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.

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons – Grow Them Indoors!

Everyone loves houseplants – they provide greenery and pops of color to your home. Sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a little bit. Growing citrus indoors is actually easier than you think!

Unless you live in a warm climate year round, growing citrus outside can be tough. Bringing it indoors will keep it at the temperature it needs and gives it a chance to thrive.

Just imagine seasoning your salmon on a chilly night, adding fresh lemon to your water, or making a natural cleaner and being able to grab citrus right out of your living room to do it! And Meyer lemon trees smell so good too!

How to Grow a Citrus Tree Indoors:

1. Choose your container

If allowed, citrus trees will grow incredibly tall. Keep citrus trees from hitting the ceiling by choosing a container that is deeper than it is wide. This will help roots to grow down and not out, keeping the tree balanced as it grows.

If the tree will stay in one well-lit area year-round, any container will do. If you are moving it from room to room to follow the sunlight per season, a thinner plastic container is lighter and easier to transport. Make sure your container has adequate drainage holes.

2.The right soil

Citrus trees don’t like wet feet. A light well-drained soil mix, such as Espoma’s Cactus Potting Soil, works best to grow your tree in. It provides the tree with enough water to keep it happy and allows the excess to drain quickly.

Fill your container with just enough soil so your root ball is just under the lip of the container. This helps your tree to get the right nutrients and drain correctly.

3. Plant your tree

Before placing the root ball in the container, be sure to sprinkle Espoma’s Citrus-Tone on your soil as directed.

Center your tree’s root ball and fil the sides in with soil. Tuck the soil in the sides, so the tree doesn’t lean. Feed your tree regularly to ensure successful and juicy citrus.

4. Choose your location

Citrus trees require 8-12 hours of sunlight a day. Be sure to choose a south-facing window with good airflow. In the winter months, you may need to supplement with a grow light if there isn’t enough daylight.

5. Give it a drink

While citrus trees don’t like their feet wet, they also don’t like to dry out. If the first inch of the soil dries out, be sure to water your tree. If you water about once a week, you should be using around ¼ of a gallon. If the tree is standing in drainage overflow, be sure to allow it to dry before watering again.

Do you have outdoor trees that need to be fertilized? Watch this video to learn how!

 

Christmas Cactus Care

Laura from Garden Answer gives her best tips for caring for everyone’s favorite holiday plant – the Christmas cactus. These plants can live for year’s with the right care. Learn how to keep your Christmas Cactus blooming!

 

African Violet FAQs

We are big fans of African violets and know many of you are, too! These houseplants add color to any space in winter and their cheerful flowers make us smile.

Since African violets can be picky about where they want to be and how they want to be watered, we created a go-to guide for you.

Keep your plant happy and healthy with these African violet frequently asked questions.

The Basics

  • How do I pick the perfect plant?
    • Select a healthy African violet in your choice of color that has dark green, spot-free leaves.
    • Look for a plant with one growing center, known as a single crown, to get the most blooms.
  • What container should I use?
    • Keep in mind that the roots grow out, not down, so a shallow wide container works better than a narrow tall container.
  • What potting soil should I use?
  • How much light should my African violet get?
    • African violets need indirect sunlight, as direct sun can burn the leaves.
    • Choose a north- or east-facing window and keep plants away from cold glass.
    • Rotate the pot once a week so all leaves receive light.
    • Extend daylight by placing African violets under a grow light during winter months.
  • Do my African violets need to stay warm?
    • African violets prefer the same temperatures most people find comfortable: between 70-80°F during the day, and around 65–70°F at night.
  • How do I water my plant so it is happy?
    • Only water your violet when the soil is dry to the touch.
    • Fill the pot’s saucer, and allow the roots absorb the amount of water they need. After an hour, dump any remaining water to avoid over watering.
  • When Should I fertilize?

Getting Leggy

  • What causes my African violet to get leggy?
    • Leggy is when new growth forms on a plant tip. This new growth takes most of the energy away from the bottom of the plant.
    • The three main reasons on why your plant is getting leggy are age, water and light. For more information on this, visit this blog.
  • What can I do to help my leggy plant?
    • The best (and easiest) way to help it is to repot your African violet. Allowing more room for roots and a better growing atmosphere, will help your plant succeed.

