The Best Pet-friendly Houseplants

For most, pets are a member of the family. And like any other family member, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep them happy and safe. Since our furry friends don’t always know what’s best for themselves, it’s up to us to petscape and create a safe environment they can roam freely in.

To remove some of the guesswork, we have comprised a list of plants that add beauty to your home and are problem-free for your pets. Just because these plants are pet-safe, doesn’t mean a mischievous cat still won’t knock your favorite plant off the table or dog might decide to take a bite. If your pet does get into any plants, even the nontoxic kind, be alert for signs of an allergic reaction.

5 Houseplants Safe to Have Around Pets

  1. Spider plant

This classic, indoor plant is a staple in many households because it grows fast growers and improves indoor air quality. Spider plants do need regular waterings, but can live in most light conditions and temperatures.

  1. Bamboo

In addition to being non-toxic to dogs, cats and horses, bamboo adds beauty to any household. The plant prefers a location with indirect, bright light, but can thrive under artificial lighting as well.

  1. African violet

The blooms of African Violets are delicate and come in hues of vibrant purples and pinks. They can thrive in windowsill container gardens and are very easy to care for. Keep them in a warm place in the house where they can get lots of sunlight to ensure year-round flowers.

  1. Boston ferns

Only true ferns are safe for pets, so when shopping make sure to look for this fern. These non-toxic plants can survive in cool, humid, dark places. Humidity is key for these plants, so lightly mist them once or twice a week and be sure to monitor the soil and keep moist.

  1. Phalaenopsis orchids

These orchids are great because they are both pet safe and human safe. This popular edible flower is found often in Hawaiian dishes and tropical drinks. They require indirect, bright light and need water once a week, but don’t overwater.

Now that you’ve taken care of indoor plants, learn how to petscape your yard.

Three Secrets to Cactus Success

Cacti make the perfect houseplant. Their water-saving properties make them very low-maintenance. They’re trending in the design world, too, making them very stylish additions to any interior.

Growing cacti indoors adds a beautiful touch to any home. And although they can survive with very little care, they won’t necessarily thrive. In order to keep your cacti alive and well, follow these simple care instructions.

Soil

As you probably already know, cacti love desert-like conditions. Think dry, well-drained soil. When planting cacti indoors, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix. The all natural potting soil provides optimum aeration and drainage to create the best growing conditions. Choose a stylish pot with a drainage hole to match your décor.

Water

One of the biggest causes of death to houseplants is over-watering. When it comes to watering your cactus, less is more. Water sparingly when soil is dry and let the water trickle through. Don’t allow cacti to sit in a pool of water, as this will lead to rotting roots and other complications.

Use your best judgement to decide whether or not your cactus needs some water. Hint – if it looks shriveled, it might mean that it’s dipping into its water reserves. This is when you should give your cactus a little bit of water to replenish it.

Light & Temperature

Keep your cacti happy by placing it on a windowsill or another sunny spot. About 3-4 hours of sunlight every day is ideal for cacti, but they will survive with indirect sunlight, too. We suggest a south or east facing window.

Cacti are also great houseplants because they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They can survive in temperatures as low as 50°F and as high as 85°F, making the temperate in your home the perfect environment.

Nutrients

Give your plant a boost by fertilizing as needed with Espoma’s new Cactus! Succulent plant food. This provides plants with the nutrients they need instantly.

Ready to try more desert-like plants? Learn how to care and create a succulent planter.

The Best Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow

Have you wondered why heirloom tomatoes taste so much better than those conventional ones from the store?

Conventional tomatoes have been bred for long shelf life, disease resistance, high yield and even for their looks! Some say all the flavor and taste has been bred out of them, too.

So whether you say to-may-to or to-mah-to, we’re here to help you choose the perfect heirloom tomato variety for you.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

 What is an Heirloom Tomato?

Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds that have been handed down from farmer to farmer for generations for their special characteristics and varieties must be 50 years old at least. Because of this, heirloom tomatoes have minimal disease resistance.

Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated–meaning that the seeds you collect will produce plants almost identical plants year after year. That’s key to their survival.

Many heirlooms have been passed down generation to generation. Seeds, once considered valuable property, traveled country to country in pockets or through letters. Varieties come from Central America, Russia, Italy, Japan, France, Germany and Kentucky. Here are a few of our favorites.

Best Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow

 

Pink Brandywine– This is hands-down the yummiest and most popular heirloom. Dating back to 1885, these tomatoes ripen late in the season, but delight with huge tomatoes with even bigger flavor. Plus, Pink Brandywine tomatoes grow well in containers.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 85-100 days
  • Taste and Texture: Intense, full flavor with a rich, velvety texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-9’
  • Spacing: 24-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Black Cherry – This black, heirloom cherry tomato is somewhat disease resistant and easy to grow – even in containers. The truly striking color makes these cherry tomatoes an instant conversation (or kabob!) starter.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 65-75 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet meets smoky flavor with a meaty texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 5-8’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Cherokee Purple – Cherokee purple tomatoes may look eccentric, but boy, do they taste good!  Believed to be passed down from Cherokee Indians, this variety produces significantly more tomatoes than other heirlooms.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-90 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet, juicy and savory with a thin skin
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-9’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Striped German/Old German – This sizzling red and orange tomato looks like a work of art. Slice it open, and you’ll be delighted by its intricate texture and pattern. Also called “Old German,” this sunny tomato produces huge beefsteak tomatoes. It does need constant, proper care to thrive.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-85 days
  • Taste and Texture: Incredibly juicy with a faintly tart flavor and meaty texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-8’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes –  Cage or stake

Wapsipinicon Peach – Bright in color and flavor, these tiny, fuzzy yellow tomatoes make the perfect snack. Named for the Wapsipinicon River in Northeast Iowa around 1890, Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes are resistant to rot and field blight. Plus, they are quite prolific!

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-80 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet flavor with little acidity and fuzzy, thin skin
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Recommended – Cage or stake

Why Should I Grow Heirlooms?

We believe the flavor of heirlooms is so superior that no garden would be complete without them. Try a variety this year, and we’re sure you will agree. You will be tasting a little bit of history all summer long.

When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.  

And if you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

Tomato_info

Four Fresh Berries to Grow This Summer

Nothing says summer like the fresh taste of homegrown fruit. Berries are becoming a staple crop in everyone’s summer garden, and for good reason! Not only are these little fruits delicious, they also provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Add some berries to your garden for a harvest the whole family is sure to love.

When growing fruits in your organic garden, be sure to use Espoma’s liquid plant foods to give you healthy blooms and abundant fruit.

Here are some of our favorite berries to grow:

Blueberries

Blueberries pack a big punch for such a small fruit. They are loaded with tons of vitamins, essential nutrients and antioxidants. Blueberries are often a favorite among kids, too. What better way to get kids involved with the garden than by planting something they love?

Blueberries also thrive in containers, making them the perfect fruit for small space gardeners. The beautiful foliage they produce is just an added bonus.

Try using Espoma’s Holly Tone plant food, perfect for acid-loving fruits like blueberries and strawberries.

Strawberries

Another fan favorite, strawberries are well-loved for their versatility. While delicious on their own, they also pair well with so many different flavors. They can be used in anything from sweet pies and homemade jams to a tasty vinaigrette dressing. Whether snacking, cooking or baking, there’s no way your strawberries will go to waste!

Strawberries grow best in soil with a pH level of 5.5-7. If your pH level is too high, use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to create the perfect growing environment.

Raspberries

The sweet summer flavor of raspberries makes a great addition to any dessert.

Raspberries often grow up instead of out, so make sure you plant with support stakes or next to a fence. A tall raspberry plant looks beautiful in any garden and draws all eyes to the beautiful red and green foliage it creates.

