Posts

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.

Test And Amend

A soil test measures how acidic or alkaline your soil might be. If your soil has too much of either, plants won’t absorb the nutrients they need. Most plants grow best when the soil pH is in near-neutral, between 6.0 and 7.0, but there are exceptions. Blueberries and potatoes, for example, love acidic soil, so a pH above 7.0 will not make them happy.

With a soil test, the guess work is gone. You’ll know just what your soil needs. So, you’ll add the right amount of lime or sulfur, and you’ll select the best plant food, too.

While fall is for planting, it’s also about for prepping for next season. McDonald’s Garden Center has the scoop on how to on amend soil for healthier, bigger and better crops come spring!

grass-498628_1920

Test And Amend Soil’s pH:

1. To solve your soil mystery, grab a stainless steel trowel and get diggin’! Dig 6-8” deep if sampling garden soil, or 4” if testing your lawn’s soil.

2. Either DIY it with an easy to use, at-home soil test from your local garden center, or call in the professionals and send your soil sample to the County Extension Office.

3. Fix soil’s acidity and alkalinity in a way that’s good for the planet and your home. Go organic! Espoma soil amendments are 100% natural, safe to use around pets and children, and contain no fillers whatsoever.

4. Apply Espoma 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.

5. Apply Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soil.

6. Compost also helps push the pH of any soil neutral.

7. Wait until spring to test your soil for positive changes.

Want to turn pink hydrangeas blue? Learn how to amend your soil and work magic in the garden.

Small but Mighty – How to Grow Hydrangeas in Containers

When we picture hydrangeas — with their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage — we naturally envision large plants. Believe it or not, though, hydrangeas come in not one, not two, but three sizes!

No matter how much space you have, find the perfect-sized hydrangea for you. You can even grow hydrangeas in a container.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Minimal Size, Maximum Blooms! Tips for Growing Hydrangeas in Containers

1. Small Has It All. Pick a hydrangea that will thrive in your small space. Dwarf varieties are petite beauties that pack a powerful punch. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf hydrangea for you. Then, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need.

2. Big, Bold and Full of Holes. Select a pot or re-purpose a container to make a statement. Just make sure it has drainage holes.

3. Solid Gold Soil. Hydrangeas need well-draining soil to thrive, so select a high-quality, organic potting soil Bonus points if it has Myco-tone™ mycorrhizae, which uses 30 percent less water than other soils.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

4. Plant with Power. If you want to grow blue hydrangeas, mix in Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. For pink hydrangeas, add Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime. If you have it, add compost! Then fill planter with potting soil, and plant the hydrangea at the same height it was previously growing.

5. Establish Essentials. When growing hydrangeas in containers, water when the top 1” of soil is dry — or when the hydrangea begins to wilt. For best hydrangea care, feed once a year around June or July with an organic fertilizer. If you want a blue hydrangea color, feed with Holly-tone.

Small space, big blooms! Just think of how lovely your hydrangeas will look glistening in the sun at your Memorial Day party or twinkling in the moonlight during summer garden parties!

To learn more about hydrangeas, check out our organic growing guide. Find the right hydrangea for you by choosing one that loves sun, blooms all summer or is perfect for beginners.

 

Featured in this post:

Potting Soil

 

Espoma Holly-tone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

How to Know When to Feed Acid-Loving Plants

Are your plants suffering from a long winter?

Popular plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, strawberries and heathers, are all acid-loving, meaning they need a soil pH of about 5.5.

Knowing whether your soil is acidic or not is the first step to healthier plants season after season.

If your leaves or needles take on a yellow-green hue, your soil is too alkaline is and this condition is called chlorotic. Plants become chlorotic when they cannot access important nutrients due to the soil’s high pH level. Plants that struggle for too long may lose leaves, branches and flowers. Left untreated for seasons, the plant could die.

Another sure sign of a high soil pH is if your hydrangea’s flowers are blooming pink.

However, it’s easy to correct the problem — simply lower the pH level and fertilize.

First, check your soil pH with a quick, DIY kit found at your local garden center. Grab a trowel of soil near your acid-loving plants and follow the kit’s directions.

Don’t worry. No matter what your pH is, fixing it can be easy.

If you have a soil pH higher than 5.5., add Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier to amend alkaline soil. If your soil has a number lower than 5.5., remedy with Garden Lime.

