5 Deliciously Unique Fall Vegetables

Most avid gardeners have planted the veggie essentials in abundance, but what about the forgotten veggies and those varieties that look a little different from the usual choices?

There is a surprisingly long list of what are considered “unusual” veggies, but below are five of the strangest, most delicious ones that you’ll want in your garden.

Romanesco Broccoli

If you’re going for the “wow” factor in your veggie garden, then Romanesco broccoli is the plant for you. Its intense, bright green fractals of broccoli are stunning. It is similar to cauliflower in terms of care. For best results, be sure to keep the soil moist and plant in a spot with full sun. Keep romanesco broccoli fed with Espoma’s Garden-tone. You can eat this stunning broccoli in a number of ways: raw in a salad, steamed, or grilled. Hardy in Zones 3-10.

Kaleidoscope Carrots

Jewel-toned colors like yellow, purple and red make for a fun pop of color for this classic favorite veggie. Choose rainbow carrots to add a variety of color to salads, sides and stir-fries. Plant seeds in late summer for a harvest that can be enjoyed on autumn days and even for Thanksgiving dinner. Straight roots need light, loose soil so sow carrot seeds in deep, well-worked soil in full sun. Grow in any region.

Black Radishes

Radishes are quick and easy to grow. Heirloom varieties of black radishes take about two to three times long to grow than regular radishes and tend to be spicier. Their crisp black skin and snow white flesh will make them an intriguing addition to any veggie platter. If radishes are too pungent, remove the skin before eating. Black radishes do need plenty of sun, so choose a spot where they can get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Feed with Espoma’s liquid Grow! for bigger plants. Grow in any region.

Tree Onions (Egyptian Onions)

These onions set their bulbs at the top of the plants. They taste similar to shallots, but with a more intense flavor. Stalks fall over when they get too heavy, allowing the bulbs to “walk” and plant themselves in a new space. One walking onion can travel as far as 24 inches and create six new onions. Plant bulbs in late summer (before the first frost) to harvest next year. Hardy in Zones 3-10.

Blue Potatoes

The vivid bluish-purple hues of Adirondack potatoes make them a stunner for any dish — especially mashed potatoes. They taste like regular potatoes and get their unique coloring from anthocyanin. There are many varieties including some with a marbled blue and white interior. Plant potatoes in fall to get a head start on a spring harvest. Grow in any region.

Espoma products for Unusual Veggies:

Grow! Plant Food

If you’re looking for the basics, learn how to plant veggies in containers!

 

Bug OFF: Plants to Repel Mosquitoes

It is that time of year again when those tiny whining noises can be heard buzzing by your ear. Mosquitoes are back! You can keep these pests at bay by using nature’s own recipe for effective mosquito repellents.

It is a matter of comfort to keep the mosquitoes away, but it is also a matter of your family’s safety. By keeping the mosquito population around your house to a minimum, you reduce the risk of being exposed to mosquito-borne diseases.

Tell those mosquitoes to bug off by fighting them naturally. Avoid chemicals by planting a mosquito repellent garden. Read about our top choices for mosquito-repelling plants below.

Geraniums

These bright red and pink blooms have a fragrant lemon and citronella-like scent, which is delightful to humans but extremely repugnant to mosquitos. Geraniums prefer a warm, sunny, and dry climate and work in the garden or in pots. Hardy in Zones 3 through 9. Plant with Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus to give plants the nutrients they need.

 

Basil

Basil is one of the handiest plants around. Add it to your favorite meal, drink or simply enjoy its wonderful smell. One of the biggest perks is that it emits a mosquito-repelling aroma without having to crush the leaves. Prevent mosquito bites by rubbing a handful of basil leaves on exposed areas of the skin. Research in the 2011 Malaria Journal found that basil was discovered to be up to 100% effective in preventing mosquito bites. Hardy in Zones 1 through 10.

 

Marigolds

Marigolds have earned the “most pungent” superlative from the plants on this list. Their smell has not only proven to be offensive to mosquitos, but also to rabbits, deer and some people. Despite the smell, their luminous orange and yellow petals brighten up your garden. They enjoy full sun and fertile soil. A major plus is that marigolds make great companion plants for tomatoes, protecting against other insects that eat the plants. Hardy in Zones 2 through 10. Fertilize with Espoma’s Bloom! liquid fertilizer for great looking marigolds.

