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Winter is Coming – Frost Preparedness

It may still be warm outside, but that doesn’t mean winter is not going to come bite us in the bud. Frost is coming and it will hit your garden hard if you aren’t prepared.

Be sure to find your first frost date and prep your garden for winter.

What is Frost?

Frost is when the dew you see on your garden turns into ice crystals. This happens when the temperature drops down to 32° F or lower.

Even a light frost can end your garden for the season. This happens when temperatures are between 29-32°. When frost hits a garden that hasn’t been properly prepared, you can say goodbye to heat-loving plants.Winter can be hard on any garden, but many plants can be protected from a light frost and continue to grow until your first hard freeze.

Find your Frost Date.

The easiest way to find your frost date is to type in your zip code into this frost date calculator.

This calculator gives you an idea on when frost will hit first and when you can expect temperatures above freezing in the spring. The percentages on top of the chart explain that you have that much of a chance of having frost for that date. For example, in the Fall 32° row, if you have the date Oct 14 under the 50 percent column, you have a 50 percent chance of 32° on October 14th.

What does this mean for your garden?

Once you know your frost date, it’s time to prepare your garden to preserve what you can.

Prepare. Often times, first frosts are light and followed by some sunshiny days before everything freezes over for good. Cover crops with a blanket or cloth material to keep them warm during this period. Try to avoid plastic as it can freeze and crack. You can also try to hose off your garden first thing in the morning to get any of the excess ice crystals off and warm your plants back up.

Harvest. Remember to harvest as your vegetables continue to ripen. You don’t have to make a mad dash to get all of your vegetables inside, but keep an eye on them. If they stop producing or if a harsh frost is coming, harvest any vegetables on your plants and let them ripen inside. Frost will damage the delicate tissue of fruits and veggies like tomatoes.

Wait. For winter vegetables, such as some squash, pumpkins, and cabbage families, you can wait until after the frost. In fact, some root crops actually have improved flavor after the frost. Check your seed packet or with your local garden center to check which vegetables you can keep outside during a frost.

Feed. Lawns will stop growing when it gets colder. This is great news for you – no more mowing! Give them a fresh dose of Espoma’s Fall Winterizer Lawn Fertilizer to help it withstand the winter’s harsh cold.

When the hard frosts are on the way, it is time to put your garden to bed for the winter.

Bring the Outside In – Best Indoor Plants

Having a beautiful garden is what we all dream about, but in the cases we don’t have the space or we want to have more greenery inside, indoor plants come to the rescue.

Some indoor plants come with the added benefit of not only giving color to a blank space, but also cleaning the air you breathe every day. Some plants are better for an office space while others are great as a centerpiece.

Not sure what plants will work for your space or how to care of them so you can enjoy them for a long time? We have you covered! We’ve rounded up the best indoor plants to introduce to your office or home this week and offer some tips on how to keep them happy and healthy. Be sure to monitor the light and water requirements and feed regularly with Espoma’s Indoor! liquid plant food for superior results.

7 Best Indoor Plants

  1. Ficus

Arguably the most popular indoor plant for homes and offices, the ficus’ simplicity in looks makes it well known and well liked. They are great for purifying the air — making the air better and cleaner to breathe. Ficus trees love indirect light, so place plants in a naturally bright room where it will thrive. Keep your ficus away from any drafts as they prefer more heat. This plant is perfect for the home or office; it is both beautiful and sophisticated.

  1. Peace Lily

The peace lily is a hardy, forgiving plant that will let you know when it needs water. It has a telltale droop to signal it’s thirsty. It will pop back up as soon as it gets the water it desires. Peace Lilies prefer bright indirect light, but will be happy with medium light, as well. Place it somewhere light comes through for a few hours of the day.

  1. African Violets

With a little bit of learning, you can introduce brilliant, cheerful blooms to your home easily. They don’t need a lot of room, so any small pot or a group of them in a bigger pot works well. African violets need bright to medium indirect light. Place them 3 feet from a west or south facing window and turn them regularly to ensure proper growth. Feed regularly with Espoma’s Violet! liquid plant food for plenty of blooms. Bring this plant to the table during dinner or hosting a party to make a beautiful and colorful centerpiece.

  1. Golden Pothos

Due to its attractiveness and simplicity to grow, golden pothos is one of the most common houseplants. Golden pothos’ trailing vines love to fall over the sides of the container, making it fun to decorate with. Those who have a “black thumb,” welcome this plant into their homes. It needs low light and minimal watering, so placing it in a bathroom would be perfect.

  1. Rubber Plant

This indoor plant may seem intimidating, being able to grow 10 feet tall, but they are simple to care for. Rubber plants love being the focal point for any home. Place your plant somewhere with bright, indirect light and water with room temperature water. These are great in sunny spots when protected by a sheer curtain.

