Plant trees in the right place to slash energy bills

Trees give us a lot of bang for their bark — paying us back in major, quantifiable ways. In fact, planting a tree is one of the best financial investments a homeowner can make. Yes!  Money does grow on trees. A single large tree can save hundreds on energy bills each year and add thousands to the property value of a house. 

Planting trees to reduce heating and cooling costs can pay off quickly. The American Power Association estimates that effective landscaping can reduce a home cooling bill by as much as 50 percent a year. In fact, areas without cooling shade trees can become “heat islands” with temperatures reaching 12 degrees higher than surrounding areas. And with the heat wave we experienced in July, any reduction helps!

Plant trees on the north and northwest sides of your property to create a wall against cold winter winds and shade your house during hot summer days.

Besides saving you dough, trees and forests are vital in cleaning the air. Trees intercept and absorb pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. A mature, leafy tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.

Ready to plant? Here’s what to do?

  1. Identify the right tree for your property. Decide if you want an evergreen tree or a deciduous tree. Evergreens keep their leaves year round, while deciduous drop them in autumn and bud out again in the spring. If you want privacy or year-round interest, opt for an evergreen such as Leyland cypress, Douglas fir or white spruce. Be sure the tree is compatible with your cold-hardiness zone. Visit your local garden center to find out more about which trees would be best for your yard.
  2. Find the right spot. Locate all underground utilities before digging and look up to see if there are any potential hazards like wires that could interfere with growth in the future.  Take into consideration how close you are planting to driveways, walkways and other permanent structures as well.
  3. Go Shopping. Choose larger, more mature trees. Small trees take years to grow tall enough to provide adequate shade.
  4. Start digging. Dig a hole 3-4 times as wide, but no deeper than the container. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Add Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus to the hole to give your new tree the ingredients it needs to develop strong roots.
  5. Ready to plant. Gently loosen roots, being careful not to damage. Set the plant in the hole so the place where the trunk meets the roots is at the soil line-not too high and not too deep. Spread the roots out. Fill halfway with soil and lightly tamp to eliminate air pockets. Replace the remaining soil and tamp again.
  6. Water gently and deeply. Build a shallow saucer of soil with a 3” lip around the perimeter of the hole to contain water.
  7. Add mulch. Keep mulch away from the trunk and do not mound like a volcano, it can kill the tree or shrub.
  8. Water regularly the first year, even during winter warm spells if the soil isn’t frozen. Fertilize with Tree-tone in fall and spring to help the tree develop.

Want to know how much you’ll save with a new tree? Check out this calculator from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Espoma Products for Healthy Trees

Earth-Friendly Ways to Repurpose Your Christmas Tree

The holidays are over and now it’s time to decide what to do with your Christmas tree. Fortunately, there are several, earth-friendly ways to dispose of, or repurpose your tree.

If you simply want to have it removed, start by contacting your waste provider. Many will pick up trees in the weeks that follow Christmas. If you have a compost container and a pruner, you can cut up the branches and loosely pile them inside your bin to be hauled away with your other compost. Most counties have drop-off sites as well.

 

4 Ways to Upcycle Your Tree

Tree recycling and mulching programs are springing up all over the country. A quick Google search will help you find out if there is one in your area. Some communities use your old trees for sand and soil erosion barriers. They are especially welcome for lake, river and delta stabilization.

Turning your old Christmas tree into a birdfeeder is a great way to repurpose your tree. First of all, make sure all the decorations, hooks and tinsel are removed. Then put it outside, stand and all, in a place where you’ll be able to see it from indoors. Decorate it with orange slices, strung popcorn, little bunches of millet and suet balls. The birds will love the treat and you can enjoy watching them from the warmth of your home. It will also provide shelter from the cold winter winds for all of your birds

Another idea to repurpose your tree, is to start a compost pile. Cut the branches so they’ll fit inside the bin. Layer them inside in a crisscross pattern about 6 or 8 inches high. This will ensure good airflow around the bottom of your new compost pile. Then add your vegetable scraps and leaf litter as you normally would. In time, the branches will breakdown and turn to compost as well.

If you live in a mild climate, your best option might be to purchase a living tree, either balled and burlaped or in a pot. Do yourself a favor and dig the planting hole in the fall when the ground is easy to work. Plant it right after Christmas, water it once thoroughly and then mulch with a thick layer of wood chips or leaves.

Plastic Christmas trees can’t be recycled of course, and neither can flocked trees. They need to be cut op in small pieces and disposed of in the regular trash.