 

 

Lavender

Add vibrant purple to your garden by planting lavender. Lavender gives off a sweet aroma that is attractive to humans, but most definitely not to mosquitoes. You can rub lavender on your skin to use as a natural mosquito repellent, too. Lavender prefers full sun with well-drained soil. Hardy in Zones 5 through 9. Feed with Espoma’s Plant-tone throughout the growing season.

Rosemary 

Rosemary, a member of the mint family, will most definitely keep the mosquitoes away. This Mediterranean favorite is one of the most aromatic herbs you can grow. Grow in full sun and water when dry. Although you don’t need to prune, you can cut back branches to help your rosemary bush stay in shape. Both fresh cuts and dry cuts are effective in repelling mosquitoes. Add rosemary to your summer fire pit so when it burns it gives off incense that is offensive to mosquitoes. You can also make rosemary into oils, add it to meals, or even make natural repellents. Hardy in Zones 6 through 9.

 

 

Espoma Products for Plants that Help Repel Mosquitoes:

Bloom! Plant Food

 

Plants Only a Mother Would Love

From crayon stick figures to loud burps, Moms are notorious for thinking anything their kids do is cute.

This Mother’s Day, brighten mom’s day by giving her a plant that’s just as unique as you. And if you choose the right plant, it will last for years to come. From succulents and cacti to brilliant foliage plants, there is a plant that will bring some extra sunshine to her life every day. She knows you better than anyone else, so remind mom just how awkward and quirky you were as a child.

Baseball Plant

The low-maintenance, euphorbia obesa, comes in a baseball-like shape. Perhaps it’ll remind mom of your little league days. This is a cactus, so it simply needs a warm climate, light and a well-draining soil such as Espoma’s Cactus and Succulent mix.

‘Wine Cup’

Crassula umbella is perfect for the mom who loves taking trips to the vineyard, with her children of course. When it flowers, this plant can grow up to six inches tall. This succulent likes well-drained soil and dry roots, so don’t overwater.

Donkey tails

Remind mom of your playful nature with a donkey tail plant. These succulents drape over containers in a trailing way. With their grey-green tear-drop shaped leaves, the “donkey tails” can grow up to two feet long. Flowers with small blossoms in red, yellow or white will emerge in late summer. Place these sun-loving succulents near a sunny window and water weekly during spring and summer.

Nerve Plant

If mom’s always saying you’re getting on her nerves, try getting her an actual nerve plant! Also known as Fittonia, the name ‘nerve plant’ comes from the attractive pink, red or white veins that run throughout the plant’s rich green leaves. Their bright coloring and great patterns will surely ease mom’s nerves every time she looks at it. This plant also makes a great addition to a terrarium. Place it in a space where it’ll receive medium to low light. Too much sun can cause leaves to crisp. Water the plant weekly, when the soil starts to dry. Nerve plants need regular fertilizing, use Espoma’s Indoor! Liquid fertilizer to encourage new growth.

Yes, more traditional moms might prefer something like an exotic orchid or a lovely pink succulent, but the above are sure to make her smile. Visit your local garden center to find the right plant.

Want to do something different from mom? Try this hand print planter from Garden Answer.

Get Easy Blooms with Spring Planted Bulbs

Spring-planted bulbs will burst with beautiful blooms that are perfect for bouquets and make a statement with little effort. For the best flower show, we recommend planting plenty of bulbs.

If it’s about 60°F and you’re ready to plant your tomatoes outside, then it’s warm enough to plant summer bulbs. If your days are still cold, start your bulbs indoors in pots. Then, move them to the garden when the weather improves. Or, leave them in the pots to liven up porches and patios.

Dahlias, canna lilies, begonias and gladiolus all make great additions to yards. Head to your local garden center to find out which spring flowering bulbs are best for your region.

Plant Summer Bulbs in 6 Simple Steps:

1. Visit your local garden center to choose your bulbs.

2. Select where you want to plant your bulbs so they’ll get the right amount of sun. Choose a place where they won’t be accidentally dug up, such as under a tree, in a lawn or in a perennial bed.

