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Growing Blueberries Is Easy With These 4 Tips

Pancakes, tarts, pies, we love adding blueberries to any recipe. And we’re not alone.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes July as National Blueberry Month! If any fruit deserves its own month, it’s the all-American blueberry.

Take advantage of peak fruiting season to celebrate this delicious little berry.

Health Benefits

Not only delicious and popular, blueberries are one of the top 10 healthiest foods.

These nutritional powerhouses are packed with antioxidants that help guard against cancer and heart disease. Blueberries are low in calories, but rich in fiber and vitamins. One serving of blueberries serves up almost 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Plus, blueberries have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Convinced?

Grow your own blueberries – It’s easy!

The secret to blueberry success, according to berry expert Amelie Brazelton Aust, at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery who’s been growing blueberries on her family farm since she was a child, is the Four Ps — planting, pruning, picking and protecting.

JELLY BEAN Brazelberries blueberries on bush

‘Jelly Bean’ BrazelBerries blueberries

Simply follow these four simple tips to help bushes flourish season after season!

1. Planting

First, plant the right variety. Compact blueberries, like those from BrazelBerries, are perfect for growing in containers, raised beds or even directly in the garden.

Once you’ve chosen a blueberry bush, plant it in a sunny spot with at least six hours of sun each day.

Next, consider the soil. Blueberries love acidic soils. A pH of 4.5-5.5 is ideal. A simple soil test indicates acidity, which can easily be adjusted with a balanced organic fertilizer. Soil kits and amendments are available at any local garden center.

Give the plant’s roots plenty of growing room when planting in a container.

Plant dwarf blueberry bushes in pots 16” or more in diameter and water deeply and regularly to make sure all of the soil within the pot is moist.

2. Pruning

Cutting branches off any plant can be daunting, but it’s best for the plant. Pruning gives berries more space between branches, allowing air to flow freely and preventing disease.

“It’s best to prune blueberries in late winter when the plants are still dormant,” says Aust, “but I’ve pruned mine in the spring before flowering, and they’ve done great.”

Remove stems that are damaged, old or dead. Take out up to a quarter or even a third of the bush, then trim it up to a neat and tidy look.

Fertilizing is recommended in early spring. “Choose a balanced, organic, slow-release fertilizer for acid-loving plants,” Aust says.

Aust recommends a second application of fertilizer in late spring to give the plants an extra burst of energy for fruit production.

BrazelBerries Jelly Bean in italian pot

‘Jelly Bean’ BrazelBerries blueberries

3. Picking

With planting and pruning in the bag, the next step — picking — is the pay off. Be sure to watch your berries carefully and pick them before the birds do! Aust suggests getting one berry for yourself and one for the birds.

4. Protecting

A little protection ensures your blueberry bush will thrive for another bountiful season. Keep critters away by covering bushes with bird netting in the spring.

Winter weather poses the biggest risk to berry bushes, so be sure to protect roots.

“In very cold regions, apply a deep layer of mulch around the base of the bush to protect the roots,” Aust says. “Blueberries in pots are easiest to protect from the cold — just move the pots into an unheated garage or against a building and cover with thick mulch, burlap or a blanket.”

Spring’s sudden cold snaps endanger emerging growth, as well. Be sure to cover blueberry bushes with burlap or blankets when the forecast calls for frost once buds and flowers are emerging.blueberry pancakes Jamie oliver

Are you growing berries this year? What will you be making with them? Check out this super easy one cup blueberry pancakes recipe from Jamie Oliver:

blueberry pancakes Jamie oliver

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.”

 

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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!

How to Turn Pink Hydrangeas Blue

Picture the bluest hydrangea you’ve ever seen. It’s easy, isn’t it? This vibrant flower is as bright and bold as Elvis’ blue suede shoes.

So, how can you get a blue hydrangea? The secret is in the soil, and the power is in your hands.

Create a blue hydrangea simply by amending the soil. Most hydrangeas, except white ones, change color based on the pH or acidity levels of their soil.

And, it doesn’t stop there.

You can continually tweak the soil pH until you get exactly the shade of blue you’ve been dreaming of.

Transforming your hydrangeas to a jaw-dropping blue does take a bit of time. For especially big hydrangeas, the color conversion can take months. But, it is definitely worth the wait.

