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5 Ways to Decorate Your Garden for the Holidays

It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year! Everyone seems to be in a better mood when they’re spending time with the people they love.

Going all out with décor is easy and fun. Putting up a big Christmas tree with lights and ornaments, draping garland around the house really makes it feel cozy and welcoming. Draping lights around the home and statues on your front lawn, is a fun way to make the whole neighborhood light up.

This year, incorporate some living décor for your holidays. Here are 5 ways to decorate your garden:

1. Decorate Containers

Containers are a perfect way to liven up a home. Finding a festive container or painting a plain one with festive colors or patterns will bring it to life for the holidays. Fill your container with winter hardy plants that are right for your zone, just be sure to use Espoma Organic Potting Soil to give it the nutrients they need.

2. Design the Grounds

With colorful winter shrubs, vegetables and flowers, planting in a design can bring cheer in ways that are unique and cheerful. With the colors and options your plants provide can make an image come through. Utilize the dead space in between your winter hardy plants to create a holiday design.

3. Plant an Evergreen

While everyone brings their trees indoors, plant one outside. You can decorate it the same way you decorate the one indoors. Plus you can enjoy your Christmas morning outside, depending on the weather. Use natural materials, such as pine cones, berries and flowers collected from your garden to decorate. Be sure to use Espoma Organic’s Holly-tone to keep the foliage green.

4. Train Your Plants

Adding a toy train to show off your garden is a great way to mix fun and childlike spirit to your garden. Utilize the plants you already have planted that will survive the winter. Have the toy train go around what you want to showcase. Add some twinkling lights and everyone who stops by will want a garden like yours.

5. Green Your Mailboxes

Draping an evergreen garland over a mailbox is a simple way to incorporate living décor to your holidays. Creating a garland requires few materials and can look festive within a few minutes. Be sure to add a nice large bow to tie it all together.

Want to keep making decorations for your home? Check out this Succulent Snow Globe from Garden Answer.

 

 

Products Used:

Espoma Holly-tone

 

 

How to Feed Acid-Loving Plants with Holly-Tone

Holly-tone is an organic & natural fertilizer that’s not just for Hollies. It can be used for any acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, camellias, rhododendrons, evergreens, hydrangeas and more.

You will want to fertilize your plants twice a year – In early spring and late fall. When you apply the fertilizer in late fall, only use half of the recommended dosage.

How to Apply Holly-tone:

Before fertilizing your acid-loving trees, shrubs and plants with Holly-tone, be sure to take a look at the back of the bag. It lays out instructions for each type of plant to give it the best chance to grow.

Trees:

When fertilizing trees, first figure out the diameter of the tree trunk. This will help you determine how much fertilizer to use. Use one pound of fertilizer for each inch of your tree.

Drill holes every 2-3 feet around the drip line of the tree, in the video Laura demonstrates using a drill and hole auger. The drip line is basically where the canopy of the tree ends. Distribute the fertilizer evenly in each hole, backfill and water in.

Note: Arborvitae and boxwoods are not acid-loving evergreens, so use Plant-tone instead.

Shrubs:

Shrubs are a bit easier to fertilize than trees, since there is no digging required. Similar to trees, the amount of fertilizer used is based on how big the shrub is. Use one cup of fertilizer for every foot of branch diameter. Sprinkle it around the drip line of the plant, work it into the soil and water it in well.

Garden Beds:

Established garden beds are the simplest of the three to fertilize. Again, it’s all about the size of the beds you have in your garden. For every 100 square feet of your garden bed, use 5 pounds of fertilizer. Sprinkle it as evenly as possible where the plants are and water it in.

For new garden beds, use twice as much fertilizer to prepare the soil for new plants. For a 100 square foot garden bed, use 10 pounds of fertilizer. Sprinkle it on top of the soil and work it in the top 4 inches, to get it nice and prepped for the new plants.

