Top Peppers for Sowing

Now that spring is here, we’re ready to get our hands in some dirt. And what better way to do that than by starting some seeds. All you need is light, heat and an organic seed starting mix.

Before you begin, check the last spring frost date in your area,  then count back 4-6 weeks. That’s when you’ll want to start seeds.

First up on our list for planting, is peppers. There’s nothing better than adding a spicy pepper to a garden fresh salsa. Plus, once you’re ready to grow outside, peppers can even be grown in containers.

5 Spicy Peppers for Sowing

1. Cayenne Pepper

This extremely red pepper is long and skinny. It is very spicy, which is why it’s best in a dried, powdered form. Cayenne peppers are known to boost metabolism, aid with digestion, relieve pain caused by migraines, prevent blood clots and relieve joint/nerve pain.

2. Habanero Chili

This pepper is one of the hottest in the world, next to the ghost pepper. It can be found in many different colors ranging from red, light yellow, brown, and orange. The heat of this pepper can be unpredictable, but regardless is always hot.

3. Serrano Pepper

This small pepper has think walls and is commonly used in hot-salsa. It starts out green, but as it ages it turns red then yellow. The best time to pick Serrano peppers is while they’re still green or in the beginning stages of changing colors.

4. Thai Chili Pepper

Also known as the Bird’s eye chile, Thai chilies are relatively tiny, but spicy. It could be either green or red. These plants are commonly grown year-round and can be brought indoors in winter.

5. Tabasco Pepper

This pepper got its name from the Mexican State, Tabasco, where it originated. It starts out as a yellow-green color, turning completely yellow, then orange, and then bright red at its ripest point. This plant can take up a lot of space in gardens being that it has the potential to grow nearly 60 inches high.

Ready to start seeds? Learn how here.

Create Spring Containers that Wow

What’s better than walking outside in the morning to fresh air and sunshine? Walking outside to find fresh air, sunshine and a beautiful container filled with spring blooms.

Refresh your porch or patio by adding a spring container. Get started by finding the perfect planter. There are tons of fun colors and patterns to choose from. Or get creative and use an unexpected object.

Check to make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom and you’re good to go. We recommend using Espoma’s organic potting mix to fill the container and then mixing in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil to give it that extra oomph.

Once nighttime temperatures remain above freezing, not dipping below, 30°F, you’re reading to plant.

Read on for our top plant choices to fill your containers with this spring.

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Pick Lovely Perennials

English daisies, hellebores, pansies, primroses and bergenia make for good choices for early perennials.  Find out if a plant can’t tolerate the cool temperatures of early spring by referencing the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Splendid indoor floral arrangement at botanical garden in spring

Go for Classic Spring Blooms

It’s OK if you didn’t plant spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips and daffodils in the fall. Just stop by your local garden center to pick up already-blooming bulbs and pop them into your container for an instant pick me up.

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Stock up on Hydrangeas

Certain dwarf varieties of hydrangeas can really pack a punch when paired with a decorative container. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf hydrangea for you. Then, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need.

If you want to grow blue hydrangeas, mix in Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. For pink hydrangeas, add Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime. Then fill planter with potting soil, and plant the hydrangea at the same height it was previously growing.

 

Looking for a different spring project? Learn how to make these easy paint can succulent containers.

March Gardening Checklist

If spring fever has you itching to get out in the garden, we’ve got a solution. While many regions across the US are just beginning to awake from their winter slumber, there’s still plenty to be done.

It’s time to tackle your spring gardening tasks with confidence. Kick off the new season by dusting off your gardening tools and taking a good look around your yard.

Shake off the winter blues with our March Garden checklist. You’ll be glad you did!

6 Tasks to Do in March

  1. Check and Test. Test soil and amend if necessary before planting. A soil test reports pH levels, which measures acid and alkaline. If your soil has too much of either, plants won’t absorb the nutrients they need. Once you have your results, it’s time to improve your soil.
  2. Clean up. Remove winter debris from lawn and garden beds. Rake leaves and old mulch out of beds and borders. Shred or leave them whole and place in a compost pile. Check for broken branches and remove plants that have been damaged by snow and ice.
  3. Add new mulch. Perk up your garden beds with some new mulch. Not only does it look great, but mulch also provides many benefits! Organic mulch can reduce water use in the garden by 25-50 percent, saving money on water bills and conserving water. Mulch also controls weeds. Plus, your flower beds look polished and complete with a finishing touch of mulch.
  4. Create a Safe Paws Lawn. By choosing organic, you know your family and pets are safe from harmful chemicals. Using organic lawn food – especially in the early spring – can have a huge effect on your lawn’s health and appearance. You’ll create healthier, more uniform grass growth which results in a beautiful lawn year after year. Start petscaping today with our Spring Lawn Booster.
  5. Fix Brown Spots. Take a close look at the grass around walkways, sidewalks, roads and driveways. These areas are most likely where salt had been applied to melt ice. Salt draws moisture from grass roots causing it to turn brown. Also, check areas where your pets frequently go to the bathroom for damage. Then, transform those ugly brown spots into lush, green lawn by amending the soil with gypsum.
  6. Don’t Forget Indoor Plants. Longer days and more sun will wake houseplants up as they get ready for a major growth spurt. When you start to see new growth, it’s time to start feeding and watering regularly. Give houseplants everything they need to grow up in style – a hearty feeding and a stylish home included. You can also bring houseplants outside for some sun during the day and bring them back in at night.

