How to Choose the Right Strawberry Variety to Grow

Strawberries are one of the most popular berries for gardeners to grow. They pack quite a punch, they are a great source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber and have only 49 calories per cup.

When you are ready to plant strawberries, start by deciding which variety will be best for your location and stop by your local garden center for supplies. Encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

You can find strawberries either as June bearing or everbearing. June bearing strawberries form flower buds in the fall as the day length decreases. You’ll be able to harvest them the following early to mid-June and for three to four weeks. June-bearing strawberries produce their first crop the second year after planting.

June bearing strawberries are available in early, mid-season and late varieties. These varieties differ by the best time to harvest.  The difference between early and mid-season is only a couple of days, for late season, it’s about seven to nine days.

Though everbearing strawberries begin to bear fruit at the same time as June bearers, they will continue to produce berries throughout summer and into fall — sometimes even all of the way into October. The different varieties in the everbearing group are known as day-neutral. This means the plants do not need a certain amount of daylight to set flower buds.

The best strawberry varieties to grow

For taste. One of the most important factors in deciding which berries to grow is taste. If you’re ordering your strawberries from a catalog, look to see what the dessert quality is rated. We recommend planting the sparkle variety. These fan favorites are widely considered one of the best choices. Sparkle strawberries are medium-sized with an intense flavor and deep red coloring.

For freezing. Some people want berries that will last all season when they freeze them and not turn to mush. When you’re picking a variety, choose one that produces firm, red strawberries with a slight tart flavor. Allstar is a June-bearing strawberry that’s firm with a glossy red coloring. It produces very large berries with a mild, but sweet flavor, making it ideal for freezing and enjoying for months to come.

 

For size. Another factor to consider is size — do you want very large, large, medium or something in between? If you’re looking for a plant that grows consistently sized berries throughout the season, we recommend June-bearing Honeoye strawberries. These early season berries are large, firm and can be bright orange to red in color. It’s also known to produce plenty of berries.

For canning and jams. Most strawberries are well-suited for canning and jam. Earliglow, a June-bearing strawberry, is especially tasty. It sets and ripens its fruit sooner than virtually every other strawberry variety available. They have an excellent and sweet flavor, plus they are resistant to many strawberry diseases.

For growing in containers. Small space gardeners can still grow large berries. Seascape strawberry plants are everbearing and produce large berries that are bursting with flavor. This variety is also disease-resistant.

For a twist, grow strawberries vertically like Laura from Garden Answer does. 

Get The Best Berries with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Roses to Grow in Any Situation

Roses are the most classic flower to include in a garden. They’re prolific bloomers, fragrant and colorful.

With a little care and maintenance, you’re only a few steps away from success. Yet the ideal conditions for growing roses aren’t always there. We have you covered. Here are the best roses for each situation.

Learn how to plant roses with Laura from Garden Answer.

 

Roses for Full Sun

Roses thrive in full sun. When they get anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, they bloom vibrantly and to their fullest. Any variety will be spectacular when grown in these conditions. They are hardy in zones 4-9 and with the right care, can come back to thrive year after year. Feed your roses monthly with Espoma’s Organic Rose-tone to ensure proper growth.

While all roses thrive in the sun, our favorites are…

Sunblaze® Miniature Roses

You can’t go wrong with any variety of the Sunblaze miniature roses. The name says it all and these sun-loving beauties won’t let you down.

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Autumn Sunblaze® is the perfect variety to showcase this summer. It is a miniature rose, so it is ideal for a beautiful container. Put that container in the full sun for these roses to thrive!

PLANT TYPE: Miniature Rose

FLOWER COLOR: Orange

FLOWERS: Small, 40 petals

FOLIAGE: Glossy

FRAGRANCE: Slight

GROWTH HABIT: Bushy

HARDINESS ZONE: 5 – 11

HEIGHT: 12-15″

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 15″

Sunny Knock Out® rose is beautiful in full sun. As the name implies, the blooms are a bright yellow that fade into a cream color from center to petal. It’ll stay bright and colorful even as cooler months approach.

