Posts

One, Two, Three – What Soil Tests Numbers Really Mean

With just a tiny bit of water, a handful of seeds and some sunshine, your garden makes its own magic.

Well, almost! Your plants get all their food from the soil, too. After a busy summer, it’s time for your soil’s checkup, so your soil can keep growing its best.

Perform a soil test to see what your soil needs. And, we’ll help you understand what those numbers mean!

Scoop, Snoop and Score Soil.

Your soil’s health is a mystery waiting to be solved. All you need to do is grab a handful of soil and examine it. Send it off to your local extension service. Or, get down and dirty, and DIY it. Here’s how to perform a soil test.

Soil tests measure the nutrients available to plants along with their pH level. Garden soil should be between 6.0-7.0 pH, while the ideal pH for grass is 6.5-7.0.

  1. Low pH? Power the Sour. You’ve got sour, also called acidic, soil with a pH level under 7. Before remedying, remember some plants like this! Raise soil pH levels by adding Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime.
  2. High pH? Treat the Sweet. Soil with a pH level over 7 is known as sweet, or alkaline, soil. To fix, add Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Conclusion Confusion. Understanding Soil Test Numbers

Looking at your soil test, your head may start spinning. What do all those numbers mean? Stick with us, your teacher at Espoma’s Garden School, to learn!

  1. When to N. The “N” on your soil test stands for nitrogen, which helps leaf growth. To raise nitrogen levels, add an organic fertilizer with a higher nitrogen level. Or, use blood meal or fish meal. To lower nitrogen levels, choose a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
  2. Be the P. “P” represents phosphorus, which helps plants flower and grow fruit. Need more phosphorous? Use an organic fertilizer with a higher percentage of P. Or, add bone meal. To lower phosphorous numbers, cut back on the P on the fertilizer bag.
  3. Way of the K. “K” stands for potassium, which helps plants resist diseases and grow healthy roots. If you have too much K, use an organic fertilizer with less potassium. Likewise, if you need more, opt for an organic fertilizer with a higher number K. Or, add sulfate of potash or greensand.

Strong, healthy soil gives way to stronger, bigger and better plants. Talk about a productive day in the garden!

Make a Splash in the Garden for Your Labor Day Bash

Labor Day is about relaxing, having fun and soaking up every last second of summer. And, it’s the perfect time to reflect on all of your summertime garden accomplishments. Need you look any further than your pile of super-ripe tomatoes or your luscious roses

But just because summer is ending doesn’t mean your garden has to! Your garden can look as fabulous as ever for your Labor Day bash or just to head into fall with these late-summer gardening tips.

Tips to Display a Lavish Garden on Labor Day

  1. Aiding the Fading. Walk through the garden and remove any plants that are done for the season. Be sure to compost them!
  2. Love Late-Bloomers. Swap annuals that have stopped blooming or look less than stellar with late-summer blooming flowers. Plant these colorful annuals to end the summer with a bang: celosia, zinnias, salvia, chrysanthemum or pansies. Boost your blooms with organic Flower-tone.
  3. Include Fresh Food. Hosting a Labor Day party? Plan your menu and snacks by seeing what’s ready for harvest in your garden. Guests love hearing that you grew your organic fruits and veggies. Plus, the home grown flavors will blow them away. Here are some of our favorite garden-to-table recipes. Be sure your fall veggies are planted, too.
  4. Pose with a Rose. Pair your homegrown menu with a homegrown tablescape. Cut garden roses. Pop single flowers in unexpected containers and space them along your table. Intersperse with glass ball jars or votives that have a fresh sprig of herbs tied around them.
  5. Plant Permanent. Late summer and early fall are perfect for adding perennials. Plant fall-blooming perennials before your Labor Day party to add a splash of color to your garden. Black-eyed susan, asters, sedum, daylilies, coneflowers and yarrow will wow for years.
  6. A Breath of Fresh Air. The late-summer heat takes a lot out of your favorite plants in the garden. Give them a good watering before the party, so they’ll look their best!

Now, you’re ready to end the summer in style! A table filled with just-plucked edibles, fresh cut roses and friends and family… That’s the essence of summer.

Fall into Fall. Easy Ways to Transform Garden

Those dog days of summer are hot, hot, hot. But, the end is surely in sight!

