Milder Oklahoma weather has effect on plants

We are enjoying a very unique August in Oklahoma blessed with summer rains and cooler temperatures. When you are farming or gardening the weather is often the most important factor in how your crops perform. When we had the couple of hot weeks back in July the okra was really starting to pod and the squash was really starting to bear. As we have cooled down, the okra and squash, which love really hot weather, have gone more vegetative and are producing less harvest. My tomatoes on the other hand had stopped setting much new fruit when we got up around 100º, as they don’t set flowers well above 90º. Now that we have cooled down my tomatoes are lush green and covered with small fruit. The lesson is that as the weather changes some crops benefit and some face new challenges. The same thing happens with our ornamental plants but overall most of our annuals and perennials are really enjoying the natural refreshing rains and the cooler temperatures. Our ornamental plants are generally under less stress and looking happier at mid August than any year I can remember.

The three things I hear gardeners complain about the most are pulling weeds and fighting grass where they don’t want it, battling insect and disease problems and the time spent watering. Instead of viewing these experiences as a chance to meditate, observe mother nature and to commune with your garden, many folks see these as obstacles that limit their gardening. Mulching is the very best sustainable practice for Oklahoma gardening to help reduce watering and weed pressure. I planted two new similar flowerbeds and top mulched one with 2” of bark mulch and used no mulch on the other. I am watering over twice as often on the unmulched “naked” soil bed and the plants are generally not looking quite as healthy either. Although I still need to do a little weed pulling in the mulched bed I would guess it is facing over 90% less weed pressure than the similar unmulched bed. The mulch is reducing watering by at least 50% and weeds by around 90% and the plants are looking happier. Happier, unstressed plants aren’t bug free but do a better job of resisting insect and disease problems. If you aren’t mulching yet you really ought to try it out. Use any of the many kinds of bark mulches, cottonseed or pecan hulls. Many community gardens even use burlap sacks, flattened cardboard boxes or even pin down old newspapers between plants. It should make your day to know you can recycle this paper and my columns to mulch your flowerbeds.


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