PLANT TYPE: Miniature Rose

FLOWER COLOR:  Yellow to cream
FLOWERS:  Abundant and continuous
FOLIAGE:
  Dark green, semi-glossy

FRAGRANCE: Slight
GROWTH HABIT:
  Bushy
HARDINESS ZONE:
  4–11

HEIGHT: 3–4’

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 3–5’

 

Container Roses

Want to have a beautiful rose garden, but don’t have the space in your garden to include them? Turn to containers! As long as the containers are placed in full sun, they will thrive.

Some roses are too big to plant in containers, but miniature varieties work well for smaller spaces. Don’t be fooled, just because they are miniature doesn’t mean they aren’t spectacular.

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Rainbow Sunblaze® is a great variety for any summer garden. The petals are multicolored, which will help them stand out anywhere you plant them. Pair them with a beautiful container and it will be the talk of the neighborhood.

PLANT TYPE: Miniature Rose

FLOWER COLOR: Multicolored

FLOWERS: Small, 25-30 petals

FOLIAGE: Semi-glossy

FRAGRANCE: No Fragrance

GROWTH HABIT: Upright

HARDINESS ZONE: 5 – 11

HEIGHT: 12-18″

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 18″

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Sweet Sunblaze® is a beautiful variety to add to any container in your space. This rose, introduced in 1987, has gentle pink blooms that add softness to your garden. Pair with an edgy container for a striking contrast or with a neutral container for a more classic look.

PLANT TYPE: Miniature Rose

FLOWER COLOR: Pink

FLOWERS: Small, 26-40 petals

FOLIAGE: Glossy

FRAGRANCE: Slight

GROWTH HABIT: Bushy

HARDINESS ZONE: 5 – 11

HEIGHT: 15-18″

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 18″

 

Disease Resistant Roses

Some gardens and plants are more susceptible to diseases. Black spot is the most common disease in roses. It is caused by a fungus that spreads from plant to plant and can wipe out an entire garden. Planting disease-resistant roses helps prevent the spread of disease.

We rounded up our favorite roses that are disease resistant.

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Knock Out® Family of Roses

Known for their punch of color, these roses are perfect to add to any sunny garden. Knock Out are disease resistant and love 6-8 hours of sun a day.

PLANT TYPE: Shrub Rose

FLOWER COLOR:  Cherry red, hot pink

FLOWERS:  Abundant and continuous

FOLIAGE:  Deep, purplish green

FRAGRANCE: No Fragrance

GROWTH HABIT:  Bushy

HARDINESS ZONE:  5–11

HEIGHT: 3–4’

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 3–4’

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Double Knock Out® Rose

The Double Knock Out gives a double the punch. It has twice as many petals and is offered in a multitude of colors, depending on the variety. You cannot go wrong with these roses.

PLANT TYPE: Shrub Rose

FLOWER COLOR:  Cherry red, hot pink

FLOWERS:  Abundant, continuous double blooms

FOLIAGE:  Deep, purplish green

FRAGRANCE: No Fragrance

GROWTH HABIT:  Bushy

HARDINESS ZONE:  5–11

HEIGHT: 3–4’

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Full Sun

SPREAD: 3–4’

 Featured in this Post:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Sunshine – Plants that Love the Sun

While most plants need only need some sunshine throughout the day, others love being in the sun all day. Sun loving plants can fill spots where you need some life or color in the garden. Know where the sun hits the most in your garden before picking plants out and then head over to your local garden center for the best choices.

Sun Loving Plants:

1. Sunflower

As the name states, this flower was made for the sun. It screams summer the way no other flower can. Since they are native to the United States, they will grow well and easy pretty much anywhere there is sun while bringing along pollinators to help. Your climate will determine how big and tall your flowers get.

2. Black-eyed Susan

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susan’s thrive in the sun. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for the long summer days. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Hardy in zones 3-9.

3. Catmint

This perennial is drought tolerant, and has a long flowering period through summer into fall. They can sprawl throughout the garden, which makes this a fun groundcover. It comes in a large variety of colors. It is a powerhouse in the garden and is easy to grow. Hardy in zones 3-9.

4. Peonies

Another fan favorite, peonies make the most amazing cut flowers. When growing them in a cutting garden, be sure to get them into full sun. With so much texture, color and fragrance, there is no shortage of reasons no to include them in your garden this year. Hardy in zones 3-8.

