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No Way Blue Jay! Keep Birds from Eating Berries

 

Sun-kissed, slightly tart blueberries. Sweet, juicy raspberries. Scrumptious strawberries as sweet as candy. Sugary, tart blackberries.

Who can resist such delightful, fresh flavors right from the garden?

Certainly not local birds! Crows, blackbirds, robins, jays and more swoop in and eat your berries right from under you!

If you’re growing blueberries (or any berries!), you want to make sure you get to enjoy them, not the birds. Here are our tips for protecting your berries from those hungry birds — while still being kind.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

If you’re growing blueberries, make sure you get to enjoy them, not this sparrow. Here are our tips for protecting your berries from those hungry birds — while still being kind.

Take Back the Patch — How to Protect Fruit from Birds, Naturally and Organically

1. Location, Location, Location. Plant or move berries away from hedges and larger shrubs since birds like to rest there.

2. Take Cover! When your berries are immature, add a row cover or bird netting. Make sure the netting is secure, so the birds can’t undo it. This is, hands down, the best way to protect berries.

3. A Sprinkle of Sparkle. Tie a shiny bird scare tape, or foil tape, around your berry bushes or plants to deter birds. Birds don’t like the movement or the tape’s bright reflection.

4. A Dash of Pepper. Sprinkle cayenne pepper around your berry plants as they begin to ripen. This method is super easy, but makes it hard to enjoy eating berries as you pick! You have to wash off the berries before eating to remove any remaining pepper.

5. Snack Attack! Install a few bird feeders to encourage birds to eat there — and not your berry bushes!

Victory! Now, make sure your blueberries continue to thrive by feeding with Holly-tone. Keep the soil acidic, too, with Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier.

Learn more about growing organic blueberries in our berry guide. You’ll be a pro in no time!

The Secret to Strawberry Success

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

Packed with Vitamin C and fiber, strawberries make the perfect nutritious and delicious snack. Eat them alone or add to jams, pastries and smoothies.

Nothing says summer like the sweet taste of homegrown strawberries.  So, let’s get planting!

garden-strawberries

Choose Wisely

The first step in planting strawberries is choosing the right variety.

  • June-bearing strawberries produce one large harvest in late spring or early summer.
  • Ever-bearing strawberries produce 2-3 harvests of fruit intermittently during the spring, summer and fall.
  • Day-neutral strawberries continuously produce fruit throughout the growing season when temperatures remain between 35-85°F.

Ask an associate at your local garden center for recommendations for the best variety for your region.

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

Start Planting!

Strawberries need lots of sun, so choose a spot accordingly. Soil should be loose and fertile with a pH of 5.5 to 7. If the pH level is too high, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for ideal soil conditions.

Plant strawberries in the spring as soon as the ground is workable. Space plants about 18″ apart. Dig holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. Bury the roots, but not the center crown – it requires lots of light and fresh air.

Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

Encourage growth by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for acid-loving plants such as strawberries.

Expect ripe berries about four to six weeks after the plants blossom.

You can still have delicious strawberries if you garden in a small space. They make perfect container plants!

Small Space Strawberries

You can still have delicious strawberries if you garden in a small space. They make perfect container plants! Hanging containers add aesthetic value and are a conversation starter. When plants are off the ground, there is also a decreased risk of pests and disease.

Simply fill a container with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix and follow the same instructions above for planting strawberries in containers. Water plants well. Set the container in an area where it will receive at least 6 hours of sun. Rotate the container regularly so all sides receive equal light.

Whether you’re planting large beds of strawberries or starting with one small container, these tips will ensure success.

To learn more about organic berries, be sure to check out our ultimate berry growing guide!

Plant Hydrangeas to Get the Best Blooms

Large, beautiful hydrangeas are a great addition to any landscape. Their bold colors make them perfect for freshly cut or dried flowers. Getting off to the right start in the right location is the difference between a hydrangea bush that blooms for years and one that never does.

Get the beautiful blooms you desire with these hydrangea planting tips.

Care for hydrangeas by planting them in the right spot.

Where should I plant my hydrangea? Choose a spot with moist, well-drained soil. Hydrangeas can grow from 4’ to 12’ in height depending on the variety, so plan accordingly. Most hydrangeas benefit from some shade, especially in hot climates. Too much shade means your hydrangea may not grow flowers.

Check the plant tag to find out how many hours of sun your hydrangea should be getting per day. Panicle hydrangeas tolerate more sun than do other species. And if you live in a region where it gets seriously hot, your hydrangea will need more shade than those grown in colder zones. Hydrangeas in southern climates especially need frequent watering to tolerate that stress.

If you’ve noticed your hydrangea has stopped blooming in recent years, it may be time to evaluate the location. Make sure hydrangeas are still receiving enough daily light and check the growth of nearby trees. Consider moving the hydrangea to a sunnier spot.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Get Ready to Plant. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, dig a hole twice as large as the hydrangea’s container. Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong. Add 1” of compost or Espoma Organic All-purpose Garden Soil to help with nutrients and drainage. Place the hydrangea in the hole at about the same height it was in the container, spreading its roots wide. Backfill the hole with soil and top with 2-3” of mulch.

Water Well. After you plant, water the hydrangea until a puddle forms. Water twice a week for a month. Then water deeply once a week until fall.

The Finishing Touch. Feed blue hydrangeas with Holly-tone to keep the soil acidic. Otherwise, opt for Flower-tone. For the best hydrangea care, feed 2-3 times throughout the growing season, which is spring until fall.

Learn all of our hydrangea secrets in our hydrangea growing guide.

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.

 

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Potting Soil

 

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How to Plant Blueberries in Containers

Laura from Garden Answer shows how to plant blueberries in containers and fertilize with Espoma’s Holly-tone. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is!

 

 

Seeing Red: Raspberries in the Garden

Raspberries are a summer staple in every kitchen. Make them a staple in the organic garden, too.

Whether you are growing berries for jam, raspberry cobbler, or just to eat as a quick and healthy snack, these sweet little fruits will never disappoint!

If you want to enjoy these delicious summer berries, now is the time to start planting. Here’s how, and when to plant raspberries.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing berries

Pick a Berry

Summer-bearing fruits bear one crop per season, typically summer. Ever-bearing fruits bear two crops, one in the summer and one in the fall. Choose your variety based on how many berries you’d like to harvest.

Contrary to popular belief, raspberries aren’t always red! They also come in yellow, purple and black, so grow a variety of berries and add some color to your organic garden this summer. Visit your local garden center and they can help you choose a variety best fit for your region.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing berries

When and Where?

The best time to plant raspberries is in early or mid-spring. These berries are inclined to grow in cooler climates, but the ground might not be workable until after the last frost.

When choosing a location, plant raspberries in an area with full sun and good air circulation. Avoid areas with heavy winds that may damage plants. Leave about 3 feet of space in between each plant.

Because some varieties of raspberries send long canes upward as they grow, they need support. Plant them next to a fence or create a simple support alongside the row with stakes and wire.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing berries

Soil Conditions

Raspberries will grow best in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Be sure to test your soil — an ideal pH level is anywhere between 5.5 and 6.5. If the soil is not acidic enough, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier.

Add an organic plant food to the soil to encourage healthy growth. Espoma’s Holly-tone is perfect for raspberries as it is a slow-release fertilizer for extended feeding. Keep the soil evenly moist and water as needed.

And that’s it! You’ll have juicy, fresh-picked raspberries in no time.

What is your favorite way to use your homegrown raspberries in the kitchen? To learn more about growing raspberries, visit our berry growing guide!

The Time is Ripe to Plant Blackberries

Blackberry cobbler, fruit salad, pie, and muffins – oh my!

These yummy berries are loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin-C, which help promote healthy skin and improve memory.

