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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!

 

Build a Butterfly Bouquet for National Pollinator Week

What’s better than decorating your home with summer bouquets of flowers directly from your garden? Having a cut flower garden is not only convenient for on-demand bouquets, but also for adding color your garden with stunning oranges, yellows, purples, pinks and blues. While you often choose plants for bees, these flowers are for the butterflies.

 

Pollinators need love year round and that starts with gardening organically. In honor of National Pollinator Week, here are our best tips for celebrating by building a butterfly bouquet with the flowers they love!

 

Breathtaking Flowers Butterflies will Love

Yarrow (Achillea)

Yarrow is a vibrant yellow perennial. It has a lengthy flowering time from June through September. It is a relatively tall flower with an average growth height of 2.5-3 feet. Butterflies love these flowers because they’re easy to land on and also loaded with sweet nectar. Give your flowers a strong soil base to help them thrive through the hot summer months with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil. Best suited for zones 3-8.

Ox-Eye Daisies

Ox-Eye Daisies are a classic addition to your garden. Their flowering time covers the summer months from May to August. With their white rays and yellow centers, they will be sure to brighten up your cut flower garden. They grow 1-3 feet tall so they will not take up too much space. Butterflies love Ox-Eye Daisies because they are nectar-rich. Best suited for zones 3-8.

 

English Lavender

English Lavender is a garden essential! Their flowering period covers the summer months of June to August. They grow to the perfect height of 1.5-2 feet. People and butterflies love English Lavender for its fragrance and remarkable blue-purple color.. Best suited for zones 5-8.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

The Blanket Flower is a vivid, color-rich butterfly flower to add to your garden. They flower in summer months from May through August. Blanket Flowers tend to be on the shorter side, only growing 6-12 inches tall. Their stunning blood-orange red petals and yellow tips will have your jaw on the floor by the time flowering season rolls around. Butterflies cannot pass up the nectar and vivid colors on these stunning flowers. In order to get the biggest flowers, fertilize with Espoma’s Bloom! liquid plant food. Best suited for zones 3-10.

Bee Balm

Bee balm is another pollinator favorite that should earn a spot in your pollinator garden. The Bee Balm’s flowering period only covers July through August, but their violet blue, red, pink or white color will be worth it. They thrive in zones 4-8 and are relatively tall, growing an average of 2-3 feet. Bee balm is nectar-rich and its bright coloring makes it an easy sell to butterflies. Boost your Bee Balm with Espoma’s Organic Flower-tone fertilizer for big, healthy flowers. Best suited for zones 4-8.

 

Espoma products needed for a butterfly bouquet:

Bloom! Plant Food

 

 

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!

 

Guide to Starting Root Vegetable Seeds

Who’s ready to start digging in the garden? Us too.

Root vegetable crops can often be planted as soon as the soil has warmed. They’re an easy addition to start your vegetable garden. Start your seedlings now and you‘ll be able to brag about your homegrown root vegetables at the first summer BBQ of the year.

In order to be successful, plant your seeds after springs last frost date according to your region. Stop by your local garden center to pick up your seeds and supplies, soon!

Here’s how to start root vegetable seeds:

  1. Pick Your Soil

Soil for root vegetables is important as they will grow around anything intrusive buried. That will lead to deformed vegetables. They grow best in a deep, loose soil that retains moisture yet is well-drained, such as Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.  Choosing the right soil from the beginning will set up your crop for success. Prepare bed, loosen compacted soil and mix in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

Plant seeds after spring’s last frost date according to your region.

  1. Start Seeds

Sow your seeds directly into your soil. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.

  1. Water Regularly

Seeds need to stay moist while they germinate. Root crops need about 1 inch of water a week. Light waterings that only wet the surface will cause shallow root development and reduce the quality of crops.

  1. Feed Me

When the vegetables start to grow bigger, fuller leaves, give them a hand with Espoma’s Garden-Tone to help provide the nutrients needed for delicious vegetables.

