Five Vegetables to Plant in the Shade

Summer gardens filled with fresh fruits and lots of veggies are worth the work. And while gardeners with shady areas may be envious, they can still have plenty of success on their own vegetables.

After, the secret to good crops is really in the soil.

A shady space that gets as little as two hours of direct sunlight a day is still a prime location for a veggie garden filled with root or leafy vegetables. Plus, you’ll have a longer growing period for cool-season crops.

Read on for five vegetables that don’t need to full sun.

 

5 Vegetables that Grow in Shade:

  1. Beets

Easy to grow in almost any space, beets are a shade gardener’s best friend. Beets can be used for both their roots and their greens. Sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring for the best flavor.

  1. Bok Choy

This cold-weather vegetable can withstand cooler temps and shade. Use in soups, salads and stir-fries. Sow seeds directly in ground in both the fall and spring for two harvests.

  1. Kale

Cold-hardy and resilient, kale will grow for months until the weather gets too hot. This plant can be added to stir-fry, salads, omelets and smoothies for a healthy addition. Plant kale about two months before your first frost.

  1. Turnips

Eat turnips raw or cook and serve in soups, stir-fries or mashes. These plants thrive in cool temperatures and shade. Scatter turnip seeds in your garden two to four weeks before the last frost in spring or from late August to October.

  1. Garlic

Requiring almost no space, garlic is simple to grow. Break off cloves from a whole bulb and plant in the ground. To harvest big and flavorful bulbs next summer, plant garlic in the fall. Allow garlic to cure after harvesting in an airy, shady spot for two weeks.

Want to get kids involved in vegetable gardening? Learn more about kid-friendly gardening.

Top 10 Small Space Gardening Solutions

Don’t let limited space discourage you from gardening.  Whether you have a big backyard or a one bedroom apartment, there are always plenty of ways to keep your living space green. If you have a green thumb but not a lot of space, container plants will become your best friend. When growing in containers, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Potting Soil Mix for best results.

Try these ten small space gardening solutions.

Dwarf Blueberries

These delicious summer fruits are the perfect fit for growing in containers. Although they might be small, blueberries provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Potted blueberry plants provide more than just a healthy snack, too – they create beautiful foliage all year long.

Cherry Tomatoes

While certain varieties of tomatoes can grow very large, cherry tomatoes are perfect for small space gardening. Grow cherry tomatoes in a sunny spot on your patio or balcony and pop them right off the vine when you’re ready to eat! Use Espoma’s Organic Tomato Tone for best results.

Hydrangeas

Choose a dwarf or petite hydrangea and the flowers and leaves will fill out the container in no time. Be sure to give hydrangeas plenty of light and water daily. For bright blue hydrangeas, you’ll need to perfect the soil’s pH level. Use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for best results.

Succulents

Not only are they low-maintenance and easy to care for, succulents are also trending in the home décor world. With a huge variety – including cactus, aloe, sedum and many more – you’re sure to find a succulent you love. Plant in a sunny spot indoors or out and water as needed.

 

Herbs

Create a windowsill garden and fill with herbs. If you have a sunny spot in your kitchen, you’ll have fresh, homegrown herbs at your fingertips every time you cook. Basil, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow and essential in many delicious meals.

 

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

Strawberries

Another delicious berry to grow, strawberries can thrive in containers with the right care. Strawberries love sun, so place containers in a bright spot. Keep the soil moist, but keep leaves dry to protect your plants from disease. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the sweet tastes of this summer standard.

 

Sunflowers

While sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall, dwarf sunflower seeds produce much smaller blooms, typically measuring around 1 foot tall. They are perfect for small space gardening, and children love planting these bright flowers. Teach your kids about gardening by starting seeds together, caring for seedlings, and watching flowers bloom.

Image courtesy of Garden Answer

Fiddle Leaf Fig

These trees are very stylish indoor houseplants. The deep green leaves don’t grow too bushy, making fiddle leaf figs perfect for small spaces and empty corners. When cared for properly, fiddle leaf figs can grow up to six feet tall. These plants become a dramatic focal point in any room. Keep in a very sunny, warm spot and ensure the soil is well-drained.

 

Peace Lilies

Indoor houseplants have been proven to reduce stress and improve air quality. Peace lilies are one of the best providers of these benefits. Besides the health perks, peace lilies also provide beautiful bright white flowers contrasted with deep green leaves.