So maybe, it’s ok to have that second slice of cobbler after all?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. Let’s get those blackberries planted first.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing berries

Grow Bliss in the Garden! Plant Blackberries

1. Just in Time! The best time to plant blackberries is early spring. If you’re feeling eager, plant them a month before winter’s last frost if the ground is workable. Planting in late fall works, too – as long as winters temps aren’t especially

2. Here or There? Plant blackberries in full sun. Also, blackberries don’t play well with others. Choose a spot that hasn’t had blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, or peppers growing there in the last few years. Otherwise, leftover diseases or pests from those plants could spread to your blackberries.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing berries

3. Testing, Testing. Once, you’ve found the prime spot, test the soil. Blackberries prefer well-draining, acidic soil. Add a handful of compost and Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier, if needed.

Growing, Growing, Gone! Plant your blackberry 1” deeper than it was growing in its pot. Plant upright varieties 3’ apart and trailing varieties 5-8’ apart. Then, water.

Ready, Set, Wait! Blackberries don’t produce fruit their first year, but they still need TLC to establish. Give them 1-2” of water a week, and organically feed throughout the season with Holly-tone.

Growing berries – especially blackberries – does take a bit of patience. We promise, though, its fruit is sweet! Check out our berry guide to learn more!

Tried and True: The Best Way to Plant Hydrangeas

Lush, lavish blooms you’ll instantly love! Hydrangeas are like the little black dress of the garden. They’re chic and always in style. Though, hydrangeas will deliver way more wow with their color-changing flowers.

Plant one this season to enjoy its bloom in the yard — or in a vase!

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Say Hi to Hydrangeas with These 5 Easy Planting Steps

Beautiful flowers. Many hydrangea colors. Little care. Super disease and pest resistant.

What’s not to love about growing hydrangeas?

Pick Perfect. Big? Small? Low-maintenance? Color-changing, perhaps? There are SO many wonderful hydrangeas to choose from. Find the perfect one for you here. While hydrangeas typically prefer sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, there are full-sun hydrangeas.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Dial Mild. While you can plant hydrangeas at any time, the best time is spring or fall. If you plant in the middle of the summer, they’re going to need lots of attention to survive.

Place and Plant. Once you’ve found the perfect spot (ideally with well-draining soil,) dig a hole twice the width of the hydrangea’s container. Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong. Add 1” of compost or Espoma Organic All-purpose garden Soil to help with drainage. Then arrange the hydrangea at the same height it was growing, spread its roots wide and fill the hole with soil. Finish by adding 2-3” of mulch.

Water Well. Right after planting, water the hydrangea until a puddle forms. Continue to water your hydrangea twice a week until it’s established. Then water deeply weekly — or when you see its leaves or flowers wilting.

How ‘Bout Holly. If you’re growing blue hydrangeas, feed with Holly-tone to keep the soil acidic. Otherwise, opt for Flower-tone. For the best hydrangea care, feed 2-3 times throughout the growing season, which is from spring until fall.

Say hello to your new hydrangeas! While they look handsome in the yard, they’ll look even finer as cut flowers inside.    

To learn more about hydrangea care, visit our growing guide. Want to change your pink hydrangea blue? Click here.

 

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Blueberry Basics: Know What to Grow

We all strive to live a healthy life and that trend is making its way into the garden. Homegrown organic food doesn’t just taste good, but also packs a nutritional punch. It’s safe to say you’ll be anything but blue when growing blueberries.

Jams, muffins and smoothies are only a few steps away! And if those treats don’t inspire you, get this: When you eat antioxidant-packed blueberries, your brain gets a boost, your belly fat can be reduced and you may even prevent certain cancers.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Blueberries are simply the best. So grow the best blueberry varieties you can!

Answer a few quick questions below, and then skim our Blueberry Variety Guide to find the absolute best type for you.

Berry Basic: Questions to Ask Before Choosing Which Blueberry to Grow

Growing blueberries is easy as long as you pick the right berry variety for your yard. Set yourself up for a berry successful season by answering these common berry FAQs.

1. What type of blueberry works best in your area? There’s a type that works best for each USDA Gardening zone. Find yours using our chart below.