5. Dwarf Fountain Grass

Fountain grass is a perfect ground cover anytime you want to add texture to your garden.  Planting a dwarf variety will help you add texture in smaller areas. This pant does well in both dry and wet areas, so as long as you give it sun, it will do well. Hardy in zones 5-9.

6. Sedum

This is a plant that will keep on giving. Every year, sedums tend to grow bigger, so it is a perfect plant for a border or an area that needs filling. Depending on the variety it will either hug the ground or grow up to 3 feet tall. Hardy in zones 3-10.

Since these plants will be hanging out in the sun all day, be sure to keep them watered and give them a boost they deserve with Espoma Organic’s Bloom! liquid fertilizer. After planting, mix it with water and give them a good drink! See the back of the bottle for directions.

Once you’re done in the garden, try making a hanging basket for your porch.

Espoma Product Featured in this Post

Bloom! Plant Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Mow Stripes in your Lawn

Have you ever admired the uniform stripes on the field at a baseball game? It’ll take some practice, but with some work you can create your own striped lawn.

The striped effect is achieved when light reflects off of the blades of grass bent in different directions, creating the dark and light patterns. It’s the same effect you’ll notice after running your hand back and forth across a suede jacket or a thick carpet. This is often the result of grass being bent down by the pressure applied by rollers attached to the back of a lawn mower. The pros use reel mowers with multiple rollers.

Mowing stripes into your lawn actually benefits your yard and encourages healthy grass growth. Mowing too often in the same direction can cause taller grass to bend over, shielding other blades from the sun and killing you lawn over time. Not to mention, you could create ugly tire marks from repeatedly mowing in the same pattern.

To get a landscape design worthy of its own baseball league, you’ll need to start with proper care. Green lawns start with proper care. Always use an organic lawn fertilizer or all season lawn food. Harsher, chemical lawn products can be eaten, ingested or passed on to your dog. This exposure has been linked with a higher risk of canine cancer.

Whether you’re mowing stripes or not, a good cut begins with a sharp mower blade. A dull mower blade tears grass and can cause brown spots. So, sharpen your mower blades every fall and spring. Keep the mower blades high (3” or higher) to encourage healthy roots. If your mower blades are too low, you’re scalping the lawn.

Not all grass types will stripe equally. Choose cool-season grasses, such as fescue, for the best stripes.

5 Steps to a Striped Lawn

1. Get the right materials. Check with your local garden center to see if they sell striping kits or purchase one online. Or, use brooms and squeegees to achieve the stripe effect you desire.

2. Plan your pattern. With a little skill and a big vision, you can put your mower to work. The first time you do this, sketch a pattern of what you want your yard to look like to help you visualize it.

3. Keep your mower straight. It’ll help you to mow if you start parallel to a sidewalk to begin with. To continue mowing in a straight pattern, keep your eyes looking 10 feet in front of you while you mow.

4. Make clean turns. At the end of a row, make a Y-shaped turn to reduce the chance of damaging your lawn. Then mow in the opposite direction alongside your previous pass.

5. Take it to the next level. Make your stripes look professional with a lawn roller. Using the lawn roller, roll it across the grass in the same direction you previously mowed.

TIP: Create a checkerboard by mowing your lawn a second time at a 90 degree angle.

Espoma Organic Lawn Food Featured in this Post:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plants Only a Mother Would Love

From crayon stick figures to loud burps, Moms are notorious for thinking anything their kids do is cute.

This Mother’s Day, brighten mom’s day by giving her a plant that’s just as unique as you. And if you choose the right plant, it will last for years to come. From succulents and cacti to brilliant foliage plants, there is a plant that will bring some extra sunshine to her life every day. She knows you better than anyone else, so remind mom just how awkward and quirky you were as a child.

Baseball Plant

The low-maintenance, euphorbia obesa, comes in a baseball-like shape. Perhaps it’ll remind mom of your little league days. This is a cactus, so it simply needs a warm climate, light and a well-draining soil such as Espoma’s Cactus and Succulent mix.

‘Wine Cup’

Crassula umbella is perfect for the mom who loves taking trips to the vineyard, with her children of course. When it flowers, this plant can grow up to six inches tall. This succulent likes well-drained soil and dry roots, so don’t overwater.

