The city of Tahlequah is starting to look a little more colorful, as spring has come and given people the opportunity to work on their home gardens or those for the public to enjoy along Main Street.
It’s not too late to start a flower garden, but before people get started, the OSU Cooperative Extension Service for Cherokee County recommends getting a soil test done. Whether it’s a first-time garden or one those with a green thumb have had for years, the test can help determine what additions to the soil should be made to get the most production out of a plot.
“It gives you some assurance that you know what was available for the plant in the soil, and then you can supply material to make up for any deficiencies that are there,” said Garrett Ford, agriculture educator. “It can also save you money by keeping you from over applying things, or from applying things that you didn’t even need. It’s just a best practice all around.”
The OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County will lend out soil probes to anyone in the county for people to test on their gardens. Ford will offer tips on how to take samples and will send them to the OSU Soil Testing Lab in Stillwater to determine what that soil needs to help plants flourish.
“Whenever you’re getting into floral installation or vegetable gardens, you want to be a little more particular and be sure to amend the soil as necessary to just give those plants the best chance,” said Ford.
Spring is a good time for pruning shrubs, but it’s past the point for pruning species that have already started to flower, said Ford. Pruning shrubs and bushes that haven’t flowered allow for the plant to seal over its wounds during the growing season, contributing to the overall health of the plant.
Landscapers looking to plant flowers will have less maintenance over the summer than those attempting to grow trees or shrubs. When planting a tree during the spring, it requires the planter to pay close attention as the summer heat comes in, which can damage the plant. So they require a lot more watering than a flower bed, said Ford.
“Spring is the busiest time of year for greenhouses and nurseries,” he said. “There will be certain beds outside of a business where they’re just constantly putting different colored flowers in throughout the year. That’s what they call in the landscaping industry ‘annual color.’ There are certain species that you want to stay away from this time of year and there are certain species that you would plant this time of year.”
Some common, warm-season flowers that people tend to plant this time of year include: marigolds, geraniums, zinnias, and impatiens.
Locals may have noticed more people working outside in their front yards recently, but some added color has also come to downtown Tahlequah, where the Nasturtium Garden Club has been working on curbside gardens that line Muskogee Avenue.
“We do weeding and we’re always planting,” said Sandy Fitzgerald, of the Garden Club. “This morning, we had some lavender, purple, and white creeping phlox donated, so some of us got out and planted some of those in the bump outs.”
The Nasturtium group helps maintain, when needed, all 23 curbside gardens, about 10 of which has the club’s name on them. The club also typically helps out with weeding and planting flowers in the city’s parks, when they’re called upon.
Fitzgerald said some people may have forgotten to trim their rose bushes this March, but she said it’s not too late. It could set back the bloom a week or two, but she said the bushes will end up looking healthier if cut back to about one-foot tall.
“Monkey grasses can be cut back severely, to about two inches tall,” Fitzgerald said. “They put out a lot of new growth, and right now it’s kind of brown looking because of the winter burn, but monkey grass has lived all winter and it just needs to have a hair cut.”
Barbara Partak, longtime Nasturtium Garden Club member, said she’s been working on planting some hostas on the hill in her backyard. She said it’s the perfect time to plant perennials.
“Anything that’s coming up right now, this would be a good time to transplant those,” she said. “I’ve got some woodland poppies that are hard to transplant when they start getting big, and they’re coming up now, so this would be a good time to divide them and give them to friends.”
It’s also an appropriate time to start planting heucheras, daffodils, and spreading wild flower seeds, said Partak.
The Nasturtium Garden Club of Tahlequah had not been meeting because of the pandemic, but will restart Monday, at 7 p.m., at the Brookside Center in Tahlequah. Partak said anyone interested in joining or learning more about the Garden Club may attend. In June, the club typically holds a tour of members’ yards, just for people to see what each other is working on. For more information, call Partak at 918-456-9345.
People are also encouraged to call the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County, at 918-456-6163, for any questions about gardening or soil tests.