Espoma’s Guide to Growing Organic Berries

 

Grow berries for more than just flavor! They’re filled with antioxidants and they’re good for your heart, body and brain. Plus, the plants look beautiful in the landscape.

Are you ready to plant a blueberry this year? Trust us, they are berry easy — even if you’ve heard otherwise. The trick is to pick the perfect berry for your conditions and to give it the right care.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Blueberries for Beginners

Questions to Ask Before Choosing Which Blueberry to Grow

Berry Good Advice for Gardeners

The Best Blueberries to Grow in Containers

The Best Tasting Blueberries

No Birds Allowed!

Fertilizing blueberry plants

How to grow raspberries

How to grow blackberries

How to grow strawberries

How to plant blueberries in containers

Grow delicious strawberries in your own garden

Berry recipes 

The Best Blueberries to Grow in Containers

Blueberries are nutritional powerhouses packed with high concentrations of antioxidants that help guard against cancer and heart disease. Just one serving of blueberries serves up almost 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.

Growing blueberries maximizes small spaces and keeps fresh, nutritious fruit nearby. Even if space is limited, you can still grow blueberries at home. Some blueberry shrubs are the perfect fit for containers on the porch, patio or balcony.

Ought to Pot: The Best Blueberries for Container Gardening

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry™

Bushel and Berry™ Pink Icing – With breathtaking spring and fall foliage and large, sweet berries mid-summer, this gem makes small spaces shine. Plus, these bushes are self-pollinating, so only one bush is needed to produce fruit.

Blueberry Type: Dwarf

Light: Full sun

Size: 3’ H x 4’ W

Zone: 5-10

Chill Hours: 500

Ripening Season: Mid-summer

Taste and Size: Large blueberries with sweet, robust flavor

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Works well in containers or in landscape
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Beautiful year-round foliage

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Patriot Blueberry – The Patriot puts on a show each season – from striking white blooms in spring to warm, vivid foliage in fall. During summer, you’ll be busy munching on up to 20 pounds of blueberries!

Blueberry Type: Northern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 4-8’ H x 3-5’ W

Zone: 3-7

Chill Hours: 800-1,000

Ripening Season: Early: Mid-End of July

Taste and Size: Large blueberries that taste classically sweet

Yield: High yield, 10-20 pounds of blueberries

Features:

  • Native
  • Cold-hearty
  • Works in the landscape or as a hedge
  • Adapts to various soil types, including heavy or wet soil
Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries, Brazelberries Peach Sorbet

Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry™

Bushel and Berry™ Peach Sorbet – Full of charm, these compact blueberry plants are four-season showstoppers with stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green. Spring’s white, bell-shaped flowers will give way to an abundant summer crop of healthy, sweet blueberries mid-summer.

Blueberry Type: Dwarf

Light: Full sun

Size: 1½’ H x 2’ W

Zone: 5-10

Chill Hours: 300

Ripening Season: Mid-summer

Taste and Size: Medium blueberries with a sweet, tropical essence

Yield: High yield

Features:

  • Works well in containers or in landscape
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Plants keep leaves through winter when the foliage transitions to a rich eggplant purple
Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Sunshine Blue Blueberry – These berries are even more nutritious than other blueberries because they’re high in Vitamin P. Another fun attribute of the Sunshine Blue is their hot-pink flowers in spring and blazing red leaves in fall!

Blueberry Type: Southern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 3-4’ H x 3-4’ W

Zone: 5-10

Chill Hours: 150

Ripening Season: Mid-season: End of May-End of June

Taste and Size: Medium blueberries that taste opulent and sweet

Yield: Moderate yield, 5-10 pounds of blueberries

Features:

  • Tolerant of higher soil pH
  • Love the California sunshine and heat
  • Semi-evergreen

Northsky Blueberry – Meet the most cold-hardy blueberry out there. The Northsky can withstand temperatures of -45° and can even bear snow on its branches. In spring, the Northsky produces lots of sweet, white blooms that look absolutely darling.

Blueberry Type: Half-high

Light: Full sun

Size: 2-4 H x 2-3 W

Zone: 3-7

Chill Hours: 800+

Ripening Season: Mid-season: Mid-End of July

Taste and Size: Small, firm blueberries that taste fresh, wild and free

Yield: Small yield, up to 2 pounds of blueberries

Features:

  • Extremely cold-hardy
  • Works in the landscape or as a hedge
  • Elegant burgundy fall foliage
Brazelberries jelly bean, Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry™

Bushel and Berry™ Jelly Bean – This blueberry is prolific – producing a bumper crop of large, flavorful blueberries mid-summer with a super sweet flavor like homemade blueberry jelly. Brilliant green new foliage emerges in spring which gives way to darker greens with red hues throughout the summer and fall.