  1. Thin plants

Some root plants like beets or radishes will benefit from thinning. Cut off the tops of weaker seedlings at the soil line when seedlings have 1-2 sets of true leaves.You can use many leaves as a tasty additions to salads. If you pull seedlings out of the ground, it is not recommended to transplant long rooted vegetables, like carrots and turnips, since the disturbance will cause roots to fork.

 

Want more veggies? Try this DIY vegetable pallet planter. 

 

6 Cool Weather Growing Tips

As evenings become cooler and crisper and the daylight gets shorter and shorter, it’s a signal that frost is not too far away. The change in temperature and season can leave gardeners longing for the warm summer air, instead of prepping for winter.

There’s still plenty of gardening to be done this time of year. Get the most out of your fall harvest and set your garden up for spring success by jumping on these garden tasks now.

6 Tips for Fall Gardening

Plant Trees

It’s no secret that the best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. Before you plant, evaluate the landscape to assess the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation, proximity to permanent structures, and hazards, such as overhead wires or underground pipes. Choose a site where the tree will be able to grow to its mature height. Then, dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Place the tree in the hole at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or Espoma’s All Purpose Garden Soil. Mix in an organic fertilizer such as Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil. Backfill the hole, give it a nice drink of water and watch your tree grow.

Get Bulbs in the Ground

Spring-blooming bulbs can generally be planted any time before the soil begins to freeze. Give bulbs their best shot by planting a few weeks before the ground is frozen to help them establish roots. Be sure to add in a scoop of Bulb-tone to each planting hole.

Improve the Soil

While fall is for planting, it’s also the perfect time for prepping for next season. Healthy soil is the backbone of every successful garden. Test soil now for pH and nutrient levels and amend accordingly. Dig 4” deep with a stainless steel trowel and either use a DIY soil test or send your soil sample to the county extension office.

To adjust the PH level of your soil, use Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime to raise the pH of very acidic soil. Poke holes in the soil’s surface and scatter on the lime. Rake lightly into the top inch of soil. Or, apply Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soil.

 Create Compost

All of those colorful leaves that are falling make for perfect additions to your compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile already, start one! The best compost contains about 25 times more carbon-rich materials than nitrogen-rich materials. Think of these as brown and green materials. Brown materials include paper, straw or dried leaves. Green materials include garden and food scraps. Add Espoma’s Compost Starter to help speed the composting process, for rich, fertile compost.

 Top with Mulch

Add a thick blanket of mulch to reduce evaporation and control weeds.

Choose organic mulch that will improve the soil as it decomposes. Lay 2 – 3” of mulch around established plants.

When mulching trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to just beyond the drip line covering a bit of the roots. Keep 2 – 3” away from the stems of woody plants and 6 – 12” away from buildings to avoid pests.

Prep and harvest fall crops

If it looks like frost will arrive earlier than expected, protect your crops and extend your growing season by covering with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Use stakes to keep the cover from touching the plants.

 

Looking for an indoor project? Check out this low-light succulent planter from Garden Answer.

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. Enrich the soil with Espoma’s All-Purpose Garden Soil  and 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.

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!

Hanging Plants: Make Your Own Kokedama

Houseplants that you don’t have to think about are the best. And extremely low maintenance ones that look great are even better. Enter Kokedama. This traditional Japanese art form encloses a plant’s roots in moss to retain moisture.

Kokedama literally mean “moss ball.” The style originated from the Nearai and Kusamono bonsai styles and today, this design goes one step further when the moss balls are suspended with string.

You can use almost any small indoor plant for this project. When choosing your plant, think about where you will display your Kokedama and keep lighting needs in mind for your plant.

It’s not hard to make your own. Follow along with these instructions.

