First Light Freeze of the Fall Garden Season!

Most of the Oklahoma City area got a killing freeze last week.  It was a light freeze so it killed many of the unprotected warm season annuals and vegetables and did not bother many hardier plants.  Many of the perennials and more cold tolerant annuals survived the soft freeze and will live on until knocked back by harder freezes to come as the calendar marches towards winter.  It was a hard freeze north and west at places like Woodward and Ponca City but in the metro area we saw mostly 29 to 31 degree temperatures which would often freeze the top growth and outer canopy of foliage but the lower, bottom foliage may have survived on many plants.  Plants under a tree or shrub or larger plant or in a micro climate may have had enough protection to survive the light freeze unprotected and may continue blooming or growing through some milder Indian summer weather until hit by a harder freeze.  Surviving with just a little protection indicates the value of using frost blankets, hot kaps, old sheets, or other light frost protection to extend the fall growing season when we experience light freezes and just a few degrees makes the difference between life and death.

Folks often think outside gardening is over for the year after we experience a killing frost but there are actually many crops we can still plant at this season for immediate and future enjoyment.  For immediate color plant pansies to cheer you up most all winter.  There are literally hundreds of pansy varieties that do great in Oklahoma offering a multitude of colors and bright cheerful faces that display their personality.  Pansies are one of the real highlights of the winter garden in Oklahoma.  Pansies greet you with color and life even on the darkest and most dreary winter days or by poking up through a light cover of snow with yellow, blue, red, pink, purple and countless multicolored flower faces.  Add a little blood meal to the planting holes as you plant them to feed them for the winter.  We are at the tail end of the season to plant tall fescue grass seed if you want to have a green lawn this winter or to establish cover on open soil to prevent blowing and erosion.  These cool grasses will germinate within days and grow throughout the winter until worn down by our heat late next spring.

This is the prime season for planting spring flowering bulbs.  Shop for good firm bulbs of daffodils, crocus, tulips, hyacinths and the dozens of other unique bulb crops to plant now.  They can root in through the winter and be ready to shoot from the ground next spring with a burst of color to announce spring.  The blooming season will start with many of the smaller spring bulbs like crocus, snow drops and grape hyacinths then progresses through daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.  Some of these bulbs, like most of the daffodils, will naturalize and come back year after year while other bulb crops, like the tulips, are usually a one year flowering spectacular and need to be replanted for future years.

This is a great time to add trees to your landscape.  Container grown trees can be transplanted most any time the ground is not frozen but field grown trees transplant and handle best while dormant at this time of year.  If you plan to plant larger trees that are hand dug and balled and burlapped or spade dug trees this is a great time to move the trees with the least stress to the trees.  Spend time and money to properly prepare the planting hole, then transplant the tree or shrub.  This will give the tree a chance to get rooted in and established before they leaf out next spring.  Fall and winter transplanted trees have a chance to get established before facing our hot summers and the challenges of summer drought.

Plant pansies for immediate joy and excitement and plant bulbs to liven up spring.  Plant trees and shrubs to change your yard and create a landscape and habitat for decades and generations to come.


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