The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 16, 2013

Soil test good way to start

By Jo Ann Nicholas
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — How welcome was the much-needed moisture we received the last few weeks?

With spring just around the corner, the snows and rains were a blessing as we begin to do some garden planning and preparation. The best place to begin is to get a soil test  through the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service office at  316 E. Oxford. This will help you to know the nutrients needed for your lawn and gardens. Good soil is the secret to  success for beautiful lawns, flowers and vegetables gardens.

Oklahoma State University has a wealth of information to guide us into the planting season, and I will share some tips for the month of March.

It is time to remove excessive thatch from warm-season lawns. Crabgrass control chemicals can be applied to both cool- and warm-season turf grasses at this time. Fall is the best time to plant cool-season grasses; however, March is the second-best time to plant or overseed. Cool-season lawns, such as bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, may be fertilized now, with the first application of the season. Usually four applications of fertilizer are required per year in March, May, October and November. It’s time to begin mowing these grasses 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 inches high.

Cultivate annual planting beds to destroy winter weeds for the best preparation and showing of your summer flowers.  To control the weeds apply mulch. Landscape fabric barrier can reduce the amount of mulch but can dry out and prevent water penetration. Therefore, organic litter makes the best mulch.

Divide and replant overcrowded summer and fall blooming perennials before new growth begins. It is best to wait until late-summer/fall to divide perennials that bloom in the spring.

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to cut back your woody perennials and ornamental grasses. An easy way to cut ornamental grasses is to gather and tightly tie the tops of each of the grasses in a bundle with string. A bungee strap works well to secure the top while tying the string. Using electric trimmers, cut at the proper place below the string. Cut back far enough to remove dead plant material but not too far into the crown of the plant that you damage new shoots or dormant buds. Throw the top, which is tied with the string, away for easy clean up.

Start warm-season vegetable transplants indoors. Cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach, turnips, etc., should be planted by now to ensure harvest before hot weather arrives. Continue to plant strawberries, asparagus and other small fruit crops this month.

Prune spring flowering plants, if needed, immediately following their bloom period.

March also is a time to plant evergreen shrubs, balled, burlapped and bare-rooted trees and shrubs. Start your routine fruit tree spray schedule prior to bud break.

For more information, go to the website garfield or call the OSU extension office at 237-1228, where master gardeners are there to answer your questions. A visit to greenhouses and nurseries can give new ideas, and we can look forward later in April after the last freeze to plant and create our gardens.

Nicholas is a member of Garfield County Master Gardeners.