This is the season when you can enjoy your garden and the fruits of your spring imagination and work.
The unusually cool and humid weather affected gardeners in Oklahoma in different ways.
Some gardeners report the best vegetable and flower garden in recent years. These are usually people with sandy, well-drained soil, or people who farm light, well-drained soil in a bed or container garden.
Some people express great frustration in their plants and have experienced rot, fruit and vegetable rot, yellow or chlorotic foliage, and other diseases. These are often the result of poorly drained soils and even stagnant water problems that have affected root health and then plant performance.
These problems can even be experienced in a bed or container garden if heavy, poorly drained soils are used, sacrificing one of the main benefits of bedding or container gardening.
With each rain, we get a washout that pulls the fertilizer out of the soil and displaces it from the root zone where the plant’s roots can access this important nutrient. There are many great ways to feed your plants, be it tomatoes and begonias, shrubs, lawns or trees.
These are water-soluble fertilizers that should be applied when watering the garden or lawn. We don’t usually feed these liquid-based foods as heavily, but we do this more often to maintain optimal plant health. If you use liquid fertilizer regularly, there are simple dispensers like Hozon or a water-powered injector that make it easier to apply while watering.
There are many types of granular fertilizers that are applied to the soil surface of lawns, flower beds or container gardens. These are usually available to the plant soon after watering and often have low and high application rates depending on how often they are fed and how hungry the plants are.
There are more sophisticated and technically advanced granular fertilizers that have a coated membrane and release fertilizer over time. These coated fertilizers are available in a variety of versions that can be released for two, four, six, nine or even 12 months.
Some people prefer to use natural or organic fertilizers, such as cattle or chicken manure, fish emulsion, seaweed, or many other fertilizers or biological products. These natural fertilizers all work, but offer much lower nitrogen levels, so they should be part of an overall program to improve soil health and add organic matter such as peat, humus or fine bark to the soil for best results.
Our plants do not know the source of the fertilizer. They are only recognized when nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many trace elements are present and available and then activated using basic physiology, where fertilizer elements can often only be utilized in the presence or proportion of other soil nutrients.
It is always a good idea to do an annual soil test at your local extension office to better know what fertilizer your lawn and plants need in your soil type.
If you don’t do a soil test, we usually recommend a good general plant food where the three numbers, such as 10-20-10, add up to 20 or more. These three numbers mean, in order, nitrogen for foliage growth, and so on; phosphorus to stimulate flowering and so on; and potassium to promote root and stem growth, and so on.
During the dry periods between rains, watering is our most important gardening task for the next few months. Land cover is almost always a good idea to reduce irrigation needs, reduce weed pressure and reduce plant stress.
Weeding out weeds and unwanted plants will help the desired plants succeed. Between all these garden projects, don’t forget to take the time to harvest some fresh vegetables to nourish your stomach and cut some fresh flowers to nourish your soul or share with someone else.
Rodd Moesel is president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and has been inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. Questions about the garden and landscape should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.