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.
Good advice. Ya, I wouldn’t even think of planting tomatoes and peppers until May here. And even then, waiting a couple of weeks doesn’t make much difference because they all really take off when the hot weather hits. You have some beautiful roses, Dee.
Dee Nash says
Thanks Beth. Some of the roses will be blooming in a couple of months. I’ve ordered a few David Austin’s that are extremely hardy to replace ones I’ve lost. What a crazy winter. I found one rose just split in half at the base. There was no saving it. It holds true here too that just waiting a bit on the tomatoes is such a great idea. They all catch up rather quickly. Hugs, my friend!~~Dee
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says
Oh, my. Really, you would dig up a rose because it was down to two canes? Here in Cold-Climate-Garden-Land, I would have dug up all my roses by now. Even the ones rated hardy to USDA Zone 4 sometimes die back pretty much to the ground. But they regrow from the roots. All my roses have to be own-root for this reason. And yes, they aren’t as floriferous as yours–but they do flower. In the years when they *don’t* die back to the ground, they flower better, but if I dig them up in a bad year, I won’t have them in a good year.
Dee Nash says
Hi Kathy, yes really. Most of my roses are grafted plants, and once they are down to two canes, I’ll probably get one more season out of them. If they were on their own roots, I would keep them. If it’s a favorite rose that I’ll never plant again because it’s too tender for my crazy climate, I might let it live its last summer. My zone is so very different from yours. ~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow says
I did enjoy that false spring. I will enjoy the true spring too.
I was feeling very overwhelmed with things to do in the garden. I had to sit myself down and have a talk with myself to tell myself it will all get done. Don’t panic. Don’t try to do it all at once. You have all summer. 🙂 Cheers….
Dee Nash says
Oh me too Lisa! I love False Spring. I just feel sad when newer gardeners don’t know this good thing probably won’t last. I always have to have that conversation with myself every year. March is the time when I need to be everywhere doing everything. Hugs!~~Dee
This is so helpful. I am keeping an eye on two of my roses which are coming out at the graft. Anything below the graft will be the old stock rose, and I will probably replace them. If I am lucky, it will be the hybrid, and I can keep it. I planted one bare root rose yesterday, and I have two more soaking in water to be planted probably this evening when I get home from work. On the bright side of this horrid winter is that my peonies have never looked better. I know they need the cold to bloom, so the peonies should be beautiful this year.
Thanks Dee! I don’t feel so far behind on my gardening now. I’ve got some time! Great article.
Dee Nash says
Hi Sherry! You do have time. You have plenty of time. Just don’t worry. ~~Dee
Pat Leuchtman says
Dee – We know we have a false spring here in Massachusetts, but we are in the lower elevations and no longer have snow – unlike I hilly friends. Not quite time for pansies, etc. but the crocuses are blooming, and the daffodils are just beginning to send up their shoots. It is a very exciting time – especially since my husband and I got both our vaccinations. We have never been so ready for spring.
Dee Nash says
Hi Pat, False spring is a lovely time of year meant to be enjoyed. I’m so glad you’re enjoying yours. You’re a bit behind me. I’m so excited about everything that comes up right now. ~~Dee