 

Ready for more? Check out our YouTube channel for more gardening inspiration!

6 Easy-to-Grow Indoor Succulents

Succulents are a trendy decorative addition to any home. This diverse group of plants offers endless color variations, as well as low maintenance options for your indoor space. Most plants need a wet environment to survive, but succulents are able to store water for longer periods of time. This ability makes succulents practical to grow in the dry and warmer conditions typically found in the home.

Succulents are perfect plants for beginners. Coming in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures, succulents have an enticing quality. Here are six succulents that are easy to grow indoors year-round.

6 Succulents to Add to Your Home

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Jade Plant. Native to South Africa, the jade plant has thick stems and glossy green leaves. Keep jade in bright light and water when the soil feels dry. Be cautious, as jade is commonly killed by over watering.

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Aloe Vera. This prickly plant has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The sap found on the inner leaves is used to heal wounds and soothe burns. Aloe Vera should be kept in full sunlight and should be watered when the leaves feel dry or brittle. Keep this medicinal plant by a bright kitchen window to enjoy its beauty every day.

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Echeveria. This desert native comes in a variety of colors and does best in dry conditions. Echeveria should be watered only once it has dried out. Unglazed clay pots are the ideal growing condition for this succulent, as the clay allows water to evaporate. For optimal results, place echeveria in full sun and ensure the soil is well drained.

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Zebra Plant. This striking succulent gets its name from the horizontal stripes covering its leaves. Growing about 5” tall and 6”wide, the zebra plant is tidy, contained and a perfect addition to any small space. Zebra plant requires a moderate amount of sunlight and water.

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Panda Plant. This plant is characterized by little white hairs, giving it a fuzzy texture. A Madagascar native, panda plant loves the dry, winter air in heated homes. Water as necessary, but just enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.

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Crown of Thorns. Add a splash of color to your room with this beautiful plant. With enough sunlight, it can bloom year-round producing red or yellow bracts surrounding its tiny flowers. Crown of Thorns has low to moderate watering needs and should be placed in direct sun for best bloom results.

Ready to start your own succulent collection? Watch this video on growing succulents!

 

5 Reasons to Give Orchids This Valentine’s Day

There is more to a beautiful bouquet of flowers than what meets the eye. For centuries, flowers have been used as a means of expressing romantic sentiments and are symbolic of a beautiful, lasting relationship between two people.

Luckily, for this day dedicated to expressing your devotion and admiration there is a better option than cut flowers, choose orchids that will last all year! Delicate and graceful, orchids are a symbol of luxury, love, strength and beauty. Here are 5 reasons you should give orchids a chance this Valentines’ Day.

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Five Reasons Orchids are The Best

  1. They’re Long-Lasting: An orchid’s blooms serve as a daily reminder that someone is thinking of you long past February 14th. When cared for properly, this exotic flower can last for several months and will continue to bloom year after year.
  2. Orchids are Easy to Care For: Your valentine does not need to be an expert gardener to keep an orchid alive. Even in the winter months, orchids are low-maintenance. For more blooms and better health, you can your plant feed bi-weekly with our liquid orchid fertilizer. Your orchid will need to be repotted each year after flowering, and Espoma’s Organic Orchid Mix will give them the nutrients they need to grow. Who knows, your gift of an orchid could inspire someone to take up gardening as a hobby!
  3. The colors are stunning: Orchids come in a variety of spectacular colors and unique shapes. They have a dramatic presence whether they are a solid color, or have splashes and speckles. Coming in everything from white and light pink, to vibrant reds, oranges, and purples, you will be able to find the perfect orchid to match your valentine’s personality.
  4. Orchids have exotic flair: Coming from far off places such as Hawaii and South America, orchids are said to be reminiscent of the tropics. Their exotic nature sets them apart from the traditional rose and will send a special message to your significant other.
  5. They perk up your home: An orchid’s lifespan combined with its beauty makes it a great way to add an affordable splash of color to any room without spending significant time and money on redecorating efforts

This Valentine’s Day, tell your significant other how valued they are by giving the gift of an orchid.

