Even with good weather, wait to plant warm season varietals

What a wonderful time of year to be out in your yard, walking through the neighborhood or driving around the state. Nature is putting on a spectacular show of new life and renewal from the deep green wheat fields showing vibrant life after our recent rains to the gorgeous splashes of blooming redbuds mixed through our neighborhoods and across the native landscapes. Every year at this time when they are alive with spring color it is easy to understand why our early state leaders named the flashy redbud as our state tree. Everything progresses so rapidly at this time of year that you have to be paying attention everyday or at least every few days or you will miss part of the great spring nature festival. You can relate this annual show of spring to a magnificent play and you want to be paying attention so you don’t miss a single act of the play. The crocus, peach and apricot trees, forsythia and ornamental pears have finished their color show or act for this year and now we are enjoying some beautiful long stem tulips along with the later varieties of daffodils from these fall planted, spring flowering bulbs. The trees that are starring in the current show include the widely adapted redbuds, cute white sand plums and beautiful pink and red flowering crabapples and the more sensitive dogwoods. The elegant dogwoods need a little extra protection and should be planted on the north or east side of the house or in the shade of other trees. The flowering shrubs starring in the current show include the amazing displays of purple, white and lavender wisteria, the very special scents and flowers of the lilac bushes, many similar to the plants bought to new homesteads across our state in the covered wagons of the land run. The first flowers on the azaleas are just starting to show color and this is another very special flowering shrub best grown in acidic soils with lots of organic matter on the north or east of the house or under the shade of larger trees and shrubs. The hydrangeas which produce beautiful large pink or blue flower heads depending on the soil PH also do best in the same sheltered environments as the azaleas. You can enjoy beautiful public azalea plantings under the trees at Will Rogers Park in Oklahoma City or by visiting the gorgeous and famous hillside plantings at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee.

The creeping phlox are awash in purple, lavender, pink and white colors and provide a lot of color in mounds against the ground. With wisteria, lilacs and phlox all flowering in beautiful shades of purple this may be the best time of year for purple plant lovers in the garden. This is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. We have been unseasonably warm for almost a month but it is still risky to plant warm season vegetables and color annuals. Our last average frost date in central Oklahoma is April 8 and it is not unusual to have a frost or freeze up to the middle of April so it is best to wait to plant these warm season crops until at least April 8 or preferably April 15. If you decide you want to go ahead and plant tomatoes, peppers, petunias, begonias, marigolds, and other warm season annuals be prepared to protect them if we get another cold front that takes us anywhere near the mid 30’s or below. Really hot weather crops like periwinkle or caladiums should not be planted until early May when night temperatures are consistently warmer.

Now is a good time to plant tall fescue seed in shady areas and you can plant Bermuda grass seed after April 15. We are at the late stages of the weed and feed application season to kill summer weeds before they germinate. At this stage you may want to apply a product containing Dimension which is both a pre-emergent crabgrass and weed killer and has some post-emergent crabgrass control for up to 4 weeks after germination. As you start to mow your lawn remember it is best not to cut off more than a third of the grass blades in any one mowing. This is a great time to add sphagnum peat moss, processed pine bark or compost to your flower beds and to select and prepare your garden containers so you are ready to plant your yard with color when we get past the risk of frost.

Turn off the television for a little while each morning or evening and spend some time out in your yard or local parks enjoying the amazing symphony of spring color and renewed life unfolding all around us.

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