Containers:

If you have plants like blueberries, in containers, you will want to use 1 teaspoon for every 3 inches of your pot diameter. Sprinkle it around the inside edge of the pot and water in.

Have non-acid-loving trees ready to be fertilized? Laura from Garden Answer shows how to fertilize with Tree-tone.

Product Featured in this Video

 

 

How to Plant Hydrangeas

In the video below, Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to plant hydrangeas using Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus and Holly-tone.

Can’t wait to learn more about hydrangeas?
Check out our Hydrangea Growing Guide

HYDRANGEA
Growing Guide

 


 

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!

 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 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:

7 Ways to Drink a Strawberry

Summer is in full swing and it is HOT!

With the heat, comes sitting on the porch enjoying a nice, cold drink. While some enjoy sweet tea and others enjoy lemonade, we love to use freshly grown strawberries for a special treat.

We walked you through planting strawberries in the spring and how to fertilize regularly with Espoma’s Holly-tone to give your plants proper nutrients. Now it’s time pick your juiciest freshest strawberries and enjoy them in a new way.

Check out this vertical strawberry planter:

7 Ways to Drink a Strawberry                                            

Strawberry Iced Tea via Divas Can Cook

This summer drink is a great alternative to a traditional sweet tea by adding the perfect amount of strawberry sweet to add a hint of flavor. It is genuinely a Yin and Yang moment.

Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake via A Spicy Perspective

Strawberry Shortcake in a glass? This decadent sweet treat will have your friends asking for seconds all summer long!

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade via Life’s Ambrosia

Give your Lemonade a twist this summer by giving it a little sparkle. Sparkling drinks are a great way to cool down by keeping it light!

Strawberry Rosé via Tammilee Tips

For all the folks that want to Rosé all Day, this take on a traditional rose is delicious. Just try to keep your guests from staring in on a strawberry wine serenade.

Strawberry Mojito via Vanilla and Bean

Everyone loves a pink drink! Take a spin on the classic mojito and add in fresh strawberries. Not only does it change the color, but it will change how you drink mojitos.

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri via Delish

Summertime classic, made fresh.  This sure-fire classic will have everyone asking for the recipe. The flavors really come out with the freshness only a home grown strawberry can provide.

Strawberry Basil Soda via The Kitchn

The soda craving is real. Replace the syrupy sweet soda with a refreshing fresh strawberry basil soda. You will be surprised on how well the two complement each other.

Check out our dinner recipes using homegrown strawberries to impress any guest.

For the juiciest strawberries use:

Plant America – Red, White and Blue Plants

While getting ready to decorate and hang the flag high for the Fourth of July, think of your garden. Show off your patriotic colors with red, white and blue plants for your garden or containers.

Don’t worry though, patriotic colors stay in season all year long. Red hues will make your garden look bigger, white plants are perfect for a moon garden and blue plants bring a peace of mind for relaxation.

Plants for Fourth of July

Rocket’s Red Glare – picks for red plants:

Photo courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Red Roses

Red roses are one of the most traditional plants to grow in the garden. They either become the statement plant or are a fine complement to a focal point. You can use roses to cover up an unsightly area or add fragrance. Feed regularly with Rose-tone to ensure bright colors and thriving blooms.

Red Gerbera Daisies

With a bright and cheery demeanor, gerbera daisies have quite a bit of flair. They will have single, double or even multiple petals, which can add some texture and contrast to your garden. They will withstand the summer heat with their sturdy stems and big blooms. Feed regularly with Flower-tone to give their stems a boost.

Broad Strips and Bright Stars- picks for white plants:

Ox-Eye Daisies

Ox-Eye daisies’ will be in full bloom by the Fourth of July. With their white rays and yellow centers, they will be sure to brighten up a patriotic space. They grow 1-3 feet tall so they will not take up too much space. Feed regularly with Bloom! liquid plant food for vibrant whites and beautiful fragrance.

