Guide to Starting Root Vegetable Seeds

Who’s ready to start digging in the garden? Us too.

Root vegetable crops can often be planted as soon as the soil has warmed. They’re an easy addition to start your vegetable garden. Start your seedlings now and you‘ll be able to brag about your homegrown root vegetables at the first summer BBQ of the year.

In order to be successful, plant your seeds after springs last frost date according to your region. Stop by your local garden center to pick up your seeds and supplies, soon!

Here’s how to start root vegetable seeds:

  1. Pick Your Soil

Soil for root vegetables is important as they will grow around anything intrusive buried. That will lead to deformed vegetables. They grow best in a deep, loose soil that retains moisture yet is well-drained, such as Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.  Choosing the right soil from the beginning will set up your crop for success. Prepare bed, loosen compacted soil and mix in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

Plant seeds after spring’s last frost date according to your region.

  1. Start Seeds

Sow your seeds directly into your soil. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.

  1. Water Regularly

Seeds need to stay moist while they germinate. Root crops need about 1 inch of water a week. Light waterings that only wet the surface will cause shallow root development and reduce the quality of crops.

  1. Feed Me

When the vegetables start to grow bigger, fuller leaves, give them a hand with Espoma’s Garden-Tone to help provide the nutrients needed for delicious vegetables.

  1. Thin plants

Some root plants like beets or radishes will benefit from thinning. Cut off the tops of weaker seedlings at the soil line when seedlings have 1-2 sets of true leaves.You can use many leaves as a tasty additions to salads. If you pull seedlings out of the ground, it is not recommended to transplant long rooted vegetables, like carrots and turnips, since the disturbance will cause roots to fork.

 

Want more veggies? Try this DIY vegetable pallet planter. 

 

6 Fall Veggies to Plant Now

August is here, summer is coming to an end, and you are just weeding and waiting. You’re in the summer slump.

Time to snap out of it! Get your garden thriving with fresh fall vegetables in your succession garden. You have a time left before the first frost comes around and you hang up your gardening tools. Don’t know what to plant? We can help with that! Give veggies a head start by planting seeds indoors.

6 Fall Vegetables for Succession Gardening

1. Collards – As one of the most cold-hardy plants, collards are great for fall weather. Collards are able to handle temperatures as low and the high teens. For a fall harvest, count back six to eight weeks before your first frost. This allows for sweeter leaves during a fall and winter harvest.

2. Kale – As part of the Brassicafamily, kale grows well in cool weather. Count back six to eight weeks before the first frost to start planting for a fall harvest. Depending on your USDA zone, you can continue planting into the fall. Maintain moisture in the leaves to ensure they are tender. Packed full of nutrients, kale is a great fall vegetable.

3. Lettuce – With different varieties, you can mix and match the lettuce in your garden. Count six weeks before the first frost to start planting. You can sow every two weeks up to the first frost for an extended crop. You can continue after the frost by using a hardier variety, such as romaines or butterheads.

4. Mustard Greens – Mustard greens have seeds that are easy to plant straight into your garden. They germinate well and grow quickly. Count back three weeks before the first frost to start planting. If you want a more successive harvest, plant every three weeks starting mid-summer. They do not grow well in summer, so starting them now is perfect for your fall flavors.

5. Beets – Beets love cold weather. In the southern states, they can be grown all winter long. In the northern states, make sure the soil is cooler (around 41F). Thinning your rows allows your beets to spread out and grow fuller. You can use the greens you thinned for a good salad mixing.

6. Turnips – Planting turnips in the fall makes the plant tenderer and sweeter than the spring. Sow your seeds in the late summer, early fall months to get a fall harvest. Start your turnips with seeds as they do not transplant well.

Remember to keep your plants watered well and fertilize regularly with Espoma’s GROW! Liquid Fertilizer.

How to Care for the Luckiest Houseplant

Instead of carrying around a rabbit’s foot or a four leaf clover, try adding jade plants to your home for good luck! These plants signify wealth and prosperity, so they make the perfect addition to offices and homes. Like most succulents, they’re low-maintenance and easy to care for.

You don’t need to be lucky to find success, just follow these simple care instructions for your jade plant.

Water

Instead of watering your jade plant on a schedule, water as needed. If the top inch of the soil is completely dry, it’s time to water. Depending on the amount of sun and the room temperature, water needs may vary. If your jade plant starts to lose leaves or develop sun spots, it’s trying to tell you it’s thirsty. Water just enough to moisten the soil.

As with all houseplants, avoid over watering as it can lead to root rot and other diseases.

Sunlight

Jade plants love sunlight. Just four to six hours of direct sun a dat promotes healthy growth also protects against diseases. Place your jade plant on a sunny windowsill at work or at home.

