Fall wonderful time of year for planting!

The hardy mums and lycoris also known as naked lily or red spider lily bulbs are producing lots of color in our fall gardens.  The big fall color comes from our trees as their leaves change color and they prepare to drop from the trees and became humus or organic matter to support the plants of next season.  Fall leaf color is influenced by day length, weather and leaf pigments.  Day length or night length is the most consistent of these factors and repeats virtually the same schedule each year.  As the days get shorter, the nights get longer and cooler and trigger a number of biochemical processes in the leaf.

Chlorophyll is the basic green pigment we see in plant leaves and is a key ingredient of photosynthesis that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for food.  Carotenoid pigments produce yellow, orange and brown colors in carrots, corn, bananas and daffodils as well as in many fall tree leaves.  Anthocyanin pigment produces red, blue and purple colors in cranberries, cherries, strawberries, red apples, concord grapes, blueberries and plums.  Anthocyanin is water soluble and appears in the liquid part of fall leaf cells.

Chlorophyll and Carotenoids are present in leaf cells throughout the full growing season but chlorophyll usually masks or covers up the yellow or orange of the Carotenoids.  Anthocyanins are produced in the fall when we have bright days and excess plant sugars within the leaves.  When day length is reduced, Chlorophyll production slows down and then stops.  When the chlorophyll is not replenished in the tree leaves the yellow Carotenoids are unmasked and the fall Anthocyanins become visible to paint our tree landscape in tones of yellow, orange, brown, red, bronze and even tinges of purple.

The amount and brilliance of fall tree color can vary a lot from year to year based on weather conditions.  Temperature and moisture are the biggest factors.  Warm sunny days and cool, crisp nights usually produce the best color.  The warm sunny days produce more sugars into the leaves and the cooling nights result in the gradual closing of the leaf veins and trap more sugars in the leaf to produce more Anthocyanins that produce the most vivid fall colors.  Summer droughts or extended warm fall weather or early hard freezes will lessen the intensity of Oklahoma fall tree colors.

After the fall color, the leaves will separate from the trees and float to the ground.  They act as a mulch to protect the tree and surrounding vegetation and they deliver nutrients back to the soil.  Instead of raking and hauling off these valuable leaves consider using them as mulch over your flowerbeds or creating a compost pile to let them break down into fine humus or organic matter you can add to flower beds when planting next growing season.  Poplar trees will be bright yellow, Oaks produce red and brown colors, Sugar Maples turn orange-red while Red Maples turn a brilliant scarlet and most Elms just shrivel up and turn brown.

This is a wonderful time of year to work in your garden planting mums, kale and pansies and to enjoy the fall color.  Visit your local parks and drive through the countryside or plan a trip to southeast Oklahoma to get different perspectives of the great fall color nature produces each autumn.


Fall Is The Fresh Start Season For Oklahoma Gardeners!

This is fresh start season in the garden.  If your spring plantings never got done, if you had a crop failure from bugs, disease or neglect, if the weeds got out of control this is your chance for a fresh fall start.  Many folks think all garden color planting is in the spring and don’t realize there are some great crops for fall and winter color.  You can buy hardy mums in bud or bloom at your local garden centers and plant them now in your flower beds, front porch urn or decorative patio pots to provide color until we get our first relatively hard frost or freeze, usual in early November.  Hardy mums are heavy drinkers and dry out quick and often, so be prepared to water them thoroughly more often than most plantings, even every day or two until they get rooted deeper into their new home with more soil.  Hardy mums can provide a smorgasbord of color in many different flower styles and sizes.  Select yellow, white, red, orange, rust, pink, purple, bronze and many flowers that evolve in colors from bud to full bloom.  Hardy mums do best in full sun or limited shade.

The color from hardy mums will deteriorate rapidly after a hard freeze but pansies will  survive all but the hardest freezes.  Pansies will actually grow and flower in the full sun most all winter until the heat of next spring wears out the winter pansies.  The quicker you plant the pansies the more vegetative growth you will get before the really cold weather of winter.  Pansies will actually grow all through winter, but at a slower rate of growth as we get colder.  They will flower all through the winter.  Few things can lift your spirits like the color and charm of bright colored pansy faces peeking through the snow or ice on a cold winter day.  The more vegetative growth you get from your pansies to make a bigger mound or canopy of healthy plant will lead to more pansy flowers all winter long.  Some pansy flowers are all one color like yellow, blue or purple but most have a charming mix of petals where three upper petals may be white, yellow or some other color and the lower petals may be another color like purple, burgundy or any of many other colors.  The contrast in petal colors not only provides garden color but almost gives pansies personality that adds to their charm and landscaping impact.