Yes, that means cooler weather is on its way. Fall will settle in soon — especially if the “Back to School” ads are any indicator.

Get your garden ready for the coming season. Stick with us, and you could be eating fresh lettuce in October — maybe even November!

Help Your Garden Fall into Fall

  1. Enchant the Plants. Plant fall veggie starts or transplants You can even sow seeds directly into the garden. Choose fast-growing, frost-tolerant plants such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, beets, carrots, green onions, lettuce and spinach.
  2. Do the Can-Can. If your harvest is maturing faster than you can eat it, store it! There are many ways beyond canning to stockpile your fresh produce for winter. Try making jams or pickles. Freeze raw fruit, veggies or herbs. Make tomato sauce, or slow-roast them.Longfield Gardens
  3. Boost your Keep annual flowers blooming as long as possible! The trick? Apply Espoma Organic’s Flower-tone often!
  4. Ahead with Red. Tomato plants not performing anymore? Or have lackluster leaves? Feed ‘em Tomato-tone to help them pull through until the first frost.
  5. Divide in Stride. Divide and transplant spring-flowering and other dormant perennials. To reduce stress, do so during the coolest part of the day, and don’t skimp on the water!
  6. Finish with Gusto. Deadhead flowers to keep them flowering. Also, keep pinching off those suckers on tomatoes! They can create a heck of a mess later on.
  7. Bury the Bulb. While you’re tidying up, plant those dreamy, spring-blooming flower bulbs.

Ah, the garden will soon be ready for fall. For now, though, the summer sun is still shining! Kick back, relax and enjoy every last drop of summer.  

Plant Flower Bulbs in Three Easy Steps

Tips for planting bulbs from Longfield Gardens, premium online bulb source

Fall is planting time for spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and alliums. There’s nothing difficult about planting bulbs and you can plant dozens of them in just a few minutes.

Spring bulbs are always the first flowers to bloom each spring,” said Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Longfield Gardens. “You plant them in fall and then forget about them until spring rolls around and your garden is filled with flowers that are ready to bloom.”

Langeveld assures gardeners that creating a colorful spring garden requires just 3 easy steps: choosing your bulbs, knowing when to plant, and following some basic planting instructions.
Longfield Gardens

New Bloom Time Infographic

“There are a lot of bulbs to choose from when you are looking to make selections” says Langeveld. “Our new infographic helps gardeners have success with that process, too.”

Longfield Gardens’ new infographic divides spring bulbs by bloom time — very early, early, mid and late. Choosing a few bulbs from each category ensures a garden that will be filled with color for 60 days or even longer.

Best Time for Planting Bulbs

“You want to get the bulbs into the ground at the proper planting time for your region,” Langeveld said.

As a general rule, spring-blooming bulbs can be planted anytime before the soil begins to freeze. But bulbs will benefit from having a few weeks to establish roots before the ground is frozen.

Gardeners can reference this map for recommended planting times. Light purple areas should plant bulbs from September to October; medium purple from September to November and dark purple areas should plant between October and December.

Planting is as Easy as 1-2-3

Choosing a good planting location is important. “Bulbs will grow almost anywhere,” said Langeveld. “They will do best in Longfield Gardenssoil that drains well.”

The planting part is easy and the same instructions can be applied to all types of bulbs:

  1. Dig a hole 3-4 times deeper than the height of the bulb.
  2. Set the bulbs into the hole, following spacing guidelines.
  3. Cover bulbs with soil and water only if the soil is very dry.

And of course, we at Espoma recommend a fertilizer made for bulbs such as Bulb-tone.

“Remember when planting bulbs to avoid the temptation to plant them in single rows. For the most natural look, group them in a pyramid, rectangle or circular shape,” Langeveld said.

To see the complete selection of fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs from Longfield Gardens, click HERE.

Garden to Table. Dinner to Winner. Enter NOW!

“What’s for Dinner?” is always easiest to answer at the height of summer. All you need to do is walk through your garden and use what’s freshly picked.

And now, you can win money in the process!

Espoma is shining its light on your harvest with our new “Garden to Table” contest. We want to see what you’re growing and cookin’ up in your kitchen this summer.

Enter Espoma Organic’s “Garden to Table” Contest to Win $100! 