  1. Kalanchoe

Add a pop of color with this beautiful flowering plant. While it has a reputation for being a disposable plant, with a little care they may rebloom next season. It is easy to propagate a new plant quickly from the cuttings. Place your kalanchoe in a place with bright light, such as a windowsill.houseplant care, potting soil, indoor plants

  1. English Ivy

This gorgeous plant will take over wherever it is stationed. You can train it to grow around an item to make it into a decorative sculpture or allow it to spread freely. English Ivy needs bright indirect sunlight and steady moisture. This would look great on a desk or mantel where the sun hits.

 

Keep the foliage on your houseplants’ foliage looking great with Espoma’s new leaf polish Shine!

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.

Autumn Houseplants for Any Home

Autumn is a wonderful (some might say the best) time of the year for color. Trees and landscapes turn into amazing shades of reds, golds, and oranges. Everything in the yard makes us want to bring those same colors indoors.

While a cutting arrangement full of autumn flowers is wonderful, they won’t last all season. That’s why we have autumn houseplants. Indoor plants bring a welcoming burst of color during the dark winter evenings and keep homes feeling cheerful.

Keep plants happy during colder months by following directions for your houseplant’s light and water requirements. Feed regularly with Espoma’s Indoor! liquid fertilizer to keep those amazing colors vibrant all season long.

8 Houseplants You Need This Autumn

  1. Crotons

Invite this bold houseplant to your space this season. The foliage comes in incredible colors of red, green, orange, yellow and even black! You will not be disappointed. Crotons like bright areas, so place it near a big window.

  1. African Violet

Bring vibrant hues to your home with African violets. They can be grown almost anywhere there is light and a bit of humidity. African violets prefer full sun in the winter to get their gorgeous color. Rotate them regularly to keep growth even. Feed regularly with Espoma’s Violet! liquid fertilizer to ensure sensational blooms.

African Violet for color by Espoma

  1. Dracena

Nicknamed the dragon plant, this houseplant brings great texture to any décor. Choose the variety of dracena that best complements your design styles– such as dark green foliage or red lined foliage. These plants are easily cared for, tolerating low light, but thriving in medium to bright spots, too.

  1. Lemon Cypress

This holiday favorite brings joy to your home all season long. Keep it trimmed into the cone shape to keep it looking like a miniature tree throughout the rest of the year. Keep in direct light and cool temperatures.

  1. Chrysanthemum

Mums are a sure indicator of autumn with their yellow, orange, and red hues. Put them anywhere they can get bright filtered light during the day, but remain in the dark at night. They look great on shelves and desks that have some sunlight hitting it.

  1. Goldfish Plant

A member of the African violet family, the goldfish plant brings a unique orange flower to your home. It’s named for the flower’s fishlike bodies and puckered mouths. Place this plant a few feet away from windows. Its curved stems make this a great choice for hanging.

  1. Oxalis triangularis

Also known as red shamrock plant, oxalis triangularis is a wonderful addition to any houseplant collection. It has big, redish-purple, clover-shaped leaves which give it the nickname shamrock. It blooms little pink or white flowers that contrast with the foliage so well. It is a dream to have. Oxalis triangularis doesn’t like direct sun, so anywhere will work for this plant. It is a bulb, so allow for drying in between waterings to prevent rotting.

  1. Bromeliads

Known for the bright yellow, it may be surprising to some that bromeliads are offered in a sunset of colors. Bromeliads thrive on low light and minimal watering. So those who are looking for hardy plants, this one’s for you!houseplant care, potting soil, indoor plants

Have pets and want houseplants? Here is a list of pet-friendly houseplants to introduce to your home.

Stop and smell the roses… Right outside your door!

Do you love roses but are stuck with limited space? Is your rose collection growing faster than your raised beds?

Container roses are a great solution for gardeners short on space or those who want the freedom to move their roses around. They give you the option of having roses wherever you want them.

So whether you are trying to cover up some unsightly spot or wanting sweet-smelling roses near your front door, we’re here to help you figure out the best roses for you.

Depending on the size and structure of your container, most roses won’t be a problem. Just be sure the container can hold the roots and soil needed for your roses. Be sure to choose roses recommended for your USDA Hardiness Zone.

Best Types of Roses for Containers

Miniature Roses – Don’t let the name fool you — these roses may be small in bloom size but still produce radiant color. Miniature refers to the size of the bloom, not the size of the bush. Typically they grow between 12”-18”, depending on growing conditions. These roses also love to hangout in window boxes. Choose a container that is at least 10” deep.

Small Roses – These low-growing roses help show off gorgeous containers. Small roses usually reach up to 2’. The variety of small roses is expansive and offer different styles, colors and smells to keep your garden rocking. Due to their small stature, they are perfect for the urban gardener — use these to spruce up your balcony or front stoop. Choose a container that is at least 12” deep.

