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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Time for a Long Winter’s Nap

Gardening in Oklahoma may slow down, but never stops. Whether you are a lawn care guru, an overall wearing vegetable gardener, a bush and tree pruner or a flower aficionado, there is always something in the garden to tend to.

The first week of November is a great time to fertilize cool-season grasses one last time this season. Control those weeds before spring by using a post-emergent broadleaf weed killer. Then use those fallen leaves in the lawn by mowing with a mulching mower. The natural compost of decaying leaves will fertilize the soil in the yard throughout the winter months.  It is also a good time for a soil test to correct nutrient deficiencies before winter.

If you have a vegetable garden, harvest your remaining garden herbs in early November to dry for use later. Tomatoes may still be producing right up until the first frost. Collect any green tomatoes and store them in a cool, dry location in wooden or cardboard boxes in single layers with newspaper or straw between the layers. Check them daily and use them as they ripen. You may have fresh tomatoes through January! Many root vegetables can be harvested right up until the first frost, as well. Remember the stories of the land runners who made do with turnips that whole first winter?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Once you have harvested all the vegetables and herbs, turn to the flower gardens.  Plant spring-blooming bulbs such as irises, daffodils, day lilies, tulips and hyacinths. Deadhead and prune back dead tips and leaves and spindly growth on flowering bushes.  Pull out any remaining weeds. Till compost into both vegetable gardens and flower beds. Protect the beds with about two inches of mulch or straw. The Oklahoma wind still dries out our red dirt lawn and gardens, so if you grow perennial garden plants such as asparagus or rhubarb, or you have flower bulbs, give those a good watering once or twice a month throughout the winter. Water 24 hours before a freeze.  This will help to prevent winter freeze and plant death.  Now is also a good time to make any repairs to raised beds.

If you want to add trees to your landscaping, November is the month to plant them. Wait until after the first frost, but before the soil gets frozen. Roots grow when the soil temperature is above 40 degrees.  Ball and burlapped plants can be planted now, too. The root systems of fall-planted trees and shrubs will have an opportunity to develop and become established now and can take advantage of a growth surge in the spring. Remember to water thoroughly to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets.  Do not fertilize after planting, though, as it can burn the root system. Also, not all trees and shrubs should be planted at this time. Bare root plants should be planted in late winter when they are completely dormant. Keep mulch away from the base of trees as it promotes rot and diseases. Prune back existing trees and shrubs, except for spring-flowering shrubs. Wait until after they flower in the spring. Remember to compost all those dead heads, pulled weeds, grass clipping and chipped trimmed branches. Dampen them to help with decomposition through the winter. Be cautious to keep diseased plants, leaves and pine needles out of your compost. Lastly, as those chores begin to slow down, winterize your gardening tools.  Drain fuel from power equipment before winter storage.  Drain and store water hoses. Wrap hydrants and outdoor faucets. Clean and sharpen gardening tools.  Coat metal surfaces with a thin film of oil or spray lubricant to prevent rust.  Then sit back, peruse the seed catalogs to plan your gardens for next year and enjoy Jack Frost nipping at your nose

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Cathy Thomas
Cathy Thomas, born in New York, raised in Pennsylvania, educated in Arizona, having lived in Oregon, Florida and many places in between, now calls Oklahoma “home.” Currently a music and art teacher in a local school, Cathy is a third-generation puppeteer, historical interpreter, writer, painter, and candlestick maker and mom of a teenager. When the weather is warm, she can usually be found playing in the dirt along with her four dogs and five chickens and trying to grow flowers, vegetables and other plants.

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