White Dahlias

With a variety of sizes and varieties, dahlias can add a lot to a garden. As one of the most popular summer flowers, dahlias live up to their reputation. Whether you choose a ball or a collerette, the dahlia will be the talk of the neighborhood. When planting, feed with Bulb-tone for full, bulbs that will last all summer.

Twilight’s Last Gleeming – picks for blue plants

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Blue Hydrangeas

Large, beautiful blue hydrangeas are a great addition to your patriotic garden. Their bold blooms make them perfect for freshly cut or dried flowers. Getting off to the right start in the right location is key to keeping your hydrangeas blue. If you are having a little trouble keeping your blooms blue, feed with Holly-tone to keep the soil acidic.

Brazelberries jelly bean, Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Bushel & Berry

Blueberries

A quirky take for your patriotic garden, but perhaps one of the most American fruits, blueberry is another great choice. With their red insides and blue exteriors, they would be perfect with red and white companions. Plus when you are itching for a holiday snack, head right outside and pick one off! Be sure to feed with Holly-tone to give it the nutrients it needs.

 

Products Used:

Bloom! Plant Food

 

 

 

 

Hydrangea Hype: Garden Inspiration

Beautifully flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

Hydrangea Basics

Besides their obvious beauty, there are some facts about hydrangeas worth knowing before embarking on your hydrangea garden journey. With many varieties of the hydrangea species, it is important to keep in mind which ones thrive in your zone and garden. For example, if you live in a cool zone, the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a great choice to add to your garden.

Hydrangeas are acid-loving plants. To keep your hydrangeas happy use Espoma’s Organic Holly-Tone to fertilize.  You can even adjust the acidity of the soil to change the color of some hydrangeas. Do you prefer blue to pink? It’s easy to enjoy a garden full of blue hydrangeas by simply decreasing (lowering) the pH of the soil. We recommend amending your soil with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to help turn your hydrangeas blue.

Hydrangeas in containers

Short on space? No problem! There are several varieties that will thrive in your small space. Our Hydrangea Variety Guide will help find the right dwarf hydrangea to put in your containers.

Next, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need. Be sure to use a good quality potting soil such as Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. Choose a container that is 1/2 or 1/3 bigger than the plant itself. It is important that the plant does not get crowded in its container. The last step is to water well and most importantly, enjoy the big beautiful blooms!

 

 

Don’t settle for bushes. Grow a tree!

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! 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.  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.

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.

 

Friends that bloom together stay together

Hydrangeas make great companion plants. Pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers or subtle ornamental grasses for an extra pop of color in your garden. Pair with shrubs, flowers and grasses for a look that pleases.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades making them a perfect companions for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias. Whichever you choose, look for companion plants that bloom around the same time.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Multi-size, multi-color, and just plain beautiful

When we picture hydrangeas — with their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage — we naturally envision large plants. Believe it or not, hydrangeas come in not one, not two, but three sizes! Dwarf varieties are petite beauties that pack a powerful punch. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf or full-size hydrangea for you.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Hydrangea appreciation

Appreciate your hard work growing your hydrangea garden by putting together hydrangea bouquets to decorate your home, creative art projects, making a hydrangea wreath, or dry them out for year-round arrangements! There is no end to the beauty your hydrangeas will bring to your garden and your home.

 

Espoma Products Hydrangeas will Love:

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!

How to Choose the Right Strawberry Variety to Grow

Strawberries are one of the most popular berries for gardeners to grow. They pack quite a punch, they are a great source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber and have only 49 calories per cup.

When you are ready to plant strawberries, start by deciding which variety will be best for your location and stop by your local garden center for supplies. Encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

You can find strawberries either as June bearing or everbearing. June bearing strawberries form flower buds in the fall as the day length decreases. You’ll be able to harvest them the following early to mid-June and for three to four weeks. June-bearing strawberries produce their first crop the second year after planting.

