NORMAN — The cold and freezing weather patterns continue to wreak havoc for gardeners ready to plant their garden. Last year, I planted my veggie garden three weeks early. This year, we’ll be three weeks late.
The weather extremes are enough to drive you crazy, but hopefully this weekend will be warm enough to plant something. I’ve been hovering over my new plant purchases for two weeks; I’m itching to get them in the ground. If we can hold off for another week, I think we’ll be out of the woods by then to dig in the dirt.
When I say hold on to your plants, I mean all perennials, annuals and warm season vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. The cold night temperatures will damage and kill tender transplants.
Also, cold soils may stunt or stress annuals and perennials. So it’s best to hold off on planting anything until night temperatures are in the mid 50s. I use the Mesonet religiously to check rainfall, air and soil temperatures (mesonet.org).
Until temperatures are right, you need to protect your plants. This means covering them if in the ground already or not. I use an old fitted sheet to cover my plants that are still in flats. I’ve also placed my plants against an exterior wall to lower the amount of air circulation, and grouped all my pots together to create a warmer microclimate.
If you have a covered porch, this may be a good area to group plants, instead of out in the open. Make sure to keep plants in pots watered, as this can help them withstand cold temperatures.
If you jumped the gun, cover plants already in the ground with sheets, plastic garbage bags or old pots. If you haven’t done so already, apply a layer of mulch to help moderate soil temperature fluctuations.
When you know daytime temperatures will reach 60 to 70 degrees, uncover the plants in the morning. With all the recent rainfall, there is no need to water plants in the ground for quite some time. This includes trees, shrubs and lawns.
If you have additional questions about protecting plants, call a Cleveland County Master Gardener at 321-4774 or email email@example.com.
Tracey Payton Miller is Cleveland County’s horticulture extension educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension.