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Why Gardening Should Always be a Team Effort

people gardening together

Spring is here, and there’s no better way to celebrate the new season than by getting outside and gardening. Even better, why not garden with your friends, families, and community members? It’s the perfect way to help our planet while also connecting with the people closest in your life. Don’t believe it? Here’s why gardening with other people should be at the top of your to-do list this spring.

Woman and child in garden

1. It benefits your health.

Verywell Family says that gardening is a moderately intense form of exercise. It’s a great way to burn some calories without feeling like you’ve just run a marathon. This also means it’s a fun way to get your family physically active as well. The website states that, “Kids ages three to five need to get three hours of physical activity each day, and older kids need a minimum of an hour daily.” You and your family can bond over planting onions, corn, potatoes, you name it! As a bonus, Espoma’s Garden-tone Natural & Organic Fertilizer will have your family fawning over your healthy crops all season long.

basket of carrots

2. It benefits the environment.

It goes without saying that when you plant a garden, you’re significantly doing good for the environment. Greenmatters claims that gardening improves air quality, protects soil, lessens global warming, minimizes landfills, and saves different kinds of wildlife. These might seem like daunting tasks, but it’s really easier than you think. Verywell Family suggests that when gardening with your family, “You might invest in a rain barrel and start a compost pile to make your garden more Earth-friendly, too.” 

Gardens for kids are an easy, engaging way to learn more about sustainability and its importance for our planet. And even for those who aren’t children, you’re never too late to learn something new. Gardening can teach your friends, family, and fellow neighbors about all the green benefits of growing plants and crops.

child taking picture of a flower

3. It’s just plain fun.

Whoever you plant your garden with, you go on a journey together to grow something entirely new. 

Harddy explains that Watching the plants start to grow is an incredible achievement. When the planting is done together as a family, it makes the entire process even more meaningful from start to finish.” 

This rewarding process is a bonding experience that can strengthen your relationship with your family and local community. There’s also tons of ways to spice up your garden to make it a fun time for everyone involved. 

Playful Acre thinks that adding themes to your garden can make your children more engaged and interested in helping out. The blog tells us that having garden bed ideas spanning from “fairy tales to stories to favorite vacations abroad” can make your time outside all the more fulfilling.

Once your luscious garden is complete, the fun does not end there. There’s lots of ways afterwards to enhance the beauty of all your hard work.

Harddy recommends to “Use this time to come up with some beautiful decor you and your children can make together. Buy some terra cotta pots and have everyone paint one in their own unique designs. You can also clip the flowers you’ve grown to make gorgeous decorative arrangements for the dinner table.”

Flower arrangements

No matter who you garden with, whether your family, friends, or other local green thumbs, social gardening is your answer to springtime fun. Just as importantly, there are health benefits to gardening that keeps you and your close circle physically active on a daily basis. And of course, we need to upkeep our planet to make it a safe, beautiful place for everyone, and gardening helps us accomplish exactly that.

We can’t wait to see you and your squad planting seeds and growing meaningful relationships. Check out all our products ranging from fertilizers, to soils, and everything in between to make your next planting party a success. Happy gardening!

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Meet Your New Gardening Guide: Kaleb Wyse

Kaleb Wyse

Kaleb Wyse is a fourth-generation to live on his family farm in Iowa. Leaving business and accounting, Kaleb started Wyse Guide as an outlet for his passions in the garden and indoors in the kitchen. His goal is to show viewers how they can start a garden no matter the size, preserve food, and create the home they love to live in.

Some things about Kaleb? You won’t find spirea or daylily in his garden. When Kaleb isn’t gardening, he’s busy crafting new recipes of his favorite foods, like ice cream and gourmet popcorn. While you’d think his favorite season is summer because he loves to garden, he adores the winter; he likes to slow down and curate his plans for springtime gardening season while he looks out at the Iowa snow. 

Kaleb Wyse and Kippie

His 3 year-old Frenchie, Kip, helps him out in the garden when he needs an extra hand, or paw in this case. Though he doesn’t like to do any garden work, he’s a good supervisor. 

Vegetable gardening is incredibly important to Kaleb — “We have the ability to grow actual food, think about how amazing that is! We can enrich our soil to be healthy and full of nutrients that will transfer to the vegetable garden plants we grow, making them more nutritious that what we buy that is mass grown.” He never grows tired of the excitement about how he can take a seed into something he can eat. Kaleb’s passions have sprouted instructional videos, recipes, and home gardening tips for everyone to use.