Blueberry Type: Dwarf

Light: Full sun

Size: 1’ H x 2’ W

Zone: 4-8

Chill Hours: 1,000+

Ripening Season: Mid-summer

Taste and Size: Medium to large blueberries with homemade jelly flavor

Yield: High yield, bumper crop

Features:

  • Works well in containers or in landscape
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Beautiful year-round foliage
  • Prune annually during winter dormancy

Looking for more options? To learn more about blueberries, the best tasting berries, how to plant, care for and grow, visit our Organic Blueberry Growing Guide.

Grateful for Great Gardeners this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is days away, and we’re so excited to gather with loved ones and enjoy a locally-grown, organic feast! Does it get any better? It sure does! Because we have so much to be thankful for. Below we’re sharing what we’re thankful for at Espoma this year.

Our Espoma Community

Each time we package a product, meet with a customer or hear from you, we’re filled with overwhelming gratitude.

We are so incredibly thankful for you — specifically your continued support and enthusiasm for organic gardening over the years.

Everyone who supports Espoma becomes part of our organic gardening community. Just last week, we connected with a customer who has been using Espoma products since 1968.

He reminded us we’re all in this together.

organic lawn care, green lawn,

Three Barks for Safe Paws

This year, we launched Espoma’s Safe Paws. Through Safe Paws, we advocate the importance of using organic lawn and garden products to keep pets safe.

Once we learned that cancer affects 1 out of every 3 dogs, we had to take action.

Since then, we’ve been sharing easy, fun ways to keep your pets’ paws safe!

We’re so thankful we’re able to keep pets safe from harmful pesticides by focusing on using organic lawn products.

organic gardening, edible gardening

Green Movement Growing

When we started our organic garden company in 1929, we were organic before organic was trendy.

Now, we’re thrilled families across the nation are joining the green movement.

35 percent of all households in America — a mighty 42 million households — are growing fruits and veggies.

Best of all, the largest increase in food gardening is among young families, according to the National Gardening Association.

Thank YOU for growing your own food, using sustainable energy and reducing waste whenever you can.

Pause and appreciate what you’re most thankful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Money is Growing in Your Garden. How to Harvest

Homegrown Meal? Win Big with this Deal

Have you entered yet? The countdown is officially on! Espoma’s “Garden to Table” contest ends Wednesday.

All you need to do is share a picture of your homegrown harvest or a freshly picked and plated meal to win big.

You’re already munching your garden’s goodies, so simply take a picture, upload it and win. First place wins $100, second place wins $50 and third place wins a Container Mix full of Espoma Organic Potting Soil, Tomato-tone and Garden-tone.

Get the scoop on how to enter (and win!) below.

How to Enter Espoma’s “Garden to Table” Contest

  1. Like Espoma Organic on Facebook.
  2. Click the Contest Tab.
  3. Before August 12 @ 9:00 A.M., post a picture of your homegrown produce and share what you’ll make with them. Or reveal the finished dish.
  4. Share your entry with friends and family, ask for likes and get to the final round. A panel of judges will then choose three winners from the photos with the most “Likes”
  5. Like” other entries to connect with fellow organic home-growers.

Espoma Garden to table

Want to enter, but stumped want to make?

We’re here to help! See our favorite recipes that utilize what’s in harvest now below.

After all, shouldn’t you get paid to make dinner every once in a while? Snap a picture, upload it and you could win $100!

Garden to Table. Dinner to Winner. Enter NOW!

“What’s for Dinner?” is always easiest to answer at the height of summer. All you need to do is walk through your garden and use what’s freshly picked.

And now, you can win money in the process!

Espoma is shining its light on your harvest with our new “Garden to Table” contest. We want to see what you’re growing and cookin’ up in your kitchen this summer.

Enter Espoma Organic’s “Garden to Table” Contest to Win $100! 

  1. Like Espoma Organic on Facebook.
  2. Click the Contest Tab.
  3. Before August 12, post a picture of your homegrown fruits or veggies and tell us what you’ll be making with them. Or share a picture of the finished dish!
  4. Share your photo with friends and family. A panel of judges will choose the top three winners from the photos with the most “Likes.”
  5. “Like” your favorite entries!