Certain varieties of jade, typically ones with variegated leaves, don’t need as much sun. Look for a variety than can thrive in indirect sunlight to place on your desk or coffee table. Jade plants love mild temperatures, anywhere from 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit will do.

Soil

Jade prefers a well-draining soil to avoid becoming water logged. Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix is specialized for succulents. It promotes healthy root growth with its optimum aeration and drainage. Clay pots are great for jade plants because they wick away any excess water and help protect the plant from over watering damage.

Fertilize

Fertilize your jade plant regularly to keep it healthy and growing, try Espoma’s Cactus! Liquid plant food for succulents.

With just a little care, your new jade plant will bring you plenty of luck and prosperity!

Want to be creative with succulents? Try this DIY paint can planter for succulents.

Top Five Trees to Plant for Bees

Bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating 85 percent of the planet’s flowers and more than a third of our fruits and vegetables. Without bees, the shelves at our grocery stores would look pretty sparse.

 

Starting a pollinator garden is easy. But, trees in your landscape are just as important as colorful flowers.

 

Bee sure to plant some of these trees for the bees!

 

5 Top Trees For Bees:

 

Native Oaks

Provide bees with winter shelter and habitat by planting native oaks.  Native plants are one of the best ways to help pollinators, after all. Choose native oaks to support pollinators throughout the year, but especially during winter when these strong trees make for excellent shelter. In fact, more than 500 pollinator species call native oaks home, returning year after year.

 

Magnolias

The nourishing pollen and sweet nectar of magnolia trees supports pollinators year round. However pollinators aren’t the only ones that love magnolias. Known for their vibrant blooms, fruit flies, leafhoppers and more are known to visit these trees, too.

 

Tupelo

Have you heard of Tupelo honey? There’s no doubt that bees love Tupelo trees for food and shelter. Plus, tupelo trees provide colorful pops of foliage to the fall landscape with their yellow, red and orange leaves.

 

Yellow Poplar/Tulip Tree

Not actually a poplar, this tree is actually a member of the magnolia family. It gets its name from the large, tulip-like flowers it produces. Its greenish yellow blooms and sweet nectar attract pollinators to the yellow poplar.

 

Black Cherry

Add this sweet, fruit tree to welcome pollinators to your landscape. Not only are black cherry trees practically irresistible to bees and caterpillars, these trees also look spectacular.

 

Once you have picked the perfect tree, keep pollinators coming back for years by keeping your tree healthy. Fertilize regularly with Espoma’s Tree-tone.

 

What to know more? Watch this video to find out how to fertilize trees.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Espoma products to help you grow your best strawberries yet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

A Seed Ahead: Preserving Tomato Seeds

You’ve had a great season tending to your tomato plants! But with the summer winding down and chilly days coming soon, you may be wondering what to do with your tomato plants now.

Get a head start on spring by preserving the seeds from your tomatoes.

Tomato seeds might be available at the store year-round, but saving your own is satisfying and easy. Luckily, September is the perfect time to begin planning for next year!

How do I pick which seeds to preserve?

The general rule of thumb is to only take ‘open-pollenated’ seeds or heirlooms. Hybrid plants often produce sterile seeds. Or, they do not produce seed with the same desirable traits of the parent plant.

Harvest seeds from tomatoes that are healthy and embody the characteristics you’re interested in preserving. For example, you could pick seeds from the juiciest tomatoes, or the ones with the most interesting colors. It’s your choice, but make sure you pick from healthy plants. Unhealthy plants could carry illnesses.

If possible, save seeds from multiple plants.tomatoes-101845_1920

Method 1: Air-dry

This method is pretty simple. Open the tomato and remove the seeds, squeeze them onto a paper towel, wait for the seeds to air dry and then store them in a jar, an envelope or even the same napkin. This method is quick and straightforward.

Method 2: Ferment

It’s not absolutely necessary to ferment your tomato seeds, but fermenting makes it easier to completely separate seeds from the gel that surrounds them. Fermenting also eliminates the bad seeds and reduces the possibility of seed-borne disease for next season.

1. Wash the tomatoes. Slice each in half across the middle (not the end with the stem). Squeeze the seeds and juice into a (labeled) glass or plastic container.

2. Set containers aside when half-full. Place containers in an area that is out of direct sunlight and out of the way, so the fruit flies and odor will not bother you.

3. Let the seeds sit for three to five days or until the surface of the container shows a whitish mold. This is a good thing! The seeds should be floating at this point. In warmer climates, you may need to add some water to keep the seeds afloat.

