Fixer Upper: Chicken Coop Edition

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Brooklyn’s newest chicken coop!

Summer Rayne Oakes from Homestead Brooklyn crowdsourced funds and donations to build a new chicken coop and garden for Los Sures, a non-profit senior citizen service center. Summer currently fosters Kippee, a Rhode Island hen, in her Brooklyn apartment and embarked on this project in an effort to build Kippee a new home.

Summer is an environmental scientist and entomologist by training. She’s changing the way we think about everything from how to care for houseplants to how we connect our community.

Los Sures’ mission is to develop and preserve sustainable communities in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They build affordable housing, participate in community service, and even have a food program. The organization originally started to help improve the borough in the seventies.

Summer worked alongside Zach Williams, the food access manager at Los Sures, to purchase tools and equipment for the chicken coop. With the help of the community, the chicken coop was erected in a single day. The Espoma Company was happy to help by donating Sani-Care animal bedding, Sani-Care Odor Control, Bio-tone Starter Plus fertilizer, and Garden Soil.

Sani-Care animal bedding is an all-natural product, manufactured using a blend of NIH approved premium hardwoods that includes beech, birch and maple. Sani-Care Odor Control helps to mitigate the odor of chicken feces.

Summer and Los Sures built a top-notch chicken coop! The chicken coop and garden will serve a variety of purposes for the organization. The chickens provide eggs which contribute to Los Sures’ food program and pantry.

Want to see more about the chickens at Los Sures? See how Homestead Brooklyn creates a garden just for the chickens to enjoy!

Espoma Chicken Coop Essentials

 

Hydrangea Hype: Garden Inspiration

Beautifully flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

Hydrangea Basics

Besides their obvious beauty, there are some facts about hydrangeas worth knowing before embarking on your hydrangea garden journey. With many varieties of the hydrangea species, it is important to keep in mind which ones thrive in your zone and garden. For example, if you live in a cool zone, the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a great choice to add to your garden.

Hydrangeas are acid-loving plants. To keep your hydrangeas happy use Espoma’s Organic Holly-Tone to fertilize.  You can even adjust the acidity of the soil to change the color of some hydrangeas. Do you prefer blue to pink? It’s easy to enjoy a garden full of blue hydrangeas by simply decreasing (lowering) the pH of the soil. We recommend amending your soil with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to help turn your hydrangeas blue.

Hydrangeas in containers

Short on space? No problem! There are several varieties that will thrive in your small space. Our Hydrangea Variety Guide will help find the right dwarf hydrangea to put in your containers.

Next, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need. Be sure to use a good quality potting soil such as Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. Choose a container that is 1/2 or 1/3 bigger than the plant itself. It is important that the plant does not get crowded in its container. The last step is to water well and most importantly, enjoy the big beautiful blooms!

 

 

Don’t settle for bushes. Grow a tree!

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! 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.  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.

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.

 

Friends that bloom together stay together

Hydrangeas make great companion plants. Pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers or subtle ornamental grasses for an extra pop of color in your garden. Pair with shrubs, flowers and grasses for a look that pleases.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades making them a perfect companions for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias. Whichever you choose, look for companion plants that bloom around the same time.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Multi-size, multi-color, and just plain beautiful

When we picture hydrangeas — with their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage — we naturally envision large plants. Believe it or not, hydrangeas come in not one, not two, but three sizes! Dwarf varieties are petite beauties that pack a powerful punch. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf or full-size hydrangea for you.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Hydrangea appreciation

Appreciate your hard work growing your hydrangea garden by putting together hydrangea bouquets to decorate your home, creative art projects, making a hydrangea wreath, or dry them out for year-round arrangements! There is no end to the beauty your hydrangeas will bring to your garden and your home.

 

Espoma Products Hydrangeas will Love:

5 Edible Flowers to Grow In Your Garden

When you think about an edible garden, berries, tomatoes and salad greens usually come to mind. However, nothing is quite as gourmet or unusual as adding bright blooms and petals to your salads, desserts and meals. Edible flowers picked straight from your organic garden and rinsed before adding to a dish make a colorful and tasty complement to your summer meals.

The best tasting part of many flowers is the petals. Remove pistils and stamens or stems before consuming.

Note that not all flowers are edible, do your research to properly identify flowers before eating them. You’ll also want to make sure your flowers are grown organically for the healthiest and safest choice. Choose Espoma’s Bloom! liquid fertilizer or Flower-tone for organic gardens.