How to Grow Your Own Topiary

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

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

Topiaries with vining plants

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

Topiaries with shrubs

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

Fertilizing topiaries

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

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

Best Plants that Produce Fall Fruit

It’s easy to help your garden thrive when there is something beautiful to look at. Spring and summer seasons make this easy to do with their gorgeous floral blooms. Did you know that Autumn can have equally as attractive plants?

Even the simplest shrubs and trees make great additions to fall gardens, bonus points if there’s fall fruit involved. We’ve rounded up the top trees and shrubs that will provide year-round enjoyment and fresh fall fruit.

6 Trees and Shrubs with Fall Fruit

  1. Mountain Ash

This deciduous tree gets its name from the blue-green pinnate leaves and white flowers that bloom in the spring. Mountain ash truly dazzles in autumn, turning into a blazing purple and red. The white flowers transition to shiny pink berries that stands bright against its foliage. And despite the name, mountain-ash (Sorbus) are very different types of plants than ash and are not attacked by emerald ash borer. Hardy in Zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Crabapple

Crabapple trees offer beautiful hues. Varieties can include colors of burgundy, purple, red, orange, green or yellow. As the crabapple transitions into autumn, the fruit really begins to show. It transitions well into the winter, when birds will happily take care of the fruit. Hardy in zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Beauty Berry

While you might not think twice about this shrub in the spring or summer, it shines in autumn. Its tiny pink flowers transform into brilliant ruby-violet berries that stop people in their tracks. This autumn shrub will give your garden something to talk about. Hardy in zones 5-11. Use Plant-Tone for beautiful berries.

  1. Possumhaw

This tree may be small, but it certainly is mighty. Even after the foliage falls in the autumn, the bright red berries remain, making it look like a red flowering tree. The berries on this tree aren’t large, but they last through a cold winter – unless the birds get them first. The Possumhaw is tricky – it ‘prefers’ acid soils but can ‘tolerate’ alkaline. Hardy in zones 5-8 and feed regularly with Holly-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Teton Firethorn

Stunningly bright in the autumn and winter, this show stopping shrub is the perfect edition to your garden. Vibrant orange fruit pop out from behind the foliage. The fruit thickly covers top to bottom on this plant. This shrub is tall and typically used as a hedge. Hardy in zones 6-9 and feed regularly with Holly-tone for radiant blooms and fruit.

  1. Coralberry

This low-key shrub in the spring and summer saves it’s best for autumn and winter when the small yellow flowers transform into purple-red fruit clusters. They are shade tolerant and can last well into the winter. Hardy in zones 2-7 and feed regularly with Plant-Tone for gorgeous blooms and tasty berries.

Want to know how to fertilize trees and shrubs? Let Laura from Garden Answer show you how!

tree-tone, espoma tree fertilizer, garden answer tree fertilizer

Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to fertilize a tree using Espoma’s Tree-tone. The slow release formula provides a long lasting nutrient reservoir to feed the entire tree, leaves, trunk, and roots.

Fall is for Planting: Trees

The best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. A well-placed tree will cool your home in summer and block cold winter winds. Not to mention that the aesthetics can increase your home’s curb appeal and add value.

Even though you may be prepping for winter, you can still set your new tree or shrub up for success by planting it in a spot where it can thrive for generations to come.

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Decide on the right tree for your yard and needs before you plant. Choose a tree based on the characteristics you want — shade, wildlife habitat, privacy or to block the wind. Check out the below six steps from Hillermann Nursery and Florist to start planting this fall.

6 Easy Steps to Plant a Tree or Shrub

You’ve found the right tree and the perfect spot, now it’s time for the fun part. It doesn’t take much to plant a tree — just a shovel, tape measure and hose. To help your new tree survive, you’ll need to put in extra effort. Use these tips to help your new tree to grow.

  1. Size up your yard for the perfect spot. Take the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation and hazards like wires or pipes into consideration. Plant at least 15 feet away from your house, sidewalks, driveways and other trees. Allocate enough space in the yard for your new tree to grow. Consider its mature height, crown spread, and root space. A fully grown tree will take up much more space than your tiny sapling. Look up to make sure a fully grown tree won’t interfere with anything overhead.
  2. Start digging. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Then, arrange the tree at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil.
  3. Give trees a boost. Mix in an organic fertilizer such as Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil. For a trunk diameter up to 1.5 inches, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone. If the trunk is 2-3”, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone per inch. So, if your tree trunk is 2.5 inches, use 10 pounds of Tree-tone. And, for tree trunks over 3 inches, use 5 pounds of Espoma Tree-Tone per inch.
  4. Stake the tree. Use two opposing, flexible ties to stake the tree. Place ties on the lower half of the tree to allow trunk movement.
  5. Help your new tree become established by watering it weekly for the first two years.
  6. Finish with mulch. Use 2 ½ -3 inches of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch around the plant. Do not over mulch up to the trunk or “volcano” mulch. This can kill the tree.

