How to start a kid-friendly vegetable garden

There’s a natural connection between children and the outdoors. And there’s nothing more special than caring for the Earth and enjoying Mother Nature in the family backyard. Toddlers, children and teens can explore a new hobby when they get outside and get growing.

This month, we’ve partnered with The Edible Schoolyard to encourage kids and families everywhere to grow their own food.

Here are our 5 tips to get kids growing.

5 Steps to creating a kids vegetable garden

1. Let them pick the plants.

“We’re growing broccoli and cabbage!” said no enthused child ever. Take a trip to your local grocery store or farmer’s market and let the kids pick out their favorite fruits and veggies. Research which ones will grow best in your yard and get ready to plant.

Choose to start seeds or purchase transplants for your new garden bed. Help kids understand what types of plants will thrive in your yard by asking them to pick out the sunniest and shadiest spots in the yard.

2. Prep Your Bed

Before planting, start at the beginning of the process by explaining the uses for different garden tools.  Encourage kids to pick the spots for their new plants. Ask them to check the plant tags for information on spacing and sunlight and then determine the best spot.  Be sure to bring a tape measure.

3. Plant

It’s a well-known fact that most children love digging holes. Once they’ve accomplished that task, it’s time to plant. Demonstrate how to gently remove plants from the container and loosen up the roots before planting.

4. Add nutrients and water

Just like people, plants need healthy nutrients to grow big and strong. Choose an organic fertilizer such Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus  to give plants the boost they need.

5. Create a schedule

Get kids involved in maintaining the garden by creating a monthly chart that includes days to water and feed. Chart when plants should be ready for harvest and create a countdown for your favorite plants.

Want to help? Be sure to Like our Facebook page and follow along!

Top Seeds to Sow in March

It’s our favorite time of year again, spring is here! This marks the start of prime time gardening season as the weather begins to warm up.

Now’s the perfect time to put on some gardening gloves and repot indoor plants or start fresh with new seeds outdoors. Either way, March is the time to get a head start on rejuvenating your outdoor garden to ensure your harvest is ready by mid-spring or early-summer.

Beets

Healthy and delicious, the best time to plant beets is right now. They’ll harvest quickly, leaving us with an early summer treat. Plus, beets are known to lower blood pressure, fight inflammation and they’re rich in nutrients and fiber.

Broccoli

One of our favorite greens, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Fiber and Folate. This cool-weather crop can germinate in soil with temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to keep the soil wet, though, because this plant is thirsty.

Cabbage

Whether leafy green or perfectly purple, this annual vegetable is perfect for colder temperatures. Pests love Cabbage, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Try using natural repellant methods instead of harmful chemicals to keep your cabbage healthy and safe.

Carrots

Why plant orange carrots when you can choose from the entire rainbow? Choose from purple, black, red, white or yellow. Not only are they good for eyesight, carrots are also one of the best plants for reducing the risk of Cardiovascular Disease.

Lettuce

This true cool-weather plant is actually stunted by hot temperatures. Perfect for early spring gardens, lettuce requires light watering since its leaves will develop quickly. And, don’t forget to use organic mulch to conserve water. Once true leaves grow, it is time to harvest the crop before it becomes bitter and tough.

Spinach

Perfect for salads and sides, spinach loves the spring weather. This green is extremely sensitive to excessive heat. Spinach is fast-growing, forming flowers and developing seeds in no time at all.

Onions

Onions have disease fighting power and high nutritional value, making them one of the healthiest vegetables to eat. Onions can endure all of the hardships that come with early spring weather. Note that this crop will not be as fruitful if temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peas

Sweet peas, snow peas and snap peas are perfect for planting in March. They’re easy to grow and so delicious.

Give seeds a boost this spring by using Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus!

Top Peppers for Sowing

Now that spring is here, we’re ready to get our hands in some dirt. And what better way to do that than by starting some seeds. All you need is light, heat and an organic seed starting mix.

