Prepare your vegetable garden & flowerbeds!

Spring slowly inches closer with longer days, brighter sun and more warm days and our gardening opportunities expand every week.  Our lawns are ready for pre-emergent weed killers to prevent crabgrass, sandburs and other summer weeds from germinating and competing with our turf grass in the warm season months.  Apply the herbicides alone or with your first round of seasonal fertilizer as a weed and feed combination.  Timing is critical on this effort and should be done right now or before the redbuds come into full bloom for best results.

This is a great time to prepare your vegetable gardens and flowerbed for later plantings.  Till or work the soil, removing any intruding grass roots, adding organic matter like sphagnum peat moss, aged compost or fine bark to add humus to your soil.  This will acidify your soils, improve aeration and greatly increase water holding capacity.

This is the best time to prune roses and summer flowering shrubs and most of your other trees and shrubs before they produce their spring burst of new growth.  If you prune now that burst of spring growth will come from the buds just below where you prune.  Some plants like roses respond well to their canes being cut back hard to 8” to 14” tall while others like crape myrtle are often cut back hard but should be trimmed more lightly to shape them instead of harsh cut backs which will dramatically reduce your summer flower spectacular.

Do not prune spring flowering shrubs or trees like forsythia, quince, spirea, red buds, dogwood and azaleas until after they bloom as you will sacrifice all the flowers that are ready to pop on the old wood from prior growing seasons.  This is a great time to feed your trees and shrubs to fortify the roots and strengthen the plants before they burst into growth for the new season.  You can greatly reduce many pest problems on trees and shrubs later in the season by spraying dormant oil now to control galls, mites, overwintering aphids and other pests.  If you have had or want to prevent peach leaf curl on your peach trees spray them with a fungicide before the buds swell.

Food gardening is in full swing for all the cool season crops.  It is time to plant bareroot or container grown strawberries, grapes, blackberry, raspberry and blueberries to enjoy for years to come.  Plant seed potatoes, onion plants or onion sets, asparagus, rhubarb, or horseradish from now until St. Patrick’s Day or mid March.  Plant seeds of cool season leafy crops like leaf or head lettuce, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Swiss chard.  It is time to plant seeds of root crops like radish, carrots and turnips to harvest fresh produce from your yard for your dinner table.  Most of these seed crops can be grown in ground beds, decorative containers, fabric grow bags or even hay bales.  You can start seed of warm season vegetables like tomatoes or peppers inside now but don’t take them outside until mid April or after our last chance of freezing.

There are many things we can now do in the yard so pick a few to tackle and enjoy your times outside when we are blessed with pretty days.

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Time to get ready for spring 2019!

We have had some beautiful winter weather days recently with just a couple of hard cold fronts interrupting the fun.  Working in the yard last weekend I saw my first dandelions in bloom and noticed the daffodils and hyacinths had already popped from the ground.  I could even see the future flower buds tightly wrapped in that first thrust of leaves.  Spring flowers are not far away.  As the days get longer and the Oklahoma earth starts to green up with our cool season crops there are many more things we can do in the yard and garden.

This is the best season of the year to control summer weeds in your lawn by applying pre-emergent herbicides or weed killers from now until the redbud trees bloom later this spring.  Most pre-emergents will work like birth control for weeds for six to twelve weeks after they are applied and watered in.  They work by killing the crabgrass, sandburs or other weeds as they start to emerge or sprout from their seeds over the next six to twelve weeks depending on the herbicide selected.  Visit with your local nursery or garden center to select the right herbicide to use with your turf type and yard conditions.  You can apply herbicides as a granular to spread or as a liquid to spray.  You can apply as a pre-emergent weed killer only or in combination with a fertilizer often referred to as “weed & feed” products.

Vegetable or food gardening is kicking into high gear for many of the cool season crops that can tolerate the freezing we are likely to get for another two months or so.  You can start warm season vegetables or ornamental flowers indoors under lights or in good window light but they should not be planted outdoors until mid April or later.   This is the time to plant onion plants and onion sets, seed potatoes and seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, green peas or spinach.   You can also plant seeds of root crops like carrots, radish or turnips now.  This is the season to plant perennial food crops like strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish as bareroot crowns or plants.   Plant bareroot grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or boysenberries to start your own berry patch to harvest for years to come.  Bareroot fruit trees can be planted over the next few weeks to start your own orchard.  Many of these crops will be available container grown that you can plant later in the season but you have a brief window over the next few weeks to plant thembareroot. Make sure to water all new plantings thoroughly.

You can prune most trees, shrubs and vines at any time of year but a good time on most crops is right now before the new growth sprouts out.  There are important exceptions.  Do not prune early spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, quince, wisteria or spring flowering trees like crabapple, redbuds and ornamental peaches and pears as this will cut off the flowering wood and cheat you out of their spring flower show.  Wait to prune these early spring flowering trees and shrubs until after they bloom.  This is the time to prune your rose bushes and may of your other summer flowering shrubs or evergreens before the growing season kicks into full gear.

