Lately, the weather in Oklahoma has never been more beautiful, but my friends, don’t be fooled by these fabulous temperatures and blue skies. It’s a false spring.
False spring comes every year in February or March, and it flirts with gardeners like a sultry siren.
It’s not time to sprint through the tulips, trowel in hand, even if your little gardener’s heart wants to start planting tomatoes and other tropical things.
I know you want to get going, and it doesn’t help when you go to the local box stores, and they’ve lined their shelves with sacrificial plants. They know we have spring fever, and are happy to oblige.
False spring is time for pansies, violas and snapdragons.
On the annual flower front, don’t buy anything except pansies, violas, and snapdragons. You can also buy early-blooming perennials like Ajuga reptans, carpet bugleweed.
Plant trees and shrubs. Lord knows, we need to after last winter.
It’s also fine if you buy some shrubs. Add an early bloomer like Hamamelis spp. ‘Diane,’ ‘Jelena,’ or ‘Arnold Promise.’
In future false springs, you’ll be glad because you’ll have something to look at while you wait.
You can also plant our state tree, Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma,’ and other deciduous trees now. I saw ‘Oklahoma’ redbuds at Lowe’s this week on 2nd Street. This variety has thicker, stronger leaves that can handle our abundant sunshine.
No tomatoes, eggplant or peppers yet.
Stay away from tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-weather vegetable transplants. Yes, I’ve seen them for sale locally. I won’t say where. Unless you want to keep them indoors under lights or in a heated greenhouse, they will die.
Plant hellebores and epimediums. They bloom this time of year and are wonderful shade plants.
OK, what can you do during false spring?
- Clean out your perennial beds and your vegetable garden. Order new perennials to complement your beds, or to replace plants that died. This year, my garden is full of dead plants. Those beneath the snow line will probably be okay though.
- Plant vegetable transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cold crops. It’s too late to start seeds.
- Sow seeds outdoors for cool-weather flowers like calendula, nasturtiums, etc.
- Sow seeds for quick-growing cold-weather-loving veggies like radishes, sweet podded peas, shelling peas (although these are harder in our climate), snow peas, spinach, lettuces, and greens including Asian greens like tatsoi and bok choy, onion sets, or onion seeds if you want to get green onions in late summer. I usually plant my potatoes around St. Patrick’s Day. Eek! That’s next week.
- Prune your roses. For more information on rose pruning, see Time to prune roses. Be on the lookout for Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) on existing roses. You may have lost some of your roses to the cold and ice, but often roses can take a beating without dying. Feel free to dig up any that are down to two canes and toss them on a brush pile unless they have RRD. I haven’t seen any RRD in several years, but I’ve seen it at some of my client’s houses. Don’t plant a rose in the same spot because there may be some roots of the diseased rose remaining in the soil. Although RRD doesn’t contaminate the soil, it can still be on the roots of the previous rose.
- Sow seeds indoors for warm-weather veggies and flowers. You can go ahead and sow seeds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. Most flowers that like our summers can also be sown indoors now.
- Plant dormant trees and shrubs including fruit trees. Make sure they’re watered well especially before freezing weather. You can also plant evergreens, but don’t replace the sad Cedrus deodara, Deodar cedars, in your yard just yet. They may still live. I’m watching mine for a few weeks.
Well, if you get all of that done, you can listen to Carol J. Michel and me on our podcast, the Gardenangelists. Better yet, take us along with you as you work. Last week, we talked about the flowers and veggies we simply must grow, and this week is about asparagus, serviceberries, and a bonsai anyone can grow.
So much to do before we sleep.
False spring is the season when there’s so much to do and so little time to do it. I’ve spent nearly every moment in the garden when I’m not garden coaching. I am really busy with both this year.
It may be false spring, but true spring and the light at the end of the Covid tunnel are coming. No one is happier about that than me.