Sunday, January 20, 2019 0 comments By: Jack Downer

Plan Now For a Spring Vegetable Garden

Planning for a Spring Vegetable Garden
Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Q: What suggestions do you have for those of us starting to plan for our spring gardens this year? Also, what resources are available? Lisa P., Tulsa
A: Because it’s so cold and dreary and not much fun to be outside, this is a great time to begin making your spring gardening plans for the new year.
One simple thing you can do is to review your experiences from previous years. What worked? Why did it work? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What do I want to do the same and different this year?
If you are growing vegetable crops, which crops prospered? Which ones struggled? Which pests caused the most trouble? How can I better control them? Did my garden take too much of my time? Should I make some adjustments in how I water and care for my garden?
One of the things we hope will become an even more valuable resource to you than it was in the past is the sort of new Tulsa Master Gardener website ( It’s celebrating its one-year anniversary. We’ve spent a lot of time updating the interface to be more user-friendly and have uploaded an abundance of gardening resources to help you become a more successful gardener.
In our Lawn & Garden Help section, you will find information on a variety of topics, such as general landscaping, flowers, trees and shrubs, soil, vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, insects and butterfly gardens. You will also find sections on organic and Earth-kind practices, types of gardens, fertilizers and pesticides, pruning, composting, water conservation, etc.
If your plans for the year include a vegetable garden, we have information and videos on which varieties do well in our area, the best times to plant, garden layouts, how to plant tomatoes, etc. If your plans include flowers, we have recommendations for annuals and perennials that do well in our area.
We are fully aware there is a lot of information available on the internet about gardening, but it is sometimes hard to determine if the advice or suggestion is appropriate for our area. On our site, you will know the information you read or the instructional videos you watch will be university research-based information appropriate for the Tulsa County gardening community. Here are three of the more popular OSU Fact Sheets for your reading pleasure during these cold days. Simply Google them.
 HLA-6005 Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide
 HLA-6408 Landscape Maintenance Schedule
 HLA-6033 Raised Bed Gardening
However, our website is not the only way we can help you prepare for this new year. Our Diagnostic Center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday with Master Gardeners who would love to share what they know about gardening. You can call us or email your questions via the information below. We hope you have a great garden this year and would love to help.

Garden tips
  • Several early season vegetables are grown from seeds and planted as sprouts or transplants. Some examples are cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, head lettuce, onions, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Most of these take 5-7 weeks from planting indoors until ready for transplanting into the garden. Onions take a little longer to grow.
  • Of these, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and onions sprouts should be set out from mid-February to mid-March. Plant broccoli sprouts in March. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants need warmth and suggested planting time is mid-April, although many people take a gamble and plant earlier, depending on the weather. Look for seeds at local gardening centers or online now.
  • Even though there may be adequate moisture in the ground, it is normal for evergreen broad-leaved shrubs to appear “wilted” during extreme cold. This is rapidly reversible after the temperatures warm. This is a way some plants have in dealing with the cold.
  • Try to keep fallen leaves off newly seeded fescue. Fescue is capable of growing roots in winter unless the ground gets extremely cold. A good root system will help fescue to better tolerate the heat next summer. In order to grow roots, the grass needs sunlight.

