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Winter reality sets in again, and again, for lawns and gardens in central Oklahoma

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It is that season of the year where every time we think spring is about ready to take charge, we get a strong dose of winter reality.

The really hard freeze last weekend may have impacted some of your early bulb flowers and early tree buds and flowers depending on how cold it got where you are, whether your soil was wet or dry, the varieties involved, whether your plants were in the wide open or a protected area and many other factors.

Some things are just beyond our control, and we have to adjust our expectations and results to match actual real world environmental conditions each year. This harsh cold front is a good reminder of why we don’t plant tender annual color plants and vegetables outside until after the last anticipated freeze, which is generally mid-April across central and southern Oklahoma.

There are many cool-season plants you can plant now that will survive these cooler late-winter temperatures, including crowns of asparagus, rhubarb and horseradish. You can plant bareroot or container-grown strawberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and many other berries.

Plant seed potatoes, onion plants or onion sets and seeds or plants of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other cool-season greens. Sow seeds of cool-season root crops like radish, carrots and beets to harvest your own fresh nutritious vegetables.

This is also a good time to plant ornamental or fruit trees, shrubs and many perennial plants or vines while you are waiting to plant the warm-season crops.

Apply pre-emergent weed killers to prevent the germination of crabgrass, goatheads, sand burrs and other summer weeds. The sooner you apply and water in your pre-emergent, the better job it can do to prevent summer weeds. Apply as a weed killer alone or mixed with a fertilizer to act as a weed-and-feed product since this is a good time to apply your first round of lawn fertilizer.

You also can feed your existing trees and shrubs with a tree and shrub or good general purpose fertilizer. This will help give them the nourishment they need when they produce their first burst of spring growth.

A soil test is always a good idea so you can only feed what your soil needs. Our soils often have sufficient phosphorus (the middle number) but usually need more nitrogen (the first number) and more potassium (the third number). Oldtimers often advised to feed a general purpose fertilizer where the three nutrient numbers equaled are over 25 like 21-4-14, 20-10-20, or 13-13-13.

Several people have sent emails about getting their soil ready or asking about raised beds. Raised beds are great for vegetables, colorful annuals or perennials because they usually have better aerated and well drained soil since you are selecting what soil amendments to use in the raised beds.

Most plants prefer these looser, well-drained soils, and it lifts your vegetables and flowers up so you don’t have to lean over so far or get on your knees as much to do garden work. Raised beds usually face less grass and weed competition so it is easier to work with your crop whether you raise the beds 6, 8, 12, 18 or 24 inches above the surrounding lawn or ground beds.

Regular ground beds will befits from the addition of sphagnum peat moss or any number of compost products based on cotton burrs, alfalfa, animal manures or even composted leaves. Add this organic matter to your existing or new flowerbeds to add carbon to your soils, to improve drainage, air movement and overall soil health.

Stay warm and start seeds indoors on the cold winter days and garden as you enjoy the warming weather on the pretty spring days.

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.

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