Donkey tails

Remind mom of your playful nature with a donkey tail plant. These succulents drape over containers in a trailing way. With their grey-green tear-drop shaped leaves, the “donkey tails” can grow up to two feet long. Flowers with small blossoms in red, yellow or white will emerge in late summer. Place these sun-loving succulents near a sunny window and water weekly during spring and summer.

Nerve Plant

If mom’s always saying you’re getting on her nerves, try getting her an actual nerve plant! Also known as Fittonia, the name ‘nerve plant’ comes from the attractive pink, red or white veins that run throughout the plant’s rich green leaves. Their bright coloring and great patterns will surely ease mom’s nerves every time she looks at it. This plant also makes a great addition to a terrarium. Place it in a space where it’ll receive medium to low light. Too much sun can cause leaves to crisp. Water the plant weekly, when the soil starts to dry. Nerve plants need regular fertilizing, use Espoma’s Indoor! Liquid fertilizer to encourage new growth.

Yes, more traditional moms might prefer something like an exotic orchid or a lovely pink succulent, but the above are sure to make her smile. Visit your local garden center to find the right plant.

Want to do something different from mom? Try this hand print planter from Garden Answer.

DIY Mother’s Day Planter

Calling all moms out there! This Mother’s Day, create a gift any mom will love with the help of your little one. Yes – it is a bit messy, but it is worth every drop of paint. If you don’t have a little one to help, you can make your own classic piece that will go well anywhere you place it.

Laura from Garden Answer is a new mom this year, so she is diving right into this project for her mom – with the help of Benjamin. This project is perfect for any woman out there.

Espoma Products Needed:

Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Materials needed:

  • Terra Cotta Pots
  • Chalk Paint (Two Colors – One Light and One Dark)
  • Tempera Paint (Various Colors, Black)
  • Photo Paper or Stencils
  • Exacto Knife or Box Cutter for Photo Paper
  • Paint Sponges
  • Smaller Paint Brush
  • Q-Tips
  • Clear Acrylic Sealer
  • Two to Three Plants
  • Wet Ones (For Clean- Up)

Steps for Painting a Monogrammed Planter:

  1. Print off what border and monogram you want to use on photo paper and cut out the design. If you want to skip this step and use a stencil you found at the store instead, feel free to do so. Set this aside.
  2. Paint the outside of the pot with the lighter colored chalk paint so it is one even color. Continue painting the inside rim. This is to ensure uniformity when the plant is inside and the soil doesn’t hit the top. Let dry.
  3. Hold the stencil on the pot carefully, or tape it down where you want it. Using a clean sponge brush dab the inside of the stencil with the darker chalk paint. Let dry and repeat if you have multiple stencils.

*If you want to mute the paint a bit, dab it onto paper or cardboard to lessen the amount of paint on the brush.

  1. Once your pot is dry, spray a clear acrylic sealer the all around the outside and inside of your pot. Since terra cotta is porous and water will seep, you want to ensure your paint isn’t ruined.

Steps for Painting a Butterfly Mother’s Day Planter:

Note: This planter requires the use of small feet, best to ask your little one to help! Grab him or her and let’s get started!

  1. Paint the bottom of your little one’s foot and gently place it on the pot. Use the same color twice in a “V” shape to make the butterfly wings.
  2. Repeat with different colors around the pot.
  3. Take the smaller paint brush and paint black bodies for the butterflies.
  4. Use the Q-Tip to make the ends of the antennae. Repeat step for every butterfly around the pot.
  5. Let dry!
  6. Once your pot is dry, spray a clear acrylic sealer the all around the outside and inside of your pot. Since terra cotta is porous and water will seep, you want to ensure your paint isn’t ruined.

Time to fill both planters with Espoma Organic Potting Mix and plant them up! Laura puts a Peachberry Ice Heuchera in the monogrammed pot to give it the classic farmhouse feel. She plants a Superbells Yellow and a Superbells Grape Punch in the butterfly pot to keep the bright fun colors feel.

Every mom – or grandma – will love these custom made planters. Happy Mother’s Day! Watch the extended version here.

