Gardeners Getting Anxious For Spring

Lots of pretty warm days and just a few freezing nights the last couple of weeks has really stimulated our spring fever. The humans and the plants are getting anxious and want to start growing. Many of the early spring flowering bulbs are pushing growth up out of the ground and will soon be in flower. Many of the perennials are starting to send out their first growth of spring. Flowering shrubs, fruit trees and our ornamental trees all are producing swollen buds, pregnant with first new leaves of spring ready to burst forth. This is always a tricky season for Oklahoma gardeners. We are anxious for the growth of spring but hope it doesn’t get too warm, too early and cause the new growth to come on out and to then get damaged by a hard freeze which is likely still ahead of us. Our last average freeze in central Oklahoma is usually around April 7th but in the last five years the last freeze has been as early as late February and as late as early May so we have one to three months before the last freeze based on recent history. Many gardeners practice their gambling skills by planting earlier than the safe date in hopes of getting an early start on the growing season and a longer overall season. This is a risky practice and often results in planting twice. There are a number of products and techniques you can use to provide extra protection from light frosts or freezes. Cover tender plants with boxes, sheets, blankets, even newspapers or use a commercial product like hot kaps, row covers or Wall-O-Waters for extra protection of three to twelve degrees.

There are many plants you can plant now without being a wild gambler. You can plant ornamental trees and shrubs, fruit trees, flowering shrubs and many perennials or cool season annuals now. Over the last decade many more folks have gotten involved in food gardening and are raising fresh produce and berries very locally, right in their own yard. There are a number of cool season crops to plant right now and most of these are very easy and trouble free to grow. The hardest work on most of the cool season crops is preparing the soil, planting them, then the all important watering as they grow. Some of the easiest crops are root crops like Irish potatoes in red, gold, purple or white and onion sets or plants in yellow, white or red. These are usually plant, water, water and harvest type of crops. Plant these from now until mid March. There are many perennial food crops to plant now including strawberries, rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus crowns as well as grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries and youngberries. Sow seed of cool season greens like lettuce, mustard and Swiss chard, root crops like turnips, radish, carrots, beets and specialty crops like kohl rabi and Brussels sprouts.

Not only the trees and flowers are starting to germinate or grow but also the crabgrass and weeds. This is the time to kill crabgrass, goat heads, sand burrs and summer weeds before they germinate. Most good herbicides or pre-emergent’s will kill the weed seeds as they start to germinate for about four to eight weeks after they are applied to your lawn or garden. Depending on the product you apply, if applied at mid February it will kill most of the labeled crabgrass or weed seeds that try to germinate over the next four to eight weeks so until mid March or mid April depending on the product. They should be watered in well after application. There are a number of good pre-emergent’s but I suggest one that contains one or more of these active ingredients, Prodiamine (Barricade), Dimension, Treflan, Balan, Team (Treflan & Balan), Gallery, Tupersan or Sulfentrazone. These are all available from many manufacturers and in herbicide only or weed and feed combinations so you can feed your lawn at the same time you are controlling or killing future weeds. It is generally much easier to prevent or kill the crabgrass and weeds at germination then to control them later with a post emergent herbicide.

Enjoy the warming sun as you do these garden projects, prepare the soil for warm season planting later, get your soil tested and prepare for a full spring of gardening.

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