  • Half-High – Zones 3-6
  • Northern Highbush Zones 4-7
  • Southern Highbush Zones 8-10

2. What’s the pH of your soil? Grab a soil test and discover the pH of your soil. To thrive, blueberries need a soil pH between 4-5.5. Lower your soil’s pH with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier. This organic alternative is much safer than Aluminum Sulfate. Also, plan to use an organic fertilizer for acidic plants, such as Holly-tone.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

3. How many chill hours are in your area? Blueberries need a certain amount of time in dormancy, these are called chill hours. See how many chill hours are in your area and select a blueberry that matches.

4. When do you want your blueberries to ripen?

Early: Some blueberries ripen as early as May and are finished by the start of June.

Late: Other varieties of berries only ripen in mid-August and produce fruit through September.

5. What’s your ideal blueberry taste and look like?

Decide whether you want sweet or tart berries.

Then select the plumpness. Do you want teeny-tiny or super-sized blueberries?

To learn more about blueberries and how to plant, care for and grow, visit our Organic Blueberry Growing Guide.

Blues Legends: The Best Tasting Blueberries to Grow

With vibrant hues of blue and sweet flavor, no summer fruit is better known (or better for you) than the blueberry. These blue wonders play a vital role in health and well-being.

Plant a blueberry bush today and savor the fresh berries all summer.

If flavor is your top priority, you absolutely must add these blueberries to your garden! Just imagine how mouthwatering that first, homegrown blueberry will be! Until then, though, you’ll keep busy! While growing blueberries, be sure to feed with Holly-tone and keep the soil pH low with Soil Acidifier.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Richard Shiell for Monrovia.

Southmoon Blueberry – A southern favorite that does well in hot temperatures, the Southmoon blueberry is a delicious pick. The sky-blue berries are a nice touch, too. Plant in lighter, sandy soils and ammend with lots of organic material.

Blueberry Type: Southern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 6’ H x 6’ W

Zone: 6-9

Chill Hours: 300-500

Ripening Season: Early: Early-late July

Taste and Size: Large berries with sweet, juicy blueberry flavor

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Showy white flowers
  • Self-pollinating
'O'Neil' Southern Highbush, Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Richard Shiell for Monrovia.

O’Neal Blueberry – The O’Neal produces dark blue berries that taste more like candy than fruit. With high-sugar content, you’ll want to eat these yummy berries right as soon as you pick them. As a semi-upright shrub, you can let this blueberry grow wild and free or train it to grow up.

Blueberry Type: Southern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 4-6’ H x 4-6’ W

Zone: 5-9

Chill Hours: 500-600

Ripening Season: Early: Early May-Early June

Taste and Size: Large blueberries that taste juicy and sugary-sweet

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Produces an extra crop
  • Works great in containers
  • Dazzling red fall foliage in cool climates
  • Evergreen in warmer climates

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Polaris Blueberry – If you love to eat blueberries early in the season, the Polaris is for you! The Polaris was developed in Minnesota, so you know it can handle the cold, too! Go ahead, and pair with Northblue to increase blueberry yield.

Blueberry Type: Half-high

Light: Full sun

Size: 3-4’ H x 3-4’ W

Zone: 3-8

Chill Hours: 800+

Ripening Season: Early: Early July-Early August

Taste and Size: Medium, firm blueberries that taste sweet with a hint of acidity

Yield: High yield, 4-7 pounds of blueberries

Features:

  • Native
  • Very aromatic
  • Extremely cold-hardy
  • All-season beauty: white blooms in spring and rosy red foliage in fall

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Bushel and Berry™ Blueberry Glaze – These berries are small in stature and have incredibly glossy, dark green leaves reminiscent of boxwood, and can easily be sheared as such. Small, almost black berries present in little bundles mid-summer. With their deep flesh color, Blueberry Glaze packs a healthful punch with antioxidant-rich qualities.

Blueberry Type: Dwarf

Light: Full sun

Size: 2’ H x 3’ W

Zone: 5-8

Chill Hours: 600

Ripening Season: Mid-summer

Taste and Size: Small, intense flavor much like the flavor of wild blueberries

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Works well in containers or in landscape
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Beautiful year-round foliage

Looking for more options? To learn more about blueberries, the best blueberries for containers, how to plant, care for and grow, visit our Organic Blueberry Growing Guide.