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.

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

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.

For more tomato tips, check out our total tomato growing guide!

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

Berry Healthy Recipes, Straight from the Garden!

There’s nothing more refreshing than the taste of summer berries, and in August your berries are still prime for picking!

Many berries ripen around mid-summer, so by now you already may have some practice with harvesting. Now that summer is starting to wind down, try these new recipes to prolong that sweet seasonal freshness.

When ripe, raspberries are easily removed from the plant. Refrigerate immediately and use between three and five days after picking.

“First, how can I tell when my berries are ready?”

  • Blueberries: Don’t pick them until they’re fully ripe! Wait until they turn a uniform color and can easily be pulled away from the plant. But don’t rely on color alone; check first if the berries are firm, rather than mushy. Store them in the refrigerator after you’ve collected them.
  • Strawberries: Keep the cap and stem attached. Store in the refrigerator for 2-5 days.
  • Raspberries: When ripe, raspberries are easily removed from the plant. Refrigerate immediately and use between three and five days after picking. Harvest every few days. Check soil pH. If your soil is not acidic enough, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier.
  • Blackberries: Don’t pick blackberries too early! Wait until they dull in color from the black, glossy stage. Pick ripe blackberries every 3-6 days.

For more information on taking care of your organic garden, check out our Berry Growing Guide!

Strawberries are a favorite summer fruit. Yet store-bought berries can’t come near the intense and fresh flavor of those picked right off the vine from your very own garden.

Once you’ve collected your berries, take them to the next level with these easy and delicious recipes!

  1. Slow cooker granola berry crisp: A perfect summertime dessert, made with your choice of berries from the garden. This recipe is light, fresh and healthy—a true seasonal staple!
  2. Summer berry cheesecake salad: With just five ingredients, this recipe combines the sweetness of berries with all the great flavor of cheesecake filling. Makes for a sublime summer fruit salad!
  3. Red berry vanilla almond smoothie bowl: Great for breakfast (or any other time of the day), this treat is fewer than 300 calories and takes five minutes to make. It’s a great way to add an extra summery punch to your regular breakfast routine.
  4. Summer berry kale salad: This summer salad, combines signature vibrant and tropical flavors in one quick, easy dish!
  5. Berry watermelon fruit salad: A classic take on combining peak season fruit. You can make this fruit salad well into September. Bonus tip: add a light sprinkle of lime juice before eating!
  6. Mini summer berry galettes: You’ve already got your berries ready to go! Just fold your fruits into the pie crust and bake. Now you’ve got a healthy, sweet summer treat!

What is your favorite way to prepare fresh berries in the kitchen? Try any of these recipes and want to show us a picture? Share your experience with us on our Facebook page

Tomatoes: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor even after Harvest Season

Your summer veggie garden is in full bloom, and your tomatoes are doing great. The only problem? Your garden may be producing more tomatoes than you can eat! (What a catastrophe!)

Don’t waste your harvest.

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

Step-by-step Instructions to Can, Save and Preserve Tomatoes:

Perfect Picking for Preservation

You’ll want to allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine, so they reach peak flavor.

Harvest when they have colored evenly and are a tiny bit soft when squeezed. Remember, tomatoes stop ripening in temperatures above 86º F. If your area is consistently warm, tomatoes may stop ripening when they reach an orange/yellow color. So, don’t wait for them to turn completely red before picking.

To remove tomatoes from the vine, grasp them gently and firmly. Twist the tomato until it snaps off the vine, or slice the stem close to the fruit.

Freeze Tomatoes

  • Remove tomato skins by cutting an X through outside skin and carefully lowering the tomato into boiling water for 30 seconds. Then, plunge it into ice water for a few seconds. Skins will slide right off.
  • Allow tomatoes to cool. Cut into quarters and fill freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  • If you don’t mind the skins, stick sliced tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes in a freezer bag and place in the freezer.
  • Season tomatoes after they are defrosted and right before they are served.
  • If prepared correctly, tomatoes can last in your freezer for up to one year!