3. Plant bulbs using a spade or bulb planter in well-drained soil to the depth indicated on the package. Some bulbs, like dahlias, need to be planted deeper.

4. Sprinkle Espoma Organic’s Bulb-tone in the hole and place your bulb.

5. Replace the soil, gently pressing it down and water your newly planted bulbs.

6. Cover bulbs with a layer of mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out.

Once your bulbs have bloomed, remove the faded flowers but leave the foliage. They bulbs will use it to store energy for next year.

Are your spring bulbs spent? Watch how Garden Answer cares for tulips after they’ve bloomed.

https://youtu.be/K0FMDf96ak4

 

Rain, Rain, Come My Way

April showers bring May flowers. The old saying is true. April is full of rain, but there’s no reason you can’t have flowers before May.

During rainstorms, water gushes out of downspouts, across lawns and gardens. It has a tendency to accumulate in one place and can overwater or even flood a garden. Excessive rain saturates soil, suffocates roots, breaks plants and attracts pests.

However, when you’ve strategically planted for rain, gushing downspouts are no longer a problem. A rain garden is a garden that uses water-loving plants, with strong roots. It helps use rain where it lands instead of letting it run-off into streams, lakes and rivers.

How to Build a Rain Garden:

1. Choose your location

Measure out at least 10 feet from your home. Keep your new garden away from septic systems. Find somewhere with a natural downgrade, away from the house, if possible. If your garden is level, then find a place where soil is already absorbing water easily. Stay away from soil that holds moisture for an extended period of time.

2. Create a design

Measure the size and shape of the area. Once you determine what you are working with, you can begin planning what to plant. Plan out what looks best to the eye first, while keeping in mind the plants that do best with wet feet should be in the middle.

3. Choose your plants

Since each region gets a different amount of rainfall, native plants tend to do best. You will want plants that do well in wet and dry conditions. Rainfall will add up occasionally over the year, but the soil can dry out in the warmer months. Choose plants that don’t mind having wet roots for extended periods of time such as blue fescue grass, daylilies, elderberry and tupelo trees. Look for water-resistant natives such as black chokeberry, meadowsweet shrubs, Joe-Pye weed, Colorado blue spruce, bayberry, ferns and winterberry. Check out your local garden center for tips on the best plants for your region.

4. Prepare the soil

As all gardeners know, it starts with the soil. Good drainage is key to prevent water from sitting. If your soil needs a fresh start, or to be amended, add Espoma’s Garden Soil to help set your rain garden up for success. Further improve drainage by using pervious surfaces, edging puddles and creating paths through low-lying areas with sand or stones.

5. Get ready for rain

It’s time to plant! Get your plants in the ground and watered in to stabilize them. Water every other day for two weeks to get it ready for a heavy rainfall and watch your garden grow!

Planning your garden will keep your garden running smoothly.

Prefer a vegetable garden? Here’s how to plan.

 

Spring Cleaning for Your Garden

Spring has arrived! Nothing beats walking outdoors to the sunshine and a beautiful landscape. Now is the time to give your lawn and landscape the TLC it needs. After winter, plants might be in rough shape. Don’t worry, your garden will be back up and running in no time!

From weeding to fertilizing, there’s always something to do when spring rolls around.

When updating your landscape, there may be a few things you need to pick up. Head to your local garden center to find everything you need.

5 Ways to Spruce Up Your Spring Landscape:

Prune

Trim back trees or shrubs that need a little push. It’s best to do this early, before new shoots start to come in. Be sure to carefully remove branches and flowers that have been damaged by the winter storms. You don’t want the branch doing more damage later on.

Soil

Prepare your soil for new growth and new plantings. Sometimes that means getting all new soil like Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil or it could mean freshening up the soil you have by adding Espoma’s Organic Bio-Tone Starter Plus.

Plan

Evaluate your garden. Take the mature size of your plants into account. What holes do you have? If any of your plants need to be caged or staked, planning now will allow you to plant around it without disturbing your growing seedlings later on. Plus it will set top heavy plants up for success, especially tomatoes, which bend easily.

Fix Uneven Ground

Rain, wind and snow can wreak havoc on your landscape. When the ground is wet and people walk through it can even cause compaction, which makes for poor growing conditions. But with a little love it will be ready to host your gorgeous garden once again.