Repotting Plants

  • How often should I repot my African violet?
    • Once a year should be enough to keep your plant happy. It will provide new space for root growth and also prevent it from getting leggy.
  • Can I use the same size container?
    • You want to find a slightly bigger container than the one it is in now – never smaller. While African violets like to be root bound to bloom, you want to provide space for it to breathe and grow.
  • Can I reuse the soil?
    • It’s best to start fresh with an organic potting soil made specifically for African violets such as Espoma Organic African Violet Mix. Using the same soil can bring new infestations to your plant that may not be prevalent now.
  • How close to the top of the pot should the root ball be?
    • You want the root ball to be below the top of the container. Don’t forget to center your plant!
  • Do I need to compact the plant in the new pot?
    • It is best to tuck your plant in to the new pot gently. Pressing too hard can harm the leaves, but not tucking it can cause problems in growing.
    • Settle the plant by watering it from the saucer.

 

Start Propagating

  • Is it difficult to propagate African violets?
    • Not at all! It’s one of the easiest plants to propagate.
  • Where do I start?
    • Find a healthy leaf on one of your current plants. Be sure to have a clean cut on it before planting it in your soil. For full directions, see here.
  • How long does it take?
    • At about 3-4 weeks, roots should begin forming on the leaf.
    • In another 3-4 weeks, your new leaves will start to sprout.
    • When the sprouts get 2-3 leaves on them, which is around the 2-6 month mark, you will need to repot.

Have any more questions? Reach out to us on Facebook!

Big-Leaf Drama – Indoor plants with oversized foliage

There’s no such thing as too many houseplants – nor is there such a thing as too big of a houseplant. Dramatic leaves, oversized foliage and overhanging limbs make houseplants the center of attention in any household.

Depending on where big leaf plants are placed, they can help draw attention to a room or hide that patch in the wall that you don’t want anyone to see.

Our Favorite Oversized Foliage Houseplants

  1. Monstera

Known as the split leaf philodendron, the foliage on this plant is striking. Being a tropical variety, this plant can survive low light and higher humidity. It has large, lush, dark green foliage that stands out against a blank wall. Keep it near a window with indirect light and watch it grow. Don’t forget to share it on Instagram using the hashtag #monsteramonday.

  1. Bird of Paradise

This exotic plant draws attention in your home. Not only is the foliage large, it can grow up to 8 feet tall. The leaves are evergreen and arranged in a way that the leaves look like a bird’s head and beak. Keep it in front of a window that gets 4-5 hours of sunlight a day.

  1. Fiddle Leaf Fig

With its height and large leathery foliage, this houseplant can really change up a room. The glossy foliage will add flare wherever you need a little splash of dark color. Inside, it can grow up to 8 feet tall. It is aesthetically pleasing and can complement any room decor. Keep it in a well-lit spot, where it will get indirect sunlight all day long.

 

  1. White Snake Plant

This easy to care for plant will certainly make a statement. While the foliage isn’t as wide as the previously listed plants, it can grow up to three foot tall. A snake plant will survive anything. Low light loving and drought tolerant, so if you accidently forget about it for a few days, it will be just fine. Place in an area you want to add a little height for a dramatic appeal to your home.

 

  1. Rubber Tree

If you’re looking for a tree that gives the best of everything, a rubber tree is for you. It has large evergreen leaves, impressive height and cleans the air around you. It is easy to care for and can survive even after being neglected for a few days. It will eventually reach up to 8 feet tall. Keep it somewhere where you spend a lot of time, especially a home office or a children’s room, in order to really reap the air cleaning benefits.

 

Just because these houseplants are oversized, doesn’t mean they are too big of a job for Espoma’s Indoor liquid fertilizer. By feeding your houseplants as directed, you keep your attention grabbers happy and healthy.

 

Quick Succulent Snow Globe DIY

Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to bring the outdoors in for the winter months. Make this easy potted plant snow globe using succulents and Espoma’s organic cactus mix. Ask kids to help make these tiny globes or make them yourself. They’re perfect for holiday decor or to give as gifts to the plant lover in your life.

