As a surprisingly cool and damp late March draws to a close, it is time to prepare for the growing season in earnest. Consider the following tips to help increase your chances of a successful growing season:
• Despite the short term damp conditions, remember that we are still in a drought. As plants begin to leaf out, their water needs will increase dramatically, especially on windy days.
Continue to monitor soil moisture conditions and water as needed.
• Delay Bermuda and Zoysia lawn fertilization until the soil really begins to warm up. Early May is not too late for our region.
• April is a good time to fertilize Tall fescue. Under ideal conditions, fescue should receive two applications of nitrogen in the spring, spaced about 30-60 days apart.
• For apple growers, monitor cedar apple rust on neighboring cedar trees. If you see significant numbers of cedar-apple galls (a large orange growth that resembles a Christmas ornament), be prepared to spray your apple trees withan appropriate fungicide.
• Insects begin showing up in-mass in April. Monitor your garden and landscape regularly, as insect problems are much easier to address when they are noticed early. Also remember that just because an insect is present does not mean it is a problem. See OSU publication E-1023 Conserving
Beneficial Arthropods in Residential Landscape for an enlightening look at helpful gardening insects.
• Delay planting tender annuals and warm season vegetable crops until danger of frost has passed. Normally, that means about mid-April for Payne County.
As this article was being prepared for the paper, we were just warming up from a significant late season freeze on March 26th. Certainly there was some damage on fruit trees but it will be a few more days before we see the full extent of it. If you are a fruit tree grower, we in the Extension office would really like to know how your trees fared through this event. Contact Keith in the office with the variety of your trees, level of bloom on the 26th (early, full, or past peak), and whether or not you took any preventative action to reduce frost damage. Some microclimate information would also be helpful. Direction of land slope, wind protection, and nearby structures are examples of things that can affect microclimate. Your observations will help us put together information that may allow someone else to better prepare the next time this happens.
For more information of this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.