2017 Spring Has Officially Kicked Off!

We officially kicked off spring on Monday of this week and it certainly has been feeling like spring.  Many of our trees, shrubs and perennials are leafing out and flowering several weeks early.  Our last average freeze for most of Oklahoma occurs between April 1st in southern Oklahoma and April 15th in northern Oklahoma and about April 7th to 10th in central Oklahoma.  Based on that history of average freeze dates we would still encourage you to wait a couple more weeks to plant warm season vegetables and ornamentals.  Based on the long term forecast this may be a year you can gamble on an early planting and get away with it but the safe plan is to wait until around mid April to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, begonias, impatiens, geraniums and the hundreds of other warm season crops to feed our stomachs and our souls.  If you do plant early please keep an eye on the weather reports and be prepared to cover your tender crops with hot caps, row covers, boxes, sheets or other protective covers if you see we are going to have a light frost or freeze.  You can safely proceed with planting most trees, shrubs and perennials now.

We have passed the optimum time to plant our cool season vegetable crops like onions, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and cauliflower so if you have seed or plants you haven’t planted yet please plant them at once or grab some at the garden center before they are gone.  They need to be planted now to get a harvest before it gets too hot and these cool season crops succumb to the Oklahoma heat.  We are also at the final days to get much effect from pre-emergent herbicides on your lawn or in your flowerbeds.  If you want to control summer weeds before they come up, you need to get your pre-emergent down at once or many weeds will already be germinated and you won’t get the benefits of this treatment.  Once the summer weeds are up you can hand pull them, use selective post emergent herbicides or you can solarize a whole area where you plan to create a new flowerbed or do totally new plantings.

This is the season to complete your soil tests at your county extension office and then to make pH corrections as needed.  On the east side of the city we sometimes need to use lime to lift the pH but across most of Oklahoma City and western Oklahoma we battle high pH or alkaline soils and need to apply soil sulphur to lower the pH.  Don’t apply lime or sulphur until you have a good soil test and know what pH you are starting with in your soil.  Now is a great time to apply fertilizers to your existing trees, shrubs, lawn and new plantings to support the new growth that your plants are initiating as they start the new growing season.  Apply fertilizers over lawns, under the drip lines of trees and shrubs and in strips or circles about 4 inches to six inches from the stem of new vegetable and flower plantings. It is best to apply a balanced fertilizer of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium where the three numbers add up to over 20, like 10-20-10, 21-7-14 or many other fine fertilizers.

Organic matter in your soils can dramatically improve soil structure, improve drainage and moisture holding capacity, retain nutrition in the root zone and produce happier and healthier plants.  Add Sphagnum peat moss, composted cotton burrs, pine bark, leaves, straw, manure, alfalfa or other organic matter to new or existing flowerbeds to improve the water and nutrition management in your gardens.

We have had a great season of crocus, daffodil, hyacinth and tulip flowers.  Let the foliage stay as long as possible and the foliage is green to help produce the food to store for the next years flowers.   Enjoy the gorgeous Red bud flowers on the trees in landscapes and the native varieties blooming across our state as you travel our highways.  It is easy to understand why early state leaders made it our state tree when you see them in gorgeous bloom at this time of year.  Go ahead and prune out any winter or storm damaged branches on trees and shrubs that do not leaf out this spring.

There is much to do in the garden but be patient on the warm season crops for another couple of weeks and then we ought to be able to give the “plant away” instructions.

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