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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!

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.

 

Espoma products to help you grow your best strawberries yet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Plants that Produce Fall Fruit

It’s easy to help your garden thrive when there is something beautiful to look at. Spring and summer seasons make this easy to do with their gorgeous floral blooms. Did you know that Autumn can have equally as attractive plants?

Even the simplest shrubs and trees make great additions to fall gardens, bonus points if there’s fall fruit involved. We’ve rounded up the top trees and shrubs that will provide year-round enjoyment and fresh fall fruit.

6 Trees and Shrubs with Fall Fruit

  1. Mountain Ash

This deciduous tree gets its name from the blue-green pinnate leaves and white flowers that bloom in the spring. Mountain ash truly dazzles in autumn, turning into a blazing purple and red. The white flowers transition to shiny pink berries that stands bright against its foliage. And despite the name, mountain-ash (Sorbus) are very different types of plants than ash and are not attacked by emerald ash borer. Hardy in Zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Crabapple

Crabapple trees offer beautiful hues. Varieties can include colors of burgundy, purple, red, orange, green or yellow. As the crabapple transitions into autumn, the fruit really begins to show. It transitions well into the winter, when birds will happily take care of the fruit. Hardy in zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Beauty Berry

While you might not think twice about this shrub in the spring or summer, it shines in autumn. Its tiny pink flowers transform into brilliant ruby-violet berries that stop people in their tracks. This autumn shrub will give your garden something to talk about. Hardy in zones 5-11. Use Plant-Tone for beautiful berries.

  1. Possumhaw

This tree may be small, but it certainly is mighty. Even after the foliage falls in the autumn, the bright red berries remain, making it look like a red flowering tree. The berries on this tree aren’t large, but they last through a cold winter – unless the birds get them first. The Possumhaw is tricky – it ‘prefers’ acid soils but can ‘tolerate’ alkaline. Hardy in zones 5-8 and feed regularly with Holly-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Teton Firethorn

Stunningly bright in the autumn and winter, this show stopping shrub is the perfect edition to your garden. Vibrant orange fruit pop out from behind the foliage. The fruit thickly covers top to bottom on this plant. This shrub is tall and typically used as a hedge. Hardy in zones 6-9 and feed regularly with Holly-tone for radiant blooms and fruit.

  1. Coralberry

This low-key shrub in the spring and summer saves it’s best for autumn and winter when the small yellow flowers transform into purple-red fruit clusters. They are shade tolerant and can last well into the winter. Hardy in zones 2-7 and feed regularly with Plant-Tone for gorgeous blooms and tasty berries.

Want to know how to fertilize trees and shrubs? Let Laura from Garden Answer show you how!

tree-tone, espoma tree fertilizer, garden answer tree fertilizer

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.

Your Guide to Fall Hydrangea Care

Caring for your hydrangea can make all the difference for next year’s blooms. Hydrangeas are strong and can come back from almost anything when given enough time and proper care.

Read fall care tips below and then visit our total guide to growing hydrangeas here!

Just follow these fall tips for pruning and maintenance. It isn’t complicated.

Identify

It is important to identify your variety first because some hydrangea varieties do not like being pruned in the fall.

If your garden has hydrangeas, then you need to know that there are two types of hydrangeas. One type produces flower buds on old wood and the other produces flower buds on new wood. Stems are called old wood if they have been on the plant since the summer before. New wood are stems that develop in the current season.  Most varieties found in gardens are old wood bloomers including Mophead, Big Leaf, Lacecap, and Oakleaf hydrangeas. Double check your variety with your local garden center.

When to Prune

Hydrangeas can grow for years without being pruned, but if they get unruly, over take an area of the garden or lose their growing capabilities – it is time to trim. But when to prune them?

Prune fall blooming hydrangeas, or old wood bloomers, after they bloom in the summer. If you prune old wooded hydrangeas in fall, you are cutting off next seasons blooms.

Summer blooming hydrangeas, or those that bloom on new wood, are pruned in the fall, after they stop blooming.