 

Here are the basics:

  1. Gather your winter crafting materials, paint, potting soil, globe ornament, fairies, ribbons and succulents. Choose a small container such as a terracotta pot to serve as your base.
  2. Paint container and let dry.
  3. Fill with Espoma’s Cactus Mix
  4. Cut a large opening in clear ornament
  5. Drill a small hole in the ornament for air flow and to water succulents with an eye dropper
  6. Add a miniature toy, fairy and/or succulents
  7. Make it feel like the holidays by adding faux snow
  8. Tie a ribbon or string around the container and finish with a bow.

Want to see more? Check out our YouTube channel!

Grow Your Own Microgreens

Microgreens add fresh flavor and nutrients to salads, sandwiches, smoothies and stir-fries. These plants are harvested when they’re young, usually about two weeks after planting.

 

Plus, microgreens contain about five times more vitamins than if grown to mature vegetables, according to USDA researchers. Adding microgreens to smoothies will boost the nutritional content without adding strong flavors.

 

While you’re waiting to start seeds for the spring, try growing microgreens for a fun winter project. They’ll also be the perfect complement to your indoor herb garden.

6 Steps to Grow Winter Microgreens:

  1. Soak seeds in room temperature water for no more than eight hours before you plant them.
  2. Select a container that will hold an inch of soil. This can be a seed-starting tray, plastic take-out dish, disposable pie plate or even a clear salad box.
  3. Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom. Set container on a cookie sheet, plastic tray or container to prevent spillage.
  4. Add 1” of Espoma’s Seed Starter and sprinkle with seeds. Lightly cover seeds with soil and water lightly.
  5. Cover container with a damp paper towel or newspaper to keep the seeds from drying out. Lift the cover daily and spray lightly with water until sprouting begins.
  6. Remove the cover when sprouts appear and move microgreens to a sunny windowsill.
  7. Harvest microgreens by cutting the tops with scissors when they are 2” or taller. Rinse sprout tops in a strainer. Microgreens can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  8. Continue harvesting microgreens for up to three weeks.

Dreaming of the outdoors? Learn how to plant veggies in containers for next year!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVVyRRJDfSk&t=67s

Keeping Things Simple- Propagating African Violets

African Violets are one of the most loveable houseplants — packing lots of beauty in such a small plant. Gardeners love having them as a reminder of spring or summer indoors, while the seasons outside might be a little dreary. They seem to want more and more of them every year.

Save money and take your gardening skills to the next level by propagating them? It may sound intimidating to propagate an African Violet in the first place, but it is actually really simple – even beginning gardeners can do it.

Propagating African Violets from leaves

1. Choose a Leaf

Look for a leaf that is healthy and fresh, but has been established on the plant. You want to be sure the leaf is still full of life and not old and tough. Keep the petiole attached to the leaf.

Optional Step: With a sharp knife or razor, trim off the top of the leaf blade. This will encourage faster production of roots by sending all of the energy back into the soil and not into leaf growth.

2. Cut Leaf Petiole

Trim the petiole (the stem) to about ½ to 1 inch in length for best results. When trimming, be sure to cut it at a 45 degree angle to encourage root and plant growth.

3. Plant your Cutting

Find a small container and fill it with Espoma’s Organic African Violet Potting Mix. Make a shallow hole, using your finger or pencil. Place your leaf cutting in, stem side down, and firm the soil around it. Moisten the soil to lock in the cutting.

4. Give it Sunshine

Your cutting needs humidity and sunshine in order to grow. Place it in a clear covered container or put a clear plastic bag over it to provide humidity. Place this in a bright place without being in direct sun. Try to find a window that provides moderate temperature.

5. Plantlets Sprout

Patience is key here. At about 3-4 weeks, roots should begin forming on the petiole. In another 3-4 weeks, your new leaves will start to sprout. When the sprouts get 2-3 leaves on them, which is around the 2-6 month mark, you will need to repot.

 

Keep maintaining your sprouts and plantlets to nurse them into full grown African Violets. Keep your fully grown African Violets happy and healthy with Espoma’s Violet! liquid fertilizer.

How to Decorate for Thanksgiving With Plants

Plants are the perfect décor for any holiday occasion, especially Thanksgiving. Houseplants fit in perfectly with the magnificent fall colors and magical feel of autumn. Use plants to transform your holiday table this Thanksgiving into something truly beautiful. What’s even better is there’s a style for every personality!

