised beds or use decorative containers to raise many of your plants. This allows you to control the soil mix and you will do best with a light well drained soil with lots of sphagnum peat or fine composted bark. Raised beds solve drainage and aeration issues, reduce grass and weed problems and make a great growing environment.

The Covid-19 virus has disrupted lots of supply chains so you may not be able to get the exact plant varieties or garden supplies you had in mind. Your local greenhouse, nursery or garden center can help you find good selections for your plant needs. This is a great time to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and nature all around you in your very own yard. Plant some plants, water as needed and enjoy the wonders of new growth and flowers.

Plant Away!

We got reminded this week why April seventh is not the last freeze date but the last average freeze date as many areas of the metro and across the state either froze or flirted with freezing for three consecutive nights. For April 7 to be the average that means sometimes our last freeze is earlier than that date and sometimes later.   This year we got the later but hopefully we are now done with freezes until November. We have had freezes in recent years as late as May third so we always need to keep a watchful eye on early plantings.

With the weather warming we can now precede to spring planting.  This is the time we signal to “plant away” on pretty much everything except the very hottest blooded plants like periwinkle, sweet potatoes and caladiums. It is open season to plant most all of the warm season annuals, perennials and vegetables as well as trees and shrubs. Take advantage of any nice spring days the next few weeks to plant vegetables you can harvest later this season and flowers that will produce color you can enjoy the rest of this growing season.

Flowering shrubs are blooming in neighborhoods across our state including spectacular mounds of spirea, heavenly scented lilacs, impactful viburnum with their big snowball flowers and the many dazzling colors of azaleas. Ornamental crabapples trees are covered with a spectacular array of flowers and many of our fruit trees have been or are just starting to flower. Your fruit harvest could be impacted based on how cold you got, what stage of flower they were at and how long it stayed at or below freezing as well as how much moisture was in the soil and in the tree. Soon we will have a better handle on how this late cold front effected our fruit harvest and that will vary a lot depending o the factors discussed above.

We are all on edge and nervous about the Covid-19 virus and the barrage of news, views and information as we determine how to alter our lives and reduce our risks of catching or spreading this vile virus. One of the lessons we learn from working with viruses and diseases with plants and animals is the healing power of getting outside in the sunlight and fresh air. One of the ways we solve problems is to space out troubled plants to get more air movement around them and to get them out in the natural sunlight. The same is likely to help you physically, emotionally and mentally. Get outside and tend to your existing landscape whether it be watering, weeding, feeding or trimming. The most fun and the most rewarding is the planting of new plants.

Container grown plants can be planted most anytime but we get the best benefits by planting in April and May when the weather is generally comfortable and moderate for plants and humans, We have cool but not cold nights, get natural rainfall to reduce how often you need to water and you get to enjoy annuals and vegetables for their full growing season. The quicker you plant now, the more the plants will get established before our sizzling hot summer weather and the longer you will get to enjoy these annual crops. Perennial crops, trees and shrubs also benefit from spring plantings as it is easier to get established before summer. Since so many of us procrastinate, the big issue on trees, shrubs and perennials is to stop just thinking or dreaming about it and to actually select and plant these long term crops. The sooner you plant a tree, a hedge, flowering shrubs or perennials the sooner you can start enjoying them.

There is a renewed interest in vegetable and herb gardening with all the concerns about fresh food and food availability. Many of the most popular vegetables are easy and fun to grow whether in a traditional ground level flower or vegetable garden, raised beds, or in containers on your condo patio or apartment balcony. The most popular continue to be the many varieties of tomatoes from hybrids to heirlooms and little cherry and pear shaped to large slicing tomatoes. Peppers are the second most popular vegetable transplant and there are dozens of sweet and hot varieties to plant. Eggplant, squash, okra and dozens of other vegetables and herbs can provide you fresh tasty homegrown food.

There are literally thousands of varieties of colorful annuals now available at your local nursery, garden center or greenhouse. Go select some plants you have grown before, and some new plants to try out.

Only Early Cool Weather Plants for Planting Now!

The daffodils are blooming and it appears spring is ever closer as we begin the symphony of spring garden color.  Soon we will have forsythia flower shrubs, tulip bulbs and redbud trees flowering around us.  These flowers are all rewards to the gardeners who thought ahead and planted these crops in the past.  This is the season you can start planting selected cool season crops for future food and beauty.

Vegetable gardening has started for the season and you can plant many root crops like potatoes, onion sets or onion plants, beets, radishes, carrots and turnips now.  The best time to plant most of these crops is by St. Patrick’s Day in mid March so they have time to mature before we reach the most intense summer heat.  The same mid March target date for planting applies to many of the cool season leafy crops like cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard and spinach.  You can start these leafy crops from seed or by purchasing transplants at your local nursery or garden center to get a head start on your own locally grown fresh vegetables.

There are also perennial or hardy food crops you can plant now including crowns of rhubarb, horseradish or asparagus.  You can plant bare root strawberries, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and, many other types of berries to enjoy for years to come.  This is also the time to plant bare root pecan and fruit trees or you can increase your success rate by choosing container grown fruit trees as you plant your own orchard of apples, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and more.