Sunday, January 6, 2019 0 comments By: Jack Downer

Options For Christmas Tree Disposal

Christmas Tree Disposal
Allen Robinson: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Q: Now that the holidays are winding down, what options do I have for disposing of my live-cut Christmas tree? William L., Tulsa
A: There are several options for disposal of your live-cut tree after the holidays. However, some are more environmentally friendly than others. Most options involve removing all of the ornaments, tinsel and flocking (if possible) before disposal.
The best option is to trim the smaller branches from your tree and place in the garden as mulch. They will decay over time and you will not only reap the benefits of mulch but also the nutrients that it adds back to the soil. These limbs also may be added to your compost pile as a source of green material to help balance the brown material, such as dead leaves. Green materials (for the nitrogen source) and brown materials (for the carbon source) are needed for the microbes that break down the composted material. The larger limbs and stems must be used elsewhere.
For the fisherman, sinking a bundle of evergreen trees creates a “hot-spot” or “magnet” in your favorite fishing hole. Crappies love them. The whole tree may be added, usually with others and tied together, weighted with a concrete block and dropped into your favorite spot, if allowed.
Another option is to use the old tree as a temporary winter bird refuge, sanctuary and feeding station. The fronds of needles make a good temporary shelter from wind and predators. Treats, such as peanut butter, suet and seed mixtures can be added as winter food for the birds.
The last option before placing the tree at curbside collection is to take it to the city of Tulsa’s Mulch Site, 2100 N. 145th East Ave. This site is open seven days a week, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding city holidays. Only green waste is accepted, such as trees, limbs, grass clippings and leaves. All are shredded for mulch. Non-organic material, such as Christmas decorations, lights, tinsel and flocking is not allowed.
The waste site produces huge amounts of mulch, which is available to anyone. There may even be a machine to help load your truck. Wood that can be cut/split for firewood is available in a firewood cutting area, but you must bring your own tools. There is no charge for these services for Tulsa residents. You must have a valid driver’s license or a utility bill showing a Tulsa address; otherwise, there is a small fee. Think about this ... you could take a load of neighborhood trees to the site and perhaps come home with a load of free mulch and/or free firewood.
Lastly, the city of Tulsa curbside pickup service will collect trees. In December and January, residents may put trees at the curb on their primary collection day. All decorations must be removed, and the trees need to be cut into 4-foot sections to fit into the hopper of the refuse trucks. This collection is not for artificial trees, which need to go in the gray trash cart. The live trees are not actually recycled but, instead, are incinerated along with the other green waste collected in Tulsa.
Garden tips
 Any green weed in dormant (brown) Bermuda lawns may now be sprayed with glyphosate, found in Roundup and many other products. This will kill anything green, but will not hurt the Bermuda. Note that glyphosate cannot be used on dormant Zoysia grass or tall fescue lawns at any time.
 Control overwintering insects on deciduous trees or shrubs with horticultural oil sprays in dormant concentrations. Apply when the temperature is above 40°F in late fall and winter. Do not use “dormant” oils on evergreens.
 Ornamental perennial grasses, such as pampas grass, may be cut back to 4-6 inches anytime in winter. However, because of winter attractiveness, most gardeners choose to wait until early spring to cut them back. All the dead tops of these grasses should be removed by early spring, allowing sun to get to new growth.
 Liriope or "monkey grass" — which is not a grass, but in the lily family — stays green year-round. It benefits from trimming to 2-3 inches before new growth begins in spring. Liriope and all ornamental grasses will benefit from nitrogen fertilizer in the spring when pruned.
 Prune fruit trees in January, February and March. OSU has a good fact sheet on pruning fruit trees: "Annual Pruning of Fruit Trees".

Sunday, December 23, 2018 1 comments By: Jack Downer

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettia Care
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, December 23, 2018
Q: I love my beautiful Christmas poinsettia. How can I best care for this lovely plant? MP
A: Poinsettias are a native plant in Mexico but were introduced to the United States by the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico: Joel Poinsett (thus the name). In states without harsh winters, such as Florida or California, they can be grown in the landscape. But in Oklahoma, keeping your poinsettia until next year comes with some challenges.
An interesting fact many people do not know about poinsettias is that those colorful leaves are not part of the poinsettia flower. They are specialized leaves called bracts. The flower is the yellow part, which is surrounded by the colorful bracts. Poinsettias with red bracts are typically the most popular, but plants are available with yellow, orange, pink, white and variegated bracts.
Your poinsettia will be the happiest indoors with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Try to avoid cold drafts or excessive heat from your heating system. And keep the plant away from windows, as the cold glass could damage your plant.
Light is important, so place your plant in a place where it will receive at least six to eight hours of light a day.
Moisture for your plant is also critical, and you can assess moisture by feeling the growing medium or using a water moisture meter. Water the top when it starts to feel dry. Slight wilting is not problematic, but do not allow the plant to dry out, as this will accelerate bract drop.
Do not water when the growing medium is already wet as this will encourage root rot and tend to suffocate the plant. Yellow and dropping leaves may lead you to believe the plant is dry and needs water but check the growing medium as symptoms of overwatering can sometime appear to be caused by lack of water.
Oftentimes, people will ask us if they can somehow save their poinsettias to keep them until the following year. The answer is yes, but it is much easier to just discard your poinsettia and purchase another one next year.
If you do decide to give it a shot, in September you will need to begin a fairly stringent regimen of forcing the plants to bloom. This schedule includes leaving the plants in a sunny window during the day but putting them in complete darkness each evening. This daily procedure will likely need to be repeated each day from September through Thanksgiving to give you good bract color. If you would like to try, we have a detailed fact sheet from Oklahoma State University in the Hot Topics section of our website. (
Whether you want to attempt to re-flower your existing poinsettia or just purchase a new one next year, poinsettias are a colorful part of the American Christmas tradition.
Garden tips
  • Don’t forget to keep the compost pile watered. The decay process to produce garden-friendly compost continues in winter if the pile is large enough and kept watered and turned.
  • Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3-4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.
  • Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.