DIY Mother’s Day Planter (Extended Cut)

Calling all moms out there! This Mother’s Day, create a gift any mom will love with the help of your little one. Yes – it is a bit messy, but it is worth every drop of paint. If you don’t have a little one to help, you can make your own classic piece that will go well anywhere you place it.

Watch the quick version here with a complete list of materials and instructions.

 

Purple Please – Top Purple Plants for Your Garden

Every year gardeners want to expand their gardens to offer new colors and plants to make it fresh.

This year, Ultra Violet is the color on trend, so we looked for the best purple plants to include. We created this list of a variety of flowers, foliage and pollinators to fit any need. Plus they all smell divine.

When planning to plant, start your new plants off right with Espoma’s Organic Bio-Tone Starter Plus plant food plus mycorrhizae.

Top 5 Purple Plants

  1. Lavender

Not only is lavender a beautiful purple shade, but it has a strong fragrance that helps to alleviate stress. Lavender, with its attractive foliage, purple flowers and scent is the symbol of summer which is a must for every garden. Bloom time is from June to August.

  1. Verbena

Clusters of little purple flowers top the stems of this beautiful plant. Verbena is drought tolerant, so it fits into any climate. Bunched together this plant can pack a punch of color. Bloom time is from summer through fall.

  1. East Friesland Salvia

This plant shines purple through and through. This salvia plant is popular for the long spikes of purple flowers that bloom in the summer and fall. It is a pollinator plant, attracting everything from bees to hummingbirds.

  1. Heliotrope

Perfect for containers near your entryways, Heliotrope is known for its vanilla fragrant flowers. It is a wonderful treat for summer, especially when paired with lemongrass and lavender. These purple flowers are small and dense, but should not be overlooked. Bloom time is summer through fall.

  1. Purple Bee Balm

While the most popular varieties of bee balm is red, there are some beautiful selections that bring purple flowers. They are easy to grow and will bloom from summer through fall. It is a great pollinator plant, loved by hummingbirds and bees.

For even more options, head to your local garden center to see what plants work well for your area.

Once your new plants are established, feed regularly with Espoma’s Organic Grow! liquid fertilizer. It gives them the boost they need to have bright colors and vibrant blooms.

Espoma products in this blog:

 

Grow! Plant Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Grow Your Own Topiary

Topiaries are plants that have been pruned and trained to grow into distinct decorative shapes. They’re basically slow-growing artistic masterpieces. Whether you grow them geometrically or fanciful like spirals, spheres or even elephants, the options are endless.

Topiaries can be grown from vines or shrubs, and even some herbs. The amount of time it takes to grow a topiary will depend on the topiary’s size and the number of plants you use. Most gardeners use a topiary frame or form to get the look they desire. Visit your local garden center to find out more about the best plants for your topiary.

Topiaries with vining plants

When using vining plants, you’ll need to get a topiary form to encourage the vines to grow in the shape you’ve chosen. English ivy, Boston ivy and periwinkle are popular choices for vining topiaries. To start, fill the form with sphagnum moss to create a full look. Then, plant the vine around the form, allowing the vines to grow upward. You may need several plants to achieve a full look. As the vines grow, train them by wrapping and attaching them around the form with plant ties or wires and pruning regularly.

Topiaries with shrubs

Start small when making a shrub topiary. Choose a variety such as holly, boxwood or laurel. Look for dwarf varieties that will stay compact and won’t need much pruning. If you’re looking to create a pyramid or geometrical shape, select shrubs with tall growth habits such as yews or hollies. For statuesque spirals and cones, choose arborvitae. Beginners will want to use topiary frames to sculpt their designs, which will also help when deciding what needs to be pruned. To train and prune your topiary, you’ll need a clear vision of how you want the topiary to look. Pruning encourages new and bushier growth, but don’t cut off more than 3 inches in the areas you want to trim back.

Fertilizing topiaries

Help topiaries reach their full potential as quickly as they can by using Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus when planting. Follow-up with Espoma’s Grow! liquid fertilizer. Grow! encourages root growth and deep green foliage that will surely delight. For acid-loving plants like hollies, use Holly-tone for best results.

Remember that topiaries take time and so be patient. Your time, maintenance and patience will pay off!