Help orchids stay beautiful year-round. Watch this video to find out how!

Common Orchid Problems and How to Fix Them

It’s a myth that orchids are difficult to grow. In fact, they are highly adaptable and fairly low- maintenance plants. The hardest part might be choosing an orchid. There many types of orchids to choose from, and while some are more temperamental, plenty will thrive in in your home.

With that being said, they are susceptible to problems like any other houseplant. Take a look at these common orchid questions and find out what you can do to fix them.

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Why is my orchid’s foliage changing colors?

Orchids are especially sensitive to environmental changes. The problem in this case is likely due to the lighting conditions. If orchids receive too much light, the tissues to yellow. If they don’t receive enough light, they develop dark spots. It can help to gradually expose your orchid to more light over time and to keep it by a window that is shaded by a sheer curtain.

Help! My orchid’s buds are drying up without any sign of pests or disease!

This is a common problem with orchids and again, a good indication of an environmental problem. Bud Blast is a condition where buds dry up and die. This is typically caused by an environment that is not humid or bright enough, but could also be a result of incorrect watering. Orchids should be watered about once per week, allowing the soil to dry out in between. Dropping your home’s temperature by about 10 degrees at night can help initiate flower buds.

My orchid has a sticky substance on its surface, is it harmful?

If you see small white ovals along with the sticky substance, then it is harmful. The sticky substance is left behind by scale pests, which can be treated with an organic insecticide soap. If white ovals aren’t visible, it is harmless and simply due to a drop in temperature.

The leaves of my orchid are turning to mush and the roots look like they are rotting. What am I doing wrong?

Due to the high humidity levels that orchids need to survive, they are at a higher risk for fungal and bacterial diseases. This can lead to conditions like root rot and spots on flowers and leaves. Remove severely damaged leaves using sterile tools and treat plants with a copper based spray.

The orchid’s roots are growing above the soil; does it need to be repotted?

These are called “air roots” and are normal for orchids. Air roots can actually be helpful. Orchids generally need to be re-potted once a year. It’s time to re-pot when you see: yellow foliage, lack of growth or dead or damage roots, or the plant starts growing over the edge of the pot. The best time to re-pot is just after flowering, or when new growth appears. Use Espoma’s Organic Orchid Mix for best results.

Many orchid issues are not as serious as they seem. What may appear as a problem can sometimes be helpful in determining what set of conditions your orchid prefers to grow in.

Ready to know more? Learn what orchids need. 

How to propagate succulents from individual leaf cuttings

Why have just one succulent when you can have many? Luckily, it’s easy to grow an entire garden of these hardy plants when you propagate them from leaf cuttings.

All you need are a few simple materials and a single succulent. Get started now!

Propagate Succulents in 7 Steps

  1. Select healthy leaves. Pick a leaf from your succulent that has no rips or blemishes and looks healthy. It’s best to choose larger, mature leaves rather than under-developed ones.
  2. Make the cut. Remove the leaf using a razor blade or craft knife. Sterilize the blade beforehand with rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of any disease that could harm the plant. You can also use “volunteers” from plants that occasionally drop their leaves like Jade does. The entire succulent leaf must be cleanly broken off the plant or it won’t root. If the part that was attached to the stem is broken off, discard the leaf and try again.
  3. Let leaves dry. Allow leaves to dry on a baking sheet for 1-3 days after removal, until the raw ends have calloused.
  4. Get ready to grow. Place dried leaves on top of a container filled with Espoma’s Organic Cactus mix. Do not bury in the soil. Place the container in a spot where it will be protected from full sun exposure.
  5. Keep soil moist, without being watered too much. Water leaves when the soil is dry to the touch.
  6. Wait. In about a month or so new roots will appear and the parent leaf will wither. Remove the parent leaf carefully, avoiding damage to the new roots.
  7. Replant. Once your propagated succulents have taken root, they can be replanted. Show them off in a repurposed planter. Feed regularly with our Cactus! Succulent Plant Food for best results.

And just like that you’ll have plenty of succulents. Grow enough to decorate your home and garden and give a few away as gifts.

The growing doesn’t stop here! Learn how to care for succulents here.

Your Orchid is Just Resting

Orchids bloom in spectacular colors and unique shapes. Depending on the orchid you’ve chosen, blooms come in every color from white and light pink, to vibrant reds, oranges and purples.