Patio Roses – With big, colorful and robust blooms, you cannot go wrong with patio roses. They have a neat, bushy growth and regularly blooming rosette flowers. Choose a container that is at least 12” deep.

Floribundas – These one-of-a-kind hybrid roses have vibrant, colorful blooms that will dress up your yard. Grown in clusters, floribundas are wonderful to keep your guests in awe. They require a little more breathing room, so make sure to pick a larger container to keep them comfortable. Choose a container that is at least 15” deep.

6 Steps to Planting Your Rose Bush in a Container

  1. Select a container with drainage holes. The taller the containers the better since roses are deep-rooted.
  2. Fill container one third of the way with Espoma’s organic potting mix.
  3. Take the rose out of the pot and gently loosen its roots.
  4. Add 3 cups of Espoma’s Rose-tone to the soil and mix thoroughly.
  5. Place the rose in the soil no deeper than it was growing in the container. Planting depth should be such that the graft knuckle is just below the soil level. Add more potting mix to the container and level out soil.
  6. Water thoroughly.

 

Feel like you need more container plants? Learn what hydrangeas need to thrive in containers!

Tips for Growing Veggies in a Drought

Summer brings prime-time vegetable growing season and the delicious harvest of our fruit and vegetable gardens. But what happens when that summer heat gets a little too hot and leaves drought-prone areas high and dry?

Don’t stress — even though water is an essential component to vegetable gardening, there are plenty of ways to grow healthy, fresh veggies during dry times.

Try these low-water vegetable gardening tips for success all season long.

Build a Strong Base

When planting in dry conditions, amending your soil is crucial to success. Start with Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus for big, healthy blooms. Then, add rich compost to the soil to increase water retention. After you have a healthy soil as your base, be sure to add mulch. A 3-4” layer of mulch on top of your soil can reduce watering needs up to 50 percent. Mulch keeps the soil cooler and traps moisture in the soil, instead of allowing it to evaporate.

Strategic Planning

When it comes to drought-tolerant vegetable gardens, plan strategically. Raised bed gardens and containers retain moisture better than open gardens.

Instead of planting in straight rows, plant in a zig-zag or diamond pattern. With plants spaced out, their leaves create more shade and keep the soil cooler. Try companion planting, too. Pair plant varieties that work well together and benefit from each other.

6 drought resistant veggies to consider planting during drier times:

  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Okra
  • Artichoke
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard

Be Water Wise

Some of the water used in overhead watering systems never makes it to the soil. Most of the water evaporates on the leaves before serving its purpose.

Instead, try a drip irrigation system for more efficient watering. Drip watering methods can use upwards of 70 percent less water by avoiding evaporation, runoff and wind. Soaker hoses are another water-saving alternative. Lay the hose across an especially dry patch of soil while small holes in the hose allow water to seep through to the soil.

If all else fails — move your garden indoors! Grow smaller varieties of vegetables in small spaces. While indoor vegetable gardens still need proper watering, the soil won’t dry as fast as it would in the hot summer sun.

Love the heat and the sun? Learn more about succulent gardening here!

4 Ways Gardening Improves Your Well-being

Whether it’s practicing yoga, writing a journal, going on vacation or taking an art class, everyone should have their release – something you can turn to when you feel stressed or need to clear your mind. Well, for us, spending some time in the garden does the trick. The greenery, the sun and the fresh air are just a few of the reasons we love unwinding in the garden.

Here are some of the ways gardening can improve your well-being. 

  1. Let’s Get Physical –Exercising not only improves your physical health, but your mood, too. A healthy body is a contributing factor to a healthy mind. Think about all of the digging, pulling, moving and bending that takes place in the garden. This type of physical activity improves your flexibility, strength and endurance, as well as your immune, respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  2. Green is Good – Simply being around nature has its proven health benefits, too. So even if you’re not working on the garden, just enjoying its beauty, you are still improving your well-being. Biophilia is the theory that all humans want to have a connection with other living things, and what better place to feel connected to the world than in the great outdoors?
  3. Fresh Produce – If you have fresh food in your own backyard, you are more likely to eat it. Growing your own vegetables not only encourages you to eat more of them, it also provides a sense of achievement. Gardening can be difficult, and nothing boosts your pride like a beautiful, homegrown tomato plant or blueberry bush.
  4. Sensible Sunshine – Gardening often means long hours in the sun. It is extremely important to take care of your skin, so always wear sunscreen and perhaps a hat. That being said, the sun is also a great source of Vitamin D. Sensible sun exposure not only improves your physical health, it can actually help with depression and other mood disorders. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

What benefits – well-being or other – do you receive from your garden? Let us know in the comments below!

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