Sunday, December 9, 2018 1 comments By: Jack Downer

Christmas Tree Selection and Care

Selecting and Caring for Christmas Trees
Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Q: I am a little late getting a Christmas tree this year, any suggestions on picking a tree and how to care for it? LB
A: I think a lot of us are in the same boat, so here’s some information on selecting trees and caring for them while they are in your home.
This seems like a no-brainer, but give some thought to where your tree will be displayed. Consider height, width and color. Will you only see your tree from one side or will it be visible?  
Next, decide if you want to purchase a pre-cut tree from one of the sources around town or if you want to get yours from an area Christmas tree farm. If you decide on harvesting your own tree, a quick search on the web will provide you with several areas.
Oklahoma has several native-grown trees appropriate for Christmas trees, such as Virginia pine, Leyland cypress, white pine and Arizona cypress. You will find good options in pre-cut varieties, such as Fraser fir, Noble fir and Nordmann fir, all of which have wonderful fragrances and good needle retention. Each of these will also hold ornaments well.
When selecting your tree, pay attention to the freshness of the tree. To determine freshness, you can bend the needles. Fresh needles on firs and spruces will snap kind of like a carrot and are not brittle. Pine needles will bend but break only if they are dry. Of course, the freshest of trees are those you cut yourself and take home.
Once you get your tree home, you should saw about an inch off the bottom and place it in a container of water. If you purchased your tree but won’t be bringing it in to decorate for several days, you should store the tree in a cool shaded area.
Once you bring your tree in, keep its base in water the entire period it is in use. No water additives are needed but keeping the base in water is a must.
Be sure the tree stand is strong enough to support your decorated tree without falling over, as decorations can add more weight to your tree than you might think.
Also, make sure your tree is away from heat sources, as these tend to dry out the trees and increase the risk of fire.
Don’t leave the lights lit on the tree unless a responsible person is at home.
Finally, remove the tree before it becomes overly dry. The longer the tree is indoors, the greater the risk of it drying out.
If you follow these tips, you will be well on the way to having a Christmas tree you will remember for years to come.
Garden tips
  • Proper care will extend the life of Poinsettias through the holiday season and beyond. They need to have the brightest light possible and kept away from cold windows and heating vents. They prefer a room temperature of 65-75 degrees. They will die or perform poorly with too much or too little water. Feel the soil and when the top inch or so is dry, water with lukewarm water until water emerges from the bottom of the pot. Discard this water. There is no need for fertilizer.
  • If your roses have not been mulched, do so now. This is a good place to use those fall leaves, which have been shredded with a mulching mower. Mulch not only will prevent cold damage to those plants, which are susceptible, but also will prevent warming of soil on warm winter days that may promote premature cold-sensitive new growth.