Before you begin, check the last spring frost date in your area,  then count back 4-6 weeks. That’s when you’ll want to start seeds.

First up on our list for planting, is peppers. There’s nothing better than adding a spicy pepper to a garden fresh salsa. Plus, once you’re ready to grow outside, peppers can even be grown in containers.

5 Spicy Peppers for Sowing

1. Cayenne Pepper

This extremely red pepper is long and skinny. It is very spicy, which is why it’s best in a dried, powdered form. Cayenne peppers are known to boost metabolism, aid with digestion, relieve pain caused by migraines, prevent blood clots and relieve joint/nerve pain.

2. Habanero Chili

This pepper is one of the hottest in the world, next to the ghost pepper. It can be found in many different colors ranging from red, light yellow, brown, and orange. The heat of this pepper can be unpredictable, but regardless is always hot.

3. Serrano Pepper

This small pepper has think walls and is commonly used in hot-salsa. It starts out green, but as it ages it turns red then yellow. The best time to pick Serrano peppers is while they’re still green or in the beginning stages of changing colors.

4. Thai Chili Pepper

Also known as the Bird’s eye chile, Thai chilies are relatively tiny, but spicy. It could be either green or red. These plants are commonly grown year-round and can be brought indoors in winter.

5. Tabasco Pepper

This pepper got its name from the Mexican State, Tabasco, where it originated. It starts out as a yellow-green color, turning completely yellow, then orange, and then bright red at its ripest point. This plant can take up a lot of space in gardens being that it has the potential to grow nearly 60 inches high.

Ready to start seeds? Learn how here.

Espoma Kicks off National Gardening Month

Hello April! In addition to rain, spring blooms and warmer temps, this month is great for getting healthier with Espoma’s 30 days of tips!

We’re sharing daily gardening and healthy eating tips for the 30 days of April to celebrate National Gardening Month. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter to for 30 days of gardening tips.

Now is a great time to go ahead and take the plunge into gardening. And for those who are off to slow start this year, find some inspiration and get back out there!

6 Reasons to Start a Garden

1. Homegrown is healthier. Research shows that people who grow their own veggies tend to eat more vegetables. Not to mention that you choose what goes in your soil, so you can create an organic garden that’s full of nutrients.

organic gardening

2. Gardening gets you moving. Moderate gardening can burn 300-400 calories per hour. It’s a full workout that includes cardio and aerobic exercise. And there’s certainly some stress relief to be had when you’re pulling weeds. Wielding a trowel, hoe, or shovel for any length of time will give your muscles a workout.

3. Share a moment with kids. Teach children about gardening to help them be sustainable and encourage them to eat healthier. Quality time can be spent in the garden as you get your hands dirty and pluck sweet tomatoes off the vine.

organic gardening

4. A garden adds interest. Simply add a container of colorful flowers to your porch or yard for an instant pick-me-up. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade, but also offer shelter for birds and wildlife.organic vegetable gardening, edible schoolyard project, top reasons to start a garden

5. Outlet for creative and artistic expression. Try something new every season. How about a new annual or a new spring-blooming bulb?

organic vegetable gardening, edible schoolyard project, top reasons to start a garden6. A private escape from the demands of everyday life. Need some stress relief? Pull weeds. Hungry? There’s nothing better than harvesting your own produce from your garden. Gardening makes you feel good in addition to making your yard beautiful.organic garden

Follow Espoma on Facebook to keep up with the latest tips and inspiration. For every new like to the  Facebook page during the month of April, Espoma will make a donation to The Edible Schoolyard Project.

 To learn more about starting an organic vegetable garden, click here. Or, learn how to improve your soil!

Smarty Plants: 5 Easy Planting Tips

Raise new plants that grow as big and mighty as Jack’s Beanstalk with these five tips for planting success. Your new plants will look so perfect your neighbors will think you plucked them right from a fairy tale!

Before you even think about picking up your garden trowel, check out these tips.