Three winners will be announced on August 12. First prize is a espoma organic$100 gift card, second prize is a $50 gift card and third prize is an Espoma Container mix that includes organic Potting Soil, Tomato-tone and Garden-tone.

Curious about what others are using from their gardens for dinner? Check out our gallery and “Like” to vote for your favorite!

Now that you’re up to speed on our “Garden to Table” contest, let’s take a look at the top five reasons why growing your own organic produce is so important!

Homegrown Heroes

  1. Know What You Grow. When you grow your own organic fruit and veggies, you know exactly what went into them. No worrying about harmful pesticides or how your food was treated.
  2. Fresh as It Gets. If you’ve ever chomped into a sun-kissed, bright-red tomato plucked right from the vine, you know the enthusiasm that follows. The flavors are out-of-this-world fresh!
  3. Bigger and Better. Homegrown produce always trumps store-bought. They’re often double the size – especially if you used Espoma’s Organic Garden-Tone.
  4. Slash the Grocery Bill. Investing $70 in the vegetable garden can result in a whopping $600 worth of produce. Imagine how much you could save growing blueberries alone!
  5. Create a Legacy. Involving your children in the garden is powerful. You can teach them how important it is to respect the planet, care for it tenderly and grow sustainable, organic produce.

Yum! We can’t wait to see what delicious, homegrown dishes you create. Enter the contest and share your entry for your chance to win!

How to Water Plants When It’s Hot

When it’s hot, dry and muggy, the only cure is a cold drink. Well, your plants think so, too.

The trick to keeping your garden hydrated during the hottest days is not to water more. It’s to water smarter. We’ll teach you how to conserve water and keep your garden and lawn looking good with these tips. garden tips

How to Smartly Shower Flowers and Lawns:

  1. Morning Glory. Water before 9 a.m. in summer. As the day heats up, water can evaporate before your plants have a chance to soak it up.
  2. Water Deeply. Deep watering is most effective since it goes right to the roots. Plan on deeply watering your garden frequently with a nice soak. Hold the hose on each plant and count to 20. 30 minutes after watering, ensure the soil is moist 8”
  3. Prep to Step. Step in the lawn before watering. If you leave footprints behind, water. Properly watered grass springs right back up.
  4. Precise Advice. Generally, plants, flowers and lawns need 1” of water a week. Use a rain gauge to make sure you’re not over or under watering. Check the gauge after it rains.
  5. Cool Tools. Add a soaker hose or automated drip irrigation system to save you tons of time and wasted water. Installing them is a project, but one that will pay off for many years to come!
  6. Clean Green. When watering, get right to the roots. Wetting plant leaves just goes to waste. Plus, wet leaves provide the perfect environment for mold and disease to thrive.
  7. Thank You Very Mulch! A garden with 2-3” of mulch can reduce water consumption by 25-50 percent. Since organic mulch decomposes, consistently add more mulch.

Nice! You’re saving water, and keeping your garden blooming! Treat yourself by hopping in the pool or sipping an ice-cold drink in the shade. You’ve earned it!

Don’t Stall! Start Veggie Seeds for Fall

Today’s garden is bursting full of fresh fruits and veggies! There is nothing better than picking and eating a tomato, bean or pepper fresh off the plant.

Yet – we aren’t always so lucky. With fall around the corner, we are already thinking about how to prolong that never-ending supply of delicious, homegrown produce.

Now is the time to start cool-season seeds indoors.

Reap What You Sow: Starting Cool-Season Seeds Indoors for Fall

organic gardening

  1. Get the Goodies. For fall crops, pick the hardiest and most frost tolerant seeds, so they can survive the first frost. Some of our favorites include broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, beets, carrots and spinach.
  2. Time to Prime. Find your first fall frost date. Look at the number of days to harvest on each seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date, so the seeds have time to mature. Play it safe and add two weeks since plants can grow slower during short fall days.
  3. Awaken the Seeds. Fill seed starting trays within ¼” of the top with a high-quality organic seed starter, like Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter. Read each seed packet to learn how deep and far apart to plant seeds. Cover with soil, press down, label and lightly water.
  4. Store and Cover. Lightly cover the tray with plastic wrap. Keep in a sunny spot near a south-facing window.
  5. Smart Watering. Keep seeds moist by placing the tray in a pan of shallow water until the water seeps up from the bottom. Refill when empty.
  6. Break Out Sprouts. When leaves start to poke from the soil, remove plastic wrap. Feed with an organic fertilizer, like Espoma’s Plant-tone.
  7. A Home Away from Home. Two weeks before planting outside, begin hardening off seeds. Move outside for a few hours a day, increasing time outdoors daily. Also, reduce watering without letting the soil dry out.
  8. All Grown Up! Gently remove plants from see starting tray, and plant in a prepared bed. Mix-in organic starter plant food to help them adjust and grow strong, such as Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus.