Ornamental kale and ornamental cabbage do flower but it is not the flowers that put on the big show in late fall and well into winter.  It is the beautiful and unique foliage in tones of green, gray, pink, purple and while that thrives in cool, even cold weather.  The gorgeous foliage can be the center of attention in large decorative pots near your front entrance, patio or in flowerbeds.  The sooner you plant them, the more vegetative plant you will grow before their growth rate slows down in really cold weather.  Like pansies, kale and cabbage will look good and add color all through the late fall and winter before withering as the temperatures heat up next April or May.

You can also think and plant for the long term by planting trees and shrubs.  The roots will grow in winter with modest watering and mulching and gives your trees and shrubs a chance to be better established and rooted in by the time they face their first challenging Oklahoma summer.  This is a beautiful time in the landscape.  Spend time in your yard and in our parks to enjoy the fall surge of flowers, the last burst of growth for this growing season and be ready to enjoy the symphony of fall colors as the days get shorter and night temperatures finally start to cool down.

Fall – Plant Trees, Shrubs Hardy Mums

Fall is for planting!  This is one of the best times of the year to plant trees and shrubs to enhance your long term landscape.  You can select container grown or balled and burlapped field grown trees and plant them in the fall so they can get rooted into their new home before facing the heat of our Oklahoma summers.  New tree and shrub plantings should be watered in after planting and regularly this fall and winter when we don’t receive natural rains.  An advantage of fall planting is that we get more regular natural rains and with less sunlight intensity and heat, the soil and new plantings don’t dry out as bad or as often.  Before you visit your local nursery or garden center, decide if you want to plant trees that will grow into large shade trees or smaller ornamental trees to fit the design vision you have for your home.

When selecting and planting shrubs, are you trying to create a hedge to act as a sight or wind barrier or do you want a shrub to define the corners of your porch or home.  There are flowering shrubs, evergreen shrubs and deciduous shrubs.  There are dwarf shrubs that can work for borders or as a short hedge across the front of the porch. Think about the effect or design you have in mind and your local nurseryman can help you select the right trees and shrubs for your application, soil type and light levels.  It is always best to invest some time to prepare the planting hole for these long term plantings that will anchor your landscape for years, decades and maybe even centuries to come.  Dig the planting hole about half again as deep and twice as wide as needed to plant the ball of soil and roots.  Mix sphagnum peat, a good grade of compost or other good humus or organic matter at one-third to one-half ratio with the soil you removed from the hole and then use this amended soil to fill back the hole as you plant your new trees and shrubs.  This improved soil should help your trees and shrubs get established more quickly as it will improve the aeration and water holding capacity around the new plantings.

This is also the season to plant and enjoy hardy mums, ornamental kale & cabbage, asters and pansies to color up your fall landscape.  Fall is the time to plant tall fescue or rye grass seed if you want a green lawn through the winter or if you need to cover crop bare land to prevent winter erosion.   This is a great time of year to spend more time out in your garden enjoying your flowers, vegetables and the shade of your trees.  Enjoy more time outside on your patio or porch, in the yard and your flowerbed as our temperatures moderate.

Another great fall gardening experience will be the Oklahoma Horticulture Society Farm to Table dinner fundraiser to support their 4-H and FFA scholarships, their sponsorship of the OETA Oklahoma Gardening TV show and Oklahoma State University Horticulture Department scholarships.  This dinner with horticulture enthusiasts from across our great state will be at the recently restored Ed Lycan Conservatory at Will Rogers Park in Oklahoma City on Sunday, September 29, 2019.  Tickets are $85.00 each and the social hour will be from five to six p.m.  The dinner at 6 p.m. will be catered by Kamala Gamble of Kam’s Kookery featuring Oklahoma grown foods.  Order tickets from the OHS website www.ok-hort.org  or call (405) 696-3076.  Come support the Oklahoma Horticulture Society, meet a lot of fun plant people and have a great evening supporting great horticulture causes.

September Beautiful Time Of Year For Gardener!

September is usually a mix of summer and autumn days as the day length shortens and the weather starts to cool ever so gradually.  A lot of our spring and summer blooming annuals get a fresh burst of energy as fall approaches and they produce a new round of growth and flowers as we confront the last two mouths of the normal Oklahoma growing season.

