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Fall is for Planting: Cool-Season Veggies

There is nothing better than the taste of fresh picked produce, except maybe when its fall, and you expected your garden to be put to bed by now!

Even though leaves are starting to change, your organic veggie garden has plenty of time left to produce. Help your fall garden thrive with these four tips from Behnke’s Garden Center.

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Fall is For Planting: Four Tips for Growing a Cool-Season Organic Veggie Garden

  1. Start planting. Now is the time to plant fall veggie seedlings. Fast growing, frost-tolerant plants such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, beets carrots, lettuce, spinach and herbs will keep growing even as the temperature drops.
  2. Fertilize. For a bigger harvest, feed veggies monthly with an organic fertilizer. Your soil has been hard at work all summer and is in need of nutrients. Keep your garden growing with a healthy feeding.

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  1. Harvest soon. Once your crops start ripening, go out and pick every day. Here’s when to harvest your organic veggies:
  • Lettuce and spinach: Cut outer leaves when young and tender.
  • Kale: Pick when the leaves are as big as your hand.
  • Carrots: Pick when the top of the carrot is 1” wide.
  • Broccoli: Cut broccoli when its head is 4-7” wide.
  • Cauliflower: Cut when its head is 2-3” wide.
  1. Don’t forget to Cover. If frost arrives sooner than expected have a plan to protect your crops from the cold. Water your bed and then cover with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Keep the cover from touching plants with stakes and use bricks to hold it in place. Remove cover when temperatures warm again.

What are you growing in your fall garden? Let us know in the comments!

Behnke Nurseries garden center in Beltsville, MD has provided plants, ceramic pots, and gardening supplies to gardeners since 1930.  Behnke’s offers a very wide selection of perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees and houseplants, and the experienced staff will advise you on the best options for your garden. The Holiday Shop provides a charming Christmas experience and carefully chosen accents for year ’round, while the selection of bonsai by Ducky Hong is unsurpassed.  Behnke’s welcomes gardeners of all levels of expertise: come and learn at their frequent free lectures.

Fall Is the Best Time for Planting

Every gardener knows it. Fall is for planting. From the cooler weather and heaps of rain to fewer pests, diseases and weeds, fall has distinct planting benefits.

Throughout the fall we will identify some of the best plants and activities to do in fall. Stay tuned for our expert tips, guest blog posts and giveaway’s.

But in the meantime, learn why planting in fall can make spring gardening much, much easier.

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6 Reasons Why Fall is the Best Time to Garden

1. Work is Easier on Plants… And You

The cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. Neither of you need to suffer through the intense summer heat. Yet, in fall, the soil is still warm enough for roots to thrive. They will grow and get established until the ground freezes.

2. There is More Time in Fall

There are more good days for planting in fall than in spring, when bad weather can make being outside impossible. Plus, you have more free time as a gardener than during the spring rush.

Note: The window for fall planting ends six weeks before your average hard frost, usually September or October.

3. Mother Nature Does the Watering for You

In many regions of the country, fall showers happen often. You might not ever have to water new plantings, which means less maintenance for you. However, due to the cooler temperatures, it’s a cinch to water plants if it doesn’t rain at least 1” per week.

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4. Easier Weed Control

In the fall, weed seeds are dormant, i.e., they don’t grow. So any weeds that do grow up in your flowers are easily removed when they first appear as sprouts in spring.

5. Bye-Bye Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are less prevalent in the fall. Most of the bugs are either dead or preparing to hibernate in fall. Plus, the humidity that promotes many diseases fades away.

6. Fall Planting Results in Earlier Blooms

Like fall-seeded lawns, fall-planted wildflower seed has a chance to “settle” into your site during the winter, and is ready to burst into growth in early spring. This is why fall-planted wildflower seed is up and in bloom about two weeks earlier than spring-planted seed.

While all of these make compelling reasons to garden in the fall, the season also means bargain time at garden centers. Check back often for the best deals.

Have a picture of your fall garden that you want to share? Drop by our Facebook page!

How to Fertilize Trees

 

Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to fertilize a tree using Espoma’s Tree-tone. The slow release formula provides a long lasting nutrient reservoir to feed the entire tree, leaves, trunk, and roots.

Step-by-Step: Prep the Garden for Winter

Did you feel that? Jack Frost has flown in for the season. We’ve already felt the first nip of cold weather, which means your garden has, too.

For many, the first frost date arrives in late October or early November.

Help your garden weather the cold this season. Prepare the lawn and garden beds now for an easy, fruitful spring.

Gardening for winter consists mostly of outdoor cleanup, followed by an indoor revival. Cleanup first, though!

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Clip, Drip and Equip the Garden before Winter

  • Discard the Deceased. Compost spent annuals and vegetable plants.
  • Protect Perennials. Water perennials (rose bushes included!) once more. Then, after the ground freezes, cut perennials back to 3”, and remove any dead or diseased cane on roses. Finally, mulch.
  • Create a Clean Slate.Remove weeds from garden beds and then create superb soil. Take the soil test and add organic amendments as needed. After a hard freeze, mulch beds.

