We have now passed our last average freeze date in central Oklahoma so this is the official beginning of the 2014 planting season for warm-temperature crops.
It is still a good idea to look at the seven-day forecast and as long as it looks comfortably above freezing it is time to plant away. Even though it is past the usual safe date for planting, we can get late freezes and you still need to be weather aware.
Remember just last year we had an unusually late freeze in early May. If we do get a late unexpected freeze, be prepared to cover your tomatoes, peppers, impatiens, begonias and other tender crops with row cover fabric, HotKaps, Wall O’ Waters, cardboard boxes, empty milk jugs or old sheets or blankets for a little extra protection.
Many of our flowering shrubs and trees are convinced winter is over and they are blooming full blast into spring. As the daffodils, crocus and hyacinths wrap up their spring flower show, we are enjoying bright colors from many varieties of tulips. Flowering shrubs in full spring color include bright yellow forsythia, orange and red quince and pink and white flowering almonds.
Our state tree, the redbud, leads a long list of trees in dazzling flower, including ornamental crabapples and pears, and fruit trees like plums and peaches. We will have a steady parade of color over the next few weeks as many of our shrubs and trees welcome spring with their own personal flower festivals.
If there are some of the flowering shrubs and trees that excite you when you see them in flower each spring and you wish you could add them to your landscape — then do it now. This is a great time to transplant container-grown or larger balled and burlap trees. Dig a hole at least half again as large as you need and then remove your tree or shrub from its container and gently place it in the hole, backfilling with the soil removed from the hole mixed with ¼ to 1/2 sphagnum peat or some type of well-aged compost.
Trees and shrubs should be planted so the top of the soil ball is at about the same height as it was in the growing container. Water thoroughly after planting and then regularly throughout this year as your trees and shrubs get rooted in and established in their new home.
It is best to still wait until after May 1 when the soil warms up more and our night temperatures are warmer to plant the real hot-blooded annuals like caladiums, sweet potatoes, okra, periwinkle or vinca and copper leaf plant. Other than those few hot-weather crops you can now plant most all annual and perennial crops.
Plant your flower beds, your decorative containers and your hanging baskets with geraniums, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, begonias, impatiens or hundreds of other colorful plants to give you a show and feed your soul throughout this full growing season.
You can plant tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and many other vegetables to feed your stomach throughout this full growing season.
Now that planting season has arrived, the sooner you plant, the more growth, flower and fruit you can enjoy this season. We can plant container-grown plants all through the spring, summer and fall but the gardeners who plant early get the most enjoyment and harvest for their effort, so start planting.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma State University Agriculture Dean's Advisory Committee. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers Association. Email garden and landscape questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.