Get your flowerbeds ready, start planting cool season crops, apply your first rounds of fertilizer and weed control

Days are getting longer, weeds are coming out!

The days are getting longer and spring is inching ever closer.  We are at that season where we can do lots of planning, thinking or ordering but it is still too early to do most things in the garden.

Veggie growers can start planting seed potatoes, onion plants and onion sets from early February to mid March.  These root crops are really easy to grow in well drained soil or above ground in decorative containers or the innovative smart fabric pots.  You can start onions from onion sets which are like a bulb or onion plants which have been grown from seed, and then the sprouted onions are pulled bare root from the ground and are available in red, white and yellow varieties for you to grow your own fresh onions.  The early planted onions will grow bigger hamburger style onions than the later planted onions because they are sensitive to day length and later plantings won’t make as large as an onion.  Start potatoes by buying seed potatoes in white, gold, red or blue/purple then cut the potatoes in pieces making sure to have one or more “eyes” on each chunk that can then sprout and grow a new plant to produce a fresh crop of potatoes. The potatoes at the grocery store have generally been treated to prevent sprouting and do not make good seed potatoes.  You can buy untreated seed potatoes at your local garden center.

February is also the season you can start planting bareroot perennial food crops like strawberries, rhubarb, horseradish, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries and youngberries.  Berries have become very popular as people have realized their high levels of antioxidants and great nutritional value.  You can buy the strawberries as bareroot transplants in spring bearing or everbearing varieties.  The spring bearing plants produce one major crop each spring while the everbearing have fewer fruit at once but produce over an extended season.  Rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish are available as bareroot crowns that were dug from their growing fields, bare-rooted and available at garden centers for you to buy and transplant into your home garden.

February to mid March is the best time to take action to control crabgrass, goatheads, sand burrs and other summer weeds in your lawn.  Pre-emergent herbicides are the easiest way to control these problems but they must be applied before the weed seeds ever germinate.  Most of these pre-emergents work for six to twelve weeks after application as a prophylactic to prevent the weeds from sprouting.  There are a number of different products available as either an herbicide (weed killer) only or combined with fertilizer to be a weed and feed type product.  Your local nurseryman can help you pick the best product based on your chosen lawn grass and the weeds you are battling.  Most of the best products contain one or more of the following pre-emergent herbicides; Balan, Treflan, Dimension, Gallery, Barricade (Prodiamine), TEAM or Sulfentrazone.

Over the next week or two we can begin planting the cool season vegetables and berries and applying pre-emergent weed killers to our lawns.  The list of things we can do outside will start growing rapidly as we warm up.  .

Rodd Moesel serves as President of Oklahoma Farm Bureau and was inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame.  Email garden and landscape questions to rmoesel@americanplant.com.

ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY!

Christmas is only ten days away but the Christmas celebrations often stretch into January.  You still have time to put up a Christmas tree, hang evergreen garlands and wreaths and to decorate with colorful poinsettias.  If you want to use a living Christmas tree of a pine or juniper that can then be planted outside this is the perfect time to set up your living tree.  They should not be inside for as long as a cut tree because we don’t want to get them too dried out or too soft from the warm indoor conditions that they will not adjust well when you take them outside after ten to fifteen days to plant in the yard.  Make sure to water the living Christmas tree when you bring it indoors and to check it each week while it is indoors.   If they get to dry they will drop needles or leaves and it will impact how well they adjust when you plant then outside.  Living trees are a great way to add to your landscape while preserving the memories for years to come of your family Christmas festivities.

If you have gardeners, new home owners or plant lovers on your gift list you may want to consider a horticultural gift for them.  Flowers and plants are always a great gift and can brighten up most everyone’s day.  Gifts can be as simple as a bokay of cut flowers, a gift of a special plant you know they love or want.  If you know that they like roses consider gifting a rose bush or a gift certificate from their favorite garden center for a rose bush next spring.  If they have a new house and need trees or shrubs consider a gift of trees or shrubs or a gift certificate so they can choose their own when they are ready.

Garden tools, garden equipment, gloves decorative containers to add to their porch or patio hits the spot with many gardeners.  Flower bulbs, seeds packets, seed starting supplies, water hoses and sprinklers all make good gifts for gardeners.  If you are thinking of a larger gift for a spouse, mom or dad you might consider a hobby greenhouse, a gazebo or outdoor living area.   There is a huge selection of gardening books, gardening magazine subscriptions or even gardening classes and workshops that might make a good gift for the gardener or want to be gardener in your life.  You could even gift a membership in the Oklahoma Horticulture Society, the Myriad Gardens Conservatory or the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

If you know the specific areas of interest of your gardening friends you can give to that specific interest but there are countless ideas for gardening gifts that will be appreciated by all gardeners.  Visit your local greenhouse, garden center or nursery and let them help you find just the right gift for all the gardeners on your list.  Enjoy your poinsettias and other holiday plants and enjoy the season as you spend time with family and friends.