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So Long to the Lawn

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Ta-Ta for Now Trees

  • Leave the Leaves. Turn those golden leaves into garden gold by composting them!
  • Bolster the Bark. Feed trees with an organic tree fertilizer, such as Espoma’s Tree-tone for winter sustenance.
  • Stare at the Bare. After the leaves have fallen, examine your tree for weak spots and problems to prevent damage from fallen tree limbs during snow storms.

Your garden’s been put to bed for the winter and will surely sleep soundly. Now, let’s focus on those incredible indoor plants to keep you gardening all winter long.

Host a Haunted Homegrown Halloween Dinner

Round up the whole gang and dress in your best for a spine-chilling, homegrown Halloween meal.

Start by gathering the fruits of your organic fall gardening efforts, or head to your local farmer’s market to see what’s in season.

Boo! Prepare a Spooky and Scrumptious Homegrown Halloween Dinner (Because even goblins and ghouls prefer homegrown on Halloween.)

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Scary Snacks. Cook up a few frightful and finger-licking good snacks.

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Frightening Feast. All the best fall flavors featured in fangtastic dishes.

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Daring Decor. Use organic and recycled material to create eco-friendly Halloween decor.

And don’t forget to Post a Pumpkin. Whether you carve, paint or bedazzle your pumpkin, there is still time to show it off in our “Pumpkin Decorating Contest.”

Talk about a hoot of a Halloween party! Imagine how much fun your friends and family will find this homegrown Halloween garden dinner!

Keep Your Lawn Strong – Even in the Dead Of Winter

If you want a greener lawn in spring, did you know the most important time to organically fertilize your grass is the fall? Most people guess spring!

Learn why a fall fertilizer — or winterizer — is so important and how to correctly apply this organic lawn food.

Winter Lawn Care Essentials: Boost Your Lawn with an Organic Lawn Winterizerwinter lawn care

In the fall and winter, your lawn looks like it’s done growing, but it’s actually flourishing underground. Grass roots are absorbing nutrients so long as the ground isn’t frozen.

Applying a slow-release, organic lawn winterizer supplies your grass with nutrients throughout fall and winter.

A lawn winterizer is simply a food formulated to help your lawn survive winter. Lawn winterizers contain nitrogen to promote thicker, fast-growing grass come spring. This organic, winter fertilizer also possesses potassium to help lawns recover from summer droughts.

In spring, your grass then uses this stored energy to grow greener grass fast — usually by mid-March.

Put Your Lawn to Bed with an Organic Winterizer

  1. Give Your Lawn a Look. Check if you have cool or warm-season grass. Most areas with freezing winters grow cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, ryegrass or fescue. Southern regions have warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda, Saint Augustine or Zoysia. Only apply winterizer to cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses do not get fertilized at this time.
  2. Prime Time. Apply an organic lawn winterizer one week after your final mow of the season. Or if it’s easier to remember, apply around the week of Thanksgiving.
  3. Need to Feed. Spread organic fertilizer onto dry grass. Get step-by-step instructions on applying lawn winterizer here.

Applying a lawn winterizer is like wrapping your lawn up in a cozy blanket and presenting a warm cup of soup.  Your lawn stays warm and well-fed during winter, so it can grow back thicker, greener and faster next spring.

Still looking for more info? Check out our Winter Lawn Care Pinterest board?

Score More from Your Organic Fall Garden Crops

Organic gardening in the fall always feels like such a treat. Even though the leaves may be changing, your veggie garden is still going strong! While the seasons are transitioning, you’re making the most of every moment — going to football games, bundling up in cozy sweaters, and munching on homegrown produce.

Help your organic garden to produce more veggies than ever this fall with these four tips.

1. Feed to Succeed. Feed your veggies once a month for a bigger, bountiful harvest. This is especially important if you had other crops planted in the same spot earlier. Those crops depleted the garden soil of its nutrients. Luckily, an organic plant fertilizer replenishes the nutrients to keep your produce growing strong.

Step-by-step instructions on adding an organic plant fertilizer here!

2. Pick of the Pack. The more you pick, the more produce you get! Once your crops start ripening, go out and pick every day.

Here’s when to harvest your organic veggies:

  • Lettuce and spinach: Cut outer leaves when young and tender.
  • Kale: Pick when the leaves are as big as your hand.
  • Carrots: Pick when the top of the carrot is 1”
  • Broccoli: Cut broccoli when its head is 4-7”
  • Cauliflower: Cut when its head is between 2-3”

3. A Fresh Feast. Plan your weekly dinners around what’s in harvest in the garden. This is the last hurrah for homegrown meals from the garden, so make the most of it. Of course, save some for winter,

4. Discover the Cover. If the chance of frost arrives earlier than expected, protect your crops. Water and then cover with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Use stakes to keep the cover from touching the plants.

Crunch! How amazing is it that you’re still harvesting veggies from your organic garden in autumn?!

See Spot Go. Tricks to Fix Brown Spots in the Lawn

At summer’s end, your lawn may begin to look less than stellar.

If your entire lawn is brown, no need to worry. Your grass has gone dormant, which happens during heat waves with little rain. Your lawn should bounce back as soon as the weather cools and rain returns.

