January 2016 / Volume 106    

In This Issue

Weather Stats for Gardeners

Soil Temperature 2" below sod:   

41 degrees 


Rainfall total last 30 days:  

8.28 inches


2015 Rainfall total: 

64.76 inches

(vs 27.56 in 2014)



Donations Keep The Tulsa Master Gardeners Program Going Strong
Recognition of this month's donations:

Nancy Forcum
Vince Holsten
Karen Horton
Carroll Hunt
Jimmie Mathews
Montez Mutzig
Bill & Sally Sitler

Bixby Garden Club (for TMG Speakers Bureau Program)
The Tulsa Master Gardener Foundation receives no city, state or federal funding for its programs. In fact, the majority of Tulsa's Master Gardener programs are self-funded.

Tulsa Master Gardener's own fundraisers make up most of the income to cover expenses. A significant portion comes from the Tulsa Master Gardener Annual Plant Sale that is held each April. Other fundraisers include the Garden Tour (June) and "Garage Sales" that occur from time to time. Finally, one other income source that sometimes gets overlooked are personal and corporate donations.  These are so important in helping to meet our financial obligations and are very much appreciated. 

You can make an online contribution by going to the Tulsa Master Gardeners website and donate directly through PayPal. For other information on how you can help support all that the Tulsa Master Gardeners do for their community, contact the Tulsa Master Gardeners Office by calling 918-746-3701.  Thank you! 

4 Ways to Contact Us
Email us at:

See our website at: www.tulsamastergardeners.org 

Call: 918-746-3701 from 9-4, Monday - Friday 
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.
January Garden, Lawn, & Landscape Tips

  • Sterilize pots and garden tools. Use one part household bleach to nine parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes, rise, and let dry.
  • Try to recycle your cut Christmas tree rather than sending it to the landfill. It may be used as a bird shelter, sunk into a pond for fish habitat, or cut or ground up for mulch or the compost pile.
  • Another way to recycle your tree, if you are able, is to take it to the City of Tulsa's Green Waste Site. It is located at 2100 North 145th East Ave and is open 7 days a week from 7:30 to 5:00 pm, closing only on city holidays.  The service is free, with proof of Tulsa residency.  At the green waste site you may also obtain all of the free wood-chip mulch you may need.  In addition, there is free firewood on site.  No matter your tree's final destination, be sure to remove all ornaments.  
  • Obtain the fruit tree spray schedule from the Master Gardener office or web site.  Note that each fruit type has a different schedule.
  • Green winter weeds, such as henbit and dandelions, may be controlled in dormant (brown) Bermuda lawns with glyphosate, a herbicide found in Roundup and others. Products containing glyphosate or a post-emergent broadleaf herbicide can be used on dormant bermudagrass in January or February when temperatures are above 50F for winter weed control. Note they cannot be used on fescue or zoysia lawns.
  • If precipitation becomes deficient (1" of snow = ~ 1/10" of water), water lawns, trees, and shrubs, especially broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens.  Double check moisture levels in protected areas, such as under eaves, or in raised planters.  Watering deeply before predicted hard freezes will reduce the chance of winter damage.
  • Mulching all plants will conserve water and insulate the soil. 
  • Fertilize pansies and violas on a mild winter day. Water when the soil is dry. 
  • If you did not treat young pines for tip borers in November, do so before March.
  • The dreary weather of January and February is a good time to sit back and design your landscapes for spring. The Oklahoma Proven selections at www.oklahomaproven.org offer lots of ideas for trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  
  • If you have unplanted bulbs from the fall, plant them ASAP. They will bloom less reliably and will have shorter stems, but cannot be saved for the following year.  
  • Check that gardening tools and equipment are in good repair: sharpen, paint, and repair mowers, edgers, sprayers, and dusters.
  • 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 40F in late fall and winter.  Do not use "dormant" oils on evergreens. (EPP-7306)
  • 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. 

Tulsa Master Gardener Program of the Month
"Exploring Insects"

What could be more fun than children and insects?  Well, on May 5th, The Tulsa County Master Gardeners are offering an exciting experience for Tulsa County 3rd to 5th grade students.  EXPLORING INSECTS will be a two-hour, fun-filled, hands-on learning experience. 

The event will be similar to the program that was presented at the Annual Entomology Regional Meeting held in Tulsa this last year.  Many Master Gardeners volunteered at the event and, since the event was so successful, we have decided to hold a similar event for Tulsa students every year.