Hydrangeas are colorful and vibrant in the early season, but are hard to preserve after being cut. They are easier to care for after they start drying on the bush.

How to Prune

Near the bottom of your plant, you will see thin, wispy, weak growth. Cut those down. They will take up energy that your plant could use for blooms.

Look for any dead stumps on your stems. They will not have grown any new wood or buds out of the original old wood. Cut the dead stumps down to their base to completely remove them. This will allow the new growth underneath to have a chance to succeed.

Dead and old blooms need to be removed to make room for new buds to come through. Cut the flower head off right above the first few leaves to encourage blooms for the next summer.

Stand back from the plant and observe its shape. You’ll want to prune the shrub into the shape you prefer, a sphere is the typical style but you could prune it into any shape you want!

Clean the Debris

Remove any debris that fell off from the base of the plant. You want to make sure your soil is free of any weeds, leaves and dead flowers.

Fertilize

If you’re growing blue hydrangeas, feed with Holly-tone to keep the soil acidic and the blooms bright. Otherwise, opt for Flower-tone.

For the best hydrangea care, feed 2-3 times throughout the growing season, which is from spring until fall.

Follow these few steps and your hydrangeas will be happy and vibrant for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fragrance of Fall – Plant Something Sweet

As autumn nears, we’re dreaming of cooler weather, cozy sweaters and pumpkin everything.

The flavors and aromas of autumn float around the air and it is full of bliss.

As the trees change color and the pumpkins begin taking shape, step outside to experience this bliss and the crispness of the air.

Fill your garden with these sweet smelling plants to keep the fragrance of fall floating around your garden all season. Make sure you fertilize with Espoma’s Liquid Bloom! Plant Food to maximize the fragrance.

Chrysanthemum

Add some classic beauty to your garden with a simple Chrysanthemum. Some varieties have an earthy, herb-like smell. It blooms with many varieties, so choosing what color you desire adds to the value. The classic mum will get you in the autumn spirit in no time. Plant in full sun in zones 3-9 and feed regularly with Espoma’s liquid Bloom! for gorgeous flowers.

Katsura

As the leaves of this tree turn to gold, orange or red, the brown sugar scent closely follows. This multi-hued tree has all of the redeeming fall qualities. Known for its shade protection, katsura is a great addition to your garden. The sweet fragrance can be enjoyed from a considerable distance. It is perfect to get you into the autumn feel. Plant in full to partial sun in zones 4-9 and use Bio-tone Starter Plus when planting to help katsura establish roots.

Flowering Tobacco Plant

Best for filling gaps in your garden, this tall fragrant beauty will keep you enjoying its white tubular flowers all autumn long. Known as a night plant, the terrific smell of jasmine is found most powerful at dusk. They are wonderful at attracting hummingbirds. Plant in full to partial sun in Zones 10-11 and feed regularly with Plant-tone to ensure superior growth.

Chaste Tree

This shrub releases refreshing fragrances of sage. And with its light blue flowers on a wooded stem, it’s a great addition to a cut flower fall bouquet. Plant in full sun in zones 6-9 and feed regularly with Tree-tone for strong roots and trunk.

Fragrant Angel Coneflower

Mix and match colorful coneflowers, just be sure to include the fragrant angel. The large sweetly scented flowers are made up of two rows of white petals surround a greenish, orange cone. They tend to smell of vanilla which is wonderful wafting through the air in autumn. Plant in full sun in zones 4-9 and feed regularly with Espoma’s liquid Bloom! for gorgeous flowers.

Tea Olive

Known as the “false holly,” tea olives grow into dense evergreen shrubs or trees and have leaves that look like holly. Their flowers commonly come in white, but can surprise you with yellow or orange blooms. The apricot fragrance from these shrubs will make you happy you welcomed them into your garden! Plant in full to sun in zones 7-10 and feed regularly with Holly-tone to provide essential nutrients.