There are a number of plants we traditionally plant in the fall.  As football season starts we often think of hardy mums or chrysanthemums.  Most garden centers produce a nice crop, already in bud, that you can plant in your front flowerbeds, by the back porch or patio or in decorative containers for impressive fall color.  Hardy mums set bud by day length as the day gets shorter.  Some varieties are already showing color while other varieties will color up over the next few weeks.  Hardy mums produce mounds of color in white, yellow, orange, rust, bronze, red, pink, purple and an assortment of mixed colors and will generally be showy up through Halloween and until the first hard freeze.  There are varieties with clusters of small flowers or larger single flowers from simple daisy type flowers to spoon petal flowerheads and double dahlia style flowers to add variety and interest to your hardy mum plantings.

You can buy hardy mums from the smaller 4” pot transplants to one, two or three gallon size containers or even larger bushel basket sized specimens depending on the amount of plant and flower impact you want this fall.  If hardy mums are watered and cared for through the year they will freeze to the ground this winter and then re-sprout next spring.  After producing vegetative growth through the spring and summer they will flower again when the short days will trigger another round of fall flowers next year.

We usually let the temperatures cool a little more before planting the semi hardy pansies, viola, ornamental kale and cabbage.  These semi hardy plants like cooler temperatures and will wither under the increasing heat late next spring.   We suggest planting these cool season crops starting later this month, after you are done planting hardy mums which can be planted now.  Don’t forget to water in new plantings and to be ready to water more when we are not receiving regular natural rains.

Now until mid October is a great time to plant or over seed tall fescue grass seed if you want to establish a green lawn for the winter months and for after your Bermuda or other warm season grass has frozen back to brown for the year.  You can also sow annual or perennial rye grass or Kentucky 31 Fescue seed to establish a green cover crop on bare land to prevent blowing or erosion until you can plant your permanent warm season lawn grass next spring.

Fall is a fabulous time to plant container grown trees and shrubs.  Fall plantings don’t have to battle such intense heat and our scorching, dehydrating summer winds and they will generally benefit from more regular autumn rains as they get established.  The roots will keep growing well into the winter and this will help your new trees and shrubs get established before facing the extreme heat of next summer.

This is a beautiful time of year to be outside in your yard and garden.  Enjoy the re-energized flowers and vegetables as you do your watering, weeding, and while planting your hardy mums.

Scorching August Heat Means Watering #1 Job For All Gardeners!

We continue to experience scorching August heat which means watering is job number one in the Oklahoma garden.  Sunlight, carbon dioxide and water are the most essential elements for our friends in the plant world.  The sun is quite dependable and appears in varying intensity every day.  We humans and other animal life generate lots of carbon dioxide that our plants need as we need the fresh oxygen our plants produce.  Water is the least dependable of these required life elements for your trees, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers.  To maintain optimum plant health we humans often have to supplement natural rains with extra water for our plants, especially in the hot & windy Oklahoma summers.  Regular watering by drip, water hose or sprinkler can keep your plants from stress and keep them growing and productive.  Mulching with bark, hulls, pine straw or other natural mulches can cool your plant roots and reduce watering demand by half or more.

You can still plant a variety of vegetables for your fall vegetable garden although we run out of time each week on a few more of the fall vegetable crops.  Check out the Oklahoma State University extension fact sheet on fall gardening or visit your local nursery or garden center for updated details on the fall vegetable gardening schedule to beat the winter freeze.

It is still early and too hot for fall plantings of pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage but there are many other plants planted at this season as folks dress up their yards and container gardens for fall parties and events or just for personal enjoyment.  We still have ten weeks or more left of this growing season and lots of gardeners plant petunias, begonias, impatiens or a multitude of other color annuals to get a burst of fall color as the days start to get shorter and the evenings and days get cooler.  Remember these new plantings are even more dependent on you for supplemental watering in the heat as they do not have as large and established of a root system.

Your existing flowering annuals will often get a new burst of growth as the temperatures start to cool.  Many annuals that have survived the summer heat will also produce a surge of new flowers as the temperatures begin to temper or cool.  One fun thing to look forward to as we approach fall is deeper color or intensity on many of our flower blooms.  Pink, red, blue, orange, yellow and purple flowers will be darker and more intense as we move from August to September and into October.  The summer heat bleaches out many of these colors and their intensity returns as the night temperatures drop.  Watch your flowers over the next couple of months to enjoy this cool act of nature in your own yard.

We continue to battle the pests of summer as we have seen significant bagworm damage on many of our junipers and needle evergreens.  Left unchecked they can literally defoliate and kill these evergreens, usually from the lower foliage moving up.  Watch for the tell-tale bags and hand pick these bagworms to put in the trash or visit your local garden center to select a spray solution to battle this problem.  Red spider mites are also loving the heat and multiplying like crazy to attack your plants.  When they get real bad they even create webs like traditional spiders.

Water, observe and enjoy your garden even when it is hot.  Soon it will cool down and both you and your garden plants will be re-energized!