GARDENERS SUMMER HAS ARRIVED IN OKLAHOMA!

Gardeners are picking their first home grown tomatoes, the hydrangeas and daylilies are blooming and most of our color annuals are bursting into full flower.  It looks like summer has arrived not only on the calendar but in real life.  We appear to have left the rainy cycle and moved into the heat of summer.  Our gardening issues can and will change from battling fungus and diseases and poor drainage or standing water to needing to water and battling insects.

The erratic and wet weather has left many of our greenhouses and garden centers with more choices and supplies than normal for the end of June.  Please consider planting those flowerbeds you had not planted yet or add some new container gardens.  You can still plant successfully as long as you are ready to water the new plantings.  We have been spoiled by the wet, moist weather this spring and have rarely had to water so for this year.  That is changing quickly with the hotter dry weather and you need to be prepared to start watering your plantings when they dry out.  Depending on your soil type, how well established your plants are and whether the soil is mulched or not mulched you may need to water once a week without rain or two or three times per week.  Feel the soil for moisture and watch your plants for wilting or even a graying of the usual green intensity of the plant foliage that can signal your plants are thirsty and need water.

It is always better to soak or water thoroughly when you do water than to squirt or just spray the foliage and top of the ground with water.  You can water personally as you observe and enjoy your garden with a water hose, set up an overhead water sprinkler, install a drip irrigation system or install an automatic sprinkler system.  All these watering techniques work and each has their strengths and limits.  The important thing is to select a watering style and to remember to water your plantings as we get hot and dry.  Plant’s can’t get up and turn on the faucet on their own, they need your help!

You can significantly reduce your watering by mulching the top of the soil surface with two or more inches of a bark or hull mulch.  Mulching will often reduce watering by half or more.  You can add a top cover of cedar, cypress, fir or pine bark.  You can mulch with cottonseed hulls, pine straw, cocoa hulls, pecan hulls or well aged compost.  All these natural mulches will reduce watering; keep the soil slightly cooler and plants happier in the summer heat while dramatically reducing weed pressure.  Over time the mulches will compost and add more humus or organic matter to your soil and improve the soil quality.

Roses are really blooming now but remember on roses and many other ever blooming plants you will get more flowers if you prune off the old flowers when they are done blooming.  This deadheading diverts the plant energy to more flowers rather than to developing seed pods.  This is a pretty season in our yards and garden as many of our plants celebrate the long days and bright light and are putting on a show.  Take time to get out and enjoy your garden as you water or just for fun and relaxation.

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Time To Plant Away!

Time to plant! We have passed our last average freeze date in central Oklahoma and we are into the heart of the spring planting season where you can plant trees, shrubs, perennials, color annuals and most warm season vegetables with reckless abandon. The seven day forecast is looking good with our low temperatures in the high forties and so we can plant most everything except real hot blooded plants like caladiums, periwinkle, watermelons, cantaloupe and sweet potato vines which usually do best if we wait to plant until May first or after when we are consistently above fifty degrees. The mid-April story is what we can plant – not what we can’t plant. Now that freezes and frost should be off the table, the sun is getting brighter and every day is getting longer and it is time to plant away!

We usually have about a seven month growing season so the sooner you plant the longer you can enjoy your vegetables and annual color plants.   Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, sweet corn, okra, pumpkins and lima, pole and green beans now to get the longest harvest season. Although you can plant container grown perennials most any time this is one of the best times to plant perennials as they produce their surge of spring growth. The selection of available perennials at your local garden centers is usually best during this spring season and more limited at other times of the year. We see more gardeners interested in native plants and pollinator plants. They also can be planted over many months but the selection will be best over the next few weeks at your local nursery or garden center.

The main color in our gardens and decorative containers usually comes from annuals and we have a huge and growing palette of annuals to choose from as you color up your home and landscape. Shady and part shady areas will come to life with impatiens, begonias, coleus, torenia (wishbone flower), browallia, alyssum, lobelias, geraniums and countless other options.

Our choices in annuals for sun have been expanding rapidly in recent years with accelerated plant exploration and breeding. Some of the main sunny color annuals for Oklahoma include celosia, petunias, lantana, ageratum, angelonia, portulaca or rose moss, verbena, zinnia and marigolds. Part of the fun of spring planting is spring plant shopping and selecting some new plants to trial or plant. It is always good to plant more of the plants you have done well with and enjoyed hosting in your yard in the past but please consider trying some new plant varieties as well. You may discover a new favorite plant! Have fun planting your yard and use it as a way to express yourself. You can plant large blocks of a single type of plant to create a mass impact or plant combinations of plant types and colors to create more of a meadow effect. Do think about the height, different plants will grow to, and the light requirements or tolerance of plants as you select their new home in your yard. Use your imagination and plant away!

Spring is flowering and leafing all around us!