 

Stuck on what else to plant this fall? Learn how to plant the perfect tree this season to enjoy for generations to come!

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.

 

Espoma Holly-tone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on image to go to the product page.

 

Grow These Veggies on Your Patio

As urban gardening continues to trend, container gardens are popping up everywhere! Container gardens are perfect small-space solutions. Not only do they provide added appeal to your space, they also give you delicious food right at your fingertips. If you have limited space, or simply just want to add another element to your existing crop, grow these container plants on your patio this summer.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries, BrazelBerries Jelly Bean

Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry.

  1. Blueberries – These sweet summer fruits grow great in containers. Because blueberries are so small, you can get a big harvest with very little space. Blueberries love acidic soil, so check the pH level of your soil and add Espoma’s Holly-tone if necessary. Check out more on growing blueberries here.
  2. Tomatoes – With tons of varieties, there is a tomato for everyone. Some of our favorites to grow in containers include smaller varieties like grape or cherry tomatoes. These are easy to pick right off the vine and are perfect for gardening with kids. Learn more about growing tomatoes in our ultimate tomato-growing guide.
  3. Peppers – Like tomatoes, peppers come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking to add some spice to your garden with jalapenos, or prefer milder bell peppers, these colorful veggies are a vibrant summer sight. Peppers love lots of direct sun, so plant these containers in a bright area.
  4. Zucchini – One of our favorite summer veggies, zucchini are a bit larger than tomatoes and peppers and need more room. Grow in a container with at least a five gallon capacity with proper drainage. Use Espoma’s Garden-tone to get the most out of your zucchini plants. Like peppers, zucchini will thrive with 6-8 hours of sunlight, so plant in a sunny spot.
  5. Herbs – Because herbs are small, they are the perfect fit for any container garden. Kitchen staples such as rosemary, basil and mint are great additions to any dish, or even a refreshing summer drink. Grow herbs in Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix in containers inside or out.

If you have limited space, don’t let that discourage you! With the right containers and a little bit of planning, you can have a delicious summer harvest in no time.

Check out this video on container plants and tell us what plants you’ll be growing in containers this season in the comments.

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

 

Espoma products to help you grow your best strawberries yet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transplant Hydrangeas in Fall

You’ve had an amazing hydrangeas season. But by now, they may have outgrown their spot in your yard. Or, they might need a new spot to thrive.

Luckily, it’s easy to transplant hydrangeas.

 

Care for hydrangeas by planting them in the right spot.

7 Steps to Transplanting Hydrangeas

1. Transplant at the right time. Plan to transplant before the ground freezes over. Wait until hydrangeas have finished flowering or gone dormant for the year before moving them.

2. Find a new home. Pick a place for the hydrangea that doesn’t receive too much sun. Hydrangeas prefer semi-shade. Make sure your location can accommodate the size of the rootball.

3. Dig carefully. Use your shovel to make cuts around the hydrangea before actually digging it up. When pulling the plant up, remove with it as much of the rootball as possible. The rootball, dense with fibrous roots and soil, may be very heavy, so enlist help if you need it.

4. Plant right. Move the plant to its new home. When digging the hole for the transplant, be sure to leave enough room for the rootball. Add Bio-Tone Starter Plus to help reduce transplant shock and establish roots. After the plant is moved, fill in the hole with Espoma Organic All-Purpose Garden Soil and compost.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

5. Give them a drink. Dormant transplanted hydrangeas need a deep watering. Water thoroughly once transplanted using a hose, rather than a watering can or sprinkler, to quench the hydrangeas’ thirst.

6. Watch closely. After transplanting, pay careful attention to the next two summers. Hydrangeas need plenty of water during these hot months. If the leaves wilt, but the soil seems moist enough, mist leaves. Fertilize hydrangeas twice each year with Espoma’s Holly-tone, once in early spring and a half feeding in fall.

7. Mulch. To prevent the rootball from drying out, apply mulch to the base of the hydrangeas.

Have any tips for transplanting hydrangeas? Let us know in the comment section!