Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 11th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Did you spring forward or are you giving yourself Sunday to get ready for Monday and one less hour of sleep?   You will have to wait until November 4th to get your hour back, unless the OK state legislature votes to stay on daylight savings time […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 11th 2018

My Blarney Castle

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Did you spring forward or are you giving yourself Sunday to get ready for Monday and one less hour of sleep?   You will have to wait until November 4th to get your hour back, unless the OK state legislature votes to stay on daylight savings time as Florida just did and Congress approves.   In this day and age, just why are we messing with our circadian rhythms and clocks anyway?

Next Saturday, March 17th everyone can be Irish. Put on your green and make a loaf of soda bread; smother a slice with butter and eat with Irish stew.   Begin with hot tea and end the day with Guinness.   To everyone, La Fheile Padraig Sona duit (Happy St Paddy's Day)!

If you haven't yet started, now is the time to get your garden plots ready for the Oklahoma spring.   Define Oklahoma spring any way you want:   drought, torrential rains, mighty spells of heat to bitter cold snaps.   The last freeze or frost date usually occurs by the end of March into early April, although in 1954 there was a late spring freeze on May 3rd!   The Old Farmer's Almanac gives a 50-50 chance that March 27th will be the last spring frost.

As to garden plots, to me it means anything from plowed fields to raised beds, pots, pans, hollow logs, stones with holes or other soil holders.   All the big box stores have at the ready plastic sacks full of specially formulated fertilizers and soils, regular and organic.   The factories that currently make synthetic fertilizers often began life as munitions plants during World War II and produced small arms ammo, explosives, detonators and artillery shells.   In today's world, ammonia (nitrogen), pesticides and the energy required to produce fertilizers come from oil.

Look into the organic version of fertilizers:  manures, blood meal, bat guano, worm castings, mushroom compost and even seaweed.   But..before jumping off the cliff and investing your nest egg in soil amendments, first do a SOIL ANALYSIS. What truly does your garden need.

The recently updated 'pamphlet' L-249 titled 'Soil TestingThe Right First Step Towards Proper Care of your Lawn or Garden' describes step by step the quick way to collect a good soil sample.   For a more detailed fun read, check out and search for fact sheet PSS-2207 'How to Collect a Good Soil Sample.'   With two OSU on-line sites, you can't go wrong, but follow the 'pamphlet' for easier directions.

Collect soil samples in early spring and hope the soil is a little moist.   Your fifteen samples all come from the top 6 inches of soil in your garden.   Take 2 cups from the mixture of samples and place into a clean plastic sack or container. Label where the soil came from.   The cost for a routine soil sample is $10.   Deliver the soil to your county's local Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (Shawnee area is the Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Center.)   The soil samples are sent to the OSU Soil Testing Laboratory to be analyzed. The levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, pH and Buffer are determined, recommendations are made, and your soil info is sent back to the Pott County extension.   Yours to have and cherish and discuss any questions.

Soil Testing L-249 Pamplet

Fertilizer labels list N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus) and K (Potassium) in ratios, such as 10-10-10.   The numbers are always listed in the exact order of N-P-K.   These three are major plant nutrients, although 17 elements are vital for sound plant health.

Nitrogen (N), necessary for plant chlorophyll, is a mobile element as are phosphorus and potassium.   They move where needed within the plant. Too little N and growth becomes stunted; the leaves show more yellow.   Too much N and leaf production is boosted but many leaves look burned.   The poor roots become stunted.

Phosphorus (P) takes the energy from the sun and transforms it into energy used in photosynthesis.   I think this is a miracle on its own.    This element is needed for growth, flower and seed production.   Excess P and leaves become too green!   Too little P and leaves die.   Oh no.

Potassium (K) deals with fluid regulation in plants just like it does in humans.   Plants need K (symbol for potassium) to open and close their stomata, the tiny holes that dot plant surfaces lined with lip-like guard cells that regulate water loss from leaves.   K is very soluble and can leach out.   The plants look wilty, sad and their immunity is compromised. The K stands for mediaeval Latin Kalium that means potash.   Our English word potassium is also derived from potash, a natural compound high in potassium.

Tools to collect soil samples.

If organic gardening is your thing, the natural fertilizers tend to have less concentrated nutrients but may contain additional trace elements.   Dairy manure is 9-4-10 depending on amount of urine in manure; best if aged.   Chicken manure may be 7-6-3 if aged, but fresh has especially high nitrogen and ratio shifts to 26-17-11.   If the manure is older mixed with straw, gardens love it.   Alfalfa meal comes in at 3-2-1 if fermented and is a good soil conditioner.   We discovered alfalfa pellets fermenting in water can become explosive if the container is not vented.   In an open compost situation the alfalfa generates beneficial heat through microbial activity.

Fireplace ashes are 0-1-3 with a high pH and salt level.   Very soluble but do not use on soils with a pH over 7.   Pro-Gro 5-3-4 is an all-purpose fertilizer made of dried whey, cocoa meal, compost, peanut meal, fish and animal tankage (animal residue with fat removed that has been dried and ground), ground shells, kelp and other things good enough to eat.  Cottonseed meal is 6-2-1 and slowly releases nutrients.   Legumes have nitrogen fixing bacteria that really come alive in the presence of phosphorus.   They are considered 'green manures' versus the dead brown stuff.   Cover crops are usually planted in the fall and tilled under in the spring enriching the soil and controlling erosion.   Catch crops are fast growing spring plants such as red clover and buckwheat that sprout up and then tilled under, adding nutrients and nitrogen to the soil.

The native plants have adapted to the harsh Oklahoma soil and climate and do not need fertilizers.   Last year I saw enormous Snow-on-the-Mountain euphorbias in one lady's yard.   The plants are normally 3 or 4 feet tall; these gargantuans were over 12 feet.   She proudly proclaimed they had been fertilized.   The benefits of nutrition.   Then again, those giants needed a lot of water and some had to be staked.   Why make work?

I leave you with this:

A recent graduate from Texas A&M (not Ok State) went home and wanted to show his daddy what he learned.   He decided to raise chickens and ordered baby chicks.   In his garden he planted them head down in the soil.   They all died.   He looked at his textbooks and notes and thought he figured out what he did wrong.   He ordered more baby chicks and planted them head up.   They all died.   Confused, he called his professor.   The professor asked:   Did you not learn anything?   Did you test the soil first?

Did you spring forward?