WATER & TIME FOR PLANTING!

We were really dry, so dry that western Oklahoma lost tens of thousands of acres to wild fires.  We have now been blessed with some nice soaking rains across most all of Oklahoma which really help get our trees, shrubs, lawns, vegetable and flower gardens off to a great spring start.  Water is one of the most critical ingredients to support plant growth and nothing beats great slow soaking rains to motivate our plants to produce a flush of spring growth.  This is an exciting and tricky time for Oklahoma gardeners.  We have enjoyed beautiful spring like weather for several weeks which adds to our spring fever and calls us to plant!  Our instincts tell us that the earlier we can plant without getting a freeze the earlier we get tomatoes, peppers, flowers or other crops.  Early planting also get us a longer growing season to enjoy annuals before we have to confront fall freezes.  Early plantings allow more plant growth while we have pleasant spring weather and before we confront the intense heat of our Oklahoma summers.  The better established and rooted in our plants are before the stress of summer the better they can handle that heat and drought.  The challenge for gardeners is that threat of a late cold front that can kill or damage these early plantings.  Our last average frost in central Oklahoma is around April 10 and we currently show nothing below 40 degrees on the ten day forecast so it looks all clear to plant most everything.  Bear in mind we have had a killing freeze in just the last few years as late as May 3rd so you still need to be weather observant and ready to protect these early season plantings if we do get a late surprise cold front.  Based on the current weather reports it appears like you are good to plant most everything but the hot blooded tropical plants like sweet potatoes, periwinkle, okra and caladiums that do best planted after night temperatures are consistently above fifty degrees.  These hot blooded tropical’s will be lethargic and usually just sit there when planted before May 1st.

This is a great season to plant new container grown trees and shrubs.  They will benefit from spring rains and the natural urge to root out at this time of year.  Remember that new trees and shrubs will require an extra commitment to water this summer and even the next couple of years until they are rooted in more deeply.

Few gardening experiences are as much fun as picking your own fresh vegetables to wash and eat fresh or to use in your own salads and cooking.  Plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant transplants now to start picking locally grown produce in late May and June.  Tomatoes and peppers are still the most popular vegetables to plant and harvest yourself.   There are hundreds of varieties of each.  There are giant slicing tomatoes, cherry or pear tomatoes, red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes.  Plant varieties you have had good success with and try out a new color, shape or variety to add some excitement to your vegetable gardening.   It is best to select a tomato variety that is VFN for resistance to verticillium, fusarium and nematodes.  Peppers are available in hundreds of varieties from sweet bell peppers in green, red, purple or new multicolored varieties to sweet banana peppers or hot peppers of varying intensity.  Hot peppers are rated in scoville units and although I have a limited tolerance for the hot pepper varieties many folks love them hot, the hotter the better.  Tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables can do well in flower beds, often even better in raised beds that may have better drainage and better soil.  You can also raise tomatoes, peppers and other veggies in decorative containers or other styles of container gardens on an apartment balcony or your home patio.

Plant now to get your plants off to a great spring start and to get a full growing season.  Be weather observant so you can protect your plants if we are challenged with a late cold front and to water your plants when dry.

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