Celebrate Oklahoma Land Run and Plant Away!

What better way to celebrate the Oklahoma Land Run anniversary today than by driving your spade in the ground and planting new trees and shrubs to stake your modern day claim to your yard.  On this day in 1889 our ancestors were lining up to rush into these new territories to stake out their new homes and farms.  A lot has happened in the last one hundred and twenty-eight years as most of those lands have changed hands several times and had real homes replace sod houses and barns.  Those one hundred twenty-eight years have seen wells drilled, water lines and storm sewers installed, roads and highways created and electricity installed across these plains.  Our Oklahoma forefathers were mainly trying to grow enough vegetables, fruit and grains to feed their families and their livestock as they attempted to survive in this new frontier.  It was a bonus when they got to plant roses, iris or other pretty ornamental flowers to brighten their harsh life as homesteaders.  We have the luxury of being able to choose what type of landscape and gardening we want to do.  We are not gardening for survival but for enjoyment, relaxation, beauty and to supplement our food supply.

We are likely past the last freeze or frost of the winter and are into the main spring planting season.  This is the sweet spot between winter and the heat of Oklahoma summers where we can plant most anything and have a fairly high chance of gardening success. Crops planted now and watered correctly have a good chance to get rooted in and established in their new garden home before confronting the intense heat trials of summer.  This is the season where you can “plant away” on most everything from grass seed, sprigs or sod for new lawn areas to container grown fruit or ornamental trees for shade and nutrition.  You can also plant container grown shrubs to create hedges and for foundation plantings around your home or other buildings.  This is a great time to plant perennials to provide seasonal color and to come back year after year to anchor your gardening efforts.  Some of those trees, shrubs and perennials across our state date back to those the pioneers brought in on their covered wagons during the land run.  We still see heirloom roses at old homesteads and at early day cemeteries as well as lilacs, iris and day-lilies that were first planted soon after the Land Run.

The most popular plants to add to your garden during this spring planting season are the annual vegetables and color annuals.   There are many warm season vegetables you can start from seed now to enjoy throughout the growing season but the most widely grown Oklahoma vegetables are tomatoes, peppers and eggplant which are usually grown from transplants or small plants you can buy at your local nursery.  These can be grown in traditional vegetable gardens, mixed in with flower plantings in flower beds or grown in raised beds, or even fabric bags or decorative containers on your patio or even on apartment balconies.  There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes from small cherry or plum sized tomatoes to large slicing tomatoes in traditional red, pink, yellow or purple skinned selections.  Peppers vary from sweet bell peppers to sweet banana peppers and hundreds of different intensities of hot peppers.  Eggplant is often used as a meat substitute and is available in several varieties producing different sizes and colors of fruit.

Flowering annuals add the color or pizzazz to our yards and landscape and the choices expand every year as more plants are introduced and as plant collecting and breeding progresses.  You can plant for mass color impact like a bed full of begonias, impatiens, penta, petunia, periwinkle or vinca, marigolds, zinnias or many other choices.  You can plant to support pollinators, to attract butterflies, to provide touch or scent gardens.  There are so many plant choices you can be an artist and show your creative side based on the plants and colors you select.  Make sure you pay attention to your soil type, drainage conditions and amount of sun or shade available as you work with your local garden center or nurseryman to make your plant selections.

There are a few really hot blooded crops like okra, sweet potatoes, periwinkle and caladiums that will do better if you wait another week or two to plant when the night low temperatures are consistently above fifty degrees.  Except for those few crops “plant away” and get ready to enjoy and be a part of a great growing season.

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