Although it’s too early in the season for gardeners to plant any seeds in the ground, the winter months are the perfect time of year for spring and summer garden planning.
Taking care of a few tasks before the glory days of gardening begin will help ensure gardeners have ample time to grow their vegetables in the warmer days ahead, said Casey Hentges, Oklahoma State University Extension associate specialist and host of the weekly television show, “Oklahoma Gardening.”
“What do you want your garden to look like? Map out your plan by writing it down,” Hentges said. “Make a list of the plants you love and want to grow. It may help to walk your garden space and make note of where the sunny and shady areas are located. This information will help with plant selection.”
Seasoned growers need to keep in mind what did and didn’t work last year. Hentges said not to let a previous failure deter this year’s plans. Take that information, learn from it and correct the problems or try something different.
“It can be easy to get in over your head and become overwhelmed. Start small this year with just a few plants or containers. You’ll be able to adjust as the season moves along,” Hentges said. “Our growing season can go well into the fall, so there’s plenty of time to adjust your plan.”
It’s easier to start the growing season with a tidy space, said David Hillock, OSU Extension consumer horticulturist. Raking up leaves and removing fallen branches provides gardeners with a clean slate. The organic matter can be composted and later used to improve the soil in traditional garden beds, raised beds and containers.
“High-quality soil provides essential nutrients and the right texture for roots to spread out,” Hillock said. “Your landscape soil can vary, so it’s a good idea to boost its capabilities.”
Adding organic matter whenever possible improves soil structure, and soil tests every few years can provide guidance on nutrient supplementation and fertilizer application timing.
Gardeners who may have been in a hurry to store tools at the end of last year’s growing season should take time over the next few weeks to tune them up. Sharpen hand tools and loppers to make pruning easier. Check spark plugs and oil levels on motorized tools to ensure they’re in good working order.
Hillock said winter is a good time to prune deciduous trees because they’re dormant.
“Wait as late in the season as possible to prune fruit trees. Pruning allows more light penetration to the growing fruit,” he said. “Also, keep in mind younger trees are more likely to suffer freeze injury than older trees,” he said.
Early spring is a good time to get a jump start on weed control. Apply a pre-emergent weed spray to help prevent new weeds before they appear.
“For gardeners who can’t wait to get some dirt under their fingernails, go ahead and get some seedlings started. Once the temperatures are consistently above 45 degrees, harden off these seedlings to prepare for outdoor planting,” Hentges said. “Container plants brought indoors last season can be moved back outside after dangers of frost and freezes. Also, after it warms up a bit, divide and transplant fall-blooming perennials to promote more blooms. It’s a good idea to keep frost blankets ready in the event of unexpected freezing temperatures.”
OSU Extension offers more gardening information online. Check out the Oklahoma Gardening website for show segments, links to gardening resources, featured recipes and more. “Oklahoma Gardening” also has a channel on YouTube and can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The new season of “Oklahoma Gardening” begins Feb. 11 on OETA.
OSU Extension uses research-based information to help all Oklahomans solve local issues and concerns, promote leadership and manage resources wisely throughout the state’s 77 counties. Most information is available at little to no cost.