Time To “Plant Away” Until Your Heart Is Content! Well Almost, Don’t Plant The Hottest Plants Just Yet!

Spring is here and we are generally safe to plant most all of our warm season crops.  Only the very hottest blooded annuals like caladiums, sweet potato, okra and periwinkle will do better if we wait to plant until May first or after when night temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees.  This is my annual “plant away” column issued after we have passed our last average freeze date and we are generally safe to plant all the warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant as well as all the beautiful and colorful annuals like geraniums, begonias, petunias, lantana, penta and hundreds more.   We have passed the last average frost date and have already been blessed with incredible flower displays from crocus, daffodils and tulip bulbs; flowering quince, spirea, forsythia and wisteria flowing shrubs; most of our fruit trees, ornamental pears and crabapples and our tough and beautiful state tree, the redbud.  We have had freezes in the last decade as late as May third.  If we get a late surprise cold front, be prepared to protect your tender plants by covering with sheets, blankets, boxes, sacks or commercial row covers to protect your crops.  The odds are with you, that you can plant away without resorting to these protection measures.  Gardeners usually become good weather watchers so you can know what action to take whether it involves protecting your plants from late spring frosts or helping decide when to water your crops or even when conditions will be right for you to work in the garden. 

Not only is it time to “plant away” but the sooner you plant your annual vegetables and flowers the more joy you will get from them.  We have about a seven month growing season from the last spring freeze to the first freeze of late fall so the sooner you plant these warm season crops, the more color and harvest you can get from your spring plantings.  This is also a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials that will provide color, cooling and fresh oxygen for many years in addition to their beauty and landscape impact.  These container grown multiyear crops can be planted successfully most anytime of the year as long as the ground is not frozen or too muddy to work.  Early spring plantings give these long term plantings a chance to get adapted and rooted into their new home with help from spring rains and cooler temperatures before the burning heat of our Oklahoma summers.

Don’t forget the value of adding organic matter like sphagnum peat moss or a good aged compost to your soil as you plant your spring crops.  Mulching the top of your plantings with a 2” or 3” layer of bark, straw, compost or hulls will reduce water use and improve crop health.

The whole plant world is sprouting out new branches, leaves and fresh growth and this is a great time to feed most everything from trees to lawns to tomatoes and begonias.  It is always best to have a soil test so you can feed just what is needed.  Without a soil test feed a well balanced fertilizer using either a granular fertilizer, a more efficient slow release fertilizer or apply a water soluble fertilizer as you hand water, drip or irrigate your plantings. 

Make time to enjoy the amazing and ever changing nature show in your own yard, at nearby parks and around your community.  Visit your local growers and garden centers to pick out what you want to plant and “plant away”. 

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