Show the Love for Pets This February

Even the furriest of companions deserve extra love this month. The Espoma Company helps show four-legged friends love this Valentine’s Day, National Love Your Pet Day and every day.

One in five Americans will take their pets into consideration when purchasing gifts this Valentine’s Day, according to a study by the National Retail Federation. Animal lovers can show pets some extra affection this month by also celebrating National Love Your Pet Day Friday, February 20.

During the month of love and every day, make sure pets are healthy, happy and secure. Appreciate pets for their loyalty with these top five ways to #LoveYourPet this February:

Keep them safe: Pets can play with things that are harmful if swallowed. It’s the duty of the pet owner to make sure that pets have an environment that is safe to play in. Remove dangerous materials such as string, ribbon, rubber bands and small children’s toys to pet proof a house.

Chemicals on lawns can pose a risk to lovable pets, too. Use an organic, pet-friendly lawn food, like the Espoma Organic annual feeding program, to ensure lawns look beautiful and pets’ paws stay safe.

Take pets for a walk: On average, dog owners walk their dogs 300 minutes per week according to the SPCA. Help pets to build confidence and trust, lose weight and reduce problem behaviors by taking them for a walk today. Exercise provides numerous health benefits for both pets and their owners.

Give them something to play with: Toys help fight boredom, burn off energy and prove comforting for dogs and cats left alone. They can even help prevent pets from developing certain problem behaviors. Take 10 extra minutes to play tug-a-war or surprise pets with a new toy.

Teach them a new trick: Teaching pets a new trick and rewarding them with praise and affection is a great way to express love. Teach pups how to give a high-five or cats how to fetch.

A simple belly rub: The easiest way to show affection is with a simple pat or cuddle. Scratch behind their ears and snuggle up together.

Show pets extra love this month and they’ll return the favor the entire year!

Plant African Violets for a Pop of Color

Plant an African Violet in 9 Easy Steps:

Growing African violets is an easy way to add a burst of color inside – even in the dead of winter. These small flowers pack a punch with their bold color and dark, thick leaves.

To keep your African violet blooming all year long, follow these tips.

How to Pick, Plant and Care for African Violets:

  1. Pick the perfect plant. Select a healthy African violet in your choice of color that has dark green, spot-free leaves. Look for a plant with one growing center, known as a single crown, to get the most blooms.
  2. Start strong. Choose an organic potting soil made specifically for African violets, such as Espoma Organic African Violet Mix. A specially-formulated organic soil gives violets the right amount of air and drainage and is safe for people and pets, too.
  3. Choose a container. Use a pot made for azaleas or African violets, which has the right amount of drainage holes and a deep saucer. Avoid deep pots, which can cause roots to rot.
  4. Plant magic. Gently remove the African violet from its current pot without damaging roots. Next, give roots enough room to spread out. Pack any remaining holes with soil.
  5. Home sweet home. Place your African violet in a room-temperature spot with lots of indirect, natural light. Avoid direct sunlight, which can burn leaves. Be sure to rotate once a week for even growth.
  6. Water right. Only water your violet when the soil is dry to the touch. Then, fill the pot’s saucer, and allow the roots absorb the amount of water they need. After an hour, dump any remaining water to avoid over watering.
  7. Feed weekly. To keep your violet blooming and healthy, feed once a week with an organic plant food such as Espoma Gro-tone. This applies to all houseplants, too!
  8. Stop suckers. If you spot new growth, called suckers, on the main stem of your flower, remove them. Suckers can lead to misshapen plants.
  9. Repot. Repot large African violets once to twice a year and smaller ones twice per year. Choose a new pot that is 1/3 the diameter of the plant.

Enjoy the beautiful colors of your new African violets! Then, share your experience or why you love this purple flower today.

Start Seeds Indoors in 10 Easy Steps:

Planting seeds inside is the first step toward Spring! Starting now means you’ll be planting seedlings outside in just 4 to 6 short weeks.

Plus, planting seeds is as easy and fun as can be. Gather your kids, family or friends to plant seeds with you for a “think Spring” get-together.

There’s nothing more refreshing or rewarding than crunching down on produce you’ve grown from seed.

How to Plant Seeds Inside:

1. Dream big

Choose your favorite high-quality seeds from a huge selection. Starting hard-to-find or expensive plants from seed will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

2. Stock up

Get plastic trays with holes in the bottom or a seed-starting kit as well as an organic soil starter, such as Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter. An organic soil like this is made specifically to help your seedlings grow strong, sturdy roots in a healthy, safe environment.

3. Get plantin’

Fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top and lightly water. Then, follow seed packet instructions to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and label.

4. Water wisely

Water perfectly by placing tray in a larger pan of shallow water for a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes so the water seeps up from the bottom.

5. Find the right spot

Place seeds in a warm, safe place. To warm up a spot, place a space heater nearby or place trays on top of the refrigerator.

6. Take cover and wait

Loosely cover the tray with plastic wrap, or use the cover in your seed-starting kit. Check seeds daily for moisture.

7. Spot a sprout

Once you see sprouts, remove the cover and move seeds to a sunny, south-facing window that is 65-75°F. Then, turn the container a little each day to prevent leaning seeds.

8. Boost plants

When leaves grow, add a bit of fertilizer such as Espoma’s Plant-tone. Plant-tone is an organic fertilizer, so it’s safe to use on edibles and helps plants grow bigger than ever before.

9. Strengthen seeds

Check seed packets to see when to plant after the last frost. Before planting you’ll want to harden off seedlings. Hardening off is a process that gets seeds used to the outdoors. Simply place your tray outside for a few hours a day for 7-10 days. Each day, increase their time outdoors and reduce watering.

10. Plant permanently

Once the last frost date has passed, you’re ready to plant! Gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. Plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food to keep them strong, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus.

You did it! Spring is just a step away – and so are your crisp, garden-fresh veggies and fruits!

Tell us, what seeds are you starting this year?