Spring appears to be flowering and leafing out all around us as the days get brighter and longer.  The daffodils are fading as the tulips and late hyacinths take over.  The redbuds are bursting into full color as the ornamental pears drop their flowers.  The bright yellow forsythia and orange and red quince are taking the starring role among flowering shrubs as the spring calendar advances.  It feels like we may have had our last freeze but the weather history tells us we would be wise to wait to plant tender or warm season vegetables and ornamental flowers until after April 15th or at least another week and see what the ten day forecast looks like then.  Hot blooded plants like periwinkle, sweet potatoes and caladiums will do best if you wait to plant them until after May 1 when nightly low temperatures are consistently above forty-five degrees.

Lots of folks get really anxious to get an early jump on planting their tomatoes, peppers and eggplant so they can harvest the first home grown produce in their neighborhood. Many garden centers do already have plants available for these early birds who are willing to risk planting twice in order to have the early crop in the years we don’t get a late freeze.  If you do plant early and we do have another cold front slip in, be prepared to protect these early plants by covering them on nights that frost with Hot Kaps, Wall-o-water plastic water warming tubes, old sheets, cardboard boxes or adapted gallon milk jugs.  One of the major risks of late freezes is dehydrating or freeze drying your plants. You can help your fruit trees, flowering shrubs or tender plants avoid severe cold damage by watering well before a light frost or freeze.  Peaches, apricots and pears have bloomed or are blooming so this is a critical time to avoid freezing in order to allow those fruit crops to develop.

This is a good time to fertilize your trees and shrubs to maximize the new growth as they start to leaf out and grow new shoots or branches.  If you did not already feed your lawn, this is a good time to feed our Bermuda and summer turf grasses as they begin to green up and grow.  It is always best to take soil samples and test your soil before feeding so you don’t over fertilizer and only feed what is needed.   You can get a good soil test evaluation for a very reasonable testing fee at your Oklahoma State University County Extension Office.  If you don’t have a soil test apply a good general fertilizer as recommended by your local nurseryman and his general knowledge of soils in your neighborhood.

As you begin to plant, whether it is trees and shrubs, fruit trees and berries, vegetables or perennials and annual color plants, make sure to water in new plantings.  You should always observe your yard and garden and be prepared to water when Mother Nature does not provide adequate rain water.  Remember new plantings, container gardens and hanging baskets will dry out more often and need more water then established plants.

Working in the garden is great physical exercise, wonderful mental and psychological therapy and can feed your soul while beautifying your environment and raising fresh food.  Get in on the fun and start planting.

Blessed with some gorgeous days & we have light later into the evenings!

It is amazing the difference a few warm sunny days can make as it serves as a wake up call or alarm clock for the plant world around us.  The daffodils are still blooming, the forsythia are just starting to show their bright yellow colors, the peaches and apricots are blooming.  The buds are swelling on many of our other trees and soon the crabapples and ornamental pears will join the “spring is here” party.  Many of our wild flowers including some we think of as weeds like the purple flowering henbit are also coming into flower.  The symphony of spring color will continue its annual march through spring as the hyacinth and tulips, flowering Quince, azaleas and wisteria, then redbud trees all begin to flower.  Often we will spot plants in our parks, neighborhoods or commercial landscapes that will ignite dreams of adding those plants, shrubs or trees to our yard.  Most of these materials are available, container grown, that you can plant in your yard at any time.  The bulb crops should have been planted last fall to enjoy this spring but most everything else can be planted now when you are thinking about it and motivated to act.

The range of activities we can do in the garden seems to be exploding as the days get longer and the sun gets brighter.  Although we still need to wait until around mid April to plant warm season color annuals we can plant perennials, shrubs and trees as long as our muscles, the weather and pocket books will allow.

We can plant most all of our cool season vegetable crops as we wind down the planting season on seed potatoes, onion sets and onion plants, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce.  If you want to plant any of these cool season vegetables you should plant them as soon as possible so they can grow and develop before we get too hot.  This is prime season to plant beets, broccoli and radishes.  You can still plant asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish and strawberries.  If you plan to plant bareroot grapes, blackberries, raspberries or fruit trees they need to be planted very soon or you will need to switch to container grown transplants to insure a good success rate.

We are running out of time to apply pre-emergent weed killers on your lawn as more weeds begin to germinate.  Pre-emergents basically work on weeds that have not already germinated or sprouted.  Once the weeds have germinated you will need to use a post-emergent spray or granular to control the germinated weeds that are much trickier to manage after your desired turf grass has greened up.  Visit with your local nurseryman to help you pick out the best weed control for your lawn, soil type and time of application.  If you want to plant new or freshen up existing turf in shady areas now is the start of the season to sow tall fescue seed.  Make sure not to apply pre-emergent herbicides in areas where you plan to sow desired grass seed.

We have been blessed with some gorgeous days and we have light later into the evenings so use this time to feed your soul as you get some good exercise working in your yard and garden.

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.

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.