November 2012 / Volume 69               

In This Issue
November Lawn and Garden Tips
Cold Frames Extend Growing Seasons
Soil Testing...Your Plants Will Thank You
When Indoor Plants Come Back Inside
El Niño Update
Ask A Master Gardener...Azaleas

Weather Stats for Gardeners

Soil Temperature 2" below sod:   

59 degrees 


Rainfall total last 30 days:  

0.14 inches


4 Ways to Contact Us
Email us at:

See our website at: 

Call: 918-746-3701 from 9-4, M-F 
Visit us at 4116 E. 15th Street, Gate 6 at the Fairgrounds

Whether you call or bring samples of plants to the office, trained Master Gardeners will answer your gardening questions with science-based information.
Need More Information?

Click on any of the links below:


All about butterfly gardening in Tulsa County 

How to Take a Soil Test

How to collect a good sample of soil from your lawn or garden and get it tested at the OSU lab.
Understanding Your Soil Test Results
Once you have collected your soil test and gotten the results back, now what? Find out here. 
How to Plant a Tree in Oklahoma Soil
Show and tell.
Cool Season Lawn Care (Fescue)
12-month maintenance calendar.
Warm-Season Lawn Care (Bermuda)
Ditto above.
Trees for Tulsa
A list of 50 recommended trees with descriptions.
Crape Myrtles
A list of over 60, by size and color.
Demonstration Garden
Visit our demonstration garden on 
15th Street, open 7 days a week.  
Oklahoma Proven Plants
State horticulturists, nurseries and growers pick favorite plants, shrubs and trees for use in the Oklahoma landscape. See the winners for this year and years past.
Current and historical source of rainfall, air temperatures, soil temps and much more. Click on Bixby station.  

Back Issues  

Past issues of our eNewsletters can be read and downloaded.

Become a Master Gardener

Classes start in September each year. Register at our office on 15th Street for more information.

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This includes but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services.
November Lawn and Garden Tips


  • Leftover garden seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

  • Clean your garden tools before storing them for the winter. Apply a thin coat of oil to prevent rust. Drain fuel tanks or add a stabilizer according to directions. Drain garden hoses and bring inside.

  • After vegetable harvest, make sure all insect and disease carrying plant trash is collected and disposed of. Insects such as squash bugs over-winter in plant trash.  


  • Fertilize tall fescue lawns the last time this month. Use 1 to1 1/2 lb of quick-release nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft.   
  • Do not fertilize Bermuda or zoysia lawns until next spring. 
  • Fescue should have one inch of moisture per week. Mow at 2 ½ to 3 inches.    


  • Make sure your shrubs and perennial plants go into winter deeply watered. This is particularly important for evergreens and foliage under eaves that rain doesn't reach. Water especially before predicted hard freeze.
  • Tulips can still be planted through the middle of November. 
  • Wrap young, thin barked trees with a protective tape to prevent winter sun scald. The wrap is available at nurseries and garden centers.
  • Routine pruning of trees and shrubs is best done late winter and early spring. 
  • Continue to plant balled and burlapped and container grown trees. Click here for great trees for Tulsa. 

Cold Frames Extend Growing Seasons   

We have already seen sub-freezing temperatures this fall, and more are sure to come as winter arrives. So, if you want to extend your growing season this year, or get a head start for next year, consider a cold frame.

A cold frame is a transparent-roofed enclosure, built low to the ground, used to protect plants from cold weather. The transparent top allows sunlight in and prevents heat escape via convection that would otherwise occur, particularly at night. Essentially, a cold frame functions as a miniature greenhouse to extend the growing season. It also creates a microclimate to provide several degrees of air and soil temperature insulation, and shelter from wind. These characteristics allow plants to be started earlier in the spring, and to survive longer into the fall and winter. They are most often used for growing seedlings that are later transplanted into open ground, but they can be a permanent home to cold-hardy vegetables grown for autumn and winter harvest.