For this project, you will need:

Photo Mar 12, 4 47 17 PM

6 Steps to making a Kokedama

  1. Mix it. Kokedama uses heavier soil and we recommend using a ratio of 70 percent indoor potting soil with 30 percent garden soil. In a bucket, mix soil well. Add a small amount of water to bond the soil together so it has a clay-like feel. Soil should be sticky and pliable once all ingredients have been mixed.
  2. Ball it. Depending on the size of your plant, form a ball ranging in size from a plum to a grapefruit. Gently insert your thumbs into the middle of the ball, keeping the sphere intact. This is where your plant roots will go.
  3. Plant it. Remove plant from container, gently shaking off excess soil. Dunk roots in water. Place your plant’s roots into the soil ball, gently forming the soil around roots and adding more soil if necessary.
  4. Cover it. Dip moss in water, then squeeze out excess water. Place and press the damp moss around the soil ball. Leave enough space around the plant for breathing room.
  5. String it. Once your ball has taken shape, securely wrap and tie it with twine. Now, add a piece or wire or twine at your desired length for hanging.
  6. Soak it. Place the Kokedama in a bucket and cover the moss ball with water without submerging the plant. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes then you’re ready to go! Do not let the Kokedama dry out completely before soaking again. Depending on the plant and environment, soak Kokedama about once a week.

Once you’re done with your Kokedama, try your hand at this succulent planter DIY!

Fall is for Planting: Trees

The best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. A well-placed tree will cool your home in summer and block cold winter winds. Not to mention that the aesthetics can increase your home’s curb appeal and add value.

Even though you may be prepping for winter, you can still set your new tree or shrub up for success by planting it in a spot where it can thrive for generations to come.

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Decide on the right tree for your yard and needs before you plant. Choose a tree based on the characteristics you want — shade, wildlife habitat, privacy or to block the wind. Check out the below six steps from Hillermann Nursery and Florist to start planting this fall.

6 Easy Steps to Plant a Tree or Shrub

You’ve found the right tree and the perfect spot, now it’s time for the fun part. It doesn’t take much to plant a tree — just a shovel, tape measure and hose. To help your new tree survive, you’ll need to put in extra effort. Use these tips to help your new tree to grow.

  1. Size up your yard for the perfect spot. Take the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation and hazards like wires or pipes into consideration. Plant at least 15 feet away from your house, sidewalks, driveways and other trees. Allocate enough space in the yard for your new tree to grow. Consider its mature height, crown spread, and root space. A fully grown tree will take up much more space than your tiny sapling. Look up to make sure a fully grown tree won’t interfere with anything overhead.
  2. Start digging. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Then, arrange the tree at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil.
  3. Give trees a boost. Mix in an organic fertilizer such as Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil. For a trunk diameter up to 1.5 inches, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone. If the trunk is 2-3”, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone per inch. So, if your tree trunk is 2.5 inches, use 10 pounds of Tree-tone. And, for tree trunks over 3 inches, use 5 pounds of Espoma Tree-Tone per inch.
  4. Stake the tree. Use two opposing, flexible ties to stake the tree. Place ties on the lower half of the tree to allow trunk movement.
  5. Help your new tree become established by watering it weekly for the first two years.
  6. Finish with mulch. Use 2 ½ -3 inches of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch around the plant. Do not over mulch up to the trunk or “volcano” mulch. This can kill the tree.

Planting a tree is an investment in your home and your community that will pay off for years to come. To learn about fertilizing established trees, watch this Garden Answer video.

Why Fall is the Best Time to Plant Perennials

This month we’ve covered fall gardening basics, how to plant cool-season veggies and fall planted bulbs. If you’re starting to wonder what you can’t plant in the fall, the answer is almost nothing.

We’re going to help you get a head start on spring by planting perennials in the fall. Perennials, those plants that return each year, provide a low-maintenance way to have a beautiful, colorful garden. Your garden will take on a life of its own as the perennials continue to expand year after year.

Perennials, those plants that return each year, provide a low-maintenance way to have a beautiful, colorful garden.

While fall is for planting, Al’s Garden Center still has a few tricks that will ensure your plants look their best in that first season.