One attraction will be the "Insect Zoo" from OSU Entomology Department and Dr. Adrine Shufran will be present.  She is the zoo's coordinator and our inspiration and mentor.  The "Zoo" has many varieties of live insects which students may observe and touch.  In addition, there will be 20 booths where the students can learn about, interact with, and even taste bugs! There will also be Termite Nascar Races, Maggot Art, and a chance to dance the Bee Boogie and learn about beekeeping and honey making. 
The goals are:

1. To learn about all types of insects.

2. To learn that most bugs are our friends and we need them in         our world.

3. To learn that very few bugs are harmful.

4. To help reduce fear of insects through knowledge and                   familiarity.
That is a lot to accomplish in just two hours and to also have a great time!
At the beginning of January, teachers and home school parents may go online to www.tulsamastergardeners.org, select "Exploring Insects" and register their classes or students.  There is a nominal fee to cover supplies, and all students will receive an "EXPLORING  INSECTS"  tee shirt.  There will be two sessions: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you have a student in these age groups, encourage their teacher to sign up early because space is limited.  Registration will be on a first-come basis.  Let's go learn about bugs!

NOTE: Dr. Shufran puts on multiple "OSU Insect Adventure" sessions each year for kids of all ages.  To see Dr. Shufran in action and to get a sampling of what the "Insect Zoo" at this event will be like, please view the following video:


Mistletoe: Friend or Foe?

Mistletoe is the common name for a large group of semi-parasitic plants in the family Santalaceae.  Yes, I did say "Santa" laceae, which is just a coincidence for this Christmas kissing plant tradition.  The American Mistletoe is Phoradendron leucarpum, which comes from the Greek word meaning 'thief of the tree'.  Mistletoe, being a parasitic plant, depends on another tree or shrub for survival.  Some varieties actually perform some type of photosynthesis on their own, but depend primarily on water and nutrients from the host plant.  Mistletoe is spread generally by birds that eat the clusters of ten or more white berries containing a drupe or seed.  The seed is covered with a sticky coating called viscin and, as the bird wipes its beak on a tree branch, the seed attaches to the living tissue by a structure called the haustorium and germinates on the branch.

Mistletoe can kill the distal portion of the branch on which it is growing.  It can be removed from tree branches by removing the entire plant including the haustorium, from which any part left on the branch will grow another plant.  Many plants growing in the crown of trees can stunt growth of the branches in that part of the tree.  On larger trees it is rare that a host will be killed and, rather than being a pest, Mistletoe can have a positive effect on biodiversity providing high quality food and habitat for a broad range of animals.

For those wishing to remove mistletoe from a tree, there is a relatively safe growth regulator chemical which is useful.  The brand name is Florel and it is used as a spray.  Follow labeled directions and one or two applications is usually effective.

Mistletoe berries are food for birds, but are toxic to humans.  Legend has it that a Norse god was killed by an arrow made from the plant and, when his mother cried over her son, her tears turned into white berries and he came back to life.  She blessed the plant and promised anyone who stood under the Mistletoe a kiss.  The legend flourished in Victorian England and was considered bad luck if a woman refused a kiss under the plant.  The plant is associated with life and fertility and is considered the spirit of the host plant because it remains green all winter when deciduous trees go dormant and brown.
So, mistletoe . . . friend or foe?  It is a pervasive custom to place a twig of this wonderful plant above the door at Christmas time and to expect a kiss from anyone standing beneath it so, go ahead and pucker up and leave the berries to the birds.

Winterizing Garden Tools
The most important tool in the garden is you.  When you're feeling rusty and dull and not too sharp, you should take care of yourself.  The same is true of your garden tools.  They'll be more productive if they're well cared for.