June bearing strawberries are available in early, mid-season and late varieties. These varieties differ by the best time to harvest.  The difference between early and mid-season is only a couple of days, for late season, it’s about seven to nine days.

Though everbearing strawberries begin to bear fruit at the same time as June bearers, they will continue to produce berries throughout summer and into fall — sometimes even all of the way into October. The different varieties in the everbearing group are known as day-neutral. This means the plants do not need a certain amount of daylight to set flower buds.

The best strawberry varieties to grow

For taste. One of the most important factors in deciding which berries to grow is taste. If you’re ordering your strawberries from a catalog, look to see what the dessert quality is rated. We recommend planting the sparkle variety. These fan favorites are widely considered one of the best choices. Sparkle strawberries are medium-sized with an intense flavor and deep red coloring.

For freezing. Some people want berries that will last all season when they freeze them and not turn to mush. When you’re picking a variety, choose one that produces firm, red strawberries with a slight tart flavor. Allstar is a June-bearing strawberry that’s firm with a glossy red coloring. It produces very large berries with a mild, but sweet flavor, making it ideal for freezing and enjoying for months to come.

 

For size. Another factor to consider is size — do you want very large, large, medium or something in between? If you’re looking for a plant that grows consistently sized berries throughout the season, we recommend June-bearing Honeoye strawberries. These early season berries are large, firm and can be bright orange to red in color. It’s also known to produce plenty of berries.

For canning and jams. Most strawberries are well-suited for canning and jam. Earliglow, a June-bearing strawberry, is especially tasty. It sets and ripens its fruit sooner than virtually every other strawberry variety available. They have an excellent and sweet flavor, plus they are resistant to many strawberry diseases.

For growing in containers. Small space gardeners can still grow large berries. Seascape strawberry plants are everbearing and produce large berries that are bursting with flavor. This variety is also disease-resistant.

For a twist, grow strawberries vertically like Laura from Garden Answer does. 

Get The Best Berries with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Grow Your Own Topiary

Topiaries are plants that have been pruned and trained to grow into distinct decorative shapes. They’re basically slow-growing artistic masterpieces. Whether you grow them geometrically or fanciful like spirals, spheres or even elephants, the options are endless.

Topiaries can be grown from vines or shrubs, and even some herbs. The amount of time it takes to grow a topiary will depend on the topiary’s size and the number of plants you use. Most gardeners use a topiary frame or form to get the look they desire. Visit your local garden center to find out more about the best plants for your topiary.

Topiaries with vining plants

When using vining plants, you’ll need to get a topiary form to encourage the vines to grow in the shape you’ve chosen. English ivy, Boston ivy and periwinkle are popular choices for vining topiaries. To start, fill the form with sphagnum moss to create a full look. Then, plant the vine around the form, allowing the vines to grow upward. You may need several plants to achieve a full look. As the vines grow, train them by wrapping and attaching them around the form with plant ties or wires and pruning regularly.

Topiaries with shrubs

Start small when making a shrub topiary. Choose a variety such as holly, boxwood or laurel. Look for dwarf varieties that will stay compact and won’t need much pruning. If you’re looking to create a pyramid or geometrical shape, select shrubs with tall growth habits such as yews or hollies. For statuesque spirals and cones, choose arborvitae. Beginners will want to use topiary frames to sculpt their designs, which will also help when deciding what needs to be pruned. To train and prune your topiary, you’ll need a clear vision of how you want the topiary to look. Pruning encourages new and bushier growth, but don’t cut off more than 3 inches in the areas you want to trim back.

Fertilizing topiaries

Help topiaries reach their full potential as quickly as they can by using Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus when planting. Follow-up with Espoma’s Grow! liquid fertilizer. Grow! encourages root growth and deep green foliage that will surely delight. For acid-loving plants like hollies, use Holly-tone for best results.

Remember that topiaries take time and so be patient. Your time, maintenance and patience will pay off!

Product

Holly-tone