Plant Fall Perennials in 8 Steps

  1. Start by preparing the soil. Dig out rocks, weeds and other debris.
  2. Dig a hole deep enough for the root ball and twice as wide.
  3. Gently remove plant from pot and gently loosen roots.
  4. Mix in 3 inches of compost or other organic matter.
  5. Remove the plant from its pot and loosen roots before planting. Place plant in hole and backfill the hole with a good quality garden soil.
  6. Water immediately. Cover the planting area with a natural mulch of bark or straw. Mulch keeps soil moist and protects new roots from freezing.
  7. Finish by adding an organic plant food such as Espoma’s Start!
  8. Water at least 1 inch per week until the ground freezes. This keeps roots growing and helps plants get established before winter dormancy.

Fall Perennial Plant Picks

  1. Choose perennials that add color to your garden in early spring such as hellebore and astilbe.
  2. Plant or transplant spring-blooming power-house shrubs such as rhododendrons and azaleas.Perennials, those plants that return each year, provide a low-maintenance way to have a beautiful, colorful garden.
  3. Choose pollinator friendly plants such as phlox, coneflower and aster. You can plant, divide or transplant.
  4. Divide and replant hostas and daylilies. Learn more about dividing perennials.
  5. Peonies should always be planted or transplanted in the fall. Plant 2 inches above the root ball.
  6. Plant and transplant irises, Asiatic and Oriental lilies.

Have a question we didn’t answer? Visit our Facebook page and ask us!

Al’s Garden Center is a third generation owned and operated local family business.  Established in Woodburn, OR in 1948, Al’s is now the largest full-service independent garden center in the Willamette Valley.  Through its three retail stores, Al’s provides an extensive selection of plants, plant care essentials, garden accessories, outdoor furniture and home décor.

Transplant Hydrangeas in Fall

You’ve had an amazing hydrangeas season. But by now, they may have outgrown their spot in your yard. Or, they might need a new spot to thrive.

Luckily, it’s easy to transplant hydrangeas.

Change the look of your yard or give hydrangeas more space to grow with these simple steps from English Gardens.

Care for hydrangeas by planting them in the right spot.

7 Steps to Transplanting Hydrangeas

1. Transplant at the right time. Plan to transplant before the ground freezes over. Wait until hydrangeas have finished flowering or gone dormant for the year before moving them.

2. Find a new home. Pick a place for the hydrangea that doesn’t receive too much sun. Hydrangeas prefer semi-shade. Make sure your location can accommodate the size of the rootball.

3. Dig carefully. Use your shovel to make cuts around the hydrangea before actually digging it up. When pulling the plant up, remove with it as much of the rootball as possible. The rootball, dense with fibrous roots and soil, may be very heavy, so enlist help if you need it.

4. Plant right. Move the plant to its new home. When digging the hole for the transplant, be sure to leave enough room for the rootball. Add Bio-Tone Starter Plus to help reduce transplant shock and establish roots. After the plant is moved, fill in the hole with Espoma Organic All-Purpose Garden Soil and compost.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

5. Give them a drink. Dormant transplanted hydrangeas need a deep watering. Water thoroughly once transplanted using a hose, rather than a watering can or sprinkler, to quench the hydrangeas’ thirst.

6. Watch closely. After transplanting, pay careful attention to the next two summers. Hydrangeas need plenty of water during these hot months. If the leaves wilt, but the soil seems moist enough, mist leaves. Fertilize hydrangeas twice each year with Espoma’s Holly-tone, once in early spring and a half feeding in fall.

7. Mulch. To prevent the rootball from drying out, apply mulch to the base of the hydrangeas.

Have any tips for transplanting hydrangeas? Let us know in the comment section!

Also, check out the complete hydrangea-growing guide for more information on making the most of your hydrangea garden!

English Gardens ranks as the 13th largest independent garden center in the United States.  The family-owned business was named the 2015 IGC Retailer of the Year from the IGC (Independent Garden Center) Magazine.  The award is presented annually to a garden center demonstrating notable leadership and innovation.  The award was established in memory of Dick Morey, founder of IGC Magazine and an advocate for the independent garden center industry.

Founded in 1954, English Gardens offers top quality products, including plants and flowers for indoors and outdoors, gardening supplies, patio furniture, garden décor, landscape design and installation, as well as the area’s largest selection of Christmas trees and decorations.