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Ripe for the Picking: Blackberry Harvesting Tips and Recipes

The blackberry is an iconic summer berry and right now they are ripe for the picking.

Blackberries, rich with exquisite flavors, are just as good on their own or baked into a pie. Picking blackberries is easy and a great summer activity to enjoy with family and friends. Not to mention, there are endless recipes and ways to enjoy blackberries.

These harvesting tips will ensure that you are berry successful in picking the best blackberries.

The Blackberry Harvest:

Blackberries start to ripen in July and August, but watch for early bloomers in late June. For the best flavors, it is important to pick ripe blackberries — the ones that are dark black in color and look quite plump. If the berry is a light purple or red or is quite firm, it may need a few more weeks to ripen. Not all berries will ripen at the same time so it is important to check before the birds get to them.

The picking part is easy! Most blackberries have thorns so be sure to use caution when reaching deep inside the bush for the perfect blackberry. For the healthiest blackberry bushes, use Espoma’s Holly-tone fertilizer.

When you get home, pour the blackberries on to a shallow pan to pick out any moldy or overly ripe blackberries. Blackberries keep in the fridge for about a week, but it is best to use them as soon as possible. The final step is to pick out your favorite recipe and enjoy the sweet taste of summer blackberries.

See our top recipe picks below!

Top Five Favorite Blackberry Recipes:

Mini Blackberry Pies: Do you need desert ideas for your mid-summer party? Here is a recipe for mini blackberry pies. These delicious mini pies will be a party favorite!

Blackberry Jam: Try this delectable blackberry jam recipe and your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will never be the same! Not only will you not have to buy jam this summer, but store some away in a cool dry place and you will have homemade blackberry jam all winter.

Blackberry Sorbet: Cool off in the hot summer months with this sweet and savory blackberry sorbet. This recipe is easy to make and easy to store in the freezer for another day.

Blackberry Juice: Tired of orange juice? Try this blackberry juice alternative for a sweet drink on a hot summer day.

Blackberry Syrup: Blackberry syrup is a tasty substitute for maple syrup! Try the syrup on your favorite breakfast foods and a smile is guaranteed.

Ready to grow more berries? Learn how Garden Answer grows blueberries in containers!

Grow Healthy Berries Using:

5 Unusual Containers to Grow Strawberries

There are very few things better than a sweet, juicy strawberry from your garden. Summer and strawberries go hand in hand, so if you aren’t already growing them, get them in the ground now.

But not everyone has a spot in the garden for this berry, so sometimes you need to come up with interesting and unique ways to plant them.

Choose your favorite from our options below and head over to your local garden center to pick up supplies and some Holly-tone. Your fresh strawberries won’t disappoint!

5 Unique Spots to Plant Strawberries:

Bird Bath

If you have a bird bath lying around that you no longer need, plant some strawberries in there! Add large rocks or broken terra cotta to the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Fill it the rest of the way with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix and plant your berries!

DIY Tower

Follow along with Laura from Garden Answer as she creates her own unique take on a strawberry tower. Need step by step written directions? Check it out here.

Gutter Planters

These planters, which hang on the side of the house, are perfect for anyone who needs a little space. Be sure they are fastened tightly before planting. Leave a little space between plants and the sides so they can have room to drape over the sides. Once planted, water them well with Espoma’s Grow! liquid plant food.

Pallet Planter

We’ve seen Laura from Garden Answer plant a whole vegetable garden in a pallet, but we think it would be a great place for an abundance of strawberries! Gently fill them with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil to help them grow strong roots.

Flower Box Tower

This is another DIY-type planter. Stacking up flower boxes will help keep the planters off of the ground and away from any curious creatures that might want to eat your strawberries ! Plant a few of them up and watch them grow.

Espoma products to help you grow your best strawberries yet:

Grow! Plant FoodPotting Soil

Looking to learn more about growing strawberries? Check out all we have to say about this delicious berry!

When to Plant Strawberries (Hint: Think Spring)

Juicy, sweet strawberries picked from your own garden are simply the best. Plus, taking strawberries from your own garden to your plate is so rewarding. Create a berry garden by pairing with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The key to growing berries, no matter where you garden, is good-quality organic soil.

Choosing your Strawberry Plant:

The first step is to pick the type of Strawberry plant you want to grow. Take the amount of growing time Think about where you’ll plant your berries to get the best results. Visit your local garden center to find the best type of strawberry for you.

June-bearing. This traditional berry will usually produce one large harvest in late spring or early summer depending on temperature. June-bearing strawberries are available in early, mid-season and late varieties.

Ever-bearing. These scrumptious strawberries produce two to three harvests intermittently during the spring, summer and fall. Because ever-bearing plants do not send out many runners, they make great choices for containers.