Even as we enjoy the beauty of the purple henbit flowering across many lawn areas some folks don’t like non-turf flowers or weeds in their lawn.  The best time to control summer weeds like crabgrass, goatheads and sand burrs is with a pre-emergent or preventative herbicide and time is rapidly running out since we are warmer than normal and crops, including weeds, are germinating a couple of weeks earlier than normal.  The best way to control summer weeds in Oklahoma lawns is with a good pre-emergent application before the forsythia blooms so time is running out.  After the summer weeds germinate you will need to hand pull or use a post-emergent weed killer.  This is also the time to sow cool season grass seed like tall fescue if you want to improve your turf or lawn in shady areas.  Do not use a pre-emergent herbicide in areas where you plan to sow fescue grass seed now or Bermuda grass seed after it warms up in April or later.

This is a great time to enhance your landscape by planting ornamental trees, shrubs, flowering shrubs and many ornamental perennials that are more tolerant of cool weather.  Many gardeners get anxious on the pretty days at this time of year and want to start planting tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, begonias and other warm season plants.  These warm season plants are not hardy and can be killed when we get more freezes, which are almost certain to happen since our last average freeze date is around April 7th to 15th depending on your location and elevation.

There are so many plants that you can safely plant now that it is best to concentrate on those and be patient and wait to plant the warm season crops.  Mid April will get here soon enough and then you can plant away.

New Year, New Planting Season, Get Ready for Spring 2020!

The New Year is well underway but it is still several weeks early to start planting our cool season vegetables. This is a time of year we focus on planning for our 2020 outdoor gardens and enjoying or adding to our indoor or houseplant gardens. Over the last couple of decades there has been a great expansion of the choices we have for indoor gardening. Part of that growth has been made possible by plant exploration to find new plants that work indoors and part has been driven by breeding and tissue culture efforts that have introduced many new varieties of foliage plants. Historically our grandparents had ficus or rubber plants, Aglaonema or Chinese evergreen, dumb cane or dieffenbachia, a few cactus and succulents or several kinds of ivy like green philodendron, variegated pothos and strains of English Ivy to choose from. Our palette of house plants and your personal choices for indoor plants have expanded dramatically.

You still have ficus or rubber plants but you have choices in green, burgundy or variegated foliage as well as many varieties of weeping fig, strap leaf fig and even Fiddle-leaf fig depending on the size space and light you have available. Modern homes and offices tend to have a lot more windows and skylights and get a lot more natural light which also expands our choices in house plants as more light means we can succeed with more plant choices indoors. We still have Aglaonema as one of the plants that is most tolerant of low light but instead of just the green simplex and the green and white variegated silver queen there are now many choices with many patterns of leaf variegation including tones of white, silver, cream and even pink. Remember that the lower the light, the slower your houseplants will grow and the less water they will need. Fewer kinds of houseplant will tolerate the lower light in rooms without windows or even by windows when there is a large roof overhang that restricts light. As you locate houseplants closer to windows, glass sliding doors or glass entry doors the bigger selection you will have of house plants that will do well in those conditions.

Dracaena has evolved from two or three choices that looked like corn plants and led to their common name to dozens of varieties in all tones of green from dark green to lime green, variegated varieties with tone of white, silver, yellow, red, pink and burgundy with green. There are dwarf dracaena varieties that only grow to 8” or 12” tall
and cane varieties that grow large enough to make a big impression in bank lobbies or mall atriums.

Cactus and succulents have been a “hot” houseplant the last couple of years and there are thousands of different varieties to choose from. They are popular for their fun looks and because they take so little care and watering. Cacti have sharp spines while succulents are spineless and won’t “stick you”. Most cactus and succulents need better light to hold up well for extended time periods.

It is also fun to equipment and plant up cactus gardens, fairy or miniature gardens, dish gardens, terrariums also known as gardens in a bottle or bonsai to add to your indoor gardening experience.

Have fun planning for spring but select and try out a few new houseplants while you are spending more time inside.

2019 Garden Evaluation Time! Plan Ahead for 2020 Growing Season!

We have made it to the final weekend of 2019 and our attentions are torn between a look back at this year and looking ahead to next year.  The Christmas and holiday decorations will still be up for a few more days or weeks depending on your custom but many of us begin the annual ritual of retrospective review and prospective resolutions.  This is not only a good habit for our personal lives but also a good idea for our yards and gardens.