Planting a tree is an investment in your home and your community that will pay off for years to come. To learn about fertilizing established trees, watch this Garden Answer video.

Love Your Trees? Keep Them Healthy with an Organic Feeding

If you start each day by sipping a cup of coffee and gazing at your trees through the window, then you know just how valuable trees are to your daily life. There is nothing quite like watching the evolution of seasons, from leaves budding, blossoming, changing color and eventually falling.

However, spring and summer offer spectacular viewing, just when our trees are in full flowering and blooming stages for the season.

Blooming trees are a sure sign of warmer weather and a shady escape from the sun. Plus, if they’re fruit trees, they offer that fresh homegrown taste of summer.

While your trees might look like they’re doing fine on their own, they need a bit of TLC from time to time.

Trees need proper food. When fed, shade trees grow larger and resist diseases better. Plus, fruit trees produce more fruit regularly when fertilized.

Reap the benefits and feed trees now before growth starts.

So, what plant food is right for your trees?

If you want less work (and who doesn’t?), use a slow release fertilizer to keep trees well fed until fall.

If you’re feeding fruit trees, an organic fertilizer is a must. After all, you and your family will be eating these homegrown fruits. The only way to get that piece of mind is to use a 100 percent organic fertilizer on fruit trees.

Organic Tree-tone from Espoma works wonders for all shade, fruit or ornamental trees. Since it’s made just for trees, this organic plant food provides the exact nutrients they need.

To know how much tree fertilizer to use, first measure your tree trunk all the way around, and at a height 4 feet above the ground. Divide that number by 3, and there’s your tree trunk diameter!

Fertilize New Trees When Planting:

Kudos for planting a tree! Trees help reduce the carbon footprint, increase home value, help prevent soil erosion and provide homes for our feathered friends.

To begin, dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Then, arrange the tree at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or an organic peat moss.

For a trunk diameter up to 1.5 inches, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone. If the trunk is 2-3”, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone per inch. So, if your tree trunk is 2.5 inches, use 10 pounds of Tree-tone. And, for tree trunks over 3 inches, use 5 pounds of Espoma Tree-Tone per inch.

Now, mix in the organic Tree-Tone with the soil.

Pack soil to remove any air pockets, then water. Once the soil settles, fill the remainder of the hole with amended soil.

Next, evenly spread 2-3” of mulch around the tree’s drip line. Keep mulch far away from the tree trunk, and keep it even — not in a pile like a volcano.

Organically Feed Established Trees:

Do you have a small, medium or large sized tree? Small trees have up to 3” in trunk diameter, medium tree trunks are 3-6” and large trees have a diameter over 6”.

Feed Small and Medium Trees:

For small trees, use 3 pounds of Tree-tone. For medium trees, feed them 4 pounds of Tree-Tone per inch.

Sprinkle the organic tree food under and slightly beyond the branch spread.

Feed Large Trees with an Organic Fertilizer:

Large trees need food delivered right to their roots.

Under the tree’s outermost branches, make holes 2-3” in diameter, 12-18” deep and 2-3’ apart using an auger or iron bar.

Use 6 pounds of Tree-tone per inch of your tree’s diameter, and divide the organic tree food among the holes.

Then, fill holes with soil. Finish by watering.

What are your most loved trees in your yard? Comment below!

Feed Boxwood with Organic Plant Food in Early Spring

Evergreens — the name says it all. These plants and shrubs add color to your garden all year long, even in the dead of winter!

Though, we admit there’s one evergreen we love most: boxwoods.

Boxwood shrubs do it all. They’re super easy to care for, stay green all winter and are deer resistant.

These shrubs add instant definition, structure and privacy to outdoor spaces. Plus, boxwood shrubs morph into any shape when pruned. If an artful topiary isn’t for you though, they look just as beautiful when pruned slightly or left to grow free-form.

As easy as these shrubs are, there’s one BIG mistake people make when growing boxwood.

All too often, people believe that Holly-tone fertilizer is the feeding solution for boxwoods, just like they do with other evergreens. But that’s not the case.

While boxwood is part of the evergreen family, there’s one thing that makes them different. Most evergreens need to be fed Holly-tone, an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants. But, boxwood — and arborvitaes — are evergreen shrubs that are not acid-loving plants. So, they need an all-purpose plant food.