Peppers

Peppers are another edible perfect for small space gardening. Some peppers can even be grown on your kitchen table or counter. There are hundreds of varieties, so whether you live for the spice or prefer mild sweet peppers, you’ll find one you love. Peppers are typically compact and thrive in containers. Specific care may vary depending on the variety.

Ready to plant? Check out Garden Answer’s video on planting fruits and veggies in containers.

Double Duty: Pet-friendly Plants that also Keep Pests Away

Landscapes that are both beautiful and functional earn extra points in any gardeners’ book. But gardens that are beautiful, pet-friendly and repel pests take the cake. Luckily, it doesn’t take too much effort to petscape for a Safe Paws yard.

While some pest-fighting plants like citronella and eucalyptus are poisonous to pets, there are other options that are more pet-friendly. Repel pests naturally in your yard with these pet-safe plants.

Three plants to repel pests

  1. Easy and fast-growing mint oil is proven to repel ticks, ants, mice and moths. Add mint to containers or plant it in an area where you can control its spread. Easy and fast-growing, mint needs little care as long as it’s grown in full sun. Pinch off flower buds as they appear and thin plants regularly.
  2. Rosemary, a member of the mint family, can keep mosquitoes at bay. This Mediterranean favorite is one of the most aromatic herbs you can grow. Grow in full sun and water when dry. Although you don’t need to prune, you can cut back branches to help your rosemary bush stay in shape.
  3. Chamomile is said to improve the plant health of any garden, plus its strong scent keeps fleas away. This plant grows best in cool conditions and should be planted in part shade, however, it will also grow full sun.

Keep your pet-friendly, pest-repelling garden growing strong by feeding with Espoma’s liquid Grow! plant food.

Ready to learn more? Learn how to keep pets safe outdoors in summer.

 

Companion Plants for Your Hydrangeas

There’s no doubt that hydrangeas can hold their own in the garden. With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

But, why not pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers or subtle ornamental grasses for more variety? If you’re looking for ways to make your hydrangeas pop even more, try these companion planting tips.

When planting hydrangeas, be sure to use Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus for best results.

Foliage

It’s hard to go wrong when choosing a color for companion plants. Try pairing hydrangeas with foliage in different hues of the same color. This adds subtle dimension and almost creates a 3-D effect in the garden.

If your hydrangeas are pink, pair them with Rose Glow Barberry shrubs. The deep pink and purple foliage emphasizes the pastel pink flowers and contrasts perfectly with the green leaves. Try planting Blue Star Juniper alongside blue hydrangeas for a beautiful display. This low-maintenance shrub provides beautiful bluish-green foliage that complements any blue flowering plants.

Flowers

When planting flowers with flowers, timing is everything. Be sure to choose a summer blooming flower that will blossom around the same time as your hydrangea. You can choose to plant similar hues or bright contrasting colors. If you’re looking to create a dramatic contrast in the garden, choose a flower that comes in a variety of colors.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades, making them a perfect companion for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias.

Grasses

If you want the focus of your garden to be mainly on hydrangeas, opt for more subtle ornamental grasses that simply enhance their beauty. Most ornamental grasses are low-maintenance and easy to grow, giving you more time to spend perfecting your hydrangeas.

Fountain grass is one of our favorites because it provides pretty feathered plumes that dance in the wind. Green and yellow Japanese forest grass also complements hydrangeas very nicely.

Let us know what you’ll be planting with your hydrangeas this summer! And watch this video on planting hydrangeas.

6 Secrets for Growing the Tastiest Tomatoes

A good tomato is hard to forget. You know you’ve hit the jackpot in that first, juicy bite.

Every tomato has the potential to be great and some extra attention now will pay off big time come harvest. Set the stage for a stellar performance by this year’s crops with these tips.

Every tomato has the potential to be great and some extra attention now will pay off big time come harvest. Set the stage for a stellar performance by this year’s crops with these tips.

