Winter 2014-15 / Volume 94       

In This Issue
December/January Tips
Care and Disposal of Live Trees
Winterize Garden Tools
Spring Seedlings
Ask A Master Gardener...Soil Testing

Weather Stats for Gardeners

Soil Temperature 2" below sod:   

48 degrees 


Rainfall total last 30 days:  

1.31 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

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 recommended trees with descriptions.
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.

December/January Lawn & Garden Tips
  • Poinsettias must have at least six hours of bright, indirect light daily. Keep plants away from drafts.
  • Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3 to 4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.
  • Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.
  • Keep all plants watered during dry conditions even though some may be dormant.Irrigate all plantings at least 24 hours before hard-freezing weather if soil is dry. (HLA 6404)
  • Now is a great time to design and make structural improvements in your garden and landscape.
  • Send for mail-order catalogs if you are not already on their mailing lists.
  • Christmas gift ideas for the gardener might include tools, garden books or magazine subscriptions.
  • Clean and fill bird feeders.
  • Make sure indoor plants are receiving enough light, or set up an indoor fluorescent plant light.
  • Till garden plots without a cover crop to further expose garden pests to harsh winter conditions.
  • Visit your county extension office to obtain gardening fact sheets for the new gardening season.
  • Join a horticulture, plant or urban forestry society and support community "greening" or "beautification" projects.
  • Review your garden records so you can correct past mistakes. Purchase a new gardening journal or calendar to keep the New Year's gardening records.
  • Check on supplies of pesticides. Secure a copy of current recommendations and post them in a convenient place. Dilution and quantity tables are also useful.
  • Remove leaves from cool-season grasses or mow with a mulching mower. (HLA-6420)
  • Continue mowing cool-season lawns on a regular basis. (HLA-6420)
  • Continue to control broadleaf weeds in well-established warm- or cool-season lawns with a post-emergent broadleaf weed killer. (HLA-6421)
  • Check that gardening tools and equipment are in good repair-sharpen, paint, and repair mowers, edgers, sprayers, and dusters.
  • A product containing glyphosate plus a postemergent broadleaf herbicide can be used on dormant bermudagrass in January or February when temperatures are above 50�F for winter weed control. Do not use on zoysia (HLA-6421).
  • Select a freshly cut Christmas tree. Make a new cut prior to placing in tree stand. Add water daily.
  • Live Christmas trees are a wise investment, as they become permanent additions to the landscape after the holidays.
  • Light prunings of evergreens can be used for holiday decorations. Be careful with sap that can mar surfaces.
  • Apply winter mulch to protect rose bush bud unions and other perennials. Wait until after several early freezes or you will give insects a good place to winter.
  • If precipitation has been deficient (1" of snow = 1/10" of water), water lawns, trees, and shrubs, especially broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens. Double check moisture in protected or raised planters.
  • If you did not treat young pines for tip borers in November, do so before March.
  • Inspect your irrigation system and replace worn or broken parts.
  • Control overwintering insects on deciduous trees or shrubs with dormant oil sprays applied when the temperature is above 40�F in late fall and winter. Do not use "dormant" oils on evergreens. (EPP-7306)

Care and Disposal of a Live or Fresh-Cut Christmas Tree      

There is no denying the special holiday feeling of bringing home a fresh, green Christmas tree that fills your home with the festive scent of pine. However, a fresh-cut or live Christmas tree for the holidays will require a little extra care and attention.  


Christmas may be over now, but you will probably will want to keep your tree up and enjoy it a little longer. The most important thing to do now is keep watering your tree every day using plain tap water with no additives for best results. Trees can consume as much as a gallon or more of water per day, depending on the size and type of tree. When it comes to fire safety, the most important thing to know is that a well-hydrated tree provides natural protection against fire hazards.  


Once the time comes to dispose of your tree, there are a number of options. When disposing, consider using a tree bag to help minimize scattering needles, branches and debris all over your house. For environmental considerations, consider trimming the smaller limbs and either adding them to your compost pile or to the garden as mulch. Larger limbs can be used as stakes in your garden. They can even be used in your landscape for a winter bird sanctuary, giving them shelter from wind and predators. Treats such as peanut butter and suet can be added to the tree as a nourishing treat. For those fishermen (and fisher ladies) out there, another option might be to haul it to the lake, attach a cinder block to it and drop it into your favorite fishing location as a hot-spot for crappie.