Kaleb with house plants

Be sure to check out Kaleb’s amazing gardening tips and recipes on Wyse Guide. When you have your list of garden vegetables you’re ready to plant, we’ve got you covered with fertilizers and soils sure to start the season off the right way.

Cool Down with Warm Season Vegetables

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5 Reasons to Cool Down with Warm Season Vegetables

  1. Saves you lots of money
  2. Fun to do with the kids
  3. Gets you outside into the fresh air & sunshine
  4. Provides the best flavor, freshness & nutrition
  5. Satisfaction of growing your own food

With thousands of varieties of vegetables available, you can plant any vegetable you like in your garden. Ah, but success – well, that’s a different story. Choosing the right veggies will make a big difference for your garden.

First Thoughts

Here are some other important things to think about that will also help you narrow down your choices:

Location, location, location. Full sun is best (or at least 6 hours of it). Without it, you need to choose veggies that appreciate shade.

Garden Size and Design. Less space doesn’t always mean less yield. Planting in traditional rows takes a lot of room, but “square foot gardening” maximizes the amount of plants (and produce) in a small space.

The seed of an idea – consider plants. Choosing plants is less work than starting seeds, but seeds offer more variety. Remember to allow enough time to start seeds indoors. Plants or seeds, learn as much as you can about them before planting.

That’s rich: good organic soil. If you don’t have good garden soil, fortify it with compost or a good garden soil like Espoma Planting Mix, available at garden centers.

Big and small appetites – Heavy feeders, such as cabbage family crops, coexist better with less demanding plants.

Narrow it down

Make a short list. Start first with your favorite vegetables, or look online or at a seed catalog for inspiration. Then identify your priorities. Do you want a long harvest? Big quantities? Easy to grow? Speedy harvest? Perhaps it’s just the incredible homegrown flavor of a few favorites that inspire you. If you’re still having trouble deciding, here’s some of our warm season favorites.

Our Six Favorite Warm Season Vegetables:


Cucumbers
Coolest of them all. And Juicy. Popular for eating fresh or for making pickles.

Eggplant
Deep Purple Glossy Beauty. Have a pleasantly bitter taste and a spongy texture.

Zucchini Squash
Cylindrical, smooth & dark green – and oh yeah – abundant. Has a creamy white tender flesh. The bush-like plants are vigorous and the fruits are best when 6-8″ long.

Tomatoes
Tomato, tomahto – however you say it – they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether for sauces or slicing, we grow tomatoes for one mouthwatering reason: the fruit.

Bell Peppers
There’s a suggestion that rings true. Sweet & Crisp. Plants produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange, green, chocolate/brown, vanilla/white, and purple.

Bush String Beans
A Snap to Grow. Bush beans stand erect without support. They produce juicy, tender pods.

Tasty Tips

  • Feeding. Fertilizing your crops is critical to getting the most produce. But remember, overdosing plants with synthetic fertilizers can burn them or create tall, spindly plants that actually produce less. Use a high-quality organic plant food like Espoma’s Garden-tone® or Tomato-tone®.
  • Form follows function. Watering Employ a consistent (and thorough) watering schedule. Water plants at the base, not the foliage. But remember, vegetables don’t grow well in swamps.
  • Pest control. Consider organic methods to control garden pests. Remove larger insects and caterpillars by hand. Espoma Insecticidal Soap is an effective way to control harmful bugs. If you do use pesticides – always follow directions carefully.
  • Harvest. If it looks ready, give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more will be produced. And bring the kids – it’s their favorite part.
  • Well-tended is well-intended. Defeat weeds as soon as they start. They will compete with vegetable plants.

Thanks for reading our overview on warm season vegetables. We hope this information is helpful. The way we see it, why pick and choose, when you can choose and pick?

Grow Your Own Popcorn

Everyone loves corn on the cob. It’s a staple of summer picnics and barbeques. Everyone loves popcorn too, but most people don’t realize you can grow your own. This is a fun and easy way to get kids involved in gardening. Seeds are relatively large and easy for kids to handle. It’s fast growing and making your own popcorn is a real treat.

You’ll Need Fertile Seed

No, you can’t open a bag of popcorn from the grocery store and plant it. Most store bought popcorn isn’t fertile because of the heating and sterilization processes it undergoes.  You’ll need to buy fertile popcorn from your local garden center and there are plenty to choose from on the internet. There are a few heirloom varieties that make great popcorn and are beautiful too, you’ll want to use them for fall decorating.

Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/ RareSeeds.com

Strawberry Popcorn?

One heritage variety named ‘Strawberry’ has short cobs, just 2-4 inches long with ruby red kernels. ‘Dakota Black’ has 6-8 inch long cobs with kernels so deep purple they look almost black. Think Halloween decorations! Perhaps the most beautiful is called ‘Glass Gem’. The kernels are yellow, orange, pink, purple, green and orange with a glossy, glass-like transparency. They are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat!

Choose a Bright, Sunny Spot

Plant corn in full sun, with well-draining soil. Mix in some of Espoma’s All-Purpose Garden Soil and Bio-tone Starter Plus to refresh  your soil. While these varieties of corn are somewhat smaller than eating corn, they still need plenty of room. Space the seeds, 2 per hole, eight to ten inches apart with 18-24 inches between rows.

They’re Thirsty

Popcorn is a thirsty plant. They will drink about 2 inches of water a week if it doesn’t rain.

Add a layer of mulch after planting to help hold moisture in the soil. Using soaker hoses is a very efficient way to water, very little evaporates and the water is taken up slowly and deeply. You should begin to taper off watering when you near the harvest time, about 100 days.

Photo Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/ RareSeeds.com

They’re Hungry!

Feeding your popcorn is just as important as watering it. All corn needs nitrogen. Using a product like Espoma’s Plant-Tone is a great choice. It’s an organic, long lasting, slow release fertilizer. It’s a good idea to feed popcorn when it’s about knee high, when the silk forms or if the leaves start turning yellow. Or, simply feed plants once a month.

Protect the Kernels

If you garden with kids, making a scarecrow is an absolute must! And, it may actually help to keep the birds away. If birds are overly interested in your sprouting corn, you could try using a chicken wire tunnel over each row.

Let the Corn Dry on the Stalks

In a dry autumn, leave the corn on the stalks until they are dry. The husks should be papery and dry and the kernels should feel hard. If it’s a wet fall, harvest the corncobs and bring them indoors to finish drying. Simply pull back the husks and spread them out on newspaper, out of direct sunlight. Popcorn is generally harvested in October, 85-120 days after planting depending on weather and when it was planted.

Photo Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/ RareSeeds.com

Pop Quiz

If you’re not sure if your popcorn is dry enough, do a pop test. Put a few kernels of corn into a hot pan with a little bit of oil. If it pops, it’s ready. If it sticks to the pan, it’s not ready and needs to be dried longer. You can either pop your corn the old fashion way, in a pan with oil or put one cob in a paper bag and pop it in the microwave. Keep a close eye on your microwave cooking time, until you know how long it takes for your popcorn to cook. Unpopped popcorn can be stored in an air tight container all winter.

For more gardening fun, check out this video on how to plant a vegetable garden.

Espoma Products for Popcorn

Are You Ready To Plant?

You’ve waited all winter, and spring is so close! It’s just about time to start sowing early spring crops.

You can sow cool season crops directly in the ground as soon as the soil temperature is at or above 40ºF. If the soil is wet and muddy, you’ll want to wait a few days until things dry out. Working wet soil can ruin its structure. Some people use polythene tunnels to warm the soil and give them an even bigger head start.

While you sow, don’t forget to feed your soil. Use Espoma Organic’s Garden-Tone, it is perfectly formulated for your vegetable garden.

Here are our top vegetables for early spring:

Spinach

Spinach sprouts fairly quickly and is remarkably frost resistant, especially when grown under cover. Plants like the morning sun and are happy to have some afternoon shade. Fresh baby spinach is tasty and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Try a springtime salad with spinach and strawberries or put them in your favorite breakfast smoothie.

Swiss Chard

This beet relative is another excellent early spring crop that is easy to grow from seed. Once the leaves are 6 inches tall, you can begin to harvest the outer leaves. Let inner leaves stand for a later harvest. Chard contains 3 times the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 44 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A. Eat it raw or cooked.

Lettuce

There are hundreds of different kinds of lettuce; they come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Harvesting baby greens is quick and easy. Look for varieties  you can cut back that will regrow. Many can be harvested in just 30 days. They won’t flourish during cold snaps, but they won’t die unless temperatures dip below 28ºF.