4. Gently scrape the mold off with a spoon. Do not remove the seeds.

5. Fill container with water and then stir it. The seeds you want will sink to the bottom.

6. Pour off the excess to remove floating seeds and pulp.

7. Repeat the process until the good seeds, at the bottom, are cleaned.

8. Pour the good seeds into a strainer, then rinse and drain them.

Storage

An airtight container works best for storage. When packaged correctly, tomato seeds remain usable for up to six years!

You can place the seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, but the seeds will last even when stored at room temperature. When you’re ready to use the seeds, if they’ve been chilling in a refrigerator or freezer, let them adjust to room temperature first to prevent excess condensation from creating any damage.

Be sure to visit us on our Facebook page or Twitter page and tell us how you plan to preserve your tomato seeds!

Strawberry-Sweet Recipes: From Your Garden to Your Plate

It’s almost September and your strawberry plants  are still yielding fresh, summer-ripened fruit!

Strawberries are delicious and versatile. They can be used in desserts, smoothies or anything that’s cooked or pureed. They can also be frozen and made into jams. Where there’s a strawberry, there’s a way! But first, you have to know how to pick.

Prepare for Picking

In September, many strawberry plants will be busy developing latent buds for next spring’s flowers. Some will rest during late summer, only to be perk up in the middle of fall. Make sure to take advantage of your strawberry plants while they’re still producing fruit! (And remember, they’ll be back next year.)

Pick strawberries in the morning, before the sun gets too hot. Immediately after picking, place strawberries in the refrigerator. Be sure to rinse them before consuming, or before preparing a dish.

If you decide to not eat your strawberries right away or make them into a recipe, you can still freeze, dry or can them.

Our Favorite Recipes

Strawberry Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 large chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Blend ingredients together using a food processor until the consistency of the dressing is smooth.

Leftovers? Store extras in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Fresh Strawberry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups fresh strawberries, sliced and slightly mashed
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups canola or coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425◦.

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Combine eggs and oil in a separate small mixing bowl.

Mix the strawberries into egg mixture.

Blend in flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spoon into greased muffin tins until nearly full.

Bake at 425◦ for 5 minutes. After that, reduce heat to 350◦ and bake an additional 15-19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 

Balsamic Strawberry Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 20 medium strawberries, sliced
  • 10 leaves basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400◦.

Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast asparagus for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.

Boil. While the asparagus is roasting, boil the balsamic vinegar until reduced to about ¼ cup.

Serve and divide asparagus amongst plates and top with sliced berries, basil, and salt and pepper. Use a spoon to drizzle each serving of asparagus with the balsamic syrup and serve!

For more great berry recipes and other ideas, check out our Pinterest board and our ultimate berry growing guide!

Have a great strawberry recipe you want to share? Drop by our Facebook page!

 

 

Top Tomato Recipes, Straight from the Garden!

We cannot get enough of fresh summer produce! Whether you started tomato plants from seeds or seedlings, we bet your tomatoes are full of summer flavor.

Whether red, purple, green, yellow or orange, tomatoes are our favorite summer fruit. While some tomatoes are good for canning and preserving, others taste best when used freshly-picked. Try these new recipes to amplify the already amazing summer flavor of your tomatoes.

Preserve tomatoes now to enjoy the sweet rewards of your summer veggie garden long after harvest season is over.

10 Tomato Recipes You Must Try

1. Tomato and sweet onion salad: Make this salad ahead of time for superb flavor come dinner. Bonus points if made with onions and basil also picked from your garden.

2. Risotto stuffed tomatoes: You’ll want to turn on the oven for this one. Use firmed tomatoes that’ve just been picked off the vine.

3. Eggplant, tomato and smoked mozzarella tart: Try this recipe for a twist on the usual Caprese salad. Crispy crust and tender vegetables make this recipe a keeper.

4. Tomato jam: Steer away from tomato sauce by making jam. Enjoy with crackers and cheese for a delicious appetizer.

5. Classic roasted salsa: Jalapenos give this salsa just the right amount of heat. You’ll never buy store-bought again after you’ve made your own salsa.

6. Grilled Green Tomato Tostadas: Green tomatoes don’t always have to be fried, although they certainly are delicious. Black beans, avocadoes and cilantro combine to make these satisfying tostadas.

7. Pasta with sun gold tomatoes: Yellow tomatoes standout in this beautiful pasta dish. Serve with crispy bread and a garden salad for a complete meal.

8. Best Gazpacho: NYTimes offers up this recipe from Seville, Spain. Serve this creamy, orange version in chilled glasses for a refreshing sip.

9. Sliced tomatoes with corn and feta: A simple no-cook meal to enjoy when the nights are warm. Arugula and oregano give this salad a spicy kick.

The list could go on and on. What’s your favorite way to use your freshly-picked tomatoes? Tell us in the comments or share your pictures on our Facebook page