How to Care for the Luckiest Houseplant

Instead of carrying around a rabbit’s foot or a four leaf clover, try adding jade plants to your home for good luck! These plants signify wealth and prosperity, so they make the perfect addition to offices and homes. Like most succulents, they’re low-maintenance and easy to care for.

You don’t need to be lucky to find success, just follow these simple care instructions for your jade plant.

Water

Instead of watering your jade plant on a schedule, water as needed. If the top inch of the soil is completely dry, it’s time to water. Depending on the amount of sun and the room temperature, water needs may vary. If your jade plant starts to lose leaves or develop sun spots, it’s trying to tell you it’s thirsty. Water just enough to moisten the soil.

As with all houseplants, avoid over watering as it can lead to root rot and other diseases.

Sunlight

Jade plants love sunlight. Just four to six hours of direct sun a dat promotes healthy growth also protects against diseases. Place your jade plant on a sunny windowsill at work or at home.

Certain varieties of jade, typically ones with variegated leaves, don’t need as much sun. Look for a variety than can thrive in indirect sunlight to place on your desk or coffee table. Jade plants love mild temperatures, anywhere from 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit will do.

Soil

Jade prefers a well-draining soil to avoid becoming water logged. Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix is specialized for succulents. It promotes healthy root growth with its optimum aeration and drainage. Clay pots are great for jade plants because they wick away any excess water and help protect the plant from over watering damage.

Fertilize

Fertilize your jade plant regularly to keep it healthy and growing, try Espoma’s Cactus! Liquid plant food for succulents.

With just a little care, your new jade plant will bring you plenty of luck and prosperity!

Want to be creative with succulents? Try this DIY paint can planter for succulents.

Tips for Growing Veggies in a Drought

Summer brings prime-time vegetable growing season and the delicious harvest of our fruit and vegetable gardens. But what happens when that summer heat gets a little too hot and leaves drought-prone areas high and dry?

Don’t stress — even though water is an essential component to vegetable gardening, there are plenty of ways to grow healthy, fresh veggies during dry times.

Try these low-water vegetable gardening tips for success all season long.

Build a Strong Base

When planting in dry conditions, amending your soil is crucial to success. Start with Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus for big, healthy blooms. Then, add rich compost to the soil to increase water retention. After you have a healthy soil as your base, be sure to add mulch. A 3-4” layer of mulch on top of your soil can reduce watering needs up to 50 percent. Mulch keeps the soil cooler and traps moisture in the soil, instead of allowing it to evaporate.

Strategic Planning

When it comes to drought-tolerant vegetable gardens, plan strategically. Raised bed gardens and containers retain moisture better than open gardens.

Instead of planting in straight rows, plant in a zig-zag or diamond pattern. With plants spaced out, their leaves create more shade and keep the soil cooler. Try companion planting, too. Pair plant varieties that work well together and benefit from each other.

6 drought resistant veggies to consider planting during drier times:

  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Okra
  • Artichoke
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard

Be Water Wise

Some of the water used in overhead watering systems never makes it to the soil. Most of the water evaporates on the leaves before serving its purpose.

Instead, try a drip irrigation system for more efficient watering. Drip watering methods can use upwards of 70 percent less water by avoiding evaporation, runoff and wind. Soaker hoses are another water-saving alternative. Lay the hose across an especially dry patch of soil while small holes in the hose allow water to seep through to the soil.

If all else fails — move your garden indoors! Grow smaller varieties of vegetables in small spaces. While indoor vegetable gardens still need proper watering, the soil won’t dry as fast as it would in the hot summer sun.

Love the heat and the sun? Learn more about succulent gardening here!

4 Ways Gardening Improves Your Well-being

Whether it’s practicing yoga, writing a journal, going on vacation or taking an art class, everyone should have their release – something you can turn to when you feel stressed or need to clear your mind. Well, for us, spending some time in the garden does the trick. The greenery, the sun and the fresh air are just a few of the reasons we love unwinding in the garden.

Here are some of the ways gardening can improve your well-being. 

  1. Let’s Get Physical –Exercising not only improves your physical health, but your mood, too. A healthy body is a contributing factor to a healthy mind. Think about all of the digging, pulling, moving and bending that takes place in the garden. This type of physical activity improves your flexibility, strength and endurance, as well as your immune, respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  2. Green is Good – Simply being around nature has its proven health benefits, too. So even if you’re not working on the garden, just enjoying its beauty, you are still improving your well-being. Biophilia is the theory that all humans want to have a connection with other living things, and what better place to feel connected to the world than in the great outdoors?
  3. Fresh Produce – If you have fresh food in your own backyard, you are more likely to eat it. Growing your own vegetables not only encourages you to eat more of them, it also provides a sense of achievement. Gardening can be difficult, and nothing boosts your pride like a beautiful, homegrown tomato plant or blueberry bush.
  4. Sensible Sunshine – Gardening often means long hours in the sun. It is extremely important to take care of your skin, so always wear sunscreen and perhaps a hat. That being said, the sun is also a great source of Vitamin D. Sensible sun exposure not only improves your physical health, it can actually help with depression and other mood disorders. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

What benefits – well-being or other – do you receive from your garden? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Garden Tasks to Complete this June

Summer is finally here! And we can’t wait to spend more time outdoors enjoying Mother Nature. What better way to get in some quality time outdoors than by prepping your garden for the exciting growing season that lies ahead. Check these five simple tasks off your list and prepare to have a picture perfect summer garden in no time.