Radishes

Radishes are one of the fastest vegetables you can grow. They’re fun to grow with little ones because they come up before you know it. You can plant radishes alongside lettuce or other spring greens. As you harvest the radishes, the greens have more room to grow. Use them as an addition to salads and tacos or roast them for a delicious treat.

Kale

We all know kale is a super food — cooked kale delivers more iron than beef. Lucky for us it grows easily from seed. Harvest the outer leaves for baby kale and let the rest of the foliage grow to full size. It can produce a great deal of food with little effort. Sow kale early and protect from hard frosts.

Peas

Fresh grown peas are so sweet and delicious, even your kids will love them. And, the seeds are big enough for little hands to plant them. Plant them in the ground around St. Patrick’s Day or 4 to 6 weeks before that last frost free date. Some varieties will need a low trellis. Check the seed packet to see how tall they’ll grow. Grow sugar snaps or snow peas if you don’t want to do all the shelling regular peas require.

 Learn more about starting a kid friendly vegetable garden.

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5 Deliciously Unique Fall Vegetables

Most avid gardeners have planted the veggie essentials in abundance, but what about the forgotten veggies and those varieties that look a little different from the usual choices?

There is a surprisingly long list of what are considered “unusual” veggies, but below are five of the strangest, most delicious ones that you’ll want in your garden.

Romanesco Broccoli

If you’re going for the “wow” factor in your veggie garden, then Romanesco broccoli is the plant for you. Its intense, bright green fractals of broccoli are stunning. It is similar to cauliflower in terms of care. For best results, be sure to keep the soil moist and plant in a spot with full sun. Keep romanesco broccoli fed with Espoma’s Garden-tone. You can eat this stunning broccoli in a number of ways: raw in a salad, steamed, or grilled. Hardy in Zones 3-10.

Kaleidoscope Carrots

Jewel-toned colors like yellow, purple and red make for a fun pop of color for this classic favorite veggie. Choose rainbow carrots to add a variety of color to salads, sides and stir-fries. Plant seeds in late summer for a harvest that can be enjoyed on autumn days and even for Thanksgiving dinner. Straight roots need light, loose soil so sow carrot seeds in deep, well-worked soil in full sun. Grow in any region.

Black Radishes

Radishes are quick and easy to grow. Heirloom varieties of black radishes take about two to three times long to grow than regular radishes and tend to be spicier. Their crisp black skin and snow white flesh will make them an intriguing addition to any veggie platter. If radishes are too pungent, remove the skin before eating. Black radishes do need plenty of sun, so choose a spot where they can get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Feed with Espoma’s liquid Grow! for bigger plants. Grow in any region.

Tree Onions (Egyptian Onions)

These onions set their bulbs at the top of the plants. They taste similar to shallots, but with a more intense flavor. Stalks fall over when they get too heavy, allowing the bulbs to “walk” and plant themselves in a new space. One walking onion can travel as far as 24 inches and create six new onions. Plant bulbs in late summer (before the first frost) to harvest next year. Hardy in Zones 3-10.

Blue Potatoes

The vivid bluish-purple hues of Adirondack potatoes make them a stunner for any dish — especially mashed potatoes. They taste like regular potatoes and get their unique coloring from anthocyanin. There are many varieties including some with a marbled blue and white interior. Plant potatoes in fall to get a head start on a spring harvest. Grow in any region.

Espoma products for Unusual Veggies:

Grow! Plant Food

If you’re looking for the basics, learn how to plant veggies in containers!

 

Guide to Starting Root Vegetable Seeds

Who’s ready to start digging in the garden? Us too.

Root vegetable crops can often be planted as soon as the soil has warmed. They’re an easy addition to start your vegetable garden. Start your seedlings now and you‘ll be able to brag about your homegrown root vegetables at the first summer BBQ of the year.

In order to be successful, plant your seeds after springs last frost date according to your region. Stop by your local garden center to pick up your seeds and supplies, soon!

Here’s how to start root vegetable seeds:

  1. Pick Your Soil

Soil for root vegetables is important as they will grow around anything intrusive buried. That will lead to deformed vegetables. They grow best in a deep, loose soil that retains moisture yet is well-drained, such as Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.  Choosing the right soil from the beginning will set up your crop for success. Prepare bed, loosen compacted soil and mix in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

Plant seeds after spring’s last frost date according to your region.

  1. Start Seeds

Sow your seeds directly into your soil. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.