Crunch! You’ll be munching on homegrown produce well into fall. How amazing (and tasty!) is that?

Growing Blueberries Is Easy With These 4 Tips

Pancakes, tarts, pies, we love adding blueberries to any recipe. And we’re not alone.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes July as National Blueberry Month! If any fruit deserves its own month, it’s the all-American blueberry.

Take advantage of peak fruiting season to celebrate this delicious little berry.

Health Benefits

Not only delicious and popular, blueberries are one of the top 10 healthiest foods.

These nutritional powerhouses are packed with antioxidants that help guard against cancer and heart disease. Blueberries are low in calories, but rich in fiber and vitamins. One serving of blueberries serves up almost 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Plus, blueberries have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Convinced?

Grow your own blueberries – It’s easy!

The secret to blueberry success, according to berry expert Amelie Brazelton Aust, at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery who’s been growing blueberries on her family farm since she was a child, is the Four Ps — planting, pruning, picking and protecting.

JELLY BEAN Brazelberries blueberries on bush

‘Jelly Bean’ BrazelBerries blueberries

Simply follow these four simple tips to help bushes flourish season after season!

1. Planting

First, plant the right variety. Compact blueberries, like those from BrazelBerries, are perfect for growing in containers, raised beds or even directly in the garden.

Once you’ve chosen a blueberry bush, plant it in a sunny spot with at least six hours of sun each day.

Next, consider the soil. Blueberries love acidic soils. A pH of 4.5-5.5 is ideal. A simple soil test indicates acidity, which can easily be adjusted with a balanced organic fertilizer. Soil kits and amendments are available at any local garden center.

Give the plant’s roots plenty of growing room when planting in a container.

Plant dwarf blueberry bushes in pots 16” or more in diameter and water deeply and regularly to make sure all of the soil within the pot is moist.

2. Pruning

Cutting branches off any plant can be daunting, but it’s best for the plant. Pruning gives berries more space between branches, allowing air to flow freely and preventing disease.

“It’s best to prune blueberries in late winter when the plants are still dormant,” says Aust, “but I’ve pruned mine in the spring before flowering, and they’ve done great.”

Remove stems that are damaged, old or dead. Take out up to a quarter or even a third of the bush, then trim it up to a neat and tidy look.

Fertilizing is recommended in early spring. “Choose a balanced, organic, slow-release fertilizer for acid-loving plants,” Aust says.

Aust recommends a second application of fertilizer in late spring to give the plants an extra burst of energy for fruit production.

BrazelBerries Jelly Bean in italian pot

‘Jelly Bean’ BrazelBerries blueberries

3. Picking

With planting and pruning in the bag, the next step — picking — is the pay off. Be sure to watch your berries carefully and pick them before the birds do! Aust suggests getting one berry for yourself and one for the birds.

4. Protecting

A little protection ensures your blueberry bush will thrive for another bountiful season. Keep critters away by covering bushes with bird netting in the spring.

Winter weather poses the biggest risk to berry bushes, so be sure to protect roots.

“In very cold regions, apply a deep layer of mulch around the base of the bush to protect the roots,” Aust says. “Blueberries in pots are easiest to protect from the cold — just move the pots into an unheated garage or against a building and cover with thick mulch, burlap or a blanket.”

Spring’s sudden cold snaps endanger emerging growth, as well. Be sure to cover blueberry bushes with burlap or blankets when the forecast calls for frost once buds and flowers are emerging.blueberry pancakes Jamie oliver

Are you growing berries this year? What will you be making with them? Check out this super easy one cup blueberry pancakes recipe from Jamie Oliver:

blueberry pancakes Jamie oliver

Hip, Hop, Hurray! Grow Hops for Homemade Beer

Homebrewed beer made of homegrown hops takes the craft beer movement to the next level. As you take that first sip, you don’t just taste the beer. You taste the pride, satisfaction and joy of brewing it yourself from scratch. Become a true brewmaster by growing your own hops.

Plus, growing your own hops is cheaper and makes your beer taste incredible.