Jim Child (1999) Garden Gate, Issue 30.
This quote should inspire us to care for our tools as we do ourselves.  Now that our gardening season has once more ended and our beds have been winterized, it is time to do the same for our tools.  This requires three phases: cleaning, sharpening, and storing.
The first task is cleaning the tools.  While advisable to do this each time you use them, it is doubly important at the end of the growing season.  First, try to remove all debris, using the garden hose and perhaps a stiff wire brush.  Rust can be removed by using a wire brush, steel wool or sandpaper.  It the tool has collected sap or resin, a little paint thinner can be used to remove it.
Sometimes an oily sand bucket is used to clean tools.  To make a oil and sand bucket, fill a clean 5 gallon bucket with sand and add a quart of oil.  As for what kind of oil is best, some use motor oil, but linseed oil might be preferred as being a bit cleaner, while others might prefer an organic alternative such a vegetable oil.  To use it, simply dig your tools in and out.  The abrasive sand cleans the tool.  The oil prevents rust from forming.  An alternative to the oil and sand bucket is one without oil.  Simply, it's a 5 gallon bucket filled with moderately wet sand.  It is used the same way except the tool must be oiled after use.
Now that all grass, soil, roots, tree bark and other foreign substance has been removed, it is time to pay attention to bacteria, fungi and weed seeds.  Dip the tools in rubbing alcohol or a solution consisting of one part bleach to nine parts water. And remember when pruning diseased plants, be sure to disinfect all shears and saw blades after each cut to prevent spreading the disease to healthy plants.  An example of this is pruning fire blight from pears, pyracantha, or crabapples.  This is done by disinfecting with a 10% solution of household bleach as just previously mentioned. 
Blades on shears, forks, spades, hoes, pruners and other cutting tools will become blunt with use.    To sharpen, prepare the blade with a few drops of linseed oil.  Then, sharpen with a fine metal file or a fine sharpening stone from a garden center or hardware store.  A whetstone works well with some pruners, loppers and shears.  Finish by again wiping with a rag that has been moistened with mineral oil.  If they are badly damaged, the blades may need to be replaced.
While you have the linseed oil out, you might also protect the wooden handles of your tools by applying some and allowing it to soak in.  If desired, polyurethane can then be brushed on to finish.
Finally, your tools are ready to be stored for the winter. 
Store equipment in a dry room and keep them sharp and in good operating condition.   At the end of the day, oil the pruning equipment well to avoid rust.

The sand bucket described earlier can also be used to store as well as clean the tools.  Just stick the tools in the sand and leave them protected over the winter.  If you prefer a tidier look, they can be hung on a pegboard with hangers.  If using this method, they should be hung with the "working end" up or they can be lined up on a shelf.  The most important thing is that they be kept dry and protected from damage. 
Since you are in the storage shed, now would be a good time to check expiration dates on lawn and garden chemicals, making sure you are complying with manufacturer storage recommendations.
Now, you can turn your attention to that MOST important tool - YOU.  Sit down in the easy chair, pull out those seed catalogs, and fantasize about next year's garden between snoozes.  YOU'VE EARNED IT!

Soils For Container Plantings
Growing plants in containers has become very popular, and not just in the summertime on patios.  Many gardeners dig up smaller, favorite plants in the fall to over-winter them inside their homes. While the soils used in these containers are very important, first make certain your container of choice provides drainage.  If it does not have drainage, watering amount should be cut by at least one-half.  It is far better to underwater than to overwater plants in containers.  There are excellent brands of potting soils available at garden stores as well as most "big box" hardware/lumber stores.  Many have slow release fertilizers as well as moisture beads mixed into the medium.  Read the label for specific instructions of each brand of fertilizer.  Many gardeners, unwilling to leave well enough alone, add garden topsoil to the mix when planting larger containers.  Do not do this!  When you add this soil into the mixture, you can introduce possible bacterial and/or nematode contamination and you lose all the advantages of a sterilized mix.
It is important the potting medium has good water holding capacity, yet is loose enough to promote good drainage and aeration.  Some gardeners mix special soils for every type of plant they grow in containers.  The fact is that a very simple combination of peat moss along with vermiculite, perlite, or fine sand can be used with almost all types of plants.  In general, a potting medium composed of approximately 50% peat moss, 35% bark and 15 % perlite will suit the needs of most container plants.  Garden stores and nurseries sell special container mixes under a variety of trade names, such as Redi-Earth, Jiffy Mix, Metro Mix, Super Soil, Pro-Mix, etc.  Just because they are often called "synthetic soils" doesn't mean they are artificial but, rather, they contain only natural ingredients.  The organic portion of the mix may be peat moss, redwood sawdust, shavings, hardwood bark, fir bark, pine bark or any combination thereof.  The mineral part may be vermiculite, perlite, pumice, sand or a combination of these.  The ingredients in the mixes vary, but the principle behind all mixes is the same, which is: 1) to provide fast drainage of water through the soil (a drainage rate of 5 inches per hour is considered minimum), 2) to provide air in the soil after drainage and 3) to provide a reservoir of water in the soil after drainage.  The air left in the soil after drainage is very important as plant roots require air for growth and respiration. 
As a home gardener, you will rarely need large quantities of soil for small pots and seedlings.  When you need only a few cubic feet of container soil, a commercial mix is your best bet. 
These standard soil-less mixes are free of disease organisms, weed seeds and insects and all of the nutrients needed for initial plant growth are usually included in the mix.  A 2 cubic-foot bag will have enough "soil" for 20 - 22 one gallon-sized containers.  The lighter weight mixes can come in handy when its time to move containers or if weight is a potential structural problem.  In fact, many of the "store bought" mixes weigh less than half as much as garden soil when both are soaked. 
If the transplant grower decides to make their own growing media, the following is a list of the ingredients for a soil-free growing media (makes about one cubic yard of mix): 

