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Guide to gardening: Experts offer 13 lawn and garden tips for northeast Oklahoma

Guide to gardening: Experts offer 13 lawn and garden tips for northeast Oklahoma

By BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer on Apr 13, 2013, at 2:25 AM  Updated on 4/13 at 7:57 AM

In arriving to a new place, there’s much to do: find your way around town and not get lost on your way home; secure just the right people for everything from hair care to lawn services; build new relationships; set up house; acclimate to a new setting, and, if you are a gardener, orient yourself with your yard.

Two local gardeners, Tulsa Garden Center Director of Horticulture Barry Fugatt and Stringer Nursery’s Jeff McCants offer some advice that may be helpful to the new northeastern Oklahoma gardener and even be gentle reminders to those who are rather familiar with Green Country.

No. 1 Don’t be hasty ushering in spring

This past week has shown us that it’s not yet time to put in your warm-weather crops. “We have had frost in the first week of May,” McCants said, advising gardeners to quickly plant their cool weather crops if they haven’t already but wait a day or two past April 15 – our average frost date – to get in your annuals. Even then, “don’t dilly dally.”

No. 2. Walk your neighborhood

It can offer inspiration for what you may want on your property and also show you which plants appear to thrive in your area. Fugatt also recommends visiting Woodward Park to check out the many trees and shrubs growing in the arboretum and in the Linnaeus Teaching Garden before going to the nursery to buy plants.

No. 3. Know your soil, work with your soil

“We’re blessed, or cursed, with many different types of soils, some great for growing just about anything – the sandy types along the Arkansas River corridor – and very poorly drained clay types that make growing many plants a challenge.” When gardening in a clay zone, think about using raised planting beds.

No. 4. Get involved with Tulsa’s active garden community

From February until about November, there is a gardening class or other horticultural events around Tulsa. Many events are free, others may have a small cost, and all offer valuable information and people excited to help answer gardening questions.

No. 5. Be skeptical of plant tags

McCants said that while the plant tags are helpful in giving basic information about a plant and what it needs, the insight they offer falls short of what a knowledgeable nursery professional’s guidance on the type of sun exposure an individual species takes. A plant tag may recommend full sun for a plant, “which may not necessarily be true since our full sun is hotter than it is in the rest of the country,” McCants said. Also, the tags often under-rate the mature size on a lot of plants, and it’s common to find plants completely mislabeled, so talk to an expert before leaving the store.

No. 6. Mulch, mulch, mulch

It keeps weed competition down, keeps soil cool and retains moisture.

No. 7. Amend your earth

Adding organic matter such as compost to your planting bed area will tremendously help your garden work, McCants said. The incorporation of amendments shores up sandy-type soil, helping it better maintain water. For clay soils, in adding the matter, you’re loosening up the ground and letting in air, which your plants roots will need.

No. 8. Arm yourself with info

In addition to Tulsa’s Master Gardeners, Linnaeus Gardeners and local nurserymen, a wealth of information on gardening topics can be found online, as well as at any Tulsa City-County library.

No. 9. Seriously consider native plants

Many a seasoned gardener will recommend them to those who are experienced and those who are new to gardening especially in Tulsa’s climate. Native plants are hardy – tolerant of the area’s unpredictable weather and even its periods of drought. They require less water than exotics and are plants that are well-adapted to the region and how it’s changed over time.

No. 10. Know your common Okie plants

By now, you’ve fallen in love with those wine, lavender and white-blossomed trees that are showing beautifully in your neighborhood and just about everywhere in Tulsa right now. They’re Oklahoma Redbud, Floating Clouds Redbud and Texas Whitebud trees, respectively. McCants said the dwarf redbuds do extremely well, if you’re interested in bringing a couple closer to home. And if you were to ask him about some of his favorites to consider, dogwoods are on the list. “It’s a wonderful tree,” McCants said, adding that establishing transplants can be a little tricky but to not let that discourage you. Other trees bursting in bloom right now include crabapples, ornamental pears and really any nature of fruit trees. And who can mistake the yellow brilliance of forsythia.

No. 11. Visit your garden

Gardening is not a one-and-done hobby. It’s something that requires regular work and attention to yield anything you’re proud of. McCants said it is important to take some time to walk through your yard. Observe your plants. Don’t just check for weeds, also check for pests. Be weather conscious and be cognizant of how different weather conditions may be affecting your plants. “Get a feel for what your plants are experiencing,” McCants said.

No. 12. Diversify as much as possible

Gardening with only one type of plant – or a monoculture – is a sure way to throw all the time and money you’ve invested into your yard and garden down the drain if it falls prey to a pest that likes exactly what you’ve been nurturing. Not only will plant diversity ensure that you won’t sustain a total loss if disease takes hold, but also it creates an interesting yard and garden to look at, enjoy and call your own.

No. 13. Try, try, try again

“Don’t fret or give up on gardening when a few plants die,” Fugatt said. “It’s all part of gardening. If you don’t occasionally kill a plant or two, you’re not really trying.”

Handling henbit

The blanket of purple-blossomed weeds in your yard right now may make you want to reach for some herbicide, but Tulsa Garden Center’s director of horticulture and Stringer Nursery’s Jeff McCants says not so fast. Soon enough the henbit will die back on its own, McCants said. If it’s really a bother, mow it down or pull them out.

The biggest concern, their seeds, can be taken care of in the fall with some pre-emergent weed control. Putting it down then will catch the seeds in their germinating season.

Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316

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Did you know that in the 1600s,
northern Europeans referred to the
tomato as a “wolf peach” and suspected
it was poisonous? Or that the
debate over whether the tomato was
a fruit or vegetable was settled in
1893 when the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled it was a vegetable?

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