Bio-tone starter, potting soil, organic fertilizer

Say Yes to Success: 5 Tricks for Planting New Flowers, Veggies and More  

1. Start with the Best. Make sure you have the right light, space and soil for each plant. Then select plants with shiny, blemish-free leaves that you can easily lift out of the container.

2. Royal Soil. Before planting, test the soil and add necessary amendments. If your soil is lacking, your plants will be too. For an extra oomph, add Espoma Organic Vegetable & Flower Garden Soil or compost to the planting hole. And if direct sowing seeds, mix in an organic seed starting potting soil, so seeds can take root easily.

3. Feed Now… and Later. When planting, mix in an organic starter plant food. Adrianna, an Espoma customer, loves Bio-tone Starter Plus. She can even tell “when the roots begin to take up the plant food because they start to grow MUCH faster.” Bio-tone Starter Plus’ secret is mycorrhizae, which promotes bigger blooms and helps plants get established faster.

Bio-tone starter, potting soil, organic fertilizer

4. Stay Strong Seedlings. Before moving indoor seedlings outside, toughen them up. Otherwise, they may not make it. To help seeds adjust, begin hardening them off two weeks before transplanting. How-to instructions here.

5. Don’t Forget to Water. While still in their nursery containers, water your plants. Then water deeply after planting. Water reduces plants’ stress levels and helps them adjust to their happy, new abode.

Get ready, your organic flowers, veggies and plants are about to be bigger and healthier than ever! You grow, gardener!  

Seed to Succeed! Seed Starting Secrets

Step aside houseplants. Not now indoor herbs. There’s a new indoor winter gardening project in town… indoor seed starting!

Find the Prime Time: When to Start Seeds Indoors

One of the biggest mistakes when starting seeds indoors is starting too soon.

Before starting seeds inside, look up the last spring frost date in your area,  then count back 4-6 weeks. That’s the best time to start seeds indoors.

This handy seed starting chart from Organic Life makes it easy to calculate when to start and transplant your seeds.potting soil, starting seeds indoors, organic seed starting mix, growing tomatoes

To Sow or No? Best Veggie Seeds to Start Indoors in Winter

Not all seeds succeed indoors! Save root crops and cold-hardy seeds for when it’s warm enough to plant directly outside. Or, you can grow two crops of broccoli and lettuce. Start seeds indoors now then sow more outside later.

potting soil, starting seeds indoors, organic seed starting mix, growing tomatoes

Here are the best vegetable and herb seeds to start indoors in winter.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Parsley 

Seed to Succeed!

There are three secrets to starting seeds indoors: warmth, light and an organic seed starting mix that promotes root growth.

Start with Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter – a gardener’s favorite! But don’t take it from us. One of our customers, Shelia, shared that she used a lot of seed starter in her day, but “this one is just OUTSTANDING!” Her plants came up just perfect, and she “will never use anything else, ever again.”

Fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top and lightly water. Follow the instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and label.

Place tray in a larger pan of shallow water for a minute so thewater seeps up from the bottom.

Place seeds in a warm spot between 65-75°. Try the top of the fridge!potting soil, starting seeds indoors, organic seed starting mix, growing tomatoes

Loosely cover tray with plastic wrap or the cover from your seed-starting kit. Check seeds daily for moisture. Find even more detailed instructions here.

Give seeds 12-16 hours of light daily. Supplement sunlight with grow lights if needed.

Once you see sprouts, remove the cover and move seeds to a sunny, south-facing window that is 65-75°F. Then, turn the container a little each day to prevent leaning seeds.

When leaves grow, add a bit of fertilizer such as Espoma’s Plant-tone or liquid Grow!. Both are organic fertilizers, so they are safe to use on edibles, around children and pets and they help plants grow bigger than ever before.

Once you see that first sprout peeking through the potting soil, homegrown veggies are only weeks away!

