Make your fall gardening to-do list
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, August 04, 2012
8/04/12 at 4:56 AM
Now is definitely not the time to be out in the yard, and the latest voluntary water restrictions could be taken as a gentle nudge for avid gardeners to keep indoors and keep cool.
Still, with August here and a break in the extreme weather somewhere (hopefully) in the near future, it is not too early to get out that notebook and start planning for the fall.
Another scorching summer has affected many area plants, and the jury's still out on how much long-term damage is going to be done, said Barry Fugatt, director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center.
A lack of water is what is killing the area's plants. Feeder roots, which do the lion's share of a plant's water absorption, are being killed off.
So come fall, feeding the plants that have survived will be paramount.
"Caring for these plans is really going to be important for the valuable plants in our landscapes," said Fugatt, who went over some of the tasks he will be getting into at home and at the Linnaeus Teaching Garden once the heatwave ends.
When the weather cools ...
Clean-up. Spent plants harbor insects and diseases for the next crop you want to grow, so just getting the old stuff out will not only cut down on the work you have to do later, it will also give your future plants the chance to thrive.
"Compost it and reuse it, but get it out of the garden," Fugatt said.
Bed prep. Fall is probably one of the best times to prepare beds for next year. Working with your soil in the fall while it is warm but not hot, tilling it and amending it with organic material will give your ground ample time to become a pleasing growing medium by the time spring comes. And again, you'll be saving yourself some time later.
Flowers. Do you love tulips, crocus, daffodils and the like? Plant your bulbs in the fall. But, Fugatt added, make sure you've done good bed prep.
Now isn't yet the time to plant any other cool season plants, but give it a month and it will be time to start looking at planting your pansies, mums and other annuals that tolerate the cool weather very well.
Veggies. If you haven't snuck some in already, many vegetables can be started now, though waiting to plant until the heat subsides will make it better for you and your plants. At that point, Fugatt said, he and the Linnaeus volunteers will go about taking all the old crops in their vegetable garden and putting in some salad crops: turnips, mustard and kale, for instance.
As Master Gardener Bill Sevier said, vegetables such as pole beans, sweet corn, eggplant, pumpkin, carrots and squash, can be planted now. Hold on until late August to put in green peas, lima beans, cabbage and collards. For the best look at what to plant, pick up the free Oklahoma State University fact sheet on "Fall Vegetable Gardening" at tulsaworld.com/osufallgardening
Lawn. September and early October is the best time to seed and fertilize a new lawn.
Fertilizer. When you do begin feeding again, look for fertilizer with low to no phosphorus which actually harms a plant more than helps it.
Trees. Trees can be planted almost any time of the year, Fugatt said, but September and October are when tree planting is ideal. Putting them in then gives the trees a chance to get out of that root ball and into the soil before next spring, "so you're ahead in growth and quality of plant the following year," he said.
Soil solarization. Should gardeners be looking for an Earth-friendly way to rid a garden bed or two of weed seeds, many diseases and insects that tend to linger in the soil long after the last spent plants have been pulled, Fugatt suggests soil solarization.
Till and spade a bed really well, getting the soil as fluffy as you can. Lay clear plastic over the bed and weight it down with soil at the edges. With the weather as hot as it is right now, it will be even hotter underneath the plastic, Fugatt said, 140 degrees to 145 degrees even, in the top six to eight inches of soil, where most of your plant roots are.
Leave the covering on for about two weeks; with that type of sustained heat, a lot of bad guys will die away.
Just don't do it past early September, Fugatt said. Soil solarization is good mid-summer through late summer and into very early fall.
Watering during a heat wave
With Tulsa's voluntary water rationing in place, some tough decisions may have to be made about what's going to get your precious H2O on the every-other-day schedule you may be lugging out your garden hose.
Tulsa Garden Center's Director of Horticulture Barry Fugatt said his yard at home is completely yellow right now. And it's going to stay that way until the area gets some much needed rain. And he's fine with that - at least for now. It's Bermuda grass.
"I'm not worried about that grass coming back," he said. "If I had a fescue lawn, I probably would be."
So with that said, visit first your prides and joys with your watering implement. Prioritize the plants that are even more valuable than your grass.
If you have dogwoods and azaleas, rhododendrons other valuable shrubs or shade trees that you really enjoy seeing bloom every year, those may be areas where you want to concentrate watering.
And whatever you are watering - especially in this extreme heat - water and then water again. When soil gets extremely dry, the first water it gets runs right through, something often seen with container plants. So, Fugatt said, water one area and then the next, then return to where you began and water again. The soil will have broken up on the first go-round to absorb some water on the second visit right where it needs it.
"It takes that second shot, I think, to do a good job of watering," Fugatt said.
Original Print Headline: Waiting out the heat
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Jack Titchener waters plants at the Linnaeus Teaching Garden. With the recent excessive heat and voluntary water rationing in place, it is important to focus your watering efforts and resources on your most important plants. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Another scorching summer is affecting area plants, and the jury is still out on how much long-term damage is going to be done. MICHAEL WYKE/ Tulsa World file
Water one area, then the next, and return to the first to water it again, to ensure water gets to plants' roots. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World