Mulch

After planting, provide beds with a fresh layer of mulch. Mulching is the perfect way to get your garden off to a great start. Not only does it help settle in the roots, but it will provide warmth, hold in moisture, suppress weeds, encourage growth, and make your beds look all around beautiful.

 

Not quite ready to get in the garden? Learn how to fertilize Houseplants with Homestead Brooklyn!

 

These Flowers Will Bring Back Spring

The gardener’s itch has really set in! It’s only days until those beautiful and bright spring flowers pop up. Now is the perfect time to start making a list and planning what to plant.

Start browsing magazines and blogs and coming up with all your favorite plants now. Narrow down your choices so you are ready to pick the moment you enter the garden center. As the soil starts to warm up, give your new flowers a head start with Espoma’s Flower-Tone for bigger, brighter blooms.

When choosing, be sure to look at the plant tag or the back of the seed packet for specific information. Pick up your favorites at your local garden center.

Top 5 Spring Flowers

Creeping Phlox

These flowers carpet any area you put them in. They spill into open areas, filling cracks and crevices with their tiny green leaves. Plant in between rocks, on a wall, or en masse to really make a show stopping display. The flowers come in pastel pink, lavender and white. They love being anywhere from sun to shade. They can grow up to 6” tall and 24”wide in zones 3-9.

Bloodroot

One of the best perennial flowers to plant in spring, these little white flowers hold strong all season. This plant is called bloodroot for the reddish rhizome and bright orange sap that grows at or below the soil’s surface. They love the shade and thrive in moist soil. They can grow up to 12” tall and grow well in zones 3-9.

‘Oakleaf’ Hydrangea

Go big with the oakleaf hydrangea. Its big flowers and oversized foliage will take your garden into spring with full force. It grows vigorously, all while providing a show stopping beauty. They love to be planted in partial shade. They can grow up to 6’ tall and 8’ wide in zones 5-9.

Pansy

This sun-loving flower will brighten your garden. Coming in a variety of colors, the pansy is a gardener’s favorite. For those who don’t have a lot of space, pansies are great for containers and window boxes. They can grow up to 10” tall and 12” wide in zones 4-8

Primrose

Primrose is a unique spring flower, as they look best in clumps. Keeping them close together allows the beauty of the buttery yellow or white florals to really stand out. They love to be anywhere from full sun to partial shade. They can grow up to 12” tall in zones 3-9.

Looking for a fun way to add color to your space? Try hanging baskets!

Spring Container Plants that Pop

Enjoying fresh air, sunshine and beautiful containers filled with spring blooms is a sure sign warmer days are on their way.  Adding a spring container is an easy way to refresh your porch, patio or outdoor area.

Get started by finding the perfect planter. Once nighttime temperatures remain above freezing, not dipping below, 30°F, you’re reading to plant.

Before planting, check to make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom. When you’re ready to plant, use Espoma’s organic potting mix to fill the container and then mixing in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil to give it that extra oomph.

Remember to use a “thriller, filler and spiller” when planting new pots. Put the tallest growing plant in the middle, or at the back. Surround it with smaller plants and finally, those that spill over the edge.

Combine any of the below plants for a look that pops!

Pick Perennials

English daisies, hellebores, pansies, primroses and bergenia make for good choices for early perennials.  Find out if a plant can’t tolerate the cool temperatures of early spring by referencing the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Think bulbs

There’s still a way to get those beautiful tulip and daffodil blooms even if you didn’t plant them in the fall. Just stop by your local garden center to pick up already-blooming bulbs place them into your container for an instant pick me up.

Enjoy Edibles

Choose plants that do double duty. Plant a mix of greens including spinach, kale, red and green lettuce and more. A container filled with spring greens will provide healthy salads while also brightening up the landscape. Add in viola blooms for a fun touch of color and don’t forget that herbs will help to create texture.  Use Espoma’s liquid Grow! to give plants a healthy dose of nutrients.

 

3 Common Seed Starting Problems and How to Fix Them

Keywords: starting plants indoors, can you grow tomatoes indoors, growing vegetables indoors

Starting seeds indoors is great way to make your garden successful from the start. Nurturing and watching seedlings grow from nothing into a fully grown plant can be incredibly rewarding.

