We just completed a very unusual and pleasant July in Oklahoma. That was the most rain I can remember in a July and by far the mildest July temperatures, especially when compared to the super hot and dry conditions of the past two years when we were stuck in a painful drought.
The plant world is finally relaxing a little after the persistent and painful torture of that long-sustained drought. This milder weather and soaking moisture is giving our trees, shrubs and perennials a chance to rebuild their root systems and to put some food or sugars into storage to replace all that was used up in the stress of the past two years.
After a plant uses up its stored food supplies it has to start dropping leaves or sacrificing branches or roots to survive intense drought or other stresses. That is why persistent drought or extreme and lasting hot or cold weather take such a big toll on our plant material and can even kill them unless they get relief and a chance to feed and rebuild their plant infrastructure.
This moderate weather at 10 to 15 degrees below normal summer highs combined with cooler night temperatures and refreshing moisture is allowing many of our plants to restore their health and start to save or store some energy or food for the future. For many highly stressed trees and perennials this mild, moist summer is literally a lifesaver from the slow torture of persistent heat and drought.
Our annuals or color plants and vegetables did not have to confront the pain and trials of the drought the past two years since their whole life starts and ends each year. They are growing bigger, greener and happier than their kinfolk from earlier generations that experienced the drought.
We are blessed with some really nice and bountiful vegetable gardens across all but western Oklahoma, which is still battling a prolonged drought. This week our family has been eating tasty peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and several varieties of squash all picked from our garden.
The flowering annuals are producing waves of color in our gardens and containers. The plants have all been growing so much that you may want to fertilize with a granular, slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer to take maximum advantage of the nicer growing conditions.
Don't forget you can still plant container-grown plants, even in August, as long as you are prepared to water the new plantings when needed. Most all of your plants will benefit from mulching the top of the soil with bark, hulls or straw to reduce surface evaporation, reduce weed pressure and to keep soil temperatures more consistent while cutting your watering in half.
This is shaping up as a great gardening season with a good harvest of fresh produce and pretty and happy flowering crops. One of the stars of the summer garden are the many varieties, colors and sizes of crape myrtles, which are creating their own flower show or festival across our state.
Get outside and enjoy your garden, our pretty parks and the beautiful landscapes across our community, so you can get ideas and inspiration of what you want to try next in your yard.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Farm Bureau State Board and the Oklahoma State University Agriculture Dean's Advisory Committee. He is a former president of Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers. Email garden and landscape questions to email@example.com.