  1. Like Espoma Organic on Facebook.
  2. Click the Contest Tab.
  3. Before August 12, post a picture of your homegrown fruits or veggies and tell us what you’ll be making with them. Or share a picture of the finished dish!
  4. Share your photo with friends and family. A panel of judges will choose the top three winners from the photos with the most “Likes.”
  5. “Like” your favorite entries!

Three winners will be announced on August 12. First prize is a espoma organic$100 gift card, second prize is a $50 gift card and third prize is an Espoma Container mix that includes organic Potting Soil, Tomato-tone and Garden-tone.

Curious about what others are using from their gardens for dinner? Check out our gallery and “Like” to vote for your favorite!

Now that you’re up to speed on our “Garden to Table” contest, let’s take a look at the top five reasons why growing your own organic produce is so important!

Homegrown Heroes

  1. Know What You Grow. When you grow your own organic fruit and veggies, you know exactly what went into them. No worrying about harmful pesticides or how your food was treated.
  2. Fresh as It Gets. If you’ve ever chomped into a sun-kissed, bright-red tomato plucked right from the vine, you know the enthusiasm that follows. The flavors are out-of-this-world fresh!
  3. Bigger and Better. Homegrown produce always trumps store-bought. They’re often double the size – especially if you used Espoma’s Organic Garden-Tone.
  4. Slash the Grocery Bill. Investing $70 in the vegetable garden can result in a whopping $600 worth of produce. Imagine how much you could save growing blueberries alone!
  5. Create a Legacy. Involving your children in the garden is powerful. You can teach them how important it is to respect the planet, care for it tenderly and grow sustainable, organic produce.

Yum! We can’t wait to see what delicious, homegrown dishes you create. Enter the contest and share your entry for your chance to win!

How to Water Plants When It’s Hot

When it’s hot, dry and muggy, the only cure is a cold drink. Well, your plants think so, too.

The trick to keeping your garden hydrated during the hottest days is not to water more. It’s to water smarter. We’ll teach you how to conserve water and keep your garden and lawn looking good with these tips. garden tips

How to Smartly Shower Flowers and Lawns:

  1. Morning Glory. Water before 9 a.m. in summer. As the day heats up, water can evaporate before your plants have a chance to soak it up.
  2. Water Deeply. Deep watering is most effective since it goes right to the roots. Plan on deeply watering your garden frequently with a nice soak. Hold the hose on each plant and count to 20. 30 minutes after watering, ensure the soil is moist 8”
  3. Prep to Step. Step in the lawn before watering. If you leave footprints behind, water. Properly watered grass springs right back up.
  4. Precise Advice. Generally, plants, flowers and lawns need 1” of water a week. Use a rain gauge to make sure you’re not over or under watering. Check the gauge after it rains.
  5. Cool Tools. Add a soaker hose or automated drip irrigation system to save you tons of time and wasted water. Installing them is a project, but one that will pay off for many years to come!
  6. Clean Green. When watering, get right to the roots. Wetting plant leaves just goes to waste. Plus, wet leaves provide the perfect environment for mold and disease to thrive.
  7. Thank You Very Mulch! A garden with 2-3” of mulch can reduce water consumption by 25-50 percent. Since organic mulch decomposes, consistently add more mulch.

Nice! You’re saving water, and keeping your garden blooming! Treat yourself by hopping in the pool or sipping an ice-cold drink in the shade. You’ve earned it!

Don’t Stall! Start Veggie Seeds for Fall

Today’s garden is bursting full of fresh fruits and veggies! There is nothing better than picking and eating a tomato, bean or pepper fresh off the plant.

Yet – we aren’t always so lucky. With fall around the corner, we are already thinking about how to prolong that never-ending supply of delicious, homegrown produce.

Now is the time to start cool-season seeds indoors.