For flowers that look good as well as taste good, consider some of the following:

 

Daylilies

These perennial garden favorites also make for great meal additions. Add to stir-fries salads, dessert or sautés. Harvest blossoms just before they open and stuff as you would squash blossoms. These plants are grown almost anywhere, but thrive in USDA hardiness zones 4-9.

Lavender

Lavender is an all-purpose bloomer. Besides serving as both an edible and ornamental plant in your garden, lavender is also pet-friendly and can help to repel pests. Add flowers to sauces, dressings, baked goods, ice cream and more. Don’t forget to remove the flowers from the stalk. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Coneflower

Bright and colorful coneflower is known for its healing properties and is often used as a home remedy for colds. These plants are also known favorites of pollinators. Add petals to salads and dishes for a vibrant splash of color, save the roots and seed heads for tea.  Best grown in zones 3-9.

Violas (Pansy, Viola, & Violets)

Sweet pansies, violas and violets make wonderful additions to lollipops, ice cubes and cakes. Pansies are especially great because the whole flower is edible. Choose varieties best suited to your growing conditions. Best suited for zones 2-10.

Best Products for Growing Edible Flowers:

Bloom! Plant Food

Build a Butterfly Bouquet for National Pollinator Week

What’s better than decorating your home with summer bouquets of flowers directly from your garden? Having a cut flower garden is not only convenient for on-demand bouquets, but also for adding color your garden with stunning oranges, yellows, purples, pinks and blues. While you often choose plants for bees, these flowers are for the butterflies.

 

Pollinators need love year round and that starts with gardening organically. In honor of National Pollinator Week, here are our best tips for celebrating by building a butterfly bouquet with the flowers they love!

 

Breathtaking Flowers Butterflies will Love

Yarrow (Achillea)

Yarrow is a vibrant yellow perennial. It has a lengthy flowering time from June through September. It is a relatively tall flower with an average growth height of 2.5-3 feet. Butterflies love these flowers because they’re easy to land on and also loaded with sweet nectar. Give your flowers a strong soil base to help them thrive through the hot summer months with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil. Best suited for zones 3-8.

Ox-Eye Daisies

Ox-Eye Daisies are a classic addition to your garden. Their flowering time covers the summer months from May to August. With their white rays and yellow centers, they will be sure to brighten up your cut flower garden. They grow 1-3 feet tall so they will not take up too much space. Butterflies love Ox-Eye Daisies because they are nectar-rich. Best suited for zones 3-8.

 

English Lavender

English Lavender is a garden essential! Their flowering period covers the summer months of June to August. They grow to the perfect height of 1.5-2 feet. People and butterflies love English Lavender for its fragrance and remarkable blue-purple color.. Best suited for zones 5-8.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

The Blanket Flower is a vivid, color-rich butterfly flower to add to your garden. They flower in summer months from May through August. Blanket Flowers tend to be on the shorter side, only growing 6-12 inches tall. Their stunning blood-orange red petals and yellow tips will have your jaw on the floor by the time flowering season rolls around. Butterflies cannot pass up the nectar and vivid colors on these stunning flowers. In order to get the biggest flowers, fertilize with Espoma’s Bloom! liquid plant food. Best suited for zones 3-10.

Bee Balm

Bee balm is another pollinator favorite that should earn a spot in your pollinator garden. The Bee Balm’s flowering period only covers July through August, but their violet blue, red, pink or white color will be worth it. They thrive in zones 4-8 and are relatively tall, growing an average of 2-3 feet. Bee balm is nectar-rich and its bright coloring makes it an easy sell to butterflies. Boost your Bee Balm with Espoma’s Organic Flower-tone fertilizer for big, healthy flowers. Best suited for zones 4-8.

 

Espoma products needed for a butterfly bouquet:

Bloom! Plant Food

 

 

5 Unusual Containers to Grow Strawberries

There are very few things better than a sweet, juicy strawberry from your garden. Summer and strawberries go hand in hand, so if you aren’t already growing them, get them in the ground now.

But not everyone has a spot in the garden for this berry, so sometimes you need to come up with interesting and unique ways to plant them.

Choose your favorite from our options below and head over to your local garden center to pick up supplies and some Holly-tone. Your fresh strawberries won’t disappoint!

