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Five Simple Gardening To-Dos to Complete This May

The start of May brings colorful blooms and lush foliage to your garden. With summer right around the corner, that means there’s only more to come! Now is the best time to prep for your favorite fruits, veggies and flowers.

Here are a few things you can do this month to prep your garden for the summer growing season:

  1. Tidy Your Garden – As always, one of the best ways to prep your garden for a new season is to clean it up. Remove weeds, prune existing plants and rake away old leaves and excess debris. Now you have a fresh start for planting new blooms and crops.
  2. Harvest Early Spring Crops – If your garden is full of cool weather veggies from earlier this year, harvest now and enjoy. Go ahead and enjoy the crisp crunch of radishes and fresh salad greens. Plus, you’ll have more room to grow summer veggies.
  3. Plan Ahead – Before getting started, create a garden plan of what you want to grow and where. Different plants thrive in different climates, so research the best ones for your garden.
  4. Get planting! – Make a trip to your favorite garden center and round up your favorite summer plants. We’re big fans of planting summer veggies like cucumbers, peppers and summer squash. First, check to make sure that you’re clear of frost and then start planting. Use an organic plant food like Espoma’s Garden-tone to encourage healthy growth.
  5. Transfer Seedlings – If you started seeds indoors earlier this spring, transfer them outdoors in May if the weather permits. Be sure to harden off seedlings to get them used to the outdoors. Then gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. To keep seedlings strong, plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food, such as Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus.

 

Be sure to keep your new plants happy and healthy all summer long with the proper nutrients and water. Then, get ready to enjoy your harvest!

The Best Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow

Have you wondered why heirloom tomatoes taste so much better than those conventional ones from the store?

Conventional tomatoes have been bred for long shelf life, disease resistance, high yield and even for their looks! Some say all the flavor and taste has been bred out of them, too.

So whether you say to-may-to or to-mah-to, we’re here to help you choose the perfect heirloom tomato variety for you.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

 What is an Heirloom Tomato?

Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds that have been handed down from farmer to farmer for generations for their special characteristics and varieties must be 50 years old at least. Because of this, heirloom tomatoes have minimal disease resistance.

Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated–meaning that the seeds you collect will produce plants almost identical plants year after year. That’s key to their survival.

Many heirlooms have been passed down generation to generation. Seeds, once considered valuable property, traveled country to country in pockets or through letters. Varieties come from Central America, Russia, Italy, Japan, France, Germany and Kentucky. Here are a few of our favorites.

Best Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow

 

Pink Brandywine– This is hands-down the yummiest and most popular heirloom. Dating back to 1885, these tomatoes ripen late in the season, but delight with huge tomatoes with even bigger flavor. Plus, Pink Brandywine tomatoes grow well in containers.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 85-100 days
  • Taste and Texture: Intense, full flavor with a rich, velvety texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-9’
  • Spacing: 24-36” apart
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Black Cherry – This black, heirloom cherry tomato is somewhat disease resistant and easy to grow – even in containers. The truly striking color makes these cherry tomatoes an instant conversation (or kabob!) starter.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 65-75 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet meets smoky flavor with a meaty texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 5-8’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Cherokee Purple – Cherokee purple tomatoes may look eccentric, but boy, do they taste good!  Believed to be passed down from Cherokee Indians, this variety produces significantly more tomatoes than other heirlooms.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-90 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet, juicy and savory with a thin skin
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-9’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes – Cage or stake

Striped German/Old German – This sizzling red and orange tomato looks like a work of art. Slice it open, and you’ll be delighted by its intricate texture and pattern. Also called “Old German,” this sunny tomato produces huge beefsteak tomatoes. It does need constant, proper care to thrive.

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-85 days
  • Taste and Texture: Incredibly juicy with a faintly tart flavor and meaty texture
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4-8’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Yes –  Cage or stake

Wapsipinicon Peach – Bright in color and flavor, these tiny, fuzzy yellow tomatoes make the perfect snack. Named for the Wapsipinicon River in Northeast Iowa around 1890, Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes are resistant to rot and field blight. Plus, they are quite prolific!

  • Growth Type: Indeterminate
  • Time to Maturity: 75-80 days
  • Taste and Texture: Sweet flavor with little acidity and fuzzy, thin skin
  • Light: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 4’
  • Spacing: 24-36”
  • Staking: Recommended – Cage or stake

Why Should I Grow Heirlooms?

We believe the flavor of heirlooms is so superior that no garden would be complete without them. Try a variety this year, and we’re sure you will agree. You will be tasting a little bit of history all summer long.

When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.  

And if you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

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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

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!

 

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Three signs your orchid needs to be repotted

Orchids make the perfect houseplants — they’re stylish, long-lasting and easy to care for. They’ll continue to bloom for years with minimal effort.