Avoid the #1 mistake people make when growing boxwood. Fertilize your boxwood with an organic all-purpose plant food to keep them a healthy green. Plus, feeding these shrubs in early spring helps them fight off disease all season.

How to Feed Established Boxwood:

To see how much fertilizer your boxwood needs, measure the width of your boxwood with a tape measure.

For each foot, use 1 cup of Espoma Plant-tone. For example if your boxwood is 4’ wide, use 4 cups of organic plant food.

Then, sprinkle around the boxwood’s drip line, which is a circle formed around the shrub’s widest branch.

How to Feed New Boxwood:

If you want to add a border or line a path, boxwood is just what you’re looking for. Go ahead and get planting.

Boxwood grows best in zones 6-8. As always before planting, make sure the area you’d like to plant matches the plant’s likings. Read that plant tag! Most boxwood need full to partial sun and well-drained soil.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot and the perfect boxwood, it’s time to plant.

Dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Scoop a handful of soil to test, too. Boxwood needs a soil pH between 6 and 7. If your pH is too low, add Espoma Organic Garden Lime. If your soil pH is higher than 7, amend with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Now, loosen roots and position boxwood in the hole.

Replace 1/3 of the soil with compost or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. And, mix in 1-2 cups of Organic Plant-tone. Adding an organic plant food now helps plants thrive in their new home.

Then, fill the rest of the hole with amended soil or Espoma Garden Soil.

Lightly water now, and continue watering once a week during spring and summer.

Finally, make the boxwood look right at home by adding 2-3” of mulch to control weeds and conserve water.

Boxwood transforms any area into a defined, stately space. Soon, these beautiful evergreens will even be dotted with sweet, white blooms.

What’s your favorite evergreen? Comment below to share!

How to Plant Colorful Flowering Shrubs: Azaleas and Rhododendrons

A yard without shrubs is like a completed puzzle, minus one piece. The look is almost perfect, but something is missing! Shrubs work wonders — especially ones with bold, colorful flowers. These easy to care for plants instantly fill in gaps in your garden landscape and look fabulous every season. Complete your garden by planting a shrub or two today! Azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these shrubs thrive in almost any garden. Plus, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. As an added bonus, hummingbirds and bees cannot get enough of azaleas and rhododendrons.

For Established Shrubs: Spring feeding helps develop new growth and the production of new flower buds. Sprinkle one cup of Holly-tone per foot of branch spread now. Holly-tone is long-lasting so you’ll only need to fertilize twice in a season. Don’t wait too long, or you risk encouraging green vegetative growth at the expense of flower bud development. Once now, and again in the fall will ensure a perfect Rhody!

For New Shrubs: Spring is the perfect time to plant so pick your favorite color and variety. Before buying, check the plant tag to see if you have enough space for a full-grown shrub. Azaleas and rhododendrons can range from 2 feet to more than 20 feet tall! If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2 feet to 6 feet apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. Now, before you start digging, choose a spot for your shrub and envision the great impact these plants will have on your landscape! Both these flowering shrubs like to hang in the shade and do not grow well in full sunlight. So, make sure you’ve selected a perfectly shaded spot!

Before you start digging, plan for growth. If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2-6’ apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. These flowering shrubs are so easy to care for because most of the work is done before planting. Keep azaleas and rhododendrons bursting with beautiful blooms by picking the right spot and ensuring you’ve got ideal soil for growing. Don’t forget to test the soil! These acid loving shrubs need a soil pH of 4.5-5.5. If your soil test reveals a higher pH, your soil is alkaline. Solve the problem by amending with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Once your soil is ready, it’s time to plant! Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Then, remove the shrub from its original container, loosen the roots and dip in a bucket of water. Next, arrange the shrub in the hole, so the top of the root ball is slightly about the ground’s surface. Fill half the hole with compost, peat moss or humus, and mix in 1 cup Holly-tone fertilizer for better blooms. This organic plant food is specially crafted for acid loving plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons. Feeding new shrubs with an organic fertilizer now keeps them well-fed for months, spurs deep evergreen color and dynamic blooms. Fill half the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. Now finish planting your shrub by filling the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil, and add 2-3” of mulch. Water now, and tomorrow, too.

Doesn’t your garden instantly look brighter? For more tips on caring for azaleas, rhododendrons or other acid-loving plants, click here. We’d love to see how a flowering shrub completed your garden. Share a before and after picture on our Facebook page!