The real problem is those random, pesky brown spots in the lawn. Luckily, there’s treatment.

  1. Pup Clean Up. Dog urine is one of the most common causes of brown spots. These small, round patches appear in areas where your dog does his business. Repair these spots with organic gypsum. To avoid future mishaps, train your dog to go only in a certain section of the lawn.
  2. Brown Bares. Some brown spots are actually soil peeking out through bare spots. Now is the time to reseed your lawn to fix bare spots.
  3. Learn from the Burn. Chemical fertilizers when spilled, overused or incorrectly applied cause lawn burns. Dilute by watering. From now on, stick to organic lawn fertilizers. Organic lawn food is safer for you and your pets and more cost-effective in the lawn-term.
  4. H2O Flow. Check your lawn after watering. If the surface stays wet while the soil remains dry, the watering is too frequent and superficial. To fix, water deeply
  5. That Thatch Patch. A thatch layer of more than 1/2” decaying grass prevents water from getting to living grass roots. Break up the thatch with a rake. Then, apply an organic lawn fertilizer.
  6. Know the Mower. A dull mower blade tears grass, causing brown spots. So, sharpen your mower blades every fall and spring. Also, if your mower blades are too low, you’re scalping the lawn. Avoid more brown spots by never cutting off more than 1/3 of the grass’s current height.

See spot disappear! Those unpleasant brown spots are on their way out! You’re one step closer to a greener, lusher lawn.

One, Two, Three – What Soil Tests Numbers Really Mean

With just a tiny bit of water, a handful of seeds and some sunshine, your garden makes its own magic.

Well, almost! Your plants get all their food from the soil, too. After a busy summer, it’s time for your soil’s checkup, so your soil can keep growing its best.

Perform a soil test to see what your soil needs. And, we’ll help you understand what those numbers mean!

Scoop, Snoop and Score Soil.

Your soil’s health is a mystery waiting to be solved. All you need to do is grab a handful of soil and examine it. Send it off to your local extension service. Or, get down and dirty, and DIY it. Here’s how to perform a soil test.

Soil tests measure the nutrients available to plants along with their pH level. Garden soil should be between 6.0-7.0 pH, while the ideal pH for grass is 6.5-7.0.

  1. Low pH? Power the Sour. You’ve got sour, also called acidic, soil with a pH level under 7. Before remedying, remember some plants like this! Raise soil pH levels by adding Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime.
  2. High pH? Treat the Sweet. Soil with a pH level over 7 is known as sweet, or alkaline, soil. To fix, add Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Conclusion Confusion. Understanding Soil Test Numbers

Looking at your soil test, your head may start spinning. What do all those numbers mean? Stick with us, your teacher at Espoma’s Garden School, to learn!

  1. When to N. The “N” on your soil test stands for nitrogen, which helps leaf growth. To raise nitrogen levels, add an organic fertilizer with a higher nitrogen level. Or, use blood meal or fish meal. To lower nitrogen levels, choose a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
  2. Be the P. “P” represents phosphorus, which helps plants flower and grow fruit. Need more phosphorous? Use an organic fertilizer with a higher percentage of P. Or, add bone meal. To lower phosphorous numbers, cut back on the P on the fertilizer bag.
  3. Way of the K. “K” stands for potassium, which helps plants resist diseases and grow healthy roots. If you have too much K, use an organic fertilizer with less potassium. Likewise, if you need more, opt for an organic fertilizer with a higher number K. Or, add sulfate of potash or greensand.

Strong, healthy soil gives way to stronger, bigger and better plants. Talk about a productive day in the garden!

Live on Lawn! Tips for End of Summer Health

From barbecues and summer parties to gardening and endless games of fetch with your pup, your lawn has endured lots of activity this summer.

But, the summer isn’t over yet and your lawn needs some TLC. Go out with a bang by rejuvenating your lawn and prepping for the cooler season ahead.organic

safe paws espomaHelp Your Lawn Hang On All Winter Long

  1. Know How to Mow. When mowing, keep the mower blades high (3” or higher) to encourage healthy roots.
  2. Agree to Reseed. If all of your lawn looks dry and brown, overseed the whole lawn. If only certain areas look bare, reseed only those spots. First, perform a soil test and improve if needed. Then cut grass and remove clippings. Level and rake soil smooth. With a broadcast spreader, apply a seed that best suits your region and weather. Finally, water.
  3. Prepare with Care. Get your lawn ready for the cooler weather ahead by fortifying it with nutrients. An organic fall winterizer promotes growth, helps lawns recover from drought and increases winter hardiness. So apply an organic fall winterizer after you’ve seeded and mowed. Follow instructions here.
  4. Fido First. Always use an organic lawn fertilizer or winterizer. Harsher, chemical lawn products can be eaten, ingested or passed on to your dog. This exposure has been linked with a higher risk of canine cancer. Keep your dog alive longer by making sure their paws are safe thanks to organic lawn products.

And just like that, you’re done with lawn care for the summer! How are you going to celebrate? We foresee a barbecue with fresh herbs and spicy homegrown peppers.