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Cool rains boost spring growth

We have enjoyed some cooler weather and scattered rains across the state this week and our rose bushes, lilies and many other flowers are putting on a beautiful show.

This weather generally extends the burst of spring growth and flowers across most of our plant materials and postpones the inevitable stress of sizzling hot temperatures that is in our future. Most of our vegetables, annuals, perennials and even trees and shrubs will stay on offense and be growing while we have milder temperatures, especially cool night time temps, and then they will become more defensive as we confront Oklahoma summer conditions in the months ahead.

Because of the expanded demand for vegetables and color plants this year, many greenhouse growers and nurserymen have been planting and growing additional crops so that you can keep gardening. If you have already planted some crops, please consider buying more plants and refreshing more flowerbeds or starting additional container gardens.

If you have been occupied or busy and not planted yet, there is still plenty of time to get in on the fun and start planting. I have heard many heartwarming stories about families that have landscaped together and started vegetable gardens or planted trees together.

Planting vegetables or flowers with your children or grandchildren — and then regular visits to watch the plants grow and develop — is one of the most special garden memories to cherish now and for years to come. It is especially fun to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, watermelons, squash or cantaloupe together and then to observe the wonder and miracles of their rapid growth and finally to harvest and enjoy the fresh produce together.

As we warm up, it is not just the plants that are growing and multiplying.

Our disease pressure can go up when we have hot, humid weather of if water is standing or our plants find themselves in a container or flowerbeds without good drainage.

Insect pressure can really jump as the sun intensifies and the temperatures rise. Many insects produce much larger batches of eggs in hot weather and their cycles between egg batches is shorter in the heat so that you get many more eggs more often and this can seem like insect populations just explode in the summer.

Observe your plants closely while hand watering or walking about your yard and be on the lookout for disease, nutrition or insect problems. The sooner you notice a problem and take a sample to your local garden center, greenhouse or extension office, the sooner you can take action to protect and help your plants.

You can still plant container-grown trees, shrubs, berries and vines in addition to late plantings of annual vegetable and color annuals. You can sow grass seed to start or enhance your lawn. Plant Bermuda grass seed, sprigs or sod in sunny areas or tall fescue in shady areas to establish a cover and prevent erosion and soil loss.

Watering and mulching are the two most important garden practices to protect and support your new or existing plantings. Gardeners are always walking a tight rope with Mother Nature to not over or under water our plants. Well-drained soil with lots of organic matter goes a long way to prevent roots standing in water and to prevent over watering.

Mulching with a couple inches of bark mulch or hulls on top of your growing soil will dramatically reduce the need for extra watering by half or more while also reducing weed seed germination. The hotter we get the more water your plants will need and the more often you will need to water them to prevent drought stress. When you are watering your flowers and vegetables, soak well and then mulch to hold more of the water in the soil.

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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