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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.

The Dirt on Improving Your Soil

Sunflowers bigger than the sun. Cherry tomatoes tastier than cherries. Yes! Your flowers and veggies can be that good. All they need is healthy soil.

Boost your entire garden by starting from the ground up: the soil.

Soil, as you may have thought, is not dirt. Healthy soil is a collection of creatures, minerals and living material that holds water and nutrients like a sponge, making them readily available for plants. To continue to grow big, juicy fruits and vegetables, you need to make sure you’re feeding your soil.

Think of your soil as a bank, you need to continue to make deposits so you can make withdrawals when you need to. If you continue to draw all of the nutrients out of it until it’s dry and clay-like, you’ll be disappointed in your harvests.

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Different Types of Soil

Soil can be clay-like, sandy or loamy. Ideally, you have loamy soil that is well-draining and full of organic matter.

  • Clay soil holds little water and air and is typically “heavy.” The particles are small and packed tightly, making drainage very slow.
  • Sandy soil has large, loose particles. Although it contains lots of air, it doesn’t retain moisture well because it drains so quickly, allowing nutrients to leach through the soil.
  • The ideal soil, loamy, is just the right mixture of clay, silt and sand. It holds nutrients and drains well, making it ideal for growing most fruits and vegetables.

To find out what kind of soil you have, thoroughly wet a patch of soil then let it dry for a day. Clay soil will remain in a tight ball and feel slippery. Soil that is gritty and crumbles is sandy. And slightly crumbly soil that stays in a ball is loamy.

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The Golden Ticket to a Greener Garden: Compost

In organic gardening, compost is as good as gold! Scout’s honor.

1. Go for the Gold. There’s no such thing as too much compost. Compost adds nutrients, improves soil structure and helps retain water. Compost should make up 25 percent of each planting bed or container.

2. DIY the Good Stuff. Skip the bagged compost and make compost for free by recycling food scraps. Use a compost tumbler, and turn once a week.

3. Fashion It Faster. Jumpstart your compost by adding our Organic Composter Starter, which speeds up decomposition. Then turn on the turbo by shredding scraps first.

4. Split the Spoils. Fill your compost with an even split of brown and green. Green goods, such as food and garden scraps, add nitrogen while brown items, such as paper and leaves, complement with carbon.

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Build Even Better Soil

Start with the composting tips above. Then take your soil to the next level.

1. Take the Test. Before planting, test your soil to see exactly what organic amendments it needs.

2. Curb the Chemicals. Step away from the chemical fertilizers – for the sake of your garden and pets! Opt for organic fertilizers that improve soil as they break down.

3. Make It with Mulch. Now, protect your golden soil with magic mulch. Mulch helps moderate soil temperature, prevents soil compaction and stops weeds, too.

Hands down, the best gift you can give your garden is golden soil. All your plants will be bigger, stronger and dare we say, happier!

Make Landscapes Not Landfills with Compost

Why Compost: Turn Food Scraps Into Garden Gold

Stop! Don’t throw out those leftover vegetables and coffee grinds. Mixing these kitchen food scraps with other ingredients turns ordinary garbage into black gold for the garden.

The secret to creating enriched, organic soil is compost. Compost gives the soil nutrient-rich materials and helps plants resist diseases and grow stronger. Plus composting food scraps keeps organic materials out of landfills and garbage disposals and puts them back into the earth. Best of all, it’s free!

Plus, you’ll make the planet cleaner and greener. The US tossed a whopping 131 billion pounds of food in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At Espoma, we are always looking for natural solutions. When we founded our company in 1929, we transformed ordinary ingredients into an extraordinary product for your garden.

So, to make great compost, simply follow the recipe, just like when cooking. The best compost is 50 percent green material made of garden and food scraps and 50 percent brown material, such as paper, straw or dried leaves.

Add Espoma Organic Compost Starter to help speed the composting process, for rich, fertile compost. This 100% bio-organic mix contains microbes cultured for fast, healthy composting.

Toss your compost about every two weeks to help it decompose quicker. Make it even easier by investing in a compost tumbler. Trust us, it’s worth it!

And finally, make sure your compost is getting enough to drink. Squeeze a handful of compost – while wearing garden gloves of course! If water drips, it’s too wet, so add dry brown material. If no water dribbles but the compost crumbles when released, moisten with a bit of water. Or if your area often gets rains, make an indent in the top of the compost to collect rain water.