Spring is tuning up
The daffodils are blooming, and it appears spring is ever closer as we begin the symphony of spring garden color.
Soon we will have forsythia flower shrubs, tulip bulbs and redbud trees flowering around us. These flowers are all rewards to the gardeners who thought ahead and planted these crops in the past. This is the season you can start planting selected cool season crops for future food and beauty.
Vegetable gardening has started for the season, and you now can plant many root crops like potatoes, onion sets or onion plants, beets, radishes, carrots and turnips. The best time to plant most of these crops is by St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March so they have time to mature before we reach the most intense summer heat.
The same mid-March target date for planting applies to many of the cool-season leafy crops like cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard and spinach. You can start these leafy crops from seed or by purchasing transplants at your local nursery or garden center to get a head start on your own locally grown fresh vegetables.
There are also perennial or hardy food crops you can plant now, including crowns of rhubarb, horseradish or asparagus. You can plant bare-root strawberries, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and many other types of berries to enjoy for years to come. This is also the time to plant bare-root pecan and fruit trees, or you can increase your success rate by choosing container-grown fruit trees as you plant your own orchard of apples, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and more.
Even as we enjoy the beauty of the purple henbit flowering across many lawn areas, some folks don’t like non-turf flowers or weeds in their lawn. The best time to control summer weeds like crabgrass, goatheads and sand burrs is with a pre-emergent or preventative herbicide; time is rapidly running out since we are warmer than normal and crops, including weeds, are germinating a couple of weeks earlier than normal.
The best way to control summer weeds in Oklahoma lawns is with a good pre-emergent application before the forsythia blooms so time is running out. After the summer weeds germinate you will need to hand pull or use a post-emergent weed killer. This is also the time to sow cool-season grass seed like tall fescue if you want to improve your turf or lawn in shady areas. Do not use a pre-emergent herbicide in areas where you plan to sow fescue grass seed now or Bermuda grass seed after it warms up in April or later.
This is a great time to enhance your landscape by planting ornamental trees, shrubs, flowering shrubs and many ornamental perennials that are more tolerant of cool weather. Many gardeners get anxious on the pretty days at this time of year and want to start planting tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, begonias and other warm-season plants. These warm-season plants are not hardy and can be killed when we get more freezes, which are almost certain to happen since our last average freeze date is about April 7-15, depending on your location and elevation.
There are so many plants that you can safely plant now that it is best to concentrate on those and be patient and wait to plant the warm-season crops. Mid-April will get here soon enough, and then you can plant away.
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.