5 Unique Spots to Plant Strawberries:

Bird Bath

If you have a bird bath lying around that you no longer need, plant some strawberries in there! Add large rocks or broken terra cotta to the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Fill it the rest of the way with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix and plant your berries!

DIY Tower

Follow along with Laura from Garden Answer as she creates her own unique take on a strawberry tower. Need step by step written directions? Check it out here.

Gutter Planters

These planters, which hang on the side of the house, are perfect for anyone who needs a little space. Be sure they are fastened tightly before planting. Leave a little space between plants and the sides so they can have room to drape over the sides. Once planted, water them well with Espoma’s Grow! liquid plant food.

Pallet Planter

We’ve seen Laura from Garden Answer plant a whole vegetable garden in a pallet, but we think it would be a great place for an abundance of strawberries! Gently fill them with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil to help them grow strong roots.

Flower Box Tower

This is another DIY-type planter. Stacking up flower boxes will help keep the planters off of the ground and away from any curious creatures that might want to eat your strawberries ! Plant a few of them up and watch them grow.

Espoma products to help you grow your best strawberries yet:

Grow! Plant FoodPotting Soil

Looking to learn more about growing strawberries? Check out all we have to say about this delicious berry!

Companion Planting for Beginners

Grouping certain plants together will actually help your garden in more ways than you think. Companion planting is planting things together that benefit each other.

Find out how to your plants can help each other in this tutorial with Laura from Garden Answer. She’ll walk you through the basics of what it is, how to get started and how she companion plants in her own garden.

Example One: Growth and Habit Can Benefit Other Plants

Imagine a cucumber. Think about how it vines out all over the ground. If you were to trellis the cucumber to grow somewhat vertically, it will cast shade on the ground and you can plant something underneath — think greens, spinach, or anything that enjoys a bit of shade throughout the day.

If you don’t want to trellis your cukes, you can use this example with anything that grows taller and will cast some shade — such as sunflowers or corn. Hardier, tall plants can also be used like a trellis for peas or beanstalks to wrap themselves around them.

Example Two: Plant to Suppress Weeds

If you decide not to trellis vine crops, but instead allow them to grow over the ground, these can be used to block the sunlight and water from getting into the ground. This will make new growth difficult for weeds.

Example Three: Plant to Attract or Repel Insects

You can plant herbs or flowers to attract or repel insects. It is the same concept of planting herbs on the patio to repel mosquitos. Planting them near other producing plants will help fend off unwanted insects. For example, plant basil next to tomato plants to ward off the tomato hornworm — an insect that can be devastating to tomato plants. In this example, basil will also help the tomato grow and taste better – so it is worth a try!

On the other hand, zinnias will attract ladybugs – which is a good thing! Bring ladybugs into your garden to help keep control of other insects.

Nasturtiums act as a host plant for aphids. If you need to get aphids away from other plants that are producing, plant a nasturtium nearby as a distraction.

Other ideas:

  • Plant Thyme with cabbage to repel cabbage worms
  • Add marigolds to repel pests with strong fragrance

Example Four: Plant with Root Depth in Mind

Be sure to consider what you are planting near each other. If you only plant shallow rooted vegetables together they will be competing for space and nutrients. Before planting, be sure to know how deep the roots will go and mix and match the ones you place together. That way each plant can get the right amount of nutrients.

Planting lettuce, tomatoes and carrots together would work well. Lettuce has shallow roots, tomatoes have medium roots and carrots are a deep root vegetable, so they will not have to compete for the same space. Let’s say you want to add in potatoes – think about where the carrots are and don’t plant them next to each other. They will be much happier next to the lettuce.

When you are considering planting for nutrients, be sure there are nutrients in the soil for your plants to take up. Before planting, add Espoma’s Organic Bio-tone Starter Plus to ensure the plants are getting all the nutrients they need to grow big and tasty. Later in the season, it is best to follow up with Garden-tone to keep plants in close quarters thriving.

Espoma Products For Companion Planting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Companion Planting for Beginners with Garden Tour

Grouping certain plants together will actually help your garden in more ways than you think. Companion planting is planting things together that benefit each other.

Find out how your plants can help each other in this tutorial with Laura from Garden Answer. She’ll walk you through the basics of what it is, how to get started and how she companion plants in her own garden.

Example One: Growth and Habit Can Benefit Other Plants

Imagine a cucumber. Think about how it vines out all over the ground. If you were to trellis the cucumber to grow somewhat vertically, it will cast shade on the ground and you can plant something underneath — think greens, spinach, or anything that enjoys a bit of shade throughout the day.