Save your coffee grounds, which are rich in nutrients and acidic, and sprinkle them lightly under your shrubs to help keep pH down.

Shredded leaves, sawdust, peat and pine needles also make great additions to your soil before planting. This decaying organic material will decrease the pH of the soil over time.

After you’ve identified and fixed your soil’s pH, it’s time to feed acid loving plants. Feeding them with Holly-tone in spring creates bigger blooms — and more of them. Feeding them again in the fall will ensure year-round health and beauty of your Acid-Loving plants.

Fertilize evergreens, like spruces, firs, hemlock and pines, to encourage a deep, healthy green color. Check out this video to learn more.

Fertilizing acid-loving plants only takes a few minutes, but creates bigger, better flowers and trees than ever before. You’ll be amazed by the results!

There are many plants that survive or thrive in low pH soils. Perhaps the most well-known acid-loving plant is the blueberry, which thrives in about 4.0 – 5.0 pH. However, strawberries and blackberries also favor acidic soil.

Find out if you have acid-loving plants here.

Each spring, begin your gardening with a simple pH test of your soil and plan your soil amendment around the results. Then, be sure to feed with Holly-tone spring and fall. Your rhodos, azaleas and camellias will thank you with bright-green leaves and huge, colorful blooms.

Help us share the knowledge. Tweet “Time to fertilize acid-loving evergreens and plants for bigger, better blooms and greenery.”

 

Featured in this post:

Espoma Holly-tone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed Boxwood with Organic Plant Food in Early Spring

Evergreens — the name says it all. These plants and shrubs add color to your garden all year long, even in the dead of winter!

Though, we admit there’s one evergreen we love most: boxwoods.

Boxwood shrubs do it all. They’re super easy to care for, stay green all winter and are deer resistant.

These shrubs add instant definition, structure and privacy to outdoor spaces. Plus, boxwood shrubs morph into any shape when pruned. If an artful topiary isn’t for you though, they look just as beautiful when pruned slightly or left to grow free-form.

As easy as these shrubs are, there’s one BIG mistake people make when growing boxwood.

All too often, people believe that Holly-tone fertilizer is the feeding solution for boxwoods, just like they do with other evergreens. But that’s not the case.

While boxwood is part of the evergreen family, there’s one thing that makes them different. Most evergreens need to be fed Holly-tone, an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants. But, boxwood — and arborvitaes — are evergreen shrubs that are not acid-loving plants. So, they need an all-purpose plant food.

Avoid the #1 mistake people make when growing boxwood. Fertilize your boxwood with an organic all-purpose plant food to keep them a healthy green. Plus, feeding these shrubs in early spring helps them fight off disease all season.

How to Feed Established Boxwood:

To see how much fertilizer your boxwood needs, measure the width of your boxwood with a tape measure.

For each foot, use 1 cup of Espoma Plant-tone. For example if your boxwood is 4’ wide, use 4 cups of organic plant food.

Then, sprinkle around the boxwood’s drip line, which is a circle formed around the shrub’s widest branch.

How to Feed New Boxwood:

If you want to add a border or line a path, boxwood is just what you’re looking for. Go ahead and get planting.

Boxwood grows best in zones 6-8. As always before planting, make sure the area you’d like to plant matches the plant’s likings. Read that plant tag! Most boxwood need full to partial sun and well-drained soil.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot and the perfect boxwood, it’s time to plant.

Dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Scoop a handful of soil to test, too. Boxwood needs a soil pH between 6 and 7. If your pH is too low, add Espoma Organic Garden Lime. If your soil pH is higher than 7, amend with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Now, loosen roots and position boxwood in the hole.

Replace 1/3 of the soil with compost or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. And, mix in 1-2 cups of Organic Plant-tone. Adding an organic plant food now helps plants thrive in their new home.

Then, fill the rest of the hole with amended soil or Espoma Garden Soil.

Lightly water now, and continue watering once a week during spring and summer.

Finally, make the boxwood look right at home by adding 2-3” of mulch to control weeds and conserve water.

Boxwood transforms any area into a defined, stately space. Soon, these beautiful evergreens will even be dotted with sweet, white blooms.

What’s your favorite evergreen? Comment below to share!