Spring Teaser – Nice Weather But Not Right for Warm Season Planting Just Yet!

After a couple of early March doses of winter we have been blessed with some nice “spring teaser” weather.  This nicer weather gives us a chance to actually do some of the garden activities that we want to do and need to be done but are quite challenging when there is snow and ice on the ground.

It is still too early to plant warm season vegetable or ornamental crops as we are likely to still experience some freezing weather until around April seventh to the fifteenth across central Oklahoma.  If you are so determined to beat your neighbors into production of the first tomatoes, peppers or other warm season crops in your neighborhood you either need to get your own greenhouse or be prepared to protect those early plantings with protective row cover products, waxed paper hot caps, Wall O’ water protective pyramids or some homemade combination of milk jugs, boxes, sheets or blankets to cover and insulate your warm season crops on cold nights.  The safest and best solution is to wait to plant these warm season crops until soon after the last freeze in mid April.  Remember that some really hot blooded tropical crops like periwinkle, caladiums and sweet potatoes should not be planted until after May first when our night temperatures are regularly above fifty degrees. 

This next week is the last week of the prime planting season for cool season vegetables. 

You can plant cabbage, broccoli, Swiss chard, lettuce, peas, potatoes and onions later but they do not handle the heat of Oklahoma summers well and so you will cost yourself a lot of yield the later you wait to plant them.  Old timers suggest that the cool season vegetables should be planted by Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th) or thereabouts if you want to allow these crops to grow, mature and provide a good harvest before the summer temperatures act like an oven and zap them of their energy and harvest.  Try your best to finish planting your bare root asparagus, rhubarb, horse radish as well as strawberries, grape vines, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries by next weekend.  You can still buy and plant container grown fruit trees and berries most any time this spring, summer or fall but you need to be wrapping up any bare root planting in the next week or so. 

Another project with a deadline of around Saint Patrick’s Day is the application of pre-emergent weed killers or herbicides.  As the day and night time temperatures warm up, the days get longer and after even the limited moisture from our recent snows more and more warm season weeds will start to germinate.  The easiest way to control most of the warm season weeds is to “just say No” and keep them from even germinating or coming up.  Timing is very important for this garden practice to work but if you apply the proper pre-emergent weed killer and get it spread or sprayed before the weed seeds germinate they can dramatically reduce the competition your lawn or flower beds will receive from crabgrass and other summer weeds.  Visit with your local nursery or garden center to select the right weed killer or weed and feed product for your flowerbeds and lawn.  My favorite pre-emergent’s will include Dimension, Prodiamine or Barricade, Treflan, Balan or Team.  You can apply these as a weed killer only or mixed with a well balanced fertilizer as part of a “weed and feed” product.

Take advantage of these nice days to prepare new flower beds, clean up and prepare your existing flower beds and container gardens as we get ready for the warm season crops in just a few short weeks


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