After years of living in the same space, things might get cramped. And the same can be said for your moth orchid. Refresh your orchid – and let it spread its roots – by giving it a new home and repotting it.

Orchids generally need to be repotted once a year. The best time to repot is just after flowering, or when new growth appears.

You’ll know it’s time to repot if any of these reasons apply to you:

  1. Your orchid has tightly tangled roots. It’s normal for Phalaenopsis orchids to have loosely tangled roots. This is a surefire sign your orchid needs to be repotted. Give plants breathing room by placing it in a larger pot every year or two with fresh potting soil.
  2. It’s been a while since you’ve repotted. Orchids need fresh potting mix every year or so.
    This continues to provide plants with the best nutrients and encourages proper air circulation. Soil that is not replaced can retain more water, leading to root rot and leaving your orchid vulnerable to fungal diseases.
  3. Your orchid’s roots are soft and brown. If you truly waited too long to repot, you’ll notice that your orchid is holding too much water. The roots will appear brown and feel soft to the touch. Fresh orchid potting mix will provide your plant with the environment it needs to stay happy and healthy.

Think it’s time to repot? Follow the steps below to give your orchid the space and soil it needs to keep growing happy and healthy.

How to repot orchids:

  1. Choose the right medium. We suggest using Espoma Organic Orchid Mix. For best results, pre-soak orchid mix for 24 hours and allow water to drain.
  2. Remove orchid from current container and trim dead roots from the plant.
  3. Fill container to one third full with orchid mix.
  4. Position single stem plants in the center of the new pot. Position multi-stem plants against the pot wall. Staking may be required until the plants are fully established.
  5. Gently cover roots with additional mix and fill pot to 1/2 inch below rim.
  6. Water thoroughly. Add more mix if setting occurs.

 Is your orchid telling you it needs to be repotted? Watch this video to learn how!

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!

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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.

How to Treat Chlorosis

Yellow leaves mean plants aren’t producing enough chlorophyll. This common garden problem is known as chlorosis. Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to turn leaves green again.

 

 

 

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.

Changing the look of your yard or giving your hydrangeas more space to grow is simple with these steps from English Gardens.

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.

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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!

Also, check out the complete hydrangea-growing guide for more information on making the most of your hydrangea garden!

English Gardens ranks as the 13th largest independent garden center in the United States.  The family-owned business was named the 2015 IGC Retailer of the Year from the IGC (Independent Garden Center) Magazine.  The award is presented annually to a garden center demonstrating notable leadership and innovation.  The award was established in memory of Dick Morey, founder of IGC Magazine and an advocate for the independent garden center industry.

Founded in 1954, English Gardens offers top quality products, including plants and flowers for indoors and outdoors, gardening supplies, patio furniture, garden décor, landscape design and installation, as well as the area’s largest selection of Christmas trees and decorations.

Fall Gardening Checklist

September marks the turn of a new leaf. The hot summer weather is fizzling out in favor of cool, crisp fall breezes, prompting bonfires, football games and pumpkin everything.

For gardeners, fall can be one of the busiest seasons. Often, gardeners juggle wrapping up their summer harvests with the responsibilities of preparing for the coming seasons.

With this to-do list from Homestead Gardens, you’ll be ready to fall in love with fall; and with some extra preparation, you’ll be better prepared for winter and spring, too!

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7 Things To Do in the Garden This Fall  

1. Deadhead to get Ahead. Freshen up flowerbeds by deadheading and removing plants that have stopped blooming. Do maintenance in the morning before the weather gets too hot.

2. Don’t stop Planting. After you’ve harvested your remaining summer veggies, you can plant fall crops and begin transplants!

3. Serve… or Preserve. Have more vegetables and herbs than you know how to handle? Preserve your harvest. Experiment with making jams or pickles, and try freezing raw fruit, veggies or herbs. Make sauce out of your tomatoes, or slow-roast them.

4. Flower Power. Keep your annual flowers blooming as long as possible! The key to success? Use Espoma new Bloom! liquid fertilizer.

5. Watch out for Winter! Start winterizing your garden’s watering system. Keep an eye out for the first few frosts of the season, and cover plants when necessary. Gradually transition your summer houseplants back indoors.

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6. Divide and Conquer. Divide and split your perennials, dig and store tender bulbs like dahlias and caladiums, and start planting spring flowering bulbs.

7. Red, Dead Ahead! Are your tomato plants lacking fruit? Producing dull leaves? Sprinkle some Tomato-tone to give them a final boost.

With these tips, your fall landscape will be looking better than ever. Have a picture of your fall garden that you want to share? Drop by our Facebook page!

Plant A Fall Container

Laura from Garden Answer shows you how to plant a fall container that will add beauty to your landscape all season long.