Plant Flower Bulbs in Three Easy Steps

Tips for planting bulbs from Longfield Gardens, premium online bulb source

Fall is planting time for spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and alliums. There’s nothing difficult about planting bulbs and you can plant dozens of them in just a few minutes.

Spring bulbs are always the first flowers to bloom each spring,” said Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Longfield Gardens. “You plant them in fall and then forget about them until spring rolls around and your garden is filled with flowers that are ready to bloom.”

Langeveld assures gardeners that creating a colorful spring garden requires just 3 easy steps: choosing your bulbs, knowing when to plant, and following some basic planting instructions.
Longfield Gardens

New Bloom Time Infographic

“There are a lot of bulbs to choose from when you are looking to make selections” says Langeveld. “Our new infographic helps gardeners have success with that process, too.”

Longfield Gardens’ new infographic divides spring bulbs by bloom time — very early, early, mid and late. Choosing a few bulbs from each category ensures a garden that will be filled with color for 60 days or even longer.

Best Time for Planting Bulbs

“You want to get the bulbs into the ground at the proper planting time for your region,” Langeveld said.

As a general rule, spring-blooming bulbs can be planted anytime before the soil begins to freeze. But bulbs will benefit from having a few weeks to establish roots before the ground is frozen.

Gardeners can reference this map for recommended planting times. Light purple areas should plant bulbs from September to October; medium purple from September to November and dark purple areas should plant between October and December.

Planting is as Easy as 1-2-3

Choosing a good planting location is important. “Bulbs will grow almost anywhere,” said Langeveld. “They will do best in Longfield Gardenssoil that drains well.”

The planting part is easy and the same instructions can be applied to all types of bulbs:

  1. Dig a hole 3-4 times deeper than the height of the bulb.
  2. Set the bulbs into the hole, following spacing guidelines.
  3. Cover bulbs with soil and water only if the soil is very dry.

And of course, we at Espoma recommend a fertilizer made for bulbs such as Bulb-tone.

“Remember when planting bulbs to avoid the temptation to plant them in single rows. For the most natural look, group them in a pyramid, rectangle or circular shape,” Langeveld said.

To see the complete selection of fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs from Longfield Gardens, click HERE.

Don’t Leave Hanging Baskets Out to Dry…

Hanging baskets make great visual impacts when they are filled to the brim with bright summer blooms. They add instant color to any spot and are a sign of warm weather.

Though as days get hotter and the summer rolls on, hanging baskets can start to look tired: drooping blooms, minimal flowers and straggly plants.

Your hanging basket isn’t doomed. It just needs a good ol’ fashion pick-me-up.

Refresh your hanging baskets to keep them partying all summer long

Get ready to give your hanging baskets a make-over. With these tips, your hanging basket will be back in its prime in no time.

Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

Take the Heat Off Hanging Baskets

  1. Test the Waters Hanging baskets need more water when temperatures rise. During the peak of summer’s heat, water baskets in the morning until water drips from the drainage holes. Check them again in the afternoon to see if they need more water. On windy days, hanging baskets dry out, so they will need even more water.
  2. Food for Thought. Feed hanging baskets  with an organic flower food, like Flower-tone or the new Bloom! liquid plant food. Because of how much water baskets need, nutrients are frequently flushed from the soil. Regular feedings give your hanging baskets the energy they need to shine and bloom continuously.
  3. Drop Dead Gorgeous Blooms. As flowers fade, pinch them off where they meet the stem. Deadheading hanging baskets keeps them producing flowers and prevents them from going to seed.
  4. Which to Switch. Not every flower blooms all summer. If one of your flowers is done blooming for the season, swap it out. Gently remove the flower, replace it with a vibrant plant and fill with an organic potting soil.
  5. What to Cut. When your hanging basket is looking a bit wild or leggy, cut it back by 1-2”.

Look at that! Your hanging baskets already look better. Keep up these tips throughout the summer to keep hanging baskets fresh, beautiful and blooming.

