Bonus Gardening Time! It is Fall and Cool Weather Plants are in Season!

We are into bonus gardening time across central Oklahoma as we have now passed the average date for our first freeze, without a freeze, and we are still enjoying many of our warm season crops and vegetables.  Many of our gardening friends in far Northwest Oklahoma and across the northern border of our state have already experienced their first freeze and given last rites to their most tender crops. Enjoy your warm season plants as long as possible.  When it does look like a killing freeze is coming you have several choices.  Cut as many cut flowers as possible to make bouquets to enjoy throughout your home and to cheer up your workplace.  Harvest as many “green” vegetables as possible.  Tomatoes are particularity important to save for frying as green tomatoes or to set on the counter or a windowsill to color up for later eating.  Another choice is to try and extend the season through several light frosts until we get a really hard killing freeze.  You can get three to ten degrees extra protection by covering your tender annuals or vegetables with cardboard boxes, sheets, burlap, blankets or a commercial frost protection cover like Reemay or Insulate on really cold nights.  You can dig up plants or bring your container gardens inside your home, garage or greenhouse to save until spring.

This is prime season for planting pansies, viola, ornamental kale and cabbage to provide color in your fall and winter garden as the tender crops say farewell and prepare to become compost.  Most garden centers still have a supply of spring flowering bulbs, even though your selection may be more limited than a few weeks ago.  Plant these tulips, hyacinths, crocus, Dutch iris and other specialty bulb crops now so their roots can grow all winter.  Then they will burst out of the earth early next spring with vibrant colors to announce the arrival of a new growing season.  If you are going to plant a lot of bulbs get a small earth or bulb auger to use with your cordless drill to make bulb holes easy and quick.  Add a little Bone Meal for phosphorous to promote blooming and/or Blood Meal for nitrogen to promote healthy foliage and stems then cover the hole back with soil and look forward to a cheerful spring surprise from each bulb hole.

If you planted fescue or rye grass for a winter lawn you should to fertilize before it gets much colder.  Keep dropped or composting tree leaves from building up on your winter fescue or rye grasses as they will limit photosynthesis and growth as they block sunshine.  If you have winter weed problems in your lawn you can apply a post emergent herbicide or weed killer to control these winter weeds.

If you compost, this is a great time of year to collect leaves or the physical remains of your warm season crops to add to your compost pile.   If you haven’t composted in the past this is a great time of year to start.  Do not compost plants that were sick or diseased even after they freeze.   Throw away any sick or diseased plant parts.

This is still a good time to plant container grown or balled and burlapped trees or shrubs as long as you will water them periodically through the winter to protect them from dehydration.  Like bulbs, their roots will grow through the winter to help them get off to a quicker and stronger start next spring.  You can also prune dead wood and branches or prune to shape your trees and shrubs throughout the winter.

Enjoy your bonus gardening time, until it freezes, to partake of the autumn color on our trees, the beauty of your flowers soon to pass and to plant your pansies and spring bulbs.

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