Sunday, November 25, 2018 0 comments By: Jack Downer

Ice-Melt Products--The Good and the Bad

Ice-Melt Products in Your Landscape
Allen Robinson: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Q: It appears we may have a cold AND wet winter, so I am planning by buying something that will melt ice on my sidewalks. Will ice-melt products harm my plants and lawn? Randy W., Broken Arrow
A: Products used to melt ice on walks and driveways may harm plants, but this depends on what and how much is used. Most of the chemicals marketed today to melt ice are just salts that lower the freezing point of water. All are useful if the labeled directions are followed carefully.
Four of the most commonly used chemicals are sodium chloride (table salt), calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate and urea. All are types of salts, except urea, which is a chemical normally found in fertilizers.
These products thaw ice but also have some undesirable effects. They may cause corrosion of concrete and metal and water pollution, as well as harm to plants.
Sodium chloride is the cheapest and most widely used for ice melt. But it has a significant potential for corrosion and plant damage in high concentrations. Calcium chloride and urea have similar risk for corrosion but are less harmful to plants. Calcium magnesium acetate does not corrode or pollute water and does not harm plants. However, as you may have already guessed, it also is the most expensive.
Damage to plants occurs in two ways — first, when directly splashed on plants; secondarily, when absorbed into the soil. When slush-containing salt comes in contact with a plant, it may cause direct injury to evergreen leaves and buds, as well as stems of deciduous plants. This injury, especially in deciduous plants, could go unsuspected as the damage may not appear until next spring.
Salts that filter into the soil can kill plant roots by dehydrating them. It can also raise the soil pH to undesirable levels, thus affecting the overall health of the plant and its ability to take up proper nutrients. This is the same as fertilizer “burn” that gardeners are familiar with when too much fertilizer is put (or spilled) in one location. In addition, large amounts of sodium from sodium chloride can damage the soil structure, making it less friendly to plants.
So what do you do? The ideal approach to ice and snow is to remove as much as possible by hand. Not exactly what you wanted to hear, right? Then, if you feel it is needed, apply an ice-melt chemical to help remove the last layer. Avoid the “more is better” mindset and always follow label directions. Mixing sand in a 3-to-1 ratio with ice melt can reduce the need for chemicals and provides added traction to feet and tires.
Harmful effects of these chemicals may be minimized by hosing salt off plants, when it is possible. Much of the salt in soils may be removed if irrigated with generous amounts of water. We are fortunate that ice and snows are not long-term winter problems in our area and that most people are able to cope without ice melt chemicals.
Garden tips
• Continue to plant balled and burlapped trees.
• Wrap young, thin-barked trees with a commercial protective material to prevent winter sun-scald.
• Fertilize cool-season grasses like fescue with one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This should be the last fertilization for fescue until next spring. Do not fertilize Bermuda or Zoysia until green-up next April.
• Spring-flowering bulbs like hyacinth, narcissus and tulip, which are sold for “forcing,” can be potted indoors for a colorful winter display.
• Tulips can still be planted outdoors through this month.
• Autumn leaves have good uses other than placing them in the trash. They may be mowed directly into the lawn, which will add nutrients and organic matter; they may be shredded with a lawnmower and added to the compost pile; they may be used as mulch or tilled into the soil of your garden beds.
• Remove all debris from the vegetable and flower garden to prevent overwintering of various garden pests.
• Till plenty of organic material into the soil in preparation for spring planting.

Sunday, November 11, 2018 0 comments By: Jack Downer

Dealing with Acorns in Your Landscape

Dealing with Acorns in Your Landscape
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Q: What is up with all the acorns this year? When the wind blows, it sounds like hail hitting the roof! NM
A: I was raking leaves off the patio recently, and I don’t remember the last time I needed a shovel to pick up all the acorns. So at least in my yard and the yards of my neighbors, I agree, this year we seem to have more acorns than usual.
However, just because some of us are experiencing a bumper crop, this may not be true throughout the region. These “mast” years (as these large acorn crops are called) can be localized, as the main contributor to fruit production is the weather, and as we know, weather can vary depending on your location and particular microclimate. However, one large oak having a particularly good year can drop up to 10,000 acorns in a mast year. And, yes, that can get noisy on the roof!
The primary weather factors affecting acorn development are spring frosts, summer droughts and fall rains. When the oak trees determine the danger of a spring frost has passed, they begin to flower. Oaks are what we call monoecious. This means that a single oak contains male and female flowers.
If you have an oak tree in your yard, you are probably familiar with the male oak flower as they are those long, worm-like growths that contain a number of flowers arranged like beads on a string. These flowers produce the pollen that tends to give our patios and cars a green tint in the spring. In contrast, the female flowers are quite small and often resemble leaf buds.
The spring winds blow pollen from tree to tree pollinating the female flowers. Interestingly, the acorns of white oaks mature within the year while acorns of red oaks mature over a period of two years.
Some of these acorns may grow up to become oak trees, but others will serve as a source of protein for blue jays, wild turkeys, rodents, deer and bears. Secondarily, if we have a year of larger than normal acorn production, depending on the reproduction cycles of the animals, we can expect surges in the populations of mice, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, bears, turkeys, etc. While this may be good news for some, unfortunately, a rise in mouse and deer populations can secondarily contribute to an increase in the tick population as well.
Even though the noise from the shower of acorns can be unsettling and the quantity we need to clean up in our yards a nuisance, these acorns remain an important part of our natural ecosystem.

