Cool weather brings gardening opportunities

Parts of Oklahoma have already frozen and are watching the tree leaves drop and move towards dormancy. Other parts of the state including most of central Oklahoma have flirted with frosts and dropped near freezing but escaped, so we are still enjoying beautiful fall color from begonias, lantana, marigolds, hardy mums and many other flowers.

This is the season to enjoy the bright fall colors of autumn on our trees and many deciduous shrubs as they transition from the bright greens of the growing season that were dominated by chlorophyll using the long days for photosynthesis. In the fall, these trees and shrubs recapture much of the sugars and energy from these leaves as they change color and then release those leaves to float and flutter to the ground, ready to provide natural mulch and organic matter to the earth below. If you rake these leaves up from your lawn, driveway and walks consider mulching them onto your flowerbeds or starting a compost pile to take advantage of this natural organic matter.

This is a great time to plant ornamental kale, cabbage and the many varieties of pansies which can add so much color and excitement right through most of our winters. They don’t grow very tall but literally make mounds of green foliage livened up with the happy, colorful and enchanting faces of pansies right through the cold bleak days of winter. Few things in the garden beat the joy of bright yellow, blue or red pansies blooming through a cover of light snow. Fall and winter pansies do best when planted in full sun and do well in front flowerbeds, decorative containers, around the mailbox, front yard gaslight or bordering your back patio.

This continues to be the prime planting season for spring flowering bulbs if you want to enjoy the many crocus, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, dutch iris and many lesser known bulbs pushing up through the ground next March and April to announce spring. Spring bulbs kick off a new season with a burst of color. My favorites are the daffodils or narcissus with their traditional yellow, white or light orange trumpets which can naturalize here and come back to bloom year after year. As kids, my sister, brothers and I loved to plant crocus in the lawn or scattered in flowerbeds. We would throw these little bulbs like Johnny Appleseed and then plant them wherever they landed. The first thing to bloom each spring would be these crocus scattered throughout the lawn and landscape “prairie style”.

Don’t forget this is a great time to plant trees and shrubs if you want to add more shade or atmosphere to your yard. Their roots will grow slowly all winter to help them to get established and ready to sprout to life in their new location this next spring.

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