Be Water Wise

In a short time, you’ll finally start feeling the heat – and so will your plants. As temps increase, be sure to keep an eye on your plants and ensure they’re getting exactly the right amount of water. If you live in an especially hot climate or simply can’t keep up with watering by hand, invest in some sprinklers or an irrigation system.

Last Call for Seedlings

If you haven’t already transferred your indoor seedlings, now is the time. You can also start planting those heat-loving veggies, like tomatoes, squash, eggplant and peppers.

Tidy Up

Tidying up your garden gives you a fresh start for the growing season ahead. Prune plants to encourage healthy growth. Weeds are very persistent, so you should be too. A little bit of weeding here and there will prevent your garden from becoming overrun with invasive weeds.

Welcome Pollinators

Bees and butterflies play an extremely important role in the garden and their pollination provides us with many of our favorite foods. Create a pollinator friendly garden with a variety of native plants. And don’t forget to celebrate National Pollinator Week June 19-25!

Lawn Care

Nothing says summer like the sight of a lush, green lawn. While maintaining a healthy lawn may seem challenging, it’s definitely possible with a little bit of work. With kids and pets playing in the yard all summer long, you’ll want to make sure to stay safe. Choose Espoma’s Organic Lawn Foods for a beautiful green lawn that is safe for the whole family – and the environment.

Five Vegetables to Plant in the Shade

Summer gardens filled with fresh fruits and lots of veggies are worth the work. And while gardeners with shady areas may be envious, they can still have plenty of success on their own vegetables.

After, the secret to good crops is really in the soil.

A shady space that gets as little as two hours of direct sunlight a day is still a prime location for a veggie garden filled with root or leafy vegetables. Plus, you’ll have a longer growing period for cool-season crops.

Read on for five vegetables that don’t need to full sun.

 

5 Vegetables that Grow in Shade:

  1. Beets

Easy to grow in almost any space, beets are a shade gardener’s best friend. Beets can be used for both their roots and their greens. Sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring for the best flavor.

  1. Bok Choy

This cold-weather vegetable can withstand cooler temps and shade. Use in soups, salads and stir-fries. Sow seeds directly in ground in both the fall and spring for two harvests.

  1. Kale

Cold-hardy and resilient, kale will grow for months until the weather gets too hot. This plant can be added to stir-fry, salads, omelets and smoothies for a healthy addition. Plant kale about two months before your first frost.

  1. Turnips

Eat turnips raw or cook and serve in soups, stir-fries or mashes. These plants thrive in cool temperatures and shade. Scatter turnip seeds in your garden two to four weeks before the last frost in spring or from late August to October.

  1. Garlic

Requiring almost no space, garlic is simple to grow. Break off cloves from a whole bulb and plant in the ground. To harvest big and flavorful bulbs next summer, plant garlic in the fall. Allow garlic to cure after harvesting in an airy, shady spot for two weeks.

Want to get kids involved in vegetable gardening? Learn more about kid-friendly gardening.

Top 10 Small Space Gardening Solutions

Don’t let limited space discourage you from gardening.  Whether you have a big backyard or a one bedroom apartment, there are always plenty of ways to keep your living space green. If you have a green thumb but not a lot of space, container plants will become your best friend. When growing in containers, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Potting Soil Mix for best results.

Try these ten small space gardening solutions.

Dwarf Blueberries

These delicious summer fruits are the perfect fit for growing in containers. Although they might be small, blueberries provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Potted blueberry plants provide more than just a healthy snack, too – they create beautiful foliage all year long.

Cherry Tomatoes

While certain varieties of tomatoes can grow very large, cherry tomatoes are perfect for small space gardening. Grow cherry tomatoes in a sunny spot on your patio or balcony and pop them right off the vine when you’re ready to eat! Use Espoma’s Organic Tomato Tone for best results.

Hydrangeas

Choose a dwarf or petite hydrangea and the flowers and leaves will fill out the container in no time. Be sure to give hydrangeas plenty of light and water daily. For bright blue hydrangeas, you’ll need to perfect the soil’s pH level. Use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for best results.