Out of Town? Don’t Let the Garden Go Brown

Gardener’s Guide: Hydration while on Vacation

As you pack your bags, finish up at work and plan your vacation adventures, one lingering question remains, “Who will water my plants?

Yes, we’d all like to have a friend or neighbor available to care for our garden while we’re out of town, but that’s not always a possibility.

Luckily, you can prep your garden before you go on vacation. Here are some tricks.

vacation garden tips

While You’re On Vacation, Treat Your Garden to a Stay-cation 

  1. Right on Time. Install a water timer to automate watering. You can opt for a more complex drip irrigation system or simply use a timer with sprinklers. Plan to give plants about 1” of a water a week.
  2. Pack a Snack. Keep your plants well-fed and packed with nutrients while you’re gone. Feeding your veggies, flowers and herbs with the right organic plant food sets them up for success and gives them the strength they need to survive tough situations.
  3. Much Mulch. Mulch helps plants retain 25-50 percent more water, so it’s perfect for vacation use. Make sure all plants have 2-3” of mulch. Water the mulch until it’s wet all the way through.
  4. Cluster Containers. Group containers in a shady spot where they’ll be watered by a sprinkler. Or if going out of town for 1-2 weeks, place containers out of direct sunlight in a kiddie pool filled with a few inches of water.
  5. Take Your Pick. Pick anything and everything from your edible plants. That includes any tomatoes showing color, pint-sized cucumbers and zucchinis and any beans you see. Picking will keep plants producing and provides healthy, organic snacks for your travels, too.
  6. Mow Before You Go. Mow the lawn the day before your trip. Simple!

Now, sit back, relax and get ready for an invigorating vacation! Your plants will surely miss you, but they’ll be just fine while you’re gone.  

Repurpose on Purpose: Trash Transforms into Beautiful Containers

Container gardening adds a whole new element of style and flair to your outdoor space. Not only do you get to showcase DIY containeryour style through plants, but also in the unique pots you choose. It’s twice the fun!

And you can do it for the planet, too. Growing herbs, veggies and flowers already makes the world a greener place. Now reuse and repurpose a forgotten item into an invigorated planter. Upcycling creates less waste and saves money, too.

Create a repurposed container for a beautiful (and thrifty!) container garden.

Your soon-to-be favorite container may already be in your house. Almost any vessel can be repurposed into a garden container! You’ll be amazed by what you discover (and by what containers you didn’t even know were hiding in your cupboards).

Up for Grabs: Upcycled Containers

  1. Pin Your Style. Create a look that is truly all your own. Decide if you want a rustic, modern, country or bold look. Then browse Pinterest for inspiration.
  2. Start the Search. Browse your kitchen, closet, garage and cupboards for items you no longer use. Any size works! Branch out to yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets for more unique looks.
  3. Add a Special Touch. Personalize your container by painting it, covering it in old wallpaper, or even turning it into a mosaic. Get crafty!
  4. Show Them the Drill. Then Fill. Drill holes in the bottom of your repurposed container to provide drainage. Without drainage holes, soil becomes too wet and causes roots to rot. When ready, fill with the ideal potting soil, Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix, and your favorite plants.
60bc838855263aa8a8875fd58e171bca

These upcycled tires are stacked and painted- as seen by Ellen Wells at Syngenta

Colander-planter_wm

A colorful, retro colander makes a great hanging container

Toy-truck-planter

Think outside of the (toy)box

bra-planter

And, of course, the bigger the better for this container…

Other Types of Repurposed Containers:

Get inspired by some of our favorite items to turn into garden planters below.

  • Teacups and teapots
  • Pitchers
  • Tires
  • Boots and shoes
  • Colanders
  • Desk drawers
  • Buckets
  • Wine crates and whiskey barrels
  • Wheelbarrows and wagons
  • Clothes and lingerie
  • Toolboxes
  • Suitcases
  • Watering cans

Creating repurposed containers is a quick, affordable and fun way to expand container gardens. Once you start, the possibilities are endless!

*thank you MicroGardener for the photos!