Another excellent option is to take them to a seller of trees. Both the Owasso Tree and Berry Farm and Tulsa's Southwood Landscape and Garden Center will take trees and grind them into mulch. You need not to have purchased the tree from either of them in order to be accepted for recycling.


Another option is to take your tree to the City of Tulsa's Green Waste Site. It is located at 2100 N. 145th East Ave and is open 7 days a week 7:30 to 5 pm, closing only on city holidays. The service is free, with proof of Tulsa residency.


Lastly, the city curbside pickup service will collect trees. As most Tulsans are aware, these trees are not recycled, but are incinerated along with the other green waste collected in Tulsa. Trees for curbside pick-up should be under 6 feet long..

'Tis the Season to Winterize Garden Tools 
As we put our lawn mower and other garden tools away for the winter, it's time to give our "garden buddies" some extra tender loving care. 'Tis the season to winterize our garden buddies so they rest (not rust) during their winter vacation.
Sprayers, Fertilizer Spreaders: Triple rinsing of container and parts is recommended, then dry thoroughly.  Check the manual for tips on oiling any moving parts. Take precautions by wearing gloves and safety glasses, and wash any exposed skin immediately afterwards. 

Wheelbarrows: Clean and touch up rusty spots with spray paint. Oil the wheel(s) if needed. Treat wood handles with paste wax or linseed oil. 

Shovels, Rakes, Hoes, Trowels, Spades, Saws: Scrub the blade surfaces with soapy water. Steel wool or a wire brush works well to remove any rust. Sharpen the metal portion with a mill file or sharpening stone, pushing the file or stone at an angle in a single motion along the edge away from the blade of the tool. Remove rough edge from opposite side by lightly filing the burrs off. Finally, wipe the metal portion with petroleum-based lubricant. Wood handles can be lightly sanded and treated with linseed oil or paste wax.

Pruners: Clean, apply WD-40 to the moving parts, sharpen only the beveled edge of the cutter portion with a sharpening stone or file, being careful to maintain the original shape of the blade. Wipe metal with petroleum-based lubricant. Treat wood handles with linseed oil or paste wax.

Gas-Powered Equipment: Winter maintenance on gas powered tools is obviously going to be more involved; thus it's always a good idea to review the owner's manual for routine maintenance. For starters, clean the summer debris and dirt off the exterior of the machine to eliminate rust opportunities. More tips:
  • Oil (4-cycle engines) - Remove drain plug, drain the old oil into a container, dispose at local haz-waste location, and replace with fresh oil. SAE30 or 10W30 are typically recommended, but check your manual. Replace oil filter. 2-cycle engines do not have an oil sump to drain because oil is mixed directly into the gas.
  • Air Filter - A dirty filter reduces air flow and results in the engine getting too much fuel. Clean or replace the air filter. Note: If you have a foam filter, re-oil it after cleaning, using same oil used in the crankcase. 
  • Mower Blade Sharpening, Wheel Bearings, Throttle Cables, Loose Hardware - After a season of hitting the invisible rocks, the mower blades will take a beating. Tighten any loose hardware and sharpen the blades. Check for worn parts. WD-40 or silicone lubricants are recommended for wheel bearing and throttle cables. 
  • Fuel - During storage, gas forms gums and residue, which can plug the fuel jets. Moisture may also collect in the gas tank, causing you headaches in the spring when you try to start your machine. It is recommended that untreated gas not be stored in the gas tank for inactive periods more than 1-2 months. One method to avoid this is to drain the gas out of the tank and start the engine. Run the engine to get all the gas out of the gas lines and carburetor. The engine will stop when it has consumed all of the gas. Let it cool, take the spark plug out and pour about a tablespoon of oil into the cylinder. With the spark plug wire off, turn over the engine a few times. This will distribute the oil to the cylinder and piston surfaces. The other method is to put gas stabilizer into the gas tank. To minimize air space in the gas tank, fill the tank full with the gas/stabilizer mixture. Run the engine for a few minutes to draw the stabilized gas into the fuel lines and carburetor. Mechanics recommend closing the engine's valves. To close valves engines with hand-pull starters, pull the cord until resistance is felt.
  • Spark Plugs - They get dirty over time, but you can fix this by removing them with a socket wrench, squirting the big ends with brake spray cleaner, and scraping off the carbonized black stuff with a wire brush. If they look too dirty to clean, they should be replaced.
Then retire to the couch for a long afternoon nap, dreaming of next spring!

