5 Ways to Give Your Summer Garden a Boost

There’s no better way to enjoy your garden than by encouraging it to grow bigger and better. Before your summer veggies and flowers peak, take your garden to the next-level by refueling it.

Knock-out these 5 essential tasks and your garden will thank you. You’ll extend your summer season and ensure that your lawn and garden are in tip-top shape.

 

5 Ways to Give Your Summer Garden a Boost

1. Hydrate. When it’s hot, dry and muggy, the best thing is a nice cold drink. Your plants need some H2O, too. The trick to keeping your garden hydrated during the hottest days is not to water more. It’s to water smarter. Water plants deeply in the morning so they have the entire day to soak it up.

Image courtesy of Garden Answer

2. Keep plants fed. Your summer veggies and flowers are hungry. Feed hanging baskets, container gardens and annuals with liquid Bloom! plant food every 2 to 4 weeks. Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers are heavy feeders. Continue to feed every 2 weeks with organic fertilizers Tomato-tone or Garden-tone.

3. Prune and deadhead. Extend the life of perennials by deadheading flowers as soon as they are spent. This will encourage plants to keep blooming as long as weather permits. Your roses will thank you. Prune tomato suckers and shrubs now, for fuller plants later.

4. Mow lawns strategically. When mowing, keep the mower blades high (3” or higher) to encourage healthy roots. Cut grass in the evening to give it time to recover and keep yourself cool.

5. Plant more! There are many quickly maturing plants that will thrive in summer gardens and be ready for harvest in the fall. Try planting radishes, cucumbers, beans and more.

Sit back and relax! Take a good look at your hard work and dream about the rewards and bountiful harvests you’ll enjoy in the months to come.

If you’re looking to get a better tomato harvest this summer, be sure to check out our complete tomato guide!

5 Summer Edibles it’s not Too Late to Plant

It’s never too late to start an edible garden. Different fruits and vegetables thrive in all types of conditions, so you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your garden, regardless of the season.

In fact, some summer favorites can be planted now for a delicious late summer or early fall harvest. Make sure to use Espoma’s Organic Garden-tone when growing veggies this summer.

Consider these options for late June – early July planting.

Beets

These little red veggies thrive in conditions with warm days and cooler nights, making them perfect for areas with a mild summer climate. They can also adapt to grow in cool weather, making your harvest last through the fall and winter. Beets prefer full sun when possible, but still produce leafy greens in the shade.

Aside from being delicious, beets also have a ton of nutritional benefits. With loads of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and calcium, beets can help protect you from heart cancer.

Cucumbers

Nothing says summer flavor like a delicious, crisp cucumber. Cucumbers serve as a perfect addition to any summer salad or cocktail, or they can stand on their own as a yummy snack. Cucumbers thrive in warm weather and that hot summer heat will give you delicious sprawling cucumbers in as little as 50 days.

Harvest cucumbers before they get too big to encourage continued growth.

Peas

Sweet, crisp and crunchy – what else could you want from a summer vegetable? Sugar snap peas need at least six hours of full sun every day and thrive in sunny spots. As sugar snap peas grow up, support them with a trellis or stake. They will be ready to harvest within 60-90 days of planting, which will give you a delicious late summer – early fall treat.

Zucchini

Zucchini is definitely a fan favorite when it comes to summer squash. This fast growing vegetable will be ready to harvest within 45-55 days after sowing seeds. Zucchini tastes best when it measures around 4-6 inches. If it grows much bigger, the flavor will become bitter.

Be sure to give your zucchini plants plenty of room to grow as they often produce lots of vegetables very quickly.

Melons

If you live a climate where the hot summer heat lasts well into the fall, try planting watermelons in your vegetable garden. Watermelons are extremely pest and disease resistant, making them perfect for an organic garden. Watermelons typically need 80-100 days of hot, humid weather to develop their delicious sweet taste, so only plant if you live in the right climate.

For those in climates a bit more mild, try planting honeydew or cantaloupe. These melons prefer warm weather but don’t require the same amount of heat as watermelons.

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!