Creating breathtaking blue hydrangeas is extremely easy. All you need to do is amend your soil with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Other soil acidifiers contain Aluminum Sulfate, which can be incredibly harsh on plants, and even toxic to some, such as Rhododendrons. To keep your garden organic, all-natural and safe for people, pets and the planet, lower soil pH levels using an organic soil acidifier like Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Before changing your pink hydrangeas to blue, check two things.

First, are there any other plants growing near your hydrangeas? Make sure they like acidic soil, too.

Finally, are your hydrangeas growing near a concrete walking path or patio? Concrete often contains lime, which can make it tough to turn hydrangeas blue.

Now let’s make magic happen!

To turn new hydrangeas blue, use 1¼ cups of Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. Or to transform established hydrangeas into blue beauties, apply 2½ cups of Organic Soil Acidifier.

Spread evenly around the hydrangea out to its drip line, or the widest reaching branches.

Then, water well.

Repeat every 60 days until you’ve got the perfect color for you.

The intensity of blue hydrangeas is dependent on your soil’s pH levels. For deep blue blooms, aim for a soil pH of 4.5. For a more muted blue, you want your soil pH to be 5. Finally, if you want violet-blue hydrangea blossoms, your soil pH should be 5.5.

Perform a simple, DIY soil test if you want to discover your soil’s exact pH levels.

Craving hydrangeas super-saturated with blue color? Feed hydrangeas regularly with Espoma Holly-tone. Holly-tone fertilizer for acid loving plants also lowers your soil’s pH. Plus, a well-fed hydrangea will have bigger, better blooms.

Let’s get the word out about this gardening magic trick. Tweet if you’re going to magically turn hydrangeas from pink to blue!

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How to Plant Colorful Flowering Shrubs: Azaleas and Rhododendrons

A yard without shrubs is like a completed puzzle, minus one piece. The look is almost perfect, but something is missing! Shrubs work wonders — especially ones with bold, colorful flowers. These easy to care for plants instantly fill in gaps in your garden landscape and look fabulous every season. Complete your garden by planting a shrub or two today! Azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these shrubs thrive in almost any garden. Plus, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. As an added bonus, hummingbirds and bees cannot get enough of azaleas and rhododendrons.

For Established Shrubs: Spring feeding helps develop new growth and the production of new flower buds. Sprinkle one cup of Holly-tone per foot of branch spread now. Holly-tone is long-lasting so you’ll only need to fertilize twice in a season. Don’t wait too long, or you risk encouraging green vegetative growth at the expense of flower bud development. Once now, and again in the fall will ensure a perfect Rhody!

For New Shrubs: Spring is the perfect time to plant so pick your favorite color and variety. Before buying, check the plant tag to see if you have enough space for a full-grown shrub. Azaleas and rhododendrons can range from 2 feet to more than 20 feet tall! If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2 feet to 6 feet apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. Now, before you start digging, choose a spot for your shrub and envision the great impact these plants will have on your landscape! Both these flowering shrubs like to hang in the shade and do not grow well in full sunlight. So, make sure you’ve selected a perfectly shaded spot!

Before you start digging, plan for growth. If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2-6’ apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. These flowering shrubs are so easy to care for because most of the work is done before planting. Keep azaleas and rhododendrons bursting with beautiful blooms by picking the right spot and ensuring you’ve got ideal soil for growing. Don’t forget to test the soil! These acid loving shrubs need a soil pH of 4.5-5.5. If your soil test reveals a higher pH, your soil is alkaline. Solve the problem by amending with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Once your soil is ready, it’s time to plant! Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Then, remove the shrub from its original container, loosen the roots and dip in a bucket of water. Next, arrange the shrub in the hole, so the top of the root ball is slightly about the ground’s surface. Fill half the hole with compost, peat moss or humus, and mix in 1 cup Holly-tone fertilizer for better blooms. This organic plant food is specially crafted for acid loving plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons. Feeding new shrubs with an organic fertilizer now keeps them well-fed for months, spurs deep evergreen color and dynamic blooms. Fill half the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. Now finish planting your shrub by filling the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil, and add 2-3” of mulch. Water now, and tomorrow, too.

Doesn’t your garden instantly look brighter? For more tips on caring for azaleas, rhododendrons or other acid-loving plants, click here. We’d love to see how a flowering shrub completed your garden. Share a before and after picture on our Facebook page!