Gardening: Fall is time for yard projects

The fall in Oklahoma is a special season to spend time in your yard and garden.

Many of the annuals and perennials have been rejuvenated by the cooler weather and shorter days as long as you have been watering them to quench their thirst in this continuing drought. Many of these plants are showing new spunk and energy as they literally sprint to the finish line of this growing season. The first real freeze in the Oklahoma City area is usually in early November but is always a moving target depending on the weather. The northwest part of the state shuts down the growing season first as they usually get the first hard freeze and it often is up to 2 weeks later before south central Oklahoma freezes as the cold temperatures march across our state from north to south. Hopefully we will still enjoy some nice fall colors, but many of our trees and shrubs have already thinned out their foliage and dropped many leaves prematurely as they battled the stress of last summer’s persistent heat and drought. This is likely to lessen the impact of our usual fall “garden foliage art show” as nature winds down for winter.

There are many projects to tackle in the fall yard. Plant hardy mums for fall color, decorate with pumpkins, gourds, straw bales and corn stalks. Sow or overseed tall fescue grass seed for a green lawn this winter in your sunny areas or to establish a shady lawn. Select and plant spring flowering bulbs that will get established and grow underground all winter ready to create the first bright colors of next growing season as they trumpet the arrival of spring. The most widely know spring flowering bulbs are tulips, crocus, hyacinth, narcissus or daffodils, but there are many varieties of lesser known bulbs that are also fun to plant. I have fond memories of throwing crocus bulbs across the lawn and planting them where they land to create a fun patchwork of crocus flowers in the lawn next year before the lawn even greens up. Narcissus or daffodils naturalize well here and will often come back year after year where tulips are usually only a 1 or 2 year show with the flowers getting smaller in future years, if they do carry over.

The warm season plants are getting ready to call it a season with the annuals headed to plant heaven and the perennials about ready to hibernate or “go underground” for the season. There are a few cool-weather crops that will shine and do their best work in the coming months. Flowering kale and cabbage will provide lots of color and interest through early frosts before a hard freeze finally gets them. Pansies will not only survive the frosts, but even most hard freezes to flower all through the winter as they add color and excitement to sunny areas through the short, dark, cold days of winter. Now is a great time to select and plant your pansies. Once you experience their spunky winter spirit you’ll be hooked to plant them again next fall.

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