Blackberries

Since they don’t produce fruit the first year of planting, blackberries require a bit of patience. However, with great care we promise it will be worth the wait!

When blackberries are ready to harvest, the flavors pair very well with raspberries. Blend together in a smoothie or bake a mixed berry pie and enjoy the taste of summer.

Want to know more about growing your favorite berries? Check out our infographic

How to Plant Blueberries in Containers

Laura from Garden Answer shows how to plant blueberries in containers and fertilize with Espoma’s Holly-tone. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is!

EO_BERRY_1183x5000

Grass is always Greener: Different Types of Grass You Should Consider

Guest Post by Brian Rees of Bradley Mowers

Do you ever drive through a neighborhood and check out all the fellow homeowner’s grass? If a lawn is the perfect color and neatly manicured, you can’t help but take notice.

The Importance of Picking the Right Grass
Grass is divided into three types, cool season, warm season and transitional. The success of your lawn will depend on numerous things. The most important thing is planting the right grass for your area or zone. Those that live in the north need cool season grasses, while those that live in the south need warm season varieties. Those that live in the middle can use a transitional grass. Randomly picking a grass based on its color and promises is not wise. You may be purchasing grass that won’t grow in your climate.

Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are for areas that have cold winters and hot summers. They may experience a great deal of rain. These grasses can go for an extended period of time during drought periods. They do this by going dormant. These grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Perennial and Annual Ryegrass, Bentgrass and Red Fescue.

Transition Zone Grasses
Between the northern and southern turf regions, there is an area known as the “transition zone.” This area is in the lower elevations of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, and Arkansas. In these zones, neither the warm and cool grasses will be successful.

Keep in mind that some of the cool season areas, the Kentucky bluegrass will do well best. In Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, the Tall Fescue variety work well. Lower elevations do better with warm season grasses. For those that live in the transition zone, they should use Zoysiagrass, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, Thermal Blue, and Kentucky Bluegrass.

Warm Season Grasses
Those that live in the south find that growing and maintaining a lawn is a bit more involved than what it is for northern homeowners. Grass selection is much trickier. There are many turfs that will do well when started from plugs or sod, but they don’t do well started from seed. The key element is the soil.

A low maintenance yard in this region must have good soil. When cold temperatures arrive, almost all warm season grasses will lose their color and turn brown. To prevent having a brown yard, some southerners will add Rye-grass to their existing laws to help keep a green hue during the winter. The technical term for this is called “winter overseeding.” Warm season grass varieties include St. Augustine Grass, Zoysiagrass, Centipede, Carpet Grass, Buffalo Grass, Bermuda Grass, and Bahia.

Lawn Care
Establishing new lawns from seed or sod doesn’t have to be difficult. For the lawn to take root, you need to make sure it has plenty of water. This is especially true in warmer climates where the sun will suck the moisture away.

Try Espoma’s Organic Lawn Starter to help nourish the new lawn. The new lawn should be watered frequently until it has been cut at least two times. The ideal cutting height for a new lawn is roughly to about 3 inches tall. After those initial growing phases, regular water methods can resume.

Though it takes a little bit of work at first, having a gorgeous lawn isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and knowing the right products to help achieve your desired result.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Brian Rees is a media relations representative for Bradley Mowers. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, music, and spending time outside.

Hanging Plants: Make Your Own Kokedama

Houseplants that you don’t have to think about are the best. And extremely low maintenance ones that look great are even better. Enter Kokedama. This traditional Japanese art form encloses a plant’s roots in moss to retain moisture.

Kokedama literally mean “moss ball.” The style originated from the Nearai and Kusamono bonsai styles and today, this design goes one step further when the moss balls are suspended with string.

You can use almost any small indoor plant for this project. When choosing your plant, think about where you will display your Kokedama and keep lighting needs in mind for your plant.

It’s not hard to make your own. Follow along with these instructions.

