By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK— Spring is in the air. The grass is turning green, and flowers are blossoming into a rainbow of vibrant colors. The temperatures are slowly warming toward summer, and people are on the move after a long period of hibernation during the cold winter months. It is a great time to get out of the house, and plant summer vegetables in the garden. For those looking to practice social distancing, it is also a great activity to get out and enjoy the spring while remaining safe from illness.
When planning a garden, the first step is to view the landscape and determine what will be planted, and where, as some plants favor sunshine, while others prefer shade. The same goes for grass varieties.
“You’re starting to get some grass to green, so you might go out and survey what type of grass you have,” said Shannon Mallory, Kay County Extension Agriculture Educator and Master Gardener leader.
It is a good idea to begin watering early, especially the garden areas, to provide enough soil moisture for seed sprouting, and a good time to conduct soil tests to determine what fertilization may be required.
“We do need to start watering the lawns. We’re getting that right now with the rains,” Mallory said. “We need to get into quick-release fertilizer for the lawn (in early April), and you can know how much you need by doing a soil test.”
Soil tests are easy to take, and each lawn or garden should have a separate individual test. The tests should have at least 10 random samples, taken about 8 in. to 10 in. deep, which are then placed into a bucket and mixed. Those samples can be put into a plastic bag and taken to any county Extension office, where it is shipped to Oklahoma State University for the test. Results will be returned in a few weeks. Although the Kay County Extension office is currently on lockdown, Extension representatives can meet homeowners outside.
Once the needed fertilizer is applied, it is time to start transplanting the plants. Many gardeners prefer to start from seed, as it offers more variety than buying pre-potted plants at a store, and those should have been planted indoors in January or February. If buying transplants, they can be found locally at Apple Market and Two Rivers Co-op.
There are a lot of cool season crops that should have already been planted, such as beets, broccoli, rhubarb, cabbage and lettuce. April is a good time to plant more warm-season crops, like beans, melons, cucumbers, okra, peppers, squash and tomatoes.
Although some may be concerned about the risk of freeze, as it is still only early spring, generally, most of Oklahoma is past most cold conditions.
“Whether you’re trying to plant from seed or transplant, this time of year, we’re supposed to be past our last freeze,” Mallory said. “Usually, the first of April is the last freeze. There have been years when even Oct. 30 is the first freeze of the year, and there are years the first of May is the last freeze.”
If a late-season freeze should occur, Mallory said there are precautions gardeners can take to protect the plants.
“If we do get a freeze, you can put a blanket or sheet over your plants,” he said. “You can put a plastic bag on the plants, as long as they do not touch the leaves, but you should feel comfortable knowing there shouldn’t be any more freezes.”