Most everything in life goes better with a little planning.  Sometime soon, take a few moments to think about your flower and vegetable gardens of 2019.  Which plants did the best and which struggled?  Did they struggle because we were wet for so long in the spring or because you planted too late or some other known reason?  What plant varieties and colors did you love and want to plant again?  Did you wish you had another flowerbed, drip irrigation, another shade tree, your own blackberries or grape vines, a personal apple orchard or pecan trees at some point this last year?  This is a good time to take those ideas, wishes and experiences and turn them into goals or resolution for the year ahead.  This is the time of year when gardeners often get mail order catalogs in the mail or now you may get e-mails bursting with information on the newest vegetable, herb, annual and perennial varieties and touting their attributes with delicious and enticing pictures and prose.  It is always fun to plant seeds or transplants of some of these new plants but it is wise to focus on plants proven over the years to do well in our tough Oklahoma weather conditions and then expand the use of the new plant varieties after you have trialed them and feel they are worthy of more intense planting.  Look through the catalogs and e-mails for new ideas and inspiration but it is often best to visit and shop with your local garden center or nurseryman who knows our soil, water and climate issues and can help you select plants with the best chance for success at your home or property.

Your evaluation of 2019 and prior years may not only focus on existing trees, shrubs, lawn, vegetables and flowers but on plant experiences you may want to add to your life.  Have you wanted to start a vegetable garden, to add rose bushes, to start a kitchen herb garden, to add a water feature, fish pond or water garden, to add a hobby greenhouse, to build a patio with container gardens, to add a butterfly or pollinator garden?  All these cool garden projects begin with a dream and then a plan and finally action.  What have you seen and liked, visited and enjoyed or dreamed about that you would like to add your garden?  Life goes better if we are doing things we anticipate and look forward to, that give us a sense of wonder and enjoyment.

We have entered the season of winter on the calendar and this is a great time to sit down and evaluate what is going well in your yard and garden and what needs improvement.  After some basic evaluation you can make resolutions of what you want to add or try in your garden this coming year.  Like most things in life, gardening can be drudgery or “food for the soul” depending on your attitude and how you approach it.  There are some basic parts of gardening we do to keep our yards and property functional, presentable and attractive.  The rest of our gardening time should be growing the crops or plants you enjoy. Gardening gives us a chance to interact with nature and be in awe of how everything grows and develops, to meditate and contemplate with the wonders around us, to get physical and spiritual exercise while doing something we enjoy.

Take time this weekend and over the next few weeks before the 2020 gardening season to reflect on gardens past and to plan for you own future gardening experiences and enjoyment.  We wish you a very happy and rewarding New Year 2020!

Christmas Made Easy For Plant Lovers and Gardeners!

Christmas grows ever closer and you still have time to gift or decorate with poinsettias, evergreen wreaths, boughs, swags, rope and Christmas trees.  The poinsettia has evolved dramatically to produce much more impressive and colorful bracts from the original plant  U.S. Ambassador Joel Poinsett discovered growing wild on the hillsides in Mexico as our first Ambassador to our southern neighbor.  Not only are the bracts larger and more impressive but they are now available in many colors besides the original red.  Choose many tones of red from OU red to OSU orange as well as pink, white and marbled or multi-colored bracts.  The modern poinsettia will also stay colorful for much longer than the older heirloom varieties.  With a little basic attention to water, light and temperature it is not unusual for the bracts, that most folks think are the flowers, to stay pretty and colorful well into March or April.  When I was in my grade school years we would try to have poinsettias “reddened up” by mid December and they would stay beautiful for four to six weeks.  Now we have them reddened up by Thanksgiving and they often stay pretty for three to five months.  If you are doing a living Christmas tree now is the time to bring the tree inside and decorate so you can take it down around the New Year and get it back outside with limited needle drop.

Many folks have a gardener on their gift list, whether it is a spouse, parent, sibling, business associate or good friend.  There are an almost unlimited range of gifts you can consider for gardeners.   The more you know about their gardening interests the better you can do on personalizing their gift.  Are they interested in vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, bonsai, terrariums, shade trees or roses?  If you know their particular interest you can buy plants, supplies, books or society memberships for that interest area.  If you don’t know their specific interests consider a gift certificate for their favorite garden center or nursery or for a good local garden center in their area.  A gift card allows them to select the very plants they want to add to their garden.

Garden gloves, boots or gardening attire are needed by most all gardeners.  Garden tools and equipment are always needed.  A very special gift would be a hobby greenhouse, cold-frame or shade house. Decorative containers are always popular and give gardeners another opportunity to buy plants!   Gardening books and magazines are appreciated by most gardeners as we are always on the quest to learn more and discover new plants.  Consider getting your garden friends a membership in the Oklahoma Horticulture Society at or membership in  Myriad Botanic Gardens, Tulsa Botanic Gardens or the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanic Garden so they can visit all year, get magazines and newsletters and be invited to special classes and speakers.  For really special gardeners consider garden tourism in our state to view the Muskogee Azalea Festival, botanical gardens at Oklahoma City, Tulsa or Stillwater or around the world to see spring bulbs flowering in Holland, as well as great gardens all over our country and the world.   For the gardener who has everything consider a scholarship in their name at the horticulture programs at OSU Stillwater or OSU-OKC or support horticulture youth programs at 4-H or FFA in their name.

We wish you and your family a very happy and Merry Christmas and hope the poinsettias and greens help add a lot of color and excitement to your holiday festivities.