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Gardening: Late cold fronts mean delaying start of planting season

Rodd Moesel advises readers about gardening and horticulture.
By Rodd Moesel, For The Oklahoman Published: April 22, 2013

Hopefully you've gotten your tax returns filed and we have had our last freeze for the season. But just as some of us will be filing an extension on taxes, many gardeners have had to extend the start of their planting season with these late Oklahoma cold fronts. Last year was one of the earliest springs in modern history and this year is proving to be later than normal. Keep an eye on the forecasts but hopefully the cold front last week was our last and you can proceed full speed ahead in planting warm season crops. The good news is that several of these recent fronts have provided us much needed rain and moisture that will help us be more successful in the long run. It will be a while before we know how much damage we suffered. Did they freeze out our peaches, apricots and other early fruit trees? Did they freeze back our farmers' wheat crops and will result in smaller grain heads? Only time will tell. We can tell within a day or two on soft tissue warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers but it takes longer on our tree crops, perennials and cold weather crops after the freeze has passed, but it can cost the whole season if a fruit or grain crop is frozen back.

If the seven-day forecast shows us comfortably above the freeze line you should now be able to proceed with your spring plantings of all but the truly “hot blooded” crops like sweet potatoes, caladiums and periwinkle or vinca. Those “hot-blooded” crops from tropical climates will benefit from a little patience and waiting for May planting dates. The great thing about spring is that it is a good planting time for just about everything. You can plant trees and shrubs for long-term beauty and to truly transform your property. They are the foundation plantings or building blocks for your outdoor landscape as you paint and plant your vision for your yard. Trees, over time, can transform hot and sunny areas to a shady, cool oasis. Shrubs can fill in your landscape to provide wind breaks, visual living fences, even security besides their ability to add eye appeal and beauty.

We feed our tummies with good fresh food and few things are as fun to grow as your own fresh fruit, berries and vegetables. This is a great time to plant container-grown dwarf or standard-size fruit trees. You can also plant container-grown grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and many other great edible crops. This is the time to plant beans, sweet corn, squash, eggplant, peppers and the many varieties and types of tomatoes, the anchor crop of most all Okie vegetable gardens.

This is a great time to fertilize trees, shrubs, flowers and lawns, if you have not done that yet this spring, while all your plant material is experiencing a burst of spring growth. Don't forget to water when your new plantings get dry. Please make some time to just relax, meditate and enjoy your spring gardens!

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