Reap What You Sow: Starting Cool-Season Seeds Indoors for Fall

organic gardening

  1. Get the Goodies. For fall crops, pick the hardiest and most frost tolerant seeds, so they can survive the first frost. Some of our favorites include broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, beets, carrots and spinach.
  2. Time to Prime. Find your first fall frost date. Look at the number of days to harvest on each seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date, so the seeds have time to mature. Play it safe and add two weeks since plants can grow slower during short fall days.
  3. Awaken the Seeds. Fill seed starting trays within ¼” of the top with a high-quality organic seed starter, like Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter. Read each seed packet to learn how deep and far apart to plant seeds. Cover with soil, press down, label and lightly water.
  4. Store and Cover. Lightly cover the tray with plastic wrap. Keep in a sunny spot near a south-facing window.
  5. Smart Watering. Keep seeds moist by placing the tray in a pan of shallow water until the water seeps up from the bottom. Refill when empty.
  6. Break Out Sprouts. When leaves start to poke from the soil, remove plastic wrap. Feed with an organic fertilizer, like Espoma’s Plant-tone.
  7. A Home Away from Home. Two weeks before planting outside, begin hardening off seeds. Move outside for a few hours a day, increasing time outdoors daily. Also, reduce watering without letting the soil dry out.
  8. All Grown Up! Gently remove plants from see starting tray, and plant in a prepared bed. Mix-in organic starter plant food to help them adjust and grow strong, such as Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus.

Crunch! You’ll be munching on homegrown produce well into fall. How amazing (and tasty!) is that?

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

Don’t Leave Hanging Baskets Out to Dry…

Hanging baskets make great visual impacts when they are filled to the brim with bright summer blooms. They add instant color to any spot and are a sign of warm weather.

Though as days get hotter and the summer rolls on, hanging baskets can start to look tired: drooping blooms, minimal flowers and straggly plants.

Your hanging basket isn’t doomed. It just needs a good ol’ fashion pick-me-up.

Refresh your hanging baskets to keep them partying all summer long

Get ready to give your hanging baskets a make-over. With these tips, your hanging basket will be back in its prime in no time.

Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

Take the Heat Off Hanging Baskets

  1. Test the Waters Hanging baskets need more water when temperatures rise. During the peak of summer’s heat, water baskets in the morning until water drips from the drainage holes. Check them again in the afternoon to see if they need more water. On windy days, hanging baskets dry out, so they will need even more water.
  2. Food for Thought. Feed hanging baskets  with an organic flower food, like Flower-tone or the new Bloom! liquid plant food. Because of how much water baskets need, nutrients are frequently flushed from the soil. Regular feedings give your hanging baskets the energy they need to shine and bloom continuously.
  3. Drop Dead Gorgeous Blooms. As flowers fade, pinch them off where they meet the stem. Deadheading hanging baskets keeps them producing flowers and prevents them from going to seed.
  4. Which to Switch. Not every flower blooms all summer. If one of your flowers is done blooming for the season, swap it out. Gently remove the flower, replace it with a vibrant plant and fill with an organic potting soil.
  5. What to Cut. When your hanging basket is looking a bit wild or leggy, cut it back by 1-2”.

Look at that! Your hanging baskets already look better. Keep up these tips throughout the summer to keep hanging baskets fresh, beautiful and blooming.

Make Your Pet Red, White, Blue for Some Green

Have you heard? Your 4th of July can be packed with far more than hot dogs, fireworks and parades. You can enter to win 100 bucks, too!

You’re only a photo and a contest entry away.

At Espoma, you know we love keeping pets safe, healthy and happy. So this year, we’re celebrating the Fourth of July by hosting our first-ever Patriotic Pet Photo Contest.

To enter, snap a darling picture of your patriotic pet. With this keepsake, you really win either way.

Corgi

Milo, Max, Ivy, Gryffin, Berkley

Step by step instructions on how to enter Espoma’s Patriotic Pet Photo Contest and win $100:

  1. Like Espoma Organic on Facebook.
  2. Click on the Contest Tab.
  3. Post the cutest picture of your pet celebrating July 4th! Want to win? Make sure it’s patriotic and posted before July 7th.
  4. Rack up the likes! Encourage friends and family to like your photo by sharing the link. Be sure to vote for your favorite, too.
  5. Keep your eye on the prize. The photo with the most likes by 9 a.m. on July 7 wins.
Sammie

Sammie

Need inspiration? Check out these fun ways to celebrate the holiday with your pet.

Pets Get Patriotic for the Fourth

  • Add a red, white and blue bandana
  • Dress them up in festive outfit, bowtie or pop a patriotic hat or headband on them
  • Have your pet pose in front the American flag
  • Military family? Dress them in your fatigues.
  • Show them admiring your home-made red, white and blue flower container
  • March with them in your local parade

We can’t wait to see how you and your pet celebrate the Fourth of July this year! Best of luck in the contest. And, have a happy, safe and festive Fourth!