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Moesel: Warming temps invite cool-season planting in central Oklahoma

[Metro Creative Connection]
[Metro Creative Connection]

Our gardening opportunities are expanding rapidly as the days get longer and the temperatures edge up on our way to spring in Oklahoma.

We can plant most all of our cool-season vegetable crops, lots of berries and grapes, fruit trees, shrubs and trees, perennials for color and even cool-season grasses.

We need to resist the temptation, even on the warm, pretty days, to plant warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, petunias and begonias. These warm-weather annuals should wait until mid-April, after our last average freeze date.

This is prime time to sow tall fescue or other cool-season grass seed in shady or part-shady areas if you want to establish or improve lawn turf in those areas. Wait to sow Bermuda and warm-season grasses until it warms up in April.

This is also a good time to feed your lawn grass so it will have proper nutrition and energy as your lawn starts to green up and grow for the new grass season.

We are nearing the end of the window to apply pre-emergent herbicide or weed killers to kill crabgrass and other summer weeds before they germinate or sprout. Pre-emergents will dramatically reduce weed competition with your lawn and help your lawn to look healthier and more consistent. You can apply pre-emergents as a liquid, granular or blended with a fertilizer into a weed-and-feed product.

Remember, pre-emergents have limited effectiveness once the crabgrass, sandburs or other summer weeds have germinated, so they need to be applied soon if you want them to be effective this season. Once the weeds have germinated you have to use post-emergent herbicides or pull them by hand.

Food gardening presents lots of opportunities now. This is the season to sow seeds or plant transplants of green leafy crops like cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, leaf and head lettuce. Plant onion plants, onion sets or seed potatoes to harvest a bountiful crop in 60 to 120 days.

Plant seeds of cool-season root crops like beets, radish, carrot and turnips for an easy fresh crop. You can also plant cauliflower, kohlrabi and green peas over the next three or four weeks to get a good harvest before we get too hot for these cool, semi-hardy crops.

Now to mid-March is the time to plant bareroot crowns of asparagus, horseradish and rhubarb to establish these perennial food crops you can harvest each year. This is also a good time to plant bareroot strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and grapes, as well as blueberries, boysenberries, youngberries and gooseberries.

With all the interest in anti-oxidants, colored fruits and vegetables and fresh food, there is no better time to plant your own collection of berries and fruit trees. Many of these berries and trees will be available later as container-grown plants you can plant anytime, but the least expensive time is to buy and plant them bareroot over the next three weeks.

Bareroot plants should be planted and watered in as soon as possible before the roots dry out to improve your success rate. Make sure to pay attention to whether the berries you are planting have a bush or vining form so that you can plant them at the proper spot in your yard. Most all of the food crops will produce more fruit or vegetables when planted in full sun or as sunny a spot as possible. Many will grow in part shady or shady areas but their harvest will be much smaller.

Trees and shrubs will benefit from a spring kickoff application of a balanced fertilizer to maximize their spring burst of growth. February is prime pruning month for ornamental shade trees, summer flowering shrubs and evergreen shrubs. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs or you will cheat yourself out of their spring flower show.

Prune forsythia, quince and other spring flowering shrubs after they bloom.

Now is a great time to plant container-grown or balled and burlapped field-grown trees and shrubs to improve and update your foundation plantings.

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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