For this project, you will need:

Photo Mar 12, 4 47 17 PM

6 Steps to making a Kokedama

  1. Mix it. Kokedama uses heavier soil and we recommend using a ratio of 70 percent indoor potting soil with 30 percent garden soil. In a bucket, mix soil well. Add a small amount of water to bond the soil together so it has a clay-like feel. Soil should be sticky and pliable once all ingredients have been mixed.
  2. Ball it. Depending on the size of your plant, form a ball ranging in size from a plum to a grapefruit. Gently insert your thumbs into the middle of the ball, keeping the sphere intact. This is where your plant roots will go.
  3. Plant it. Remove plant from container, gently shaking off excess soil. Dunk roots in water. Place your plant’s roots into the soil ball, gently forming the soil around roots and adding more soil if necessary.
  4. Cover it. Dip moss in water, then squeeze out excess water. Place and press the damp moss around the soil ball. Leave enough space around the plant for breathing room.
  5. String it. Once your ball has taken shape, securely wrap and tie it with twine. Now, add a piece or wire or twine at your desired length for hanging.
  6. Soak it. Place the Kokedama in a bucket and cover the moss ball with water without submerging the plant. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes then you’re ready to go! Do not let the Kokedama dry out completely before soaking again. Depending on the plant and environment, soak Kokedama about once a week.

Once you’re done with your Kokedama, try your hand at this succulent planter DIY!

Succulent Success – What’s the secret?

You’ve probably heard the words cacti and succulents thrown around interchangeably. However, this is a common misconception. Technically, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cacti are simply one of the many types of succulents.

Succulents are defined by their water retaining cells. Which is one of our favorite things about them because it’s what makes them so low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Another common misconception is that cacti are defined by their prickly needles. Many succulents have spikes similar to cacti, and not all cacti are prickly.

If you’re looking specifically for a cactus, the determining factor is called an areole. They are small, cotton-like lumps on a cactus where the spines grow out of. All cacti have areoles, making it easy to distinguish them from other prickly succulents.

Now that you know the difference, let’s talk about care. Although they’re different plants, cacti and succulents have similar needs. When caring for cacti or succulents, remember they love everything in moderation – not too much, and not too little.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Light

Cacti and succulents thrive in a spot by the window or outdoors in the garden. Too little sunlight will cause loss of color or strange growth patterns. Lack of sun can lead to root rot as the soil may stay  moist for too long.

On the other hand, too much direct sunlight and heat can cause succulents and cacti to sunburn! These burns can change the color and texture of the plant. While most succulents can handle direct sunlight, it takes time for them to become accustomed to a new environment. Don’t move them from a windowsill to full sun in the garden without conditioning them. Gradually place your plant in brighter locations and allow it some time to adjust to its new surroundings.

Water

The same Goldilocks rule goes for watering – not too much, but not too little.

While succulents and cacti are drought tolerant and can survive without water, that doesn’t mean they’ll thrive. They will do best when watered in moderation.

It’s safer to stay on the lighter side of watering rather than giving too much. If you notice the succulent starting to shrivel, its most likely because they are using up the water reserved in their cells. Add a small amount of water to the soil to help them replenish.

Too much water will cause your plant to become mushy and potentially develop root rot. Your succulent or cactus can fall apart right in front of your eyes!

Avoid these problems by using very little water and determining later whether they need more. If you have your plant in a double pot, water it and after a few minutes empty all excess water. Over-watering is just as common of a cause of plant death as under-watering. Use Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix potting soil to keep roots healthy and to reduce drought-stress in between watering.

Temperature

Succulents and cacti are very flexible when it comes to temperatures. Just be sure to adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

When plants are in cool temps, soil won’t dry as fast. Remember root rot can occur if the soil is too wet for too long. If succulents or cacti are planted outdoors in the hot summer sun, you may need to water more often.

Now that you know the difference between succulents and cacti and the proper care, add some to your garden today!

Feed plants with Espoma’s Cactus! Succulent Plant Food for best results and let us know how your succulent garden turns out!