Garden tips
  • Leftover garden seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer until next planting season. Discard seeds more than 3 years old.
  • The garden centers still have large selections of spring-blooming bulbs for sale. If you intend to plant bulbs, buy them and plant soon. Tulips can still be successfully planted through the middle of November.
  • Be sure to keep leaves off newly seeded fescue. The sprouts will die without sun and air exposure.

Sunday, October 28, 2018 0 comments By: Jack Downer

Fall Gardening Tips For the Homeowner

Fall Gardening Suggestions
Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Q: I am trying to get my yard, flowerbeds and garden ready for winter. What are some of the things that should be at the top of my list to do (and not do)? — Rick A., Tulsa
A: Good question. Many people ask us about this about now. There are many things that we as gardeners can be doing right now to get ahead of old man winter, who will soon be knocking at our doorstep. Here are a few:
• Seed/re-seed fescue: This is a tough call. Theoretically, the time has passed to do this (up to mid-October) but, if we were to have a mild late fall/early winter, seeds may still germinate. However, if it should turn cold quickly, they will not germinate. Check your weather crystal ball to decide.
• Keep leaves off of newly seeded fescue to prevent damage to the sprouts. A great way to do this is to shred them into small pieces using a recycle-type lawn mower.
• Mow and neatly edge warm-season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, Zoysia, etc.) before the first killing frost.
• Plant container-grown trees and shrubs this month. Fall is generally the best time to plant. At this time, the plants have no energy drain to produce leaves and can concentrate on growing a root system until the soil gets cool in winter. They are better prepared for spring growth and summer stress if planted in the previous fall.
• Plant cool-season annuals like pansies, ornamental cabbage, snapdragons and dusty miller. It is also not too late to plant tulip bulbs for spring color.
• Plant cool-season veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, collards, spinach, radishes, onions, garlic, turnips, beets and carrots.
• Prune herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage; prune vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb, as well as blackberries.
• Divide/plant peonies, daylilies, ornamental grasses, hostas and other spring-flowering perennials. Dig and store tender perennials (i.e. dahlias, caladiums, etc.) in a cool, dry location. Heavily mulch cannas and elephant ears.
• Mulch all beds or plant a cover crop (e.g. rye or vetch) to help moderate soil temperature, increase levels of organic materials to add nutrients, protect the soil from erosion and suppress weed growth. And planting legumes in your garden (e.g. clover, field peas) can increase the levels of available nitrogen for garden vegetables next spring.
• Pull up all dead plants and remove evasive weeds.
• Cover water gardens with either netting or a pond cover to keep out falling leaves.
• Remove garden debris to prevent many garden pests and diseases from overwintering in these materials.
• Prepare your garden soil for spring by tilling. This will break up weeds and expose otherwise hidden grubs.
• Clean up and store garden tools.
And there are a few things that we should NOT do right now, such as:
• Do not trim rose bushes. Given a few warm days that might occur afterward, those new cuts may spawn new growth, which will be readily killed by the first freeze. This can cause an attractive location for disease to enter the plant. Exception: Prune out dead or diseased limbs on trees and shrubs.
• Do not plant bare-root trees at this time. Wait for spring.
• Do not fertilize warm-season grasses or garden beds. Wait for spring.