Moesel: Now is the time to spring into action
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 15 or at least another week and see what the 10-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 45 F.
Lots of folks get really anxious to get an early jump on planting their tomatoes, peppers and eggplant so they can harvest the first homegrown 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 always should 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 it can feed your soul while beautifying your environment and raising fresh food. Get in on the fun and start planting.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.