The April Garden Checklist You’ve Been Waiting For

Quick! There’s much to be done outdoors and no time to waste! Shed off those winter blues and head outdoors to restore your lawn and garden. The days are getting longer and your soil is beginning to wake up. April is a great time to get out in your yard and begin again.

Wondering where to start? We’ve got 6 tasks you can accomplish this month in your own yard.

April Garden Checklist:

  1. Start tomato seeds. The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your region.
  2. Get planting. Hydrangeas embody everything we love about gardening. They have billowy texture, come in bright colors and are easy to care for. Plant some this month for the best blooms.
  3. Choose berries. Did you know blackberries have almost as many antioxidants as blueberries? And raspberries make the perfect addition to jam, cobblers and pies. Berries are just so delicious, scrumptious and oh-so-juicy. Plus, many berries are easy to grow and care for. Find out when, where and how to plant your favorite berries.
  4. Revitalize lawns. Perform a soil test to find out what your lawn needs, then amend and choose organic. Organic lawns need less watering, fertilizing and mowing all summer long. Yes — that means you get to spend more time enjoying your beautiful lawn and less time caring for it! Plus, as natural lawn foods break down, your soil becomes stronger on its own and needs less help.
  5. Plant blooms. Azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these shrubs thrive in almost any garden. Plus, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. Make sure you’re adding these bloomers to your garden this year.
  6. Feed roses. Your roses are waking up now, they’ve made it through a long winter and they are starving! Choose Espoma’s organic Rose-tone. It includes more nutrients than any other rose food. Most rose fertilizers contain three nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). Here’s how to feed with Rose-tone.

Sit back and relax once you’re done. April showers will give way to May flowers in no time at all.

6 Fruits and Veggies for Kids

Convincing kids to eat healthy may seem like a constant battle, but it doesn’t have to be. What easier way to get kids excited about fruits and veggies than by having them plant their own?

Growing food with kids is a great interactive learning experience. Not only will they get to spend time outdoors getting their hands dirty — what kid doesn’t love that? — they also have the chance to learn more about eating healthy and the science of growing.

For best results, choose a food that you already know your child enjoys, but isn’t too difficult to grow.

6 Plants Perfect for Kids

1. Strawberries

Trick kids into eating healthy with nature’s candy! Strawberries are a deliciously sweet snack and are also extremely high in vitamin C. Plant strawberries in your garden or start inside and then transfer outdoors.

2. Blueberries

Another sweet snack kids are sure to love, blueberries are nutritional powerhouses. These little berries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins C and K. They can be grown in containers or freely in the garden. Blueberry bushes can grow very tall, maybe even taller than your little ones!

3. Peas

This cold weather crop can withstand lower temps, so start planting in early spring. Sweet peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas are easy to grow and kids will love watching them grow tall on a trellis or vine. Simply snap off and pop in your mouth for a healthy snack on the go.

4. Tomatoes

With all the different varieties of tomatoes, there is bound to be at least one your child likes. Try planting bite size tomatoes, such as cherry or grape varieties, making it easier for kids to pick and enjoy. Smaller tomatoes like these are often sweeter, too, making for a better healthy snack. Don’t forget to feed with Espoma’s Tomato-tone, it is formulated specifically for boosting tomato growth. The best part is, it’s completely organic, making veggies safe to eat for you and your family.

5. Carrots

Growing carrots can teach kids another lesson in the garden – patience. Allowing your little ones to dig up these underground veggies will be well worth the wait. It’s almost like hunting for hidden treasure! Try growing in a variety of colors to create a rainbow of veggies.

6. Cucumbers

Cucumbers grow long and fast, making it exciting for kids to watch their progress. Have each child choose a cucumber and start a contest to see whose grows fastest. When ready to be picked, cucumbers are the perfect refreshing snack on a nice warm day.

No yard? No problem! Watch this video to learn how to grow edibles in containers.

Which fruits and veggies will you plant with your little ones? Let us know in the comments below!