Gardeners have asked how to be more successful with starting their own seeds and the problems usually boil down to simple, common mistakes. Here are the three most common mistakes and how to fix them.

In a few short weeks your seedlings will be ready to transplanted into the garden!

1. Problem: Not Enough Light

A common mistake beginner seed starters make is not giving their seeds enough light. New seeds need a lot of light to get growing. You can start with a south facing window, but if it doesn’t get 6+ hours a day, it probably won’t do.

Solution: Artificial lights.

Using grow lights, found at your local garden center, can provide the ample amount of light your seedlings need. Hang lights from chains, so you can lower and raise them as they grow. Keep lights about 2-3 inches above the seedlings.

2. Problem: Too Much or Not Enough Water

This is the most challenging part about starting seeds. Seedlings are incredibly delicate and need to be watered just right. Keep potting mix moist, but not wet.

Solution: Check seedlings regularly.

First, cover your seed starting container with plastic until the seeds germinate. This will trap any moisture in and will help keep the soil moist. Use a misting spray bottle until seedlings appear to avoid overwatering. Once your seedlings are established, water from the bottom. Your container should have drainage holes, so let your plants soak up the water from the holes to minimalize the risk of overwatering. Lastly, check your plants every day.

3. Problem: Starting Too Soon

Many beginners try to start seeds as soon as they buy them, instead of when the package advises. We all get a little excited to have green plants growing again, but if started too soon, they can die off from the cold.

Solution: Find out when your expected last frost is.

Seeds should usually be started four to six weeks before your last frost date. This will ensure that by the time your seedlings are ready to be transplanted, your soil will have started to warm up.  You may need to place your seedlings outside during the day and bring them in at night for a few days to get them acclimated to the outside temperatures. Before you plant your seedlings in the ground, use Espoma’s Bio-Tone Starter Fertilizer to give your soil and new seedlings the head start they deserve.

In a few short weeks you’ll be ready to transplant!

 

7 Tricks for Starting Tomato and Peppers Seeds Indoors

Dreaming of juicy, flavorful tomatoes and ripe, spicy peppers? Grow them yourself in only a few months.

If you’re as excited about tomato season as we are, why not get started now?

The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your region. Whether you’re growing cherry tomatoes or hot peppers, visit your local garden center to pick up supplies and seeds.

Here’s how to start tomato and pepper seeds indoors:

  1. Test Seeds

If you saved tomato seeds from last year and stored the seeds properly, they should last for about four years. Pepper seeds will last about two to three years.

Check seeds for vitality before planting for a successful crop. Need seeds? Find them at your local garden center.

Test your seeds a few weeks before you’re ready to start. Place several seeds on a wet paper towel cover it with plastic and place it in a warm spot. If the seeds are viable, they should sprout within a week.

  1. Soak Seeds

Give your seeds a head-start. Simply soak seeds in warm water for 2-4 hours to soften. Read the instructions on the seed packet to ensure the optimal conditions for your seeds.

  1. Start Seeds

Gather supplies and fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top with Espoma’s Organic Seed Starting Mix. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.  Find out more about starting seeds here.

  1. Add Heat

Once the seeds are planted, it’s time to warm them up. Heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers love the warm weather. While your seedlings are sprouting, store them on top of the fridge or in a warm place. An even better option is use a special heating mat. The warm temperatures help to speed up the growing process. Make sure to check seeds daily for moisture since the soil may dry out more quickly.

  1. Feed

Once the true leaves have developed, seeds will benefit from a nutrient boost. Add Espoma’s Organic Tomato-tone, a premium plant food formulated specifically for growing plump and juicy tomatoes.

  1. Thin Plants

Thinning is the process of removing weaker seedlings to allow more room for the stronger ones. It creates healthier plants that produce more. As seedlings grow and you see crowding beginning to happen, gradually thin plants to 4” apart by gently pulling out the smallest ones with your hands.

  1. Prepare for Transplant

Start hardening off plants once the last frost date has past. Place seedlings outdoors for seven to 10 days for a few hours each day. Once plants are ready for transplanting, gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. Plant in a prepared bed and mix in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.