The signs of spring are beginning to surround the state

The daffodils have lifted their yellow trumpets to announce spring is arriving in Oklahoma. These bulbs hide underground all winter with the roots growing and then green shoots literally explode growth from the ground that a week later opens to reveal yellow trumpet flowers and long tall green leaves. Other signs of spring surround us with the purple henbit we call a weed in our lawn looking gorgeous across the prairies, in pastures and along the roadsides where it flowers out as a purple blanket covering the ground.  It is another example that the same plant is a weed when growing somewhere we don’t want it and a beautiful wildflower in other environments. Our state has tens of thousands of ornamental pears, mostly the Bradford Pear that was widely used in commercial plantings and in subdivisions the last 20 years. These pears were some of the most damaged trees in our winter ice storms. In nature, life goes on and there is a natural attempt to recover and renew. Those some pear trees are now covered with white flowers, often so many you can hardly see the branches. Even the wounded trees are making a great effort to launch a new spring and kicking it off with a big flower party. The redbud trees are just flashing their first signs of purple, pink and red colors and will be very impressive over the next few weeks. Before the recent plantings of so many pears the redbuds would have been about the first tree to bloom out across the plains of our state and I am sure that is why our forefathers made it our state tree as they anxiously looked forward to spring and a new season and the redbuds announced its arrival. Forsythia is one of the first of the flowering shrubs to launch into flower each spring and their long arching branches of bright yellow flowers always lead the way into a new growing season of rebirth and renewal.

When I was growing up I remember old time gardeners using forsythia blooming as the best indicator of when to apply pre-emergence weed killers or weed and feed products to your lawn to control crabgrass and other summer weeds before they germinate. They were right and that is still a good indicator so you should tackle that project right away.  The old timers and especially the transplanted Irishmen said March 17 or Saint Patrick’s Day was a good time to plant potatoes and they were right. We Americans eat an average of 200 pounds of potatoes per year. Food prices are all up this year so this is a good year to grow some of your own vegetables and berries. Now is the time to plant onions, potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, other berries and many vegetable seeds.

The old timers often said to start planting your color plants and warm season vegetables right after Easter.  That is bad advice this year as we have a very early Easter this year, about as early as it is possible to have on our calendar. Last year we got a bad killing freeze on April 15 which was a little later than our last average freeze date of April 7. You should wait to plant tomatoes, peppers, petunias, marigolds, impatiens and other warm season plants until April 15 or after. If you are determined to plant early make sure to have some wall-o-water, hot kaps, boxes, sheets or other covers ready to put over and protect your crops at night from low temperatures. These covers will usually work on a light frost but if we get a heard freeze you probably will get to start over.

Enjoy the Easter lilies this week and have a wonderful Easter Holiday as we celebrate spring and the season of renewal.

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