How to Get The Best Tomatoes:

  1. Healthy soil, healthy plants. Enrich soil with Tomato-tone and compost every other week to keep plants supplied with essential nutrients.
  2. Remove damaged plants. Remove any fruit that shows dark patches on their bottom. These leathery patches, known as blossom end rot, cannot be reversed.
  3. Water well. During hot weather, tomato plants need deep waterings. Tomatoes are also less likely to crack when the soil is kept slightly moist.
  4. Cover the soil. Mulch blocks weeds, saves water and protects your fruit. Adding it is a no-brainer! Spread a 2-3” layer of organic mulch around plants, leaving 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots.
  5. Protect plants from heat. Hot sun can cause sunscald, leaving tomatoes with pale, leathery patches on the fruits that pucker when they should be ripening. Bushy plants with lots of leaves naturally shade fruit from sun, however, plants with less leaves are more vulnerable. Cover plants with lightweight cloth covers through the first few heat waves.
  6. Remove tomato suckers. These small shoots sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Though harmless, tomato suckers do drain energy away from the main stems.

Pick tomatoes when you’re ready for them, avoid letting them get soft and mushy. Tomatoes picked at the breaker stage, when they first show signs of changing color, are considered vine-ripened. These tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and on your kitchen counter. Plus, tomatoes picked at the breaking stage can still have the same flavor as one that has fully ripened on the vine.

Whatever you do, just don’t put tomatoes in the fridge to ripen.

Want to know more? Check out our tomato growing guide for all the details on getting your best tomato harvest yet!  

How to Grow a Hydrangea Tree

Flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. Nothing beats the beautiful sight of blooming hydrangeas in a variety of colors. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

While we’re typically used to seeing low growing hydrangea bushes, how great would it be to see hydrangeas on trees? Well, the good news is, you can! Here is how you can grow a hydrangea tree.

Choosing the One

Hydrangea paniculata, also known as Grandiflora, produces white conical flowers instead of big spherical blossoms. With some pruning and proper care, it can grow up to 25 feet tall! Grandiflora, known among gardeners as Pee Gee Hydrangea, is your best bet for growing a hydrangea tree.

Planting

Before you plant, set yourself up for success. Check your hardiness zone, as hydrangea trees thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8a. Hydrangeas prefer full sun for most of the day and a bit of afternoon shade, so be sure to choose a generally bright spot.

Hydrangeas typically thrive in rich, porous, moist soil. Enrich the soil with Espoma’s All-Purpose Garden Soil  and add Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus to ensure healthy growth. Water thoroughly and if planting multiple trees, be sure to space each hydrangea at least 3 to 10 feet apart.

Pruning

One of the most important parts of growing a hydrangea tree is pruning. The main difference between a hydrangea shrub and a tree is training, pruning and proper care. The ideal time to prune is early spring. Remove old twigs that didn’t produce healthy growths and remove suckers from the trunk of the tree. Keep your tree neat by cutting branches short enough that they each have only two or three nodes (small bumps on the branch that signify growth).

Upkeep

Your hydrangea tree will need a lot of sun, but provide some shade on especially hot summer afternoons. More sun means more water, so keep the soil moist to avoid wilting leaves and blooms. Prune your hydrangea tree in the spring before peak growing season.

If you love your hydrangeas and want to see more than a typical shrub, growing a hydrangea tree sounds like the next step for you!

Pink Succulents Mom Will Love

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, you’re probably getting ready to shower your mom with love! But, deciding what to get mom gets harder each year. Instead of pink or red roses, try something new – pink succulents! While succulents typically are seen in various shades of green or blue, pretty pinks and ruby reds are perfect for Mother’s Day.

Succulents are trending in the décor world right now and look great in any home. They’re also very low maintenance and easy to care for, perfect for a busy mom on the go.

Here are five succulents to buy for mom this Mother’s Day:

Perle von Nurnberg

The overlapping leaves of this echeveria species are beautiful in color. A greyish brown base with light pink and purple highlights creates contrast between the leaves.  In the summer, the flowers can become coral to red with a yellow interior. As with all succulents, be sure to keep soil dry to avoid root rot and growth damage.

Afterglow

This echeveria truly lives up to its name. With beautiful pastel pink and purple leaves, these succulents look like something from a fairytale, a flower any mom is sure to love. Afterglow is perfect for indoor or outdoor containers. When growing succulents in containers, be sure to use Espoma’s Cactus Mix for best results.

Aurora 

This sedum variety is definitely a fan favorite. Its bead-shaped, pink leaves earned Aurora the adorable nickname “Pink Jelly Beans” – and what mom wouldn’t love that? Yellow and white summer blooming flowers pair perfectly with the existing pink foliage.