Day-Neutral. Grow these to keep producing fruit throughout the growing season. They continuously fruit if temperatures are between 35-85°F. Because they produce few runners, they are great when space is limited, but the fruits are usually somewhat smaller than June bearers.

Once you’ve picked your plants, it’s time to get them in the ground. Strawberries grow best in full sun and in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.  If your pH level is too high, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for ideal soil conditions.

4 Steps to Plant Strawberries

1. Plant strawberries as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.

2. Space plants at least 20” apart. Dig holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system.

3. Plant the crown (the parts of the plant that are above ground) at soil level; firm soil around it.

4. Add compost to bed and encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

Short on space or looking to grow strawberries vertically? Check out how Laura from Garden Answer grows.

 

 

Build Your Own Vertical Strawberry Planter (Quick Version)

Have a minute? Laura from Garden Answer shows us how to make vertical strawberry planters. She walks you through step by step, showing what materials to use, what potting soil and fertilizer is needed and how to hang the finished product.

This wind chime inspired planter will add life to your garden while adding an element of design to your home.

But, be sure to keep the materials in mind – even Laura almost used toxic tubing for the project.

Pro Tip: Mixing Espoma Organic Potting Mix with the Organic Bio-Tone Fertilizer allows the strawberries to get a boost in their new container while releasing nutrients slowly to ensure the edibles are being fed for a long time.

Want to watch the extended version? View it here!

Materials she used includes:

  • Galvanized Duct Work and Cap
  • Self-Tapping Sheet Metal Screws
  • Drill, Bits and 2.5″ Bi-Metal Saw
  • 1/8 inch Quick Links (x6 pieces)
  • Chain (x3 pieces)
  • 1.5 inch Ring
  • Espoma Organic Potting Mix
  • Espoma Organic Bio-Tone
  • Strawberries of your choice
  • Moss
  • Hook

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Construction

  1. Connect your galvanized tubing. There is a rivet on where they should connect – be sure to work from one end to the other to make sure it is secure.
  2. Drill a drainage hole in the bottom of the cap with a metal drill bit. Place the cap on the corrugated end and use 5 self-tapping screws to secure.
  3. Measure your planting holes. Start an inch away from the seam to keep the integrity of the tubing. Each hole should be 7.5″ away from each other. Use a pencil to mark where to drill. This will be your starting place.
  4. Drill your holes with a 2.5″ bi-metal hole saw. Ask one person to hold the tubing while the other saws. You will end up with about 15-16 holes. Safety tip: Wear long sleeves, gloves and eye protection to protect yourself from the metal.
  5. Keep your gloves on while handling the tube as it is sharp.
  6. Drill 3 holes in the top to get it ready to hang.
  7. Attach 1/8″ quick links to each of the holes. Connect your chain to the quick links. Add one more quick link to the end of each chain and each of those will go into one 1.5″ ring.

Planting:

  1. Starting from the bottom hole, add in Espoma Organic Potting Mix and Bio-Tone Fertilizer. Pro Tip: Mixing Espoma Organic Potting Mix with the Organic Bio-Tone Fertilizer allows the strawberries to get a boost in their new container while releasing nutrients slowly to ensure the edibles are being fed for a long time.
  2. Plant each hole with a strawberry and move your way up! You can also add a plant at the very top!
  3. Take little pieces of moss and add them around the strawberry plant. This will help keep the plant inside of the planter and help clean up your project.
  4. Hang your planter with a hook (Laura uses an S-hook).
  5. Slowly water in your new planter – watering too fast can make the plants fall out since their roots haven’t been established yet.

Enjoy!

 

Four Fresh Berries to Grow This Summer

Nothing says summer like the fresh taste of homegrown fruit. Berries are becoming a staple crop in everyone’s summer garden, and for good reason! Not only are these little fruits delicious, they also provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Add some berries to your garden for a harvest the whole family is sure to love.

When growing fruits in your organic garden, be sure to use Espoma’s liquid plant foods to give you healthy blooms and abundant fruit.

Here are some of our favorite berries to grow:

Blueberries

Blueberries pack a big punch for such a small fruit. They are loaded with tons of vitamins, essential nutrients and antioxidants. Blueberries are often a favorite among kids, too. What better way to get kids involved with the garden than by planting something they love?

Blueberries also thrive in containers, making them the perfect fruit for small space gardeners. The beautiful foliage they produce is just an added bonus.

Try using Espoma’s Holly Tone plant food, perfect for acid-loving fruits like blueberries and strawberries.

Strawberries

Another fan favorite, strawberries are well-loved for their versatility. While delicious on their own, they also pair well with so many different flavors. They can be used in anything from sweet pies and homemade jams to a tasty vinaigrette dressing. Whether snacking, cooking or baking, there’s no way your strawberries will go to waste!