Shredded sphagnum peat moss (loose) - 11 bushels 
Horticultural vermiculite (sizes 2, 3,4) - 11 bushels 
Dolomitic limestone (pulverized) - 2.5 to 5.0 lbs. 
20% superphosphate (pulverized) - 1.25 to 2.5 lbs. 
Potassium nitrate or calcium nitrate - 1.0 lb. 
Plus, trace elements:
Fritted trace elements (i.e. FTE) - 1.0 oz., or
Borax (11% boron) - 0.5 oz. 
Chelated iron (i.e. NaFe, 138, 330) - 1.0 oz.
Fertilize with 15-15-15 at seeding (4 to 6 oz./100 gallon), then at weekly intervals (8 to 12 oz./100 gallon). If chlorosis develops, apply supplemental chelated iron at rates recommended on the product label. In calculating the amount of media needed, 1 cubic foot of medium will fill approximately 275 pots @ 2-1/4 inches square or 20 packs measuring 5" X 8" X 2-3/4 inches deep.

Peat-based potting soil is a favorite of most gardeners with its advantage of being light, which is ideal for hanging baskets and on roof gardens or balconies.  The disadvantage is that it dries out very quickly, so plants growing in it need to be watered frequently.  Additionally, it is important to note that peat is extracted from peat beds, which has resulted in much environmental damage.  So, the best approach is to seek out a manufacturer with a sound environmental policy or look for an alternative soil based around shredded forest bark in place of peat. 

A couple of very handy OSU Fact Sheets that you can reference for additional details:

Houseplant Care: HLA-6411
Growing Vegetable Transplants: HLA-6020

And, some additional great reading resources on container soils that are in the OSU Master Gardener's Library: 

Container Gardening, 1981, American Horticultural Society
Container Gardens, 1996, Quintet Publishing Ltd
Patio & Container Gardening, 1997, CLB International
Sunset Container Gardening, 2010, Time Home Entertainment
Christmas Cactus Care:
Easier Than Poinsettias
Forget the poinsettias and focus on your Christmas Cactus for re-blooming potential.  Poinsettias have fussy and exacting requirements for re-bloom each year, but Christmas or Holiday Cacti are much easier!
Most of the cacti sold commercially in the Tulsa area are Thanksgiving Cacti.  Each stem segment has 2 to 4 saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margin.  The stem margins on the Christmas Cactus are more rounded and fat.  No matter which one you have, they will both respond to the same treatment.
After the holidays, keep the cactus indoors in a sunny location. Water when the top two inches look dry, but don't let it sit in water as it doesn't like wet feet.  Remember this plant is an epiphyte from the rain forest of Brazil where it grows high among tree branches and derives its sustenance from the decay of leaves and plant debris.
In late April, you can prune your plant, fertilize with a 10-10-10 product and place outdoors.  Good locations are the north side of the house or on a porch.  Take care to prevent sunburn.  Continue to fertilize monthly and water judiciously over the summer. Again, never allow the plant to sit in water.
In the fall when days become shorter, the plant will form tiny buds on the tips.  Six weeks of short days and long nights are ideal.  Make sure your plant is not near a light source at night -- otherwise buds will not develop.
Bring the plant indoors when the nights fall to 50 degrees.  It will like indirect light, no drafts from furnace or fireplace and within a week the buds will be bursting!
Once plants flower, they should be kept in bright, indirect light. Day temps of 70 degrees and evening temps of 60-65 degrees are ideal.  Let the plant dry slightly between watering.
Want more plants?

In April, you can cut stems to propagate more plants.  Pinch off sections of stems with 3 to 5 segments.  Let the cut sections sit for a few days in the shade to form a callus and then they can be planted one inch deep in a well-drained potting soil, African Violet soil or two parts plain potting soil and one part clean sand or vermiculite. 