Paddle Plant

Also known as Flapjack Plant or Desert Cabbage, this succulent gets its name from its flat, wide leaves. Paddle plant is typically found in green, but becomes accented with red when it receives enough sunlight. Like most of the succulents on this list, the pink and red color only becomes more prominent with more sun.

Graptopetalum pachyphyllum 

Bonus points for mom if she can pronounce the name! This species has beautiful rosettes of pinkish leaves, topped by tiny, yellow flowers with pointed petals. When given a lot of sunlight, the gray foliage can show a reddish tint.

This Mother’s Day, show mom your love with one – or all – of the succulents on this list. Try incorporating the succulents in a cute planter for a really unique gift!

Grow These Veggies on Your Patio

As urban gardening continues to trend, container gardens are popping up everywhere! Container gardens are perfect small-space solutions. Not only do they provide added appeal to your space, they also give you delicious food right at your fingertips. If you have limited space, or simply just want to add another element to your existing crop, grow these container plants on your patio this summer.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries, BrazelBerries Jelly Bean

Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry.

  1. Blueberries – These sweet summer fruits grow great in containers. Because blueberries are so small, you can get a big harvest with very little space. Blueberries love acidic soil, so check the pH level of your soil and add Espoma’s Holly-tone if necessary. Check out more on growing blueberries here.
  2. Tomatoes – With tons of varieties, there is a tomato for everyone. Some of our favorites to grow in containers include smaller varieties like grape or cherry tomatoes. These are easy to pick right off the vine and are perfect for gardening with kids. Learn more about growing tomatoes in our ultimate tomato-growing guide.
  3. Peppers – Like tomatoes, peppers come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking to add some spice to your garden with jalapenos, or prefer milder bell peppers, these colorful veggies are a vibrant summer sight. Peppers love lots of direct sun, so plant these containers in a bright area.
  4. Zucchini – One of our favorite summer veggies, zucchini are a bit larger than tomatoes and peppers and need more room. Grow in a container with at least a five gallon capacity with proper drainage. Use Espoma’s Garden-tone to get the most out of your zucchini plants. Like peppers, zucchini will thrive with 6-8 hours of sunlight, so plant in a sunny spot.
  5. Herbs – Because herbs are small, they are the perfect fit for any container garden. Kitchen staples such as rosemary, basil and mint are great additions to any dish, or even a refreshing summer drink. Grow herbs in Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix in containers inside or out.

If you have limited space, don’t let that discourage you! With the right containers and a little bit of planning, you can have a delicious summer harvest in no time.

Check out this video on container plants and tell us what plants you’ll be growing in containers this season in the comments.

Five Simple Gardening To-Dos to Complete This May

The start of May brings colorful blooms and lush foliage to your garden. With summer right around the corner, that means there’s only more to come! Now is the best time to prep for your favorite fruits, veggies and flowers.

Here are a few things you can do this month to prep your garden for the summer growing season:

  1. Tidy Your Garden – As always, one of the best ways to prep your garden for a new season is to clean it up. Remove weeds, prune existing plants and rake away old leaves and excess debris. Now you have a fresh start for planting new blooms and crops.
  2. Harvest Early Spring Crops – If your garden is full of cool weather veggies from earlier this year, harvest now and enjoy. Go ahead and enjoy the crisp crunch of radishes and fresh salad greens. Plus, you’ll have more room to grow summer veggies.
  3. Plan Ahead – Before getting started, create a garden plan of what you want to grow and where. Different plants thrive in different climates, so research the best ones for your garden.
  4. Get planting! – Make a trip to your favorite garden center and round up your favorite summer plants. We’re big fans of planting summer veggies like cucumbers, peppers and summer squash. First, check to make sure that you’re clear of frost and then start planting. Use an organic plant food like Espoma’s Garden-tone to encourage healthy growth.
  5. Transfer Seedlings – If you started seeds indoors earlier this spring, transfer them outdoors in May if the weather permits. Be sure to harden off seedlings to get them used to the outdoors. Then gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. To keep seedlings strong, plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food, such as Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus.

Be sure to keep your new plants happy and healthy all summer long with the proper nutrients and water. Then, get ready to enjoy your harvest!

Tomatoes in Containers

Featured in this Video:

 

Potting SoilGrow! Plant Food