Strawberries grow best in soil with a pH level of 5.5-7. If your pH level is too high, use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to create the perfect growing environment.

Raspberries

The sweet summer flavor of raspberries makes a great addition to any dessert.

Raspberries often grow up instead of out, so make sure you plant with support stakes or next to a fence. A tall raspberry plant looks beautiful in any garden and draws all eyes to the beautiful red and green foliage it creates.

Blackberries

Since they don’t produce fruit the first year of planting, blackberries require a bit of patience. However, with great care we promise it will be worth the wait!

When blackberries are ready to harvest, the flavors pair very well with raspberries. Blend together in a smoothie or bake a mixed berry pie and enjoy the taste of summer.

Want to know more about growing your favorite berries? Check out our infographic

How to Plant Blueberries in Containers

Laura from Garden Answer shows how to plant blueberries in containers and fertilize with Espoma’s Holly-tone. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is!

EO_BERRY_1183x5000

The April Garden Checklist You’ve Been Waiting For

Quick! There’s much to be done outdoors and no time to waste! Shed off those winter blues and head outdoors to restore your lawn and garden. The days are getting longer and your soil is beginning to wake up. April is a great time to get out in your yard and begin again.

Wondering where to start? We’ve got 6 tasks you can accomplish this month in your own yard.

April Garden Checklist:

  1. Start tomato seeds. 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.
  2. Get planting. Hydrangeas embody everything we love about gardening. They have billowy texture, come in bright colors and are easy to care for. Plant some this month for the best blooms.
  3. Choose berries. Did you know blackberries have almost as many antioxidants as blueberries? And raspberries make the perfect addition to jam, cobblers and pies. Berries are just so delicious, scrumptious and oh-so-juicy. Plus, many berries are easy to grow and care for. Find out when, where and how to plant your favorite berries.
  4. Revitalize lawns. Perform a soil test to find out what your lawn needs, then amend and choose organic. Organic lawns need less watering, fertilizing and mowing all summer long. Yes — that means you get to spend more time enjoying your beautiful lawn and less time caring for it! Plus, as natural lawn foods break down, your soil becomes stronger on its own and needs less help.
  5. Plant blooms. Azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these shrubs thrive in almost any garden. Plus, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. Make sure you’re adding these bloomers to your garden this year.
  6. Feed roses. Your roses are waking up now, they’ve made it through a long winter and they are starving! Choose Espoma’s organic Rose-tone. It includes more nutrients than any other rose food. Most rose fertilizers contain three nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). Here’s how to feed with Rose-tone.

Sit back and relax once you’re done. April showers will give way to May flowers in no time at all.

6 Fruits and Veggies for Kids

Convincing kids to eat healthy may seem like a constant battle, but it doesn’t have to be. What easier way to get kids excited about fruits and veggies than by having them plant their own?

Growing food with kids is a great interactive learning experience. Not only will they get to spend time outdoors getting their hands dirty — what kid doesn’t love that? — they also have the chance to learn more about eating healthy and the science of growing.

For best results, choose a food that you already know your child enjoys, but isn’t too difficult to grow.

6 Plants Perfect for Kids

1. Strawberries

Trick kids into eating healthy with nature’s candy! Strawberries are a deliciously sweet snack and are also extremely high in vitamin C. Plant strawberries in your garden or start inside and then transfer outdoors.

2. Blueberries

Another sweet snack kids are sure to love, blueberries are nutritional powerhouses. These little berries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins C and K. They can be grown in containers or freely in the garden. Blueberry bushes can grow very tall, maybe even taller than your little ones!

3. Peas

This cold weather crop can withstand lower temps, so start planting in early spring. Sweet peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas are easy to grow and kids will love watching them grow tall on a trellis or vine. Simply snap off and pop in your mouth for a healthy snack on the go.

4. Tomatoes

With all the different varieties of tomatoes, there is bound to be at least one your child likes. Try planting bite size tomatoes, such as cherry or grape varieties, making it easier for kids to pick and enjoy. Smaller tomatoes like these are often sweeter, too, making for a better healthy snack. Don’t forget to feed with Espoma’s Tomato-tone, it is formulated specifically for boosting tomato growth. The best part is, it’s completely organic, making veggies safe to eat for you and your family.

5. Carrots

Growing carrots can teach kids another lesson in the garden – patience. Allowing your little ones to dig up these underground veggies will be well worth the wait. It’s almost like hunting for hidden treasure! Try growing in a variety of colors to create a rainbow of veggies.

6. Cucumbers

Cucumbers grow long and fast, making it exciting for kids to watch their progress. Have each child choose a cucumber and start a contest to see whose grows fastest. When ready to be picked, cucumbers are the perfect refreshing snack on a nice warm day.