Cold frame construction is a relatively simple home or farm building project, although kits are readily available online or at select nurseries for $100-200. A traditional plan makes use of old glass windows, where  a wooden frame is built (about 1-2 feet tall) and the window placed on top. The roof is often sloped towards the winter sun to capture more light and improve runoff of water, then hinged for easy access. Clear plastic (rigid or sheeting) can be used in place of glass. An electric heating cable, available specifically for this purpose, can be placed in the soil to provide additional heat if desired.

The best site for your cold frame is a south-facing, sunny spot with good drainage and some protection from the wind. Ideally, the site should get full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. You can set up a cold frame permanently in your garden, or make one that you put away when you're not using it.

Before you set up a cold frame in a permanent spot, dig out the top 3-4 inches of soil inside the frame and replace it with a layer of coarse gravel. Then put 6 inches of topsoil back, as this will ensure good drainage.

One of the advantages of using a cold frame is that you can raise a huge variety of crops from seed through to maturity within the frame, so it is possible to have vegetable crops ahead of their normal season. Some of the crops suitable for growing in a cold frame include lettuces, parsley, salad onions, spinach, radishes and name a few. One vegetable crop can occupy the whole of a cold frame or a combination of crops can be grown so that they mature in rotation to get a wide range of different vegetables throughout the year from a single cold frame.

So, don't let the coming winter keep you out of the garden...get out there and extend your growing season! Click here to read more on how to get started.

Soil Testing...Your Plants Will Thank You   
Was your garden not up to snuff this year? Or, are you planning to start one next spring? If so, now is the time to have your soil tested.

The standard soil test measures soil acidity and levels of the more common nutrients needed by plants. Samples are collected by the OSU Extension office on 15th street at gate number six of the fairgrounds and sent to the soil testing laboratory at OSU. The cost is $10 per test and it takes about 2 weeks to get results. The report has specific suggestions on how to treat any problem which the test may uncover.

How you collect the soil is very important. Unique areas of your landscape, such as lawns or garden beds, should each have a test. Do not submit soil from an area which has been fertilized during the past 2 months.

Ten or more subsamples from the top 6 inches of soil should be collected. Remove all trash and mix in a clean plastic bucket to make one sample. Approximately one pint of this mixture should be taken to the Tulsa OSU Extension office.

The OSU lab can test for many chemicals, but the standard homeowner test measures 4 things; soil acidity and the nutrient levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

All plants have a certain range of acidity(pH) which allows them to absorb necessary nutrients. This range is different from one plant group to the next. If your soil pH is incorrect for your plants, adding either sulfur (lowers pH) or lime (raises pH) will be recommended.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are listed as percents on a bag of fertilizer you purchase. They are listed in that order, with nitrogen being the first number. Nitrogen is the most needed nutrient and the recommended amounts of fertilizer application rates are based on the nitrogen in the product.

Simple nitrogen fertilizers are water soluble and most will be gone within two months, either used by plants or washed out of root zones. Phosphorus and potassium are also important for normal plant growth, but behave differently than nitrogen. Both are tightly bound to soil where they are applied. If spread on the soil surface, phosphorus may be out of reach for plants roots and remain in place for years unless washed into our waterways as a pollutant. Most Tulsa homeowner soil tests show excessive phosphorus levels from previous fertilization.   

A soil test will help you decide on the best amendments to use. Click here for OSU fact sheet, "Improving Garden Soil Fertility." Click here for more information on soil testing.

When Indoor Plants Come Back Inside          
Did you give your indoor plants and yourself a "vacation" over the past summer and put them outside? With the gorgeous covered patios, swimming pools, and pergolas that are "vogue" right now, it is exciting to decorate with tropical plants, ferns, and other "indoor/outdoor" plants. If you have any such plants and have not done so already, you need to bring them indoors now!

While many tropical outdoor plants may be too big to winter in your homes, sunrooms, and greenhouses (if you are so lucky), you might consider putting them into your garage. Having casters under large containers makes this job much easier. If you do use the garage, remember that many of these tropical plants will go semi-dormant during the winter months. Nearby windows or grow lights will help you achieve the goal of over-wintering them. A heater will also be needed when temperatures dip into the teens or lower. Reduce watering to once every two or three weeks and expect some leaf drop.

Sunrooms and large windows are ideal settings for potted plants. Some annuals will do well and bloom all winter in sunny locations - just be sure and cut them back so they do not get too leggy!