When taken care of properly, the striking blooms can last for several months and will continue to flower year after year.

Don’t panic. Orchid blooms last for one to three months and then they wilt. Even though your beautiful orchid loses all of its blooms, don’t give up on it, it still has a lot of life left. Trust us!

Phalaenopsis, also known as moth orchids need rest periods to rebloom. While the orchid is dormant, you can expect the stem to shrivel up and for leaves to dull and flatten out.

Just give your orchid some extra care during this period and you’ll be rewarded with even more blooms next time. Orchids can bloom for years to come.

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Five tips to care for resting orchids.

1. The best time to repot orchids is during their resting stage. Use Espoma’s orchid mix to give plants the foundation they need to grow bigger and stronger next season.

2. Water orchids weekly. Unlike many houseplants, orchids should only be watered when they begin to dry out. Watering when they’re almost dry mimics their natural environment.

3. Feed orchids bi-weekly using Espoma’s Orchid! Fertilizer. Nutrients are extra important during this resting period.

4. Let the light in. Make sure orchids are still receiving plenty of indirect sunlight. Too little light will keep the orchid from reblooming.

5. Chill out. Help trigger blooming by moving the orchid to a cooler room. Orchids thrive in temperatures that are between 75 and 80 during the day, but they prefer cooler temperatures during dormancy.

Orchids make beautiful houseplants. Learn more about caring for orchids here.

Five Ways to Celebrate Houseplant Appreciation Day

The winter season can seem to drag on forever with its harsh weather, short days and dreary landscapes. Which means now is the perfect time to bring the memory of the warm spring weather indoors with houseplants.

January 10 is Houseplant Appreciation Day, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to acknowledge all the things they do for you. They’re decorative, boost well-being and purify indoor air.

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Here are 5 simple tips to celebrate the day:

  1. Recognize houseplants for all they do

Many houseplants do double duty by looking good and cleaning the air, absorbing up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that hide in ordinary household products such as paints, carpets and ink. Studies from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have found that levels of indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher — and in some cases 10 times more polluted than outdoor air.

  1. Add a Plant

You can never have too many houseplants, right? According to the EPA, most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors; a houseplant is the perfect way to be reminded of the beauty the world has to offer outside. Houseplants bring a breath of fresh air to a room when placed in colorful pots and made into a focal point. Succulents, orchids and African violets all make good additions.

  1. Learn how to care for your plant

Plants need water, light and nutrients to thrive indoors. Step one; determine what kind of houseplant you have. This can be as simple as checking the plant tag. Your plant will let you know it’s happy by maintaining healthy leaves.

  1. Create a schedule

Houseplants do best with regular care, trust us. Now is the time to create a watering schedule if you don’t already have one. Add water if the soil is dry about an inch below the surface. Overwatering is the number one cause of houseplant death. So if the plant does not seem too dry, check it again in a few days.

  1. Feed them

Fertilizing is easy with Espoma’s indoor liquid plant foods. Give plants the natural proteins and beneficial microbes they need to provide beautiful results.

Show gratitude for your favorite plants by giving them proper care. Learn how here.

Beginner Tips for Succulents

It’s easy to see why succulents are one of the trendiest plant groups right now. Their unique shapes, colors, textures and sizes add drama and interest to the décor of any room. They also look great on their own or paired with other succulents. Not to mention, they’re so easy to grow and can handle drought.

 

You have to start somewhere, though. With the right growing conditions and care, your succulents can survive year-round. Follow these beginner tips to get started.

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  1. Pick a healthy succulent – Look for succulents with full shapes, good color and with healthy foliage. Avoid plants with insects or signs of damage.
  2. Choose the right soil – Succulents like to be dry and need a well-draining soil. Use Espoma’s Cactus Mix to keep plants healthy.
  3. Select containers – Succulents can be planted in almost anything that allows for proper drainage. Make sure containers have a drainage hole for water to flow through.
  4. Give enough water– Succulents with leaves that pucker aren’t getting enough water and ones with soggy leaves are holding onto too much water. Get into a regular watering schedule to help plants thrive. Water succulents when the top inch of soil feels dry by pour water into the pot until it flows through the drainage hole. Remove all excess water.
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  5. Soak up the sun – Most succulents love light. Place them in spaces where they’ll receive four to six hours of sun.
  6. Feed them – Give succulents a boost by fertilizing as needed with Espoma’s new Cactus! Succulent plant food.
  7. Keep plants looking good – Remove dead or decaying leaves to keep plants looking nice and insects at bay.

Want to know more? Learn how to care for succulents in winter.