No yard? No problem! Watch this video to learn how to grow edibles in containers.

Which fruits and veggies will you plant with your little ones? Let us know in the comments below!

Strawberry-Sweet Recipes: From Your Garden to Your Plate

It’s almost September and your strawberry plants  are still yielding fresh, summer-ripened fruit!

Strawberries are delicious and versatile. They can be used in desserts, smoothies or anything that’s cooked or pureed. They can also be frozen and made into jams. Where there’s a strawberry, there’s a way! But first, you have to know how to pick.

Prepare for Picking

In September, many strawberry plants will be busy developing latent buds for next spring’s flowers. Some will rest during late summer, only to be perk up in the middle of fall. Make sure to take advantage of your strawberry plants while they’re still producing fruit! (And remember, they’ll be back next year.)

Pick strawberries in the morning, before the sun gets too hot. Immediately after picking, place strawberries in the refrigerator. Be sure to rinse them before consuming, or before preparing a dish.

If you decide to not eat your strawberries right away or make them into a recipe, you can still freeze, dry or can them.

Our Favorite Recipes

Strawberry Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 large chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Blend ingredients together using a food processor until the consistency of the dressing is smooth.

Leftovers? Store extras in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Fresh Strawberry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups fresh strawberries, sliced and slightly mashed
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups canola or coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425◦.

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Combine eggs and oil in a separate small mixing bowl.

Mix the strawberries into egg mixture.

Blend in flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spoon into greased muffin tins until nearly full.

Bake at 425◦ for 5 minutes. After that, reduce heat to 350◦ and bake an additional 15-19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 

Balsamic Strawberry Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 20 medium strawberries, sliced
  • 10 leaves basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400◦.

Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast asparagus for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.

Boil. While the asparagus is roasting, boil the balsamic vinegar until reduced to about ¼ cup.

Serve and divide asparagus amongst plates and top with sliced berries, basil, and salt and pepper. Use a spoon to drizzle each serving of asparagus with the balsamic syrup and serve!

For more great berry recipes and other ideas, check out our Pinterest board and our ultimate berry growing guide!

Have a great strawberry recipe you want to share? Drop by our Facebook page!

Berry Healthy Recipes, Straight from the Garden!

There’s nothing more refreshing than the taste of summer berries, and in August your berries are still prime for picking!

Many berries ripen around mid-summer, so by now you already may have some practice with harvesting. Now that summer is starting to wind down, try these new recipes to prolong that sweet seasonal freshness.

When ripe, raspberries are easily removed from the plant. Refrigerate immediately and use between three and five days after picking.

“First, how can I tell when my berries are ready?”

  • Blueberries: Don’t pick them until they’re fully ripe! Wait until they turn a uniform color and can easily be pulled away from the plant. But don’t rely on color alone; check first if the berries are firm, rather than mushy. Store them in the refrigerator after you’ve collected them.
  • Strawberries: Keep the cap and stem attached. Store in the refrigerator for 2-5 days.
  • Raspberries: When ripe, raspberries are easily removed from the plant. Refrigerate immediately and use between three and five days after picking. Harvest every few days. Check soil pH. If your soil is not acidic enough, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier.
  • Blackberries: Don’t pick blackberries too early! Wait until they dull in color from the black, glossy stage. Pick ripe blackberries every 3-6 days.

For more information on taking care of your organic garden, check out our Berry Growing Guide!

Strawberries are a favorite summer fruit. Yet store-bought berries can’t come near the intense and fresh flavor of those picked right off the vine from your very own garden.

Once you’ve collected your berries, take them to the next level with these easy and delicious recipes!

  1. Slow cooker granola berry crisp: A perfect summertime dessert, made with your choice of berries from the garden. This recipe is light, fresh and healthy—a true seasonal staple!
  2. Summer berry cheesecake salad: With just five ingredients, this recipe combines the sweetness of berries with all the great flavor of cheesecake filling. Makes for a sublime summer fruit salad!
  3. Red berry vanilla almond smoothie bowl: Great for breakfast (or any other time of the day), this treat is fewer than 300 calories and takes five minutes to make. It’s a great way to add an extra summery punch to your regular breakfast routine.
  4. Summer berry kale salad: This summer salad, combines signature vibrant and tropical flavors in one quick, easy dish!
  5. Berry watermelon fruit salad: A classic take on combining peak season fruit. You can make this fruit salad well into September. Bonus tip: add a light sprinkle of lime juice before eating!
  6. Mini summer berry galettes: You’ve already got your berries ready to go! Just fold your fruits into the pie crust and bake. Now you’ve got a healthy, sweet summer treat!

What is your favorite way to prepare fresh berries in the kitchen? Try any of these recipes and want to show us a picture? Share your experience with us on our Facebook page