Let’s plant some hops!homegrown hops

Get Hoppy! Grow Your Own Hops for Homebrews

  1. Which Hop to Crop? Buy hop rhizomes online that match the flavor and type of beer you like. They come in every flavor under the sun. Brewers typically use multiple hop varieties in their beers, so plant several varieties that you can mix and match.
  2. Spot a Spot. Hops need LOTS of sun to thrive — about 6-8 hours daily. Plus, the spot where you plant needs to have vertical space. Hops grow up, not out.

homebrewed beer

 How to Plant Hops for Home Brewing  

  1. Dig a Cozy Home. Dig 4” deep holes and mix in an organic fertilizer like Bio-tone Starter Plus by Espoma. If planting the same hop variety, dig each hole 3’ apart. If planting different hop varieties, plant them 5’ apart.
  2. Get ‘Em Situated. Place the rhizome horizontally in the hole with the root side down, pointy side up. If the rhizome is budding, plant the bud facing up. Fill hole, cover with soil and add mulch to conserve water.
  3. Bursts of Water. When soil is dry, provide a frequent, but short burst of water!
  4. Hungry, Hungry Hops. To grow strong hops, feed them an organic plant food each month. Find out how to apply Espoma’s Plant-tone.
  5. To New Heights. Once your hops are 1’ tall, select the strongest 2-3 vines and wrap them counter-clockwise around an 8-12’ trellis. Prune the remaining vines from the base of the hop. Over the next few days, keep wrapping the vines around the trellis to train them. Hops grow quickly so continue to check your vines regularly and keep wrapping!

Now those tiny hops don’t look like beer. Before long though, you’ll be sipping on their flavors in the most refreshing homebrew yet!

Feed Tomato and Pepper Plants Now

By now you’ve planted your organic tomatoes and peppers! These homegrown veggies should be starting to flower — which means fruit isn’t far behind.

Now, it’s time to sprinkle a little magic.

The trick is to feed veggies monthly with an organic fertilizer. Tomatoes and peppers have big appetites, so they need plenty of organic food. Since plants get all their nutrients from the soil, their all-you-can-eat buffet runs out quick. Feed them right, and they’ll burst full of fresh produce.

how to grow tomatoes

Create a Balanced Diet:

  1. Go Organic. Since you’re eating this food and feeding it to your friends and family, you’ll want to ensure it’s the cleanest and healthiest possible. Choose an organic fertilizer.
  2. Take it slow. Chose a slow-release organic fertilizer. Artificial, rapid growth results in tall, lanky plants. Slow-release, organic fertilizers actually improve the soil as they break down.
  3. Plants need vitamins, too. Find a balanced food with calcium to help prevent blossom rot. Espoma Tomato-tone has 8% calcium! Be careful that you do not use too much nitrogen which will result in a lush, green plant with very little fruit.
  4. More Magic. Tomato-tone also includes Bio-tone®, a blend containing more than 3 million beneficial microbes. Sounds cool, right?

Don’t take it from us — Veggie Gardener had this to say:

“Bio-tone works magic with this fertilizer. These beneficial microbes do the dirty work of creating big and healthy plants which in turn grow large, plump, and juicy tomatoes. Beneficial microbes support good root growth by helping the roots absorb nutrients from the soil. Well producing tomatoes, or any plant for that matter, starts with a healthy and strong root system. Since I started using Tomato-tone, my tomato plants have grown faster, stronger, and produced more tomatoes.”

Ok, you get it. Fertilizing tomatoes and peppers is like sprinkling them with magic dust that makes them grow bigger, better produce. Now get growing.

how to grow peppers

Tips for Feeding Tomatoes and Peppers:

  1. Measure out the fertilizer according to instructions on bag.
  2. Feed single plants with 3 tablespoons of Tomato-tone. For rows of plants, apply 1 cup on each side per 5 feet. Feed potted plants 1.5 teaspoons per 4” pot diameter. More details here.
  3. Sprinkle Tomato-tone starting approximately 6” from the base of the plant.
  4. After feeding, water well.
  5. Feed tomatoes and peppers every month during the growing season.

Feeding tomatoes and peppers takes just a couple of minutes and drastically increases your harvest.

To feed your family lots of organic, homegrown veggies this summer, you’ll need to first keep your veggies well-fed! Get ready for the biggest, yummiest tomatoes and peppers you’ve ever grown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While you’re at it, take a selfie with your Tomato-tone! Tag us in the picture with @Espoma.