Will real spring with warm nights ever arrive? In both of the last two columns I've advised we ought to be arriving at full planting season, but to keep your eye on the weather. Full planting season keeps getting pushed back with these unusually late cold fronts where we keep testing the 32-degree freeze mark. 2012 was the earliest spring in my adult lifetime and most of the state had no killing freeze after March 1. Spring was about 5 to 6 weeks earlier than normal last year and all the greenhouse growers were struggling to have their crops ready as early as gardeners wanted to plant. This year with the frost late last week, that was about 3 weeks later than normal and about 8 weeks later than last year, all the greenhouse growers are stacked up with plants that gardeners are scared to buy and plant.
The forecast, as I write this, looks like we may finally be past our last freeze date and able to plant warm season crops with hope and enthusiasm. Normally May 1 is when we even start planting the hot blooded crops like caladiums, periwinkle and sweet potatoes. They really need warmer nights to do well so I would plant them once the seven-day forecast for low nighttime temperatures is consistently above 50 degrees.
Container gardening has been popular since the Gardens of Babylon and throughout the Greek and Roman empires. Container gardening has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as we do more outside entertaining, and use more patios, porches and balconies. Container gardening works whether you live in an apartment or a house, are dressing up a church, school or business. The dramatic increase in the number, styles and colors of available decorative containers has also helped drive the increased interest. The larger the container the easier it is to manage the moisture levels and take care of your outdoor container gardens. Some folks refer to container gardening as lifting the “planting hole” up out of the ground to where it is easier to plant, weed, mulch, water and care for. A lot of gardeners with back problems or other disabilities are able to keep gardening with container gardens that require less bending and stooping. Container gardens are easier to manage if they have a drainage hole or holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. If you are not able to drill or punch out a drain hole you will need to be much more careful to manage your watering and not overwater the plants. It would help to add several inches of gravel, styrofoam pellets or perlite at the bottom of the container to act as a reservoir, if there are no drain holes.
Select the containers you want to plant, buy or mix your own good soil mix and then start planting with ornamentals, vegetables or a combination to create your own special garden statement. We recommend a well drained soilless mix with a blend of sphagnum peat, composted pine bark, vermiculite and / or perlite.
Make sure to water your new plantings thoroughly whether in container gardens or ground beds. Keep watching the weather, but if there are no more mid or low 30s in the seven-day forecast I recommend you start planting with reckless abandon and make time to really enjoy your spring garden.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean's advisory committee. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers. E-mail garden and landscape questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.