Spring is blooming all around us!

Spring is blooming out all around us as the yellow forsythia and red quince flowering shrubs come alive with vibrant colors. Trees are budding out and flowering and fruit trees like ornamental pears, peaches, plums, apricots, crab apples and saucer magnolias are at various stages of flowering. We celebrate the beauty of crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs that were planted last fall or in prior years and have burst forth from the earth to announce spring. This is the beginning of the growing cycle and we will be blessed to watch growth and the annual miracles of nature from now until the first hard freezes late next fall.

This year the show has started several weeks early due to our unusually warm weather and the absence of usual frosts and freezes. There is no certainty that we have seen our last freeze of the winter yet, this early start may still be interrupted so be careful not to get too aggressive in planting warm season crops yet. Our last average frost is usually about mid April, or still a month away. In the last decade we have had years with the last killing freeze at the end of February and other years with the last killing freeze in early May and this is how Oklahoma ends up with an average of Mid April for the last killing freeze of the year. There is plenty to do in the yard and garden without gambling on early plantings of the tender warm blooded crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, begonias and periwinkle which are best planted after mid April and usually we plant okra, sweet potatoes and caladiums in early May.

With the garden calendar running early your window to get the best effects from your pre-emergent weed killers is closing quickly. The sooner they are applied to your lawns or flowerbeds the more goatheads, sandburs, crabgrass and other summer weeds they can control and kill at germination. Oklahoma State University has long recommended application between the time the forsythia and redbuds flower for best results. The forsythia have been blooming for about two weeks and the redbuds are just starting. Don’t procrastinate any longer. Get your pre-emergent applied right away if you want it to work this season. Many folks have taken advantage of this beautiful weather to already plant their seed potatoes, onion sets, onion plants, cabbage, cauliflower and strawberries, asparagus and other cool season crops. If you have not planted those yet, visit your local nursery or garden center and get them planted right away. Folks will plant these crops on up into early April but the best yields normally come to those who plant sooner. The old timers often said to plant these cool season crops between Valentine Day and St. Patrick’s Day. The later plantings of cool crops have to battle longer days, higher day time and night time temperatures before they reach harvest and this can reduce their overall yield. We are also winding down the planting season for cool season root crops like radishes, carrots and beets as well as leafy crops like leaf and head lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard and kale.

This is a good time to feed your pansies that made it through the winter to help drive another round of growth and flowers this spring before they succumb to the late spring and summer heat. We are dry and in need of rain so don’t forget to water your pansies and new plantings periodically when Mother Nature is not providing the needed rain. This is a great time to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials in your yard to add the long term “skeleton” or framework to your gardening effort. Once these “permanent” type crops are established they will grow and evolve each year to be the bones of your landscape and to add to the nature growing in your yard.

Wrap up your pre-season pruning and focus on cleaning up your existing flowerbeds and digging out or creating new flower beds as you get ready for the “plant-away” signal at the middle of April. Enjoy this beautiful March weather and use it as an excuse to spend time in your yard and gardens. Time spent working in the garden now will be paid off with big harvests and pretty flowers over the rest of the growing season and for years to come.

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