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

Can Tomatoes

  • Sanitize jars in boiling water. Keep warm until ready for use to avoid breakage.
  • Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.
  • Cool, peel, core and halve or quarter tomatoes in a strainer placed over a bowl to catch juices. Remove the seeds.
  • Add salt and herbs such as basil, tarragon and oregano to each jar. Include 1 teaspoon of each.
  • Place tomatoes in jars and fill the jars with leftover tomato juice, leaving 1/2” head room. Press down to remove the air bubbles. Wipe the rim, put on lid and screw on ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place tomato jars in boiling water and cover them with 1-2” of water. Then cover the pot and let simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until the lids pop.
  • Remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Place the jars upright on a towel undisturbed for at least 12 hours.
  • Test lids within 24 hours to make sure they don’t pop. If a lid pops, you can immediately reprocess after making sure the jar is full, the rim is clean and the seal is tight. Or, you can refrigerate them for use within a few days.

Dehydrate Tomatoes

  • Slice paste tomatoes such as romas into 1/4” thick rings.
  • Arrange pieces on dehydrator trays so they are not touching.
  • Sprinkle with salt and herbs of your choice. Use herbs grown in your own garden for the freshest flavor.
  • Dehydrate tomatoes until moisture is removed. Dehydrating can be done in a dehydrator or conventional gas or electric oven.
  • Time varies based on the moisture in the tomatoes, thickness of the slices, the dehydrator itself and the humidity in the air. They’re finished when tomatoes are flexible, but not brittle.
  • To store, seal in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

Keep Tomatoes from Cracking and Splitting

Cracking and splitting are one of the most common problems when growing tomatoes. The good news: those unsightly cracks aren’t caused by pests or disease!

Tomatoes split open when the fruit outpaces the growth of the skin — usually after a heavy rain. The bad news: split tomatoes can introduce bacteria into the fruit and cause them to rot.

But wait, there is good news: this is an easy problem to remedy and you can start now.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

How to Reduce Tomato Splitting:

1. Water: Water tomato plants once a week with about 1-2” of water. Keeping them regularly watered reduces the chance they will be shocked by a hard rain.

2. Mulch: Mulch does wonders for all plants, but especially for preventing cracking tomatoes. Add a layer of mulch 2-3” thick around plants to hold moisture.

3. Feed: Fertilize tomatoes with organic Tomato-toneevery other week during the growing season. Fertilizer keeps the soil healthy so plants produce as many tomatoes as possible.

4. Location: Growing tomatoes in raised beds or containers with drainage holes will lessen the problem because heavy rain will drain away faster in the loose soil.

5. Pick: As a last minute fix, you can always go out after a heavy rain and pick any almost ripe or ripe tomatoes.

While it may be too late now, you can plant varieties that are less likely to crack. Look for things like ‘crack-free’ in the description.

Looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoesplease visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

Grow Delicious Strawberries in Your Own Garden

Strawberries are a favorite summer fruit. Yet store-bought berries can’t come near the intense and fresh flavor of those picked right off the vine from your very own garden.

Packed with Vitamin C and fiber, strawberries make a great nutritious and delicious snack. Eat them alone or add to jams, pastries and smoothies.

Find out how you can get the most out of this year’s strawberry harvest.

Runners are long stems that “run” off the main strawberry plant to create new plants. Some are good but too many left unkempt will draw nutrients from the main plant and cause it to stop producing fruit.

Stop the Runners

Runners are long stems that “run” off the main strawberry plant to create new plants. Some are good but too many left unkempt will draw nutrients from the main plant and cause it to stop producing fruit.

Snip excess runners off at the base of the plant. Encourage wanted runners to root by gently pressing the end of the runner into the soil.

Beware of Mold

Strawberries are especially susceptible to a gray mold known as Botrytis that makes berries rot. Remove affected leaves and fruit ASAP to prevent further spread.

Keep fungi at bay by planting strawberries in a sunny spot and only watering at the base of the plant in the morning. A layer of straw mulch will also reduce fruit rot.

Temperature

Strawberries love warm weather, but berries suffer once temps rise above 85 degrees. Give them some shade by using row covers that can be found at your local garden center.

Fertilize

Encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

Check the soil to make sure it’s loose and at an ideal pH of 5.5 to 7. If the pH level is too high, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for ideal soil conditions.

Now just sit back and wait to enjoy the harvest!

To learn more about organic berries, be sure to check out our ultimate berry growing guide!