Succulents

Not only are they low-maintenance and easy to care for, succulents are also trending in the home décor world. With a huge variety – including cactus, aloe, sedum and many more – you’re sure to find a succulent you love. Plant in a sunny spot indoors or out and water as needed.

 

Herbs

Create a windowsill garden and fill with herbs. If you have a sunny spot in your kitchen, you’ll have fresh, homegrown herbs at your fingertips every time you cook. Basil, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow and essential in many delicious meals.

 

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

Strawberries

Another delicious berry to grow, strawberries can thrive in containers with the right care. Strawberries love sun, so place containers in a bright spot. Keep the soil moist, but keep leaves dry to protect your plants from disease. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the sweet tastes of this summer standard.

 

Sunflowers

While sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall, dwarf sunflower seeds produce much smaller blooms, typically measuring around 1 foot tall. They are perfect for small space gardening, and children love planting these bright flowers. Teach your kids about gardening by starting seeds together, caring for seedlings, and watching flowers bloom.

Image courtesy of Garden Answer

Fiddle Leaf Fig

These trees are very stylish indoor houseplants. The deep green leaves don’t grow too bushy, making fiddle leaf figs perfect for small spaces and empty corners. When cared for properly, fiddle leaf figs can grow up to six feet tall. These plants become a dramatic focal point in any room. Keep in a very sunny, warm spot and ensure the soil is well-drained.

 

Peace Lilies

Indoor houseplants have been proven to reduce stress and improve air quality. Peace lilies are one of the best providers of these benefits. Besides the health perks, peace lilies also provide beautiful bright white flowers contrasted with deep green leaves.

Peppers

Peppers are another edible perfect for small space gardening. Some peppers can even be grown on your kitchen table or counter. There are hundreds of varieties, so whether you live for the spice or prefer mild sweet peppers, you’ll find one you love. Peppers are typically compact and thrive in containers. Specific care may vary depending on the variety.

Ready to plant? Check out Garden Answer’s video on planting fruits and veggies in containers.

6 Secrets for Growing the Tastiest Tomatoes

A good tomato is hard to forget. You know you’ve hit the jackpot in that first, juicy bite.

Every tomato has the potential to be great and some extra attention now will pay off big time come harvest. Set the stage for a stellar performance by this year’s crops with these tips.

How to Get The Best Tomatoes:

  1. Healthy soil, healthy plants. Enrich soil with Tomato-tone and compost every other week to keep plants supplied with essential nutrients.
  2. Remove damaged plants. Remove any fruit that shows dark patches on their bottom. These leathery patches, known as blossom end rot, cannot be reversed.
  3. Water well. During hot weather, tomato plants need deep waterings. Tomatoes are also less likely to crack when the soil is kept slightly moist.
  4. Cover the soil. Mulch blocks weeds, saves water and protects your fruit. Adding it is a no-brainer! Spread a 2-3” layer of organic mulch around plants, leaving 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots.
  5. Protect plants from heat. Hot sun can cause sunscald, leaving tomatoes with pale, leathery patches on the fruits that pucker when they should be ripening. Bushy plants with lots of leaves naturally shade fruit from sun, however, plants with less leaves are more vulnerable. Cover plants with lightweight cloth covers through the first few heat waves.
  6. Remove tomato suckers. These small shoots sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Though harmless, tomato suckers do drain energy away from the main stems.

Pick tomatoes when you’re ready for them, avoid letting them get soft and mushy. Tomatoes picked at the breaker stage, when they first show signs of changing color, are considered vine-ripened. These tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and on your kitchen counter. Plus, tomatoes picked at the breaking stage can still have the same flavor as one that has fully ripened on the vine.

Whatever you do, just don’t put tomatoes in the fridge to ripen.

Want to know more? Check out our tomato growing guide for all the details on getting your best tomato harvest yet!  

How to Grow a Hydrangea Tree

Flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. Nothing beats the beautiful sight of blooming hydrangeas in a variety of colors. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

While we’re typically used to seeing low growing hydrangea bushes, how great would it be to see hydrangeas on trees? Well, the good news is, you can! Here is how you can grow a hydrangea tree.

Choosing the One

Hydrangea paniculata, also known as Grandiflora, produces white conical flowers instead of big spherical blossoms. With some pruning and proper care, it can grow up to 25 feet tall! Grandiflora, known among gardeners as Pee Gee Hydrangea, is your best bet for growing a hydrangea tree.

Planting

Before you plant, set yourself up for success. Check your hardiness zone, as hydrangea trees thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8a. Hydrangeas prefer full sun for most of the day and a bit of afternoon shade, so be sure to choose a generally bright spot.

Hydrangeas typically thrive in rich, porous, moist soil. Add Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus to ensure healthy growth. Water thoroughly and if planting multiple trees, be sure to space each hydrangea at least 3 to 10 feet apart.