Plant to Celebrate Your Freedom!

Most of our state and therefore most of our trees, lawns and gardens have been blessed with nice, soaking, life empowering rains over the last two weeks.  It is a real joy to see the Oklahoma countryside and neighborhoods so green and flowering at the end of June as we prepare for the fireworks and festivities of July 4.  Some years we are in deep drought at this time, worrying about pond and lake levels and our plants are literally gasping or screaming for water just to stay alive.  This year the trees, shrubs and plants that are in well drained soil and not standing in water, are dancing happily in the wind and celebrating with new growth, good green color and a sound and healthy root system gently sipping moisture from the earth that holds and supports them.  We know from experience these cooler temperatures and good moisture are unlikely to last all growing season so please mulch your plantings.   Be prepared to provide supplemental water when it does get hot and dry, so you can keep your plants healthy and help protect them from drought stress when that time comes.

Many of our local garden centers and nurseries are running specials to turn their inventory and clear out spring crops so they can get ready for fresh fall crops of shrubs, perennials, color plants, vegetables and hardy mums.  If you have been busy and never got some of your flowerbeds or containers planted or if you want to add some new plants to existing flowerbeds or to create new flowerbeds you have dreamed about this is still a good time to buy and plant.  Digging will be easier after these rains and we still have over 4 months to enjoy annual color plants and many years to enjoy perennials, trees and shrubs we plant now.  Container grown plants with a good, well developed and healthy root system can be planted any time of year as long as we are prepared to water them when Mother Nature doesn’t provide regular, thirst quenching rain.

We have been involved in horticulture and agriculture relief work in a number of other countries.  We Americans are very blessed as we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the Independence of our country.  Most of our population can choose to grow their own vegetables, fruits and flowers for their own enjoyment or because they love the taste and satisfaction of home grown food.  We are blessed to have the best selections of food at the lowest cost compared to our income of any country in the world.  We have wide choices at not just one store but at many competing stores in most areas of our state and country.  Besides political independence, most in our country have food independence and are able to choose whether to raise our own food or buy our food at grocery stores, restaurants or even convenience stores.  Almost two-thirds of the world population still has to be involved in raising all or part of their own food to sustain life and to support their family.  Their health and even their very life can be dependent on droughts, untimely freezes, squash bugs, grasshoppers or other pest or disease problems.  Our family farms that count on all their income from farming are still dependent on all these factors for their annual survival as well as market trends and world trade and tariffs, they have little control over, but that greatly impact their income and financial stability.  Thank our founding fathers and the generations before us in our great country that created such a robust and competitive economy with such amazing distribution and logistics, to where we each can choose a field of specialty whether it be teaching, accounting, home building, working at a law office, retail or building computers and still be able to access the food and fiber we need to support out families.  We can garden and landscape because we want to, not because we have to, as so many face each morning when they awake around the world worrying about food and water for that day and the next few days.

Happy Birthday America!  Plant some extra plants in your yard this summer and make time to commune with nature in your yard and in our public spaces as you celebrate the gift of gardening because you want to, not because you have to.

Plant, water, mulch and enjoy are the key words for the Oklahoma garden in June!

We are two months into the 2018 growing season and have four to five months left to enjoy our plantings before a hard freeze ends the season.  With temperatures in the nineties and even flirting with triple digits it is hard to imagine a killing freeze in our future but we know it will come.  While we can still be planting trees, shrubs, color annuals and warm season vegetables our priority in the June, July and August heat is to water and take care of the plants we have planted.  We have plenty of light and heat to help our plants grow and so water becomes the main limiting factor to plant success through the summer months.  The main question on watering, folks want to know, is whether to water once a week or twice a week or how often to water.  The answer is never that simple.  Watering needs vary dramatically based on your type of soil, depth of soil, type of plants, how much sun or shade they receive, the size of the plants, whether they are new plantings or established plantings.  Correct watering actually requires you to practice good observation skills, to think and to exercise judgment.  It may well be the most important gardening function and often makes the difference in how successful your garden and plants perform.

New plantings always need more water than established plants that have a bigger root system and are rooted deeper into the ground. Plants in sunny areas or setting on or along concrete or asphalt sidewalks or driveways will need more water than plants at the middle of a flower bed or vegetable garden.  Plants in sandy or well drained soils will need more water than plants in loamy or clay soils that stay moist longer.  Lots of organic matter in your containers or flowerbeds like sphagnum peat moss or different kinds of compost will help hold water and reduce surface evaporation and watering.   A good deep soaking style of watering whether by hand or using drip irrigation will get moisture deeper in the ground and will allow you to go longer between watering applications than short bursts of overhead watering by hand or a sprinkler system.