Use these easy steps to get the perfect look.

1. Pick a Focal Point

Select a plant that will draw your eye and establish the look for your centerpiece. A popular choice in focal plants is the croton, due to its exceptional color and texture, which brings autumn to the table. Crotons come in bright yellow, rich gold, flaming orange, deep red, and burgundy purple which, paired with its height, will brighten the table. Any houseplant with a full autumn palate is perfect to be a focal point.  Keep the plant well-fed with our Indoor! liquid fertilizer to ensure your plant stays full of color all season long.

2. Dress it Up

To make a beautiful centerpiece really feel complete, find a fun container for your plant. If you are using this as a temporary focal point for Thanksgiving, any container will do. Otherwise, if you are looking for a more long term arrangement, be sure the container has proper drainage holes. Another option is to keep it in the original pot and wrap a seasonal cloth around the container to dress it up. Really stretch your creative mind and find a unique container, like a holiday turkey vase or a cornucopia to fill with a houseplant.

3. Accessorize

Be as creative as you’d like by adding supportive accents and characters to your table. Autumn themes accents like pinecones, colorful leaves or various gourds to compliment your focal point plant. Yellow and orange chrysanthemums placed in a smaller container will keep within the Thanksgiving vibe.

The thing to remember is to have fun with it and make something truly unique for the holidays.  Be sure to remember to monitor the light, water and to feed with Indoor! liquid fertilizer as directed for a long lasting beautiful plant.

Need more autumn inspiration? Check out Garden Answer’s make a fall succulent DIY!

 

Winter Garden Plants that Dazzle

Jack Frost is starting to nip at our noses and cold fronts are coming in. Summer and fall colors have come and gone and gardens are left with cut back perennials and the anticipation of spring blooms. But your garden doesn’t have look lack luster due to the cold! Some blooms thrive in the winter.

Plant these hardy, winter thriving plants and watch them dazzle even in the snow. They will add color even in the dreariest months of the year.

6 Dazzling Plants for Winter Months

Hellebore

This winter-loving plant will impress any holiday visitors. Also called Christmas Rose, Hellebore will show off beautiful blooms from mid-December through early spring. It grows tall enough for its blooms to poke out even after a good snowfall. The colors of the flower come in white, green, pink, purple, cream and even spotted. Hellebore grows well in zones 4-9 and in partial shade.

Witch Hazel

Keeping its fall color through the winter, witch hazel is bright and beautiful against the white snow. This shrub can be massive, growing more than 12 feet tall in some areas. Witch hazel puts out red and yellow clusters that look like little suns. It fits well in woodland gardens or can be used as a focal piece in a garden. Witch hazel grows well in zones 3-9 and in full to partial sun.

Winter Heath

Mounding, soft needle ground covers that provide color in the winter is a must-have in the garden. Winter heath brings dainty purple flowers that bloom in December and last through April. It only grows about a foot tall, but it will spread twice the height. Depending on the variety, winter heath grows well zones 4-8 and in full sun.

Camellia

With sturdy foliage and rose-like blooms, camellias are often found in the South. Some varieties will surprise you with their hardiness in the snow. These varieties come in colors from white to pink. They grow well in acidic soil, using Espoma’s Holly-Tone to fertilize will set them up for success. Camellia grows well in zones 6-9 and in partial sun.

Winterberry

Winterberry provides year-round interest with beautiful greenery in the summer and bright, lipstick-red berries in the winter. Mirroring the traditional holly, the bright berries make the shrub stand out in a winter holiday setting. Winterberry grows well in zones 3-9 and in full to partial sun.

China Blue Vine

This evergreen is hardy and dependable. In the spring, it produces lovely, fragrant bell shaped flowers in a variety of colors ranging from ivory to mauve. The foliage stands out year-round by being thick and shiny. It holds the foliage lower so it will not topple over in the snow.  China Blue Vines grow well in zone 7-9 and in full to partial sun.

Give winter plants their best chance by planting with Espoma’s Bio-Tone.

Need tips on how to prepare your garden for winter? Check out this blog!