Pruning Storm-Damaged Trees         

While we have not yet encountered any ice storms in Tulsa proper (and let's hope we do not), we know that winter storms can cause serious tree and landscape damage.  Often, you will have to decide whether a tree can be saved or not.  So, for your reference, here is a checklist on care of storm-damaged trees:

1. Be safe: Check for downed power lines or hanging branches. Don't venture under the tree until it is safe.  If large limbs are hanging precariously, a certified arborist has the tools, training and knowledge to do the work safely.  Also, downed limbs and trees may be under compression.  Cutting through a limb under compression can release that energy causing the limb to whip and possibly injure anyone near.  Again, consider an arborist if safety is a concern.

2. Cleanup: Remove debris so you don't trip over it.  If there is still ice, it is best to wait until all has melted before beginning any work.

3. Save or not?: Decide whether or not it is feasible to save a tree.  If the bark has been split such that the cambium is exposed or the main trunk is split, the tree probably will not survive and should be removed. If there are so many broken limbs that the tree's form is destroyed, replacement is the best option.   Topping (where all the main branches are cut and there are only stubs left) is not a recommended pruning procedure. Though new branches will normally arise from the stubs, they are not as firmly attached as the original branches and more likely to break in subsequent storms.  Also, the tree must use a lot of energy to develop new branches, leaving less to fight off diseases and insect attacks.  Often, the topped tree's life is shortened.

4. Pruning: Prune broken branches to the next larger branch or to the trunk.  If cutting back to the trunk, do not cut flush with the trunk but, rather, at the collar area between the branch and the trunk.  Cutting flush with the trunk leaves a much larger wound exposed than cutting at the collar and takes longer to heal. Middle-aged or younger vigorous trees can have up to one-third of the crown removed and still make a surprisingly swift comeback.

5. Large Limbs: Take large limbs off in stages.  If you try to take off a large limb in one cut, it will often break before the cut is finished and strip bark from the tree.  Instead, first make a cut about 15 inches from the trunk.  Start from the bottom and cut one-third of the way up through the limb.  Make the second cut from the top down but start two inches further away from the trunk than the first cut.  The branch will break away as you make the second cut.  The third cut, made at the collar area, removes the stub that is left.
Note: Pruning can be dangerous. Consider hiring a trained arborist to do major work such as this.  Also, a good arborist knows how to prune trees so that storm breakage is less likely to occur. Preventing damage is better than trying to fix it once it has happened.  The Arbor Day Foundation maintains an excellent Web site that contains detailed information.  The URL is: http://www.arborday.org/media/stormindex.cfm.  


Q&A:  Will ice melt products harm my plants and lawn?

Answer: Products used to melt ice on walks and driveways may harm plants, but this depends on what and how much is used. Most of the chemicals marketed to melt ice are salts that lower the freezing point of water. All are useful if the labeled directions are followed carefully.

Four of the most commonly used chemicals are sodium chloride (table salt), calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate and urea. All are salts except urea, which is a chemical normally found in fertilizers.

These products thaw ice but also have some undesirable effects. They may cause corrosion of concrete and metal, water pollution, as well as harm to plants.

Sodium chloride is the cheapest and most widely used for ice melt. It has a significant potential for corrosion and plant damage in high concentrations. Calcium chloride and urea have similar risk for corrosion but are less harmful to plants. Calcium magnesium acetate does not corrode or pollute water and does not harm plants. It also is the most expensive.

Damage to plants occurs in two ways - directly when splashed on plants and secondarily when absorbed into the soil. When slush containing salt comes in contact with a plant, it may cause direct injury to both evergreen leaves and buds, and stems of deciduous plants. This injury, especially in deciduous plants, may not appear until spring.

Salts that filter into the soil can kill plant roots by dehydrating them. This is the same as fertilizer "burn" gardeners are familiar with. In addition, large amounts of sodium from sodium chloride can damage the soil structure, making it less friendly to plants.

The ideal approach to ice and snow is to remove as much as possible by hand and then, if you feel it is needed, apply an ice melt chemical to help remove the last layer. Avoid the "more is better" mindset, and follow the labeled directions. Mixing sand 3 to 1 with ice melt can reduce the need for chemicals, the added sand gives traction to feet and tires.

Harmful effects of these chemicals may be minimized by hosing salt off plants, when possible. Much of the salt in soils may be removed if irrigated with generous amounts of water. We are fortunate that ice and snow are not long-term winter problems in our area and that most people are able to cope without ice melt chemicals.