Our nation is consumed and focused on the important local, state and national elections this next week but the plant world proceeds unfazed, more consumed with the weather than public policy. We have been blessed with an unusually warm and very nice fall although many areas could use more rain. We have yet to freeze outside the Oklahoma panhandle so many of our spring and summer plantings have made a fall comeback with the shorter days and cooler weather and are looking colorful and still producing new growth. If the freeze would wait long enough to harvest all the young green tomatoes now on my tomato plants, it would be my best harvest of the year. I doubt the freeze will wait that long. In just the last few years we have already had hard freezes and been down to 17° by this date. Many areas have not gone below 40° yet this growing season. You can enjoy your annuals and spring and summer plantings as long as you water periodically and we stay above the freezing mark.

We do know the freezes are coming and this growing season will end, so it is wise to plant now to assure some garden color on through the winter. You can still plant and enjoy flowering kale and cabbage long into the winter with their beautiful and unusual colorful foliage. If you need instant color there are still some late varieties of fall or hardy mums and fall asters that can make a show for your election watch party or other entertaining but these will be done for the year when we do get a hard freeze. The Queen of Winter color for Oklahoma gardens is the pansy. You can plant them now and enjoy them all through the winter as long as they get some moisture from rains, snows, ice or a little relief from your water hose if the rains are too far apart. We can enjoy colored berries on many of our hollies and other shrubs, cones on our pines and spruce and vibrant foliage colors from our needle and broad leaf evergreens but nothing else gives us the enticing and surprising reds, bronzes, pink, yellows, blues, white and purple colors all thought the winter that we can enjoy from pansies. The sooner you plant your pansies the longer you can enjoy them until the heat of late spring wears them down and they are spent. Pansies are available in hundreds of varieties, some with a single color in their “face” or across all the petals but one of the things that make pansies especially charming are all the many styles and colors of “faces” to choose from where a couple of the petals may be one color and other petals a completely different, even contrasting color. When planted along your front sidewalk, around your back patio or in a large decorative container on your porch flowering pansies have the power to make you smile every dark and dreary day you walk past them and see their bright flower faces smiling at you. Few things can top pansy flowers determination and blooming right through the winter snow and ice. The snow has to get deep enough to cover them to hide their excitement and joy for life.

You can still sow tall fescue or annual ryegrass seed if you want a green lawn this winter or need to cover a bare spot to prevent erosion. Don’t forget to mulch your more tender perennials and shrubs with an inch or two of natural mulch of some type of bark or hulls to give them a little extra winter protection and to reduce the need for winter watering. This is a great time to plant those spring flowering bulbs you bought earlier this fall0. If you haven’t bought any daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, crocus or other spring bulbs yet, go bulb shopping and get them planted to enjoy a wonderful welcome to spring event in your yard next March and April.

Don’t forget to study the issues and go vote on Tuesday. You can spend some time enjoying, meditating and working in the garden this weekend to help you think clearly about your election choices.


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