If you don’t want to trellis your cukes, you can use this example with anything that grows taller and will cast some shade — such as sunflowers or corn. Hardier, tall plants can also be used like a trellis for peas or beanstalks to wrap themselves around them.

Example Two: Plant to Suppress Weeds

If you decide not to trellis vine crops, but instead allow them to grow over the ground, these can be used to block the sunlight and water from getting into the ground. This will make new growth difficult for weeds.

Example Three: Plant to Attract or Repel Insects

You can plant herbs or flowers to attract or repel insects. It is the same concept of planting herbs on the patio to repel mosquitos. Planting them near other producing plants will help fend off unwanted insects. For example, plant basil next to tomato plants to ward off the tomato hornworm — an insect that can be devastating to tomato plants. In this example, basil will also help the tomato grow and taste better – so it is worth a try!

On the other hand, zinnias will attract ladybugs – which is a good thing! Bring ladybugs into your garden to help keep control of other insects.

Nasturtiums act as a host plant for aphids. If you need to get aphids away from other plants that are producing, plant a nasturtium nearby as a distraction.

Other ideas:

  • Plant Thyme with cabbage to repel cabbage worms
  • Add marigolds to repel pests with strong fragrance

Example Four: Plant with Root Depth in Mind

Be sure to consider what you are planting near each other. If you only plant shallow rooted vegetables together they will be competing for space and nutrients. Before planting, be sure to know how deep the roots will go and mix and match the ones you place together. That way each plant can get the right amount of nutrients.

Planting lettuce, tomatoes and carrots together would work well. Lettuce has shallow roots, tomatoes have medium roots and carrots are a deep root vegetable, so they will not have to compete for the same space. Let’s say you want to add in potatoes – think about where the carrots are and don’t plant them next to each other. They will be much happier next to the lettuce.

When you are considering planting for nutrients, be sure there are nutrients in the soil for your plants to take up. Before planting, add Espoma’s Organic Bio-tone Starter Plus to ensure the plants are getting all the nutrients they need to grow big and tasty. Later in the season, it is best to follow up with Garden-tone to keep plants in close quarters thriving.

Continue to watch for a tour of Laura’s vegetable garden and to see where Laura plants her companions.

Espoma Products For Companion Planting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons to Start a Cutting Garden

The temperature is only getting warmer, which means it’s time to start a cutting garden! From lilies, to dahlias and zinnias, you can have nonstop blooms.

Cutting gardens can include anything from roses and shrubs to perennials, annuals and even bulbs. Cuttings from berry bushes can even make a great complement to fall bouquets. The fun doesn’t stop with just pretty vases and bouquets, you can also grow flowers for dried arrangements in the cutting garden.

You may be wondering why you would want to spend time in the sun and dirt all day. Trust us! The five reasons below are just a few personal favorites of why growing a cutting garden is worth it.

Stop by your local garden center to find out which plants will work best in your yard for your cutting garden.

5 Reasons to Start a Cutting Garden:

1. So Many Blooms

Nothing beats a fresh cut flower arrangement. It’s even better when it’s handpicked from your cutting garden. Enjoy blooms both in your garden and your favorite vase. Feed blooms with Espoma’s Bio-Starter Plus when you plant for extra flower power.

2. The Health Benefits

Digging, planting and working in the garden all benefits your physical and mental wellbeing. Gardening gets your body moving. Unplug from electronics for a bit and enjoy the fresh air. It will help clear your mind.

3. Unlimited Bouquets

There’s no reason to never have fresh flowers for bouquets when your cutting garden is in bloom. Those endless bouquets don’t come with a price tag and there’s no need to tip the delivery person.

4. Bring The Family Together

Gardening brings people together. Whether you are trying to get your family involved or are looking for some help, gardeners are open and honest about everything. If you don’t have a place to garden at home, join a community garden and make friends who also like to get their hands dirty.

5. Boost Curb Appeal

Having a cutting garden will help boost curb appeal. Surround your property with beautiful flowers of all kinds for a look that will make your neighbors green with envy. Proper maintenance and Espoma’s liquid Bloom! will have your house looking picture perfect, and boost your real estate values, too!

Think hydrangeas would be perfect for your cutting garden? Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to plant them.

 

Top Picks for Growing A Cutting Garden:

Bloom! Plant Food