Visions of Spring Seedlings  

If you're looking for a way to beat the winter doldrums and are ready to start dreaming of spring, as the calendar turns to a new year, it is time to start some seeds indoors.

Several of the cool-season vegetables, those best planted outdoors in late February to mid-March, should be started indoors in January. This includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and onions. These plants usually take 5-7 weeks from seeding to a size for transplanting. Onions take longer, 8-10 weeks.

There are a number of things to consider to ensure success. A common issue is a condition called "damping off." This causes new sprouts to develop brown stems and ultimately die. This is due to one of several types of fungi and is a problem indoors and out, both for the homeowner and commercial growers. Prevention of these infections is the best way to manage them. Starting with disease-free seeds and using a sterile, soil-free potting mix will eliminate much of the fungal problem. The pots and gardening tools should be rinsed with a 10 percent solution of bleach in water. The area where sprouts are grown should be kept "kitchen clean."

When planting, avoid growing plants too close together and make sure there is good ventilation in the area. Do not place them in the path of a heating vent.

Inadequate sunlight and excess watering are other factors that promote damping off. The potting soil should be kept moist, but not saturated. Also it is desirable to place the new sprouts in sunlight until they are ready to go outdoors. If sunlight is not available, a fluorescent grow light placed close to the plants is second best.

All seeds have an ideal soil temperature at which germination occurs; about 70-80 degrees is optimal for many plants, though the cool season crops will germinate at lower temperatures.

Tall and floppy sprouts are usually due to inadequate sunlight or too much nitrogen fertilizer. This is true for indoor sprouts as well as mature plants in the garden. Also, plants that do not experience movement may have skinny stems. Often growers circulate air with a fan at intervals, which not only helps prevent disease, but improves overall plant strength.

Fortunately, all of this information is provided in OSU fact sheet HLA-6020, "Growing Vegetable Transplants." Another vegetable fact sheet, one of our most popular, HLA-6004 "Oklahoma Vegetable Garden Planting Guide" will also be very helpful.

Question: What is a soil test and how do I get one? What will the results tell me?
Answer:  All plants need 16 nutrients for optimal growth, and most are found in the soil. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are nutrients needed in the greatest quantities. The three numbers on fertilizer bags are percent concentration of N-P-K. In addition to nutrients, plants also need a certain range of soil acidity, measured as pH, for best growth.

OSU's basic soil test measures N-P-K and the pH of a soil sample, along with recommendations for amounts and types of fertilizer, if needed. Tests can be done any time of the year, but are best done in the fall to allow planning for spring.

Ten or more subsamples from the top 6 inches of soil should be collected. These subsamples should be free of trash and combined and mixed in a plastic bucket to make one sample. Approximately one pint of this combined sample should be taken to the Tulsa OSU Extension office. The cost is $10 and takes about two to three weeks for the test to be completed at the OSU laboratory in Stillwater.

Perform separate tests on different landscape areas - one for a lawn and another for the vegetable garden. Do not submit a sample from an area that has been fertilized within the last two months, or the results will be misleading.

There are some environmentally important facts about N-P-K that you should know when selecting fertilizers based on your soil test. Nitrogen is the chief nutrient needed by plants. Nitrogen also is water soluble and moves with water in the soil. Phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, potassium are bound to soil particles where they are applied.

When added to the soil surface, phosphorus and potassium may be out of reach of plant roots and can remain there for years. This accumulation, especially of phosphorus, may be washed away with topsoil during heavy rains.

Most recent homeowner soil sample tests performed by OSU have shown virtually no evidence of phosphorus deficiency; many  of them, in fact, showed large excesses of both phosphorus and potassium. Of these two nutrients, phosphorus excess is the most harmful to the environment. In regularly fertilized lawns, there is enough accumulated bound phosphorus to last for decades. This problem is widespread and has caused several states to pass laws forbidding the use of phosphorus unless a soil test reveals deficiency.

Unless you have soil that has never been fertilized, or a soil test indicates a need, you should not be using phosphorus for surface application. Fertilizer companies are responding to this problem and are beginning to market "phosphorus-free" lawn preparations.

Use only the nutrients needed. Usually this will be a nitrogen-only fertilizer for lawns. Don't routinely use a phosphorus fertilizer unless you can document a need by having your soil tested.

Assistance in deciding the best amendments, based on the soil test results, can be found in an OSU fact sheet, "Improving Garden Soil Fertility ." It's available online or from the OSU Extension center.

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