Here are some things to remember before bringing plants indoors:
  • If the plants are in a sunny area, you must move them to a shadier location for at least one month before bringing them inside. Once they are brought back into the house, be aware of how much light they are receiving. Remember that the sun moves to the south through the early winter, so avoid placing them in a south or west windowsill.
  • Inspect the plants for pests. Gently rinse off any pests you can see and dust the leaves clean. Submerge the pot in water (like leaching) for a short period of time to flush any soil dwelling insects and yes, worms, out of the pot. If you are still concerned about bringing any critters in, mix a dilute solution of an insecticidal soap and pour through the pot, and  spray the leaves with the solution. Always read the directions and be sure that the insecticidal soap is not detrimental to that particular plant.
  • Reduce the amount of watering and do not fertilize during the winter months.
  • Be aware that houseplants which change locations, especially from bright sunlight to lower indoor lighting, will drop many of their leaves while adjusting to the new environment. Ferns are good example. Never put houseplants near a heating vent; Plants do need some moist air, so a humidifier or bowls of water nearby will help to keep them healthy.
  • Unless they are extremely overcrowded in the pot, it is best to wait until spring to repot them.
  • Finally, in spring, wait until the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees, place them in a protected area out of any sun, repot if needed, fertilize, water, and enjoy!

Click here for more houseplant care information. 

El Niño Update   

In September, we told you about a developing El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean. At that time it was still unclear how strong it would become. However, the latest data from that part of the world suggests it was mainly just a big tease...El Niño 2013 looks to be a flop as sea-surface temperatures have actually cooled back down! So neutral conditions look to be the rule through the winter.

What does this mean for our winter weather, you ask? Not much it turns out. Due to the fact that the El Niño/La Niña cycle are one of the few predictable atmospheric events in the long term (meaning more than a week or two), the long range forecasts for this area have become more uncertain. However, the odds are tilted just a little toward drier than normal weather for December through February. The main reason for this designation is likely a continuation of recent trends (in a drought, forecast a drought) of below normal rainfall that have plagued us for a couple of years now.

One thing that is certain...the drought WILL end at some point. When that will be is anybody's guess. Stay up to date at the National Weather Service, Tulsa office website.

QandA  Q&A
Question: The new city trash regulations make it a more difficult to send my leaves to the dump as I have in the past. What are my other options?

Answer: There are several options for leaf disposal. They may be mowed into lawns, used as mulch for garden beds or composted into organic material for soil enrichment. Preparing them requires a little work, but they do give you free fertilizer, mulch and compost. Click here for information on how to build a compost bin.

Studies have shown that mowing up to 6 inches of leaves into all types of turfgrass is beneficial if done properly. The lawn should be mowed tall (2-3 inches) and the leaves should be completely shredded so they fall below the top of the grass. They decompose rapidly and do not contribute to thatch or disease.

Leaves also make great mulch for your garden. It is preferable to shred them with a mower before adding as mulch. If you add shredded leaves to your garden beds in the fall, they should be completely decomposed into usable organics and nutrients by the following fall, ready for another application. If they are not shredded and simply piled up in the bed, they may become soggy and not allow passage of water and air.
These same shredded leaves also may be directly tilled into the soil of your garden bed this fall. They will compost in ground and the bed should be ready by spring for planting of either veggies or ornamentals.

A compost pile is looking more friendly now with the new city regulations. OSU's fact sheet, "Backyard Composting in Oklahoma" which gives you complete information on composting. This fact sheet is available online or at the OSU Extension Office.

Most yard wastes may be composted-such as grass clippings, smaller pruned limbs from shrubs, as well as shredded leaves. You may also add non-fat containing food scraps including coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells and vegetable trimmings.

Don't forget that Tulsa has an excellent free green waste site for all of your yard wastes, including large tree parts. The site is open daily, except city holidays, and is free to Tulsans with proof of residence. The site is at 1401 E. 56th St. North, just west of Highway 169. There, all your yard wastes, including leaves if you wish to take them, will be processed into free mulch for all.


Click here to send your question to the Tulsa Master Gardeners or see Answers to other Questions on the Web site