Mulching the top of your flowerbeds and container gardens will  cut your watering by about half.  A two or three inch layer of hulls (cottonseed, pecan, cocoa), pine straw or the many kinds of bark mulches will reduce surface evaporation of water, keep the root zone of your plants cooler and happier and dramatically reduce weed pressure.  When used with drip irrigation, mulching and drip can often reduce water use by up to seventy-five percent while keeping your plants growing and getting more consistent growth.

Most all plants do better if you can keep the moisture on at even level.  They don’t like to stand in water where they can’t get oxygen to the roots or to get so dry they are wilting, especially the stress of repeat wilting.  Make sure to keep an eye on your plantings and water as needed to keep your plants healthy and growing.

Beautiful crape myrtles blooming in yards and parks across our state is a sure sign that long and warmer summer days have arrived.  Crape myrtles make a spectacular show in red, pink, white, lavender and many variations of these colors. You can plant container grown crape myrtle all through the summer as long as you are prepared to water them.  We often get the idea to add crape myrtle to our yards when we see their amazing summer display of flowers.  Spring and fall are the easiest time to get them established but with proper care crape myrtles can safely be planted now. Another advantage of summer planting, as long as you are prepared to water, is the chance to select the color of flower you want to see for years to come in your yard.  Beside many colors there are many varieties that go from dwarf plants that only grow a few feet tall to small tree varieties that will grow to twenty even thirty feet tall over time.

Plant, water, mulch and enjoy are the key words for the Oklahoma garden in June.  Don’t look at watering as a task but as a chance to meditate and enjoy your garden as you watch your plants grow and evolve.

May, Flowering Season Offers Wide Range of Plant Materials that Bloom!

Hard to believe it is already mid May and we are well into another flowering season.  Every season is a march through our wide range of plant material that blooms at different temperatures and different day lengths.  The peonies, iris, clematis and roses are all putting on their annual show of flowers while the azaleas and others wind down their color displays for another year.  The weather varies yearly so these flower displays can change by one to three weeks from year to year but the flower show follows pretty much the same order annually.  This gives us the chance to select and plant shrubs, trees, and perennials that will stage their flower performances at different times in our home gardens.  Watch your neighborhood to notice when plants bloom and watch which plants you like and then add them to your yard in similar light conditions.  Many of these plants blooming now are heirlooms or family treasures passed from generation to generation.  Often you will hear someone talk about iris, day lilies, peonies, roses, snowball bushes, lilacs or crape myrtles that were special to their mother, grandmother and grandfather or even earlier generations.  How cool it is to have one or more living family plant treasures you can divide and share or take cuttings and share from generation to generation.

Those that planted their tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and colorful flowering annuals a few weeks ago are already starting to enjoy significant flower shows or may have the first harvest just starting to appear.  If you have been busy and haven’t done your planting yet, you still have time to get a good crop and to enjoy a great harvest of flowers or fruit.  We are only one month into this growing season for warm weather crops and have about six months left for this season.  Most of the greenhouses and garden centers are still growing fresh crops and have a great selection.  You can still plant warm season veggies like tomatoes and peppers in flower beds, gardens or container gardens and get a good harvest this year.  You can still select and plant warm season annuals like geraniums, penta, petunias, marigolds, begonias, impatiens, periwinkle, zinnias and dozens of others and get a great display of color for months to come.  Plant in flower beds, flower boxes, hanging baskets or decorative containers to brighten up your yard and your life.  Although you can plant all the way into the fall, the quicker you plant these warm season crops the quicker they will grow, the more established they will be when we get into our really hot and stressful summer weather.  It also gives you longer to enjoy your plants before we get a killing freeze sometime in November.

If you haven’t planted yet, time is passing and you are missing the chance to liven up your yard. The old timers always said the best time to plant was yesterday but today is the next best choice!  If you have already done some planting there is still plenty of time to tackle another project like a new flowerbed, updating an old flowerbed or landscape or adding some container gardens to your front porch or your patio.

This is the season for planting, watering, mulching and watering again.  After you have your plants planted and watered in, please consider mulching then with a 2” to 3” layer of bark, compost or hulls to reduce weed competition, reduce watering, keep the soil cooler and reduce soil surface evaporation and to raise happier plants.  Use cottonseed hulls, pecan hulls, cocoa hulls or a wide variety of shredded or chopped barks like pine, cedar, cypress, oak or fir.  Mulching is one the best gardening practices we can use to improve gardening success with new or established plantings.

Don’t forget to water after you make new plantings; after you mulch your plantings and as needed based on rain, temperatures and drying winds that confront your new plantings.