Pruning

One of the most important parts of growing a hydrangea tree is pruning. The main difference between a hydrangea shrub and a tree is training, pruning and proper care. The ideal time to prune is early spring. Remove old twigs that didn’t produce healthy growths and remove suckers from the trunk of the tree. Keep your tree neat by cutting branches short enough that they each have only two or three nodes (small bumps on the branch that signify growth).

Upkeep

Your hydrangea tree will need a lot of sun, but provide some shade on especially hot summer afternoons. More sun means more water, so keep the soil moist to avoid wilting leaves and blooms. Prune your hydrangea tree in the spring before peak growing season. Enrich the soil with Espoma’s All-Purpose Garden Soil to ensure a successful summer season.

If you love your hydrangeas and want to see more than a typical shrub, growing a hydrangea tree sounds like the next step for you!

Pink Succulents Mom Will Love

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, you’re probably getting ready to shower your mom with love! But, deciding what to get mom gets harder each year. Instead of pink or red roses, try something new – pink succulents! While succulents typically are seen in various shades of green or blue, pretty pinks and ruby reds are perfect for Mother’s Day.

Succulents are trending in the décor world right now and look great in any home. They’re also very low maintenance and easy to care for, perfect for a busy mom on the go.

Here are five succulents to buy for mom this Mother’s Day:

Perle von Nurnberg

The overlapping leaves of this echeveria species are beautiful in color. A greyish brown base with light pink and purple highlights creates contrast between the leaves.  In the summer, the flowers can become coral to red with a yellow interior. As with all succulents, be sure to keep soil dry to avoid root rot and growth damage.

Afterglow

This echeveria truly lives up to its name. With beautiful pastel pink and purple leaves, these succulents look like something from a fairytale, a flower any mom is sure to love. Afterglow is perfect for indoor or outdoor containers. When growing succulents in containers, be sure to use Espoma’s Cactus Mix for best results.

Aurora 

This sedum variety is definitely a fan favorite. Its bead-shaped, pink leaves earned Aurora the adorable nickname “Pink Jelly Beans” – and what mom wouldn’t love that? Yellow and white summer blooming flowers pair perfectly with the existing pink foliage.

Paddle Plant

Also known as Flapjack Plant or Desert Cabbage, this succulent gets its name from its flat, wide leaves. Paddle plant is typically found in green, but becomes accented with red when it receives enough sunlight. Like most of the succulents on this list, the pink and red color only becomes more prominent with more sun.

Graptopetalum pachyphyllum 

Bonus points for mom if she can pronounce the name! This species has beautiful rosettes of pinkish leaves, topped by tiny, yellow flowers with pointed petals. When given a lot of sunlight, the gray foliage can show a reddish tint.

This Mother’s Day, show mom your love with one – or all – of the succulents on this list. Try incorporating the succulents in a cute planter for a really unique gift!

Grow These Veggies on Your Patio

As urban gardening continues to trend, container gardens are popping up everywhere! Container gardens are perfect small-space solutions. Not only do they provide added appeal to your space, they also give you delicious food right at your fingertips. If you have limited space, or simply just want to add another element to your existing crop, grow these container plants on your patio this summer.

  1. Blueberries – These sweet summer fruits grow great in containers. Because blueberries are so small, you can get a big harvest with very little space. Blueberries love acidic soil, so check the pH level of your soil and add Espoma’s Holly-tone if necessary. Check out more on growing blueberries here.
  2. Tomatoes – With tons of varieties, there is a tomato for everyone. Some of our favorites to grow in containers include smaller varieties like grape or cherry tomatoes. These are easy to pick right off the vine and are perfect for gardening with kids. Learn more about growing tomatoes in our ultimate tomato-growing guide.
  3. Peppers – Like tomatoes, peppers come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking to add some spice to your garden with jalapenos, or prefer milder bell peppers, these colorful veggies are a vibrant summer sight. Peppers love lots of direct sun, so plant these containers in a bright area.
  4. Zucchini – One of our favorite summer veggies, zucchini are a bit larger than tomatoes and peppers and need more room. Grow in a container with at least a five gallon capacity with proper drainage. Use Espoma’s Garden-tone to get the most out of your zucchini plants. Like peppers, zucchini will thrive with 6-8 hours of sunlight, so plant in a sunny spot.
  5. Herbs – Because herbs are small, they are the perfect fit for any container garden. Kitchen staples such as rosemary, basil and mint are great additions to any dish, or even a refreshing summer drink. Grow herbs in Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix in containers inside or out.

If you have limited space, don’t let that discourage you! With the right containers and a little bit of planning, you can have a delicious summer harvest in no time.

Check out this video on container plants and tell us what plants you’ll be growing in containers this season in the comments.