  1. Water Regularly

Seeds need to stay moist while they germinate. Root crops need about 1 inch of water a week. Light waterings that only wet the surface will cause shallow root development and reduce the quality of crops.

  1. Feed Me

When the vegetables start to grow bigger, fuller leaves, give them a hand with Espoma’s Garden-Tone to help provide the nutrients needed for delicious vegetables.

  1. Thin plants

Some root plants like beets or radishes will benefit from thinning. Cut off the tops of weaker seedlings at the soil line when seedlings have 1-2 sets of true leaves.You can use many leaves as a tasty additions to salads. If you pull seedlings out of the ground, it is not recommended to transplant long rooted vegetables, like carrots and turnips, since the disturbance will cause roots to fork.

 

Want more veggies? Try this DIY vegetable pallet planter. 

 

Don’t Stop Believing – Your Garden Reinvented!

So you just finished harvesting all of your crops, you have tomatoes in every drawer in your kitchen and your garden is cut back. What now?

With enough time left before the first frost, you can still get another crop in the ground.

Whether you are a planner or a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gardener, succession planting is something to try.

What is Succession Planting?

Succession planting is a way of planting that maximizes your harvest. You plant one vegetable right as another finishes. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Harvest Crop – Using the same plot for another set of vegetables after harvest. When a crop is finished, plant another, with a shorter maturity date, in its place. Leafy greens, followed by potatoes, are a great example of harvesting and replanting.
  2. Companion Crop – Plant two or more crops with varying maturity dates around each other. After the first crop is harvested, your garden will continue flourishing. Radishes next to cucumbers are great companions. Radishes will be harvested before the cucumbers start to produce too much shade.
  3. Staggered Crop – Plant the same crop every few weeks in order to not be bombarded by the entire crop at once. Tomatoes and peas are crops you’d want in small batches through the whole season.
  4. Same Crop – Plant the same crop with different maturity dates. Seed packets will display the days to maturity on the packets. Broccoli is an example crop with various maturity dates.

Now you know what succession planting is, here are a few steps to send you in the right direction.

5 Tips for Succession Planting

  1. Plan Accordingly – Growing based on maturity can be a little tricky if you aren’t planning for your region. Make sure to check the seed packet or plant tag to find out how long the plant will take to mature and what temperature it will grow best in. Make sure you have enough seeds to keep you going through the season.
  2. Plant Transplants – Speed up the growing process by starting seeds This will allow you to harvest and quickly plant to keep your garden at optimum level all the way up to those winter months. Or, purchase plants as seedlings from your local garden center.
  3. Feed Regularly – Add Espoma’s Garden Tone to the soil between plantings to keep the soil rich and crops thriving.
  4. Don’t Hesitate – As you see plants starting to reduce or cease harvest, don’t hesitate to pull them to make room for a new crop.
  5. Rotate Crops – Try not to plant the same vegetable in the same spot year after year. This causes the soil to lose essential nutrients and increases the likelihood for diseases to develop. Rotate crops every three years.

Succession planting can ensure your garden is in working production all season long. Learn what veggies it’s not too late to plant.

5 Summer Edibles it’s not Too Late to Plant

It’s never too late to start an edible garden. Different fruits and vegetables thrive in all types of conditions, so you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your garden, regardless of the season.

In fact, some summer favorites can be planted now for a delicious late summer or early fall harvest. Make sure to use Espoma’s Organic Garden-tone when growing veggies this summer.

Consider these options for late June – early July planting.

Beets

These little red veggies thrive in conditions with warm days and cooler nights, making them perfect for areas with a mild summer climate. They can also adapt to grow in cool weather, making your harvest last through the fall and winter. Beets prefer full sun when possible, but still produce leafy greens in the shade.

Aside from being delicious, beets also have a ton of nutritional benefits. With loads of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and calcium, beets can help protect you from heart cancer.

Cucumbers

Nothing says summer flavor like a delicious, crisp cucumber. Cucumbers serve as a perfect addition to any summer salad or cocktail, or they can stand on their own as a yummy snack. Cucumbers thrive in warm weather and that hot summer heat will give you delicious sprawling cucumbers in as little as 50 days.

Harvest cucumbers before they get too big to encourage continued growth.

Peas

Sweet, crisp and crunchy – what else could you want from a summer vegetable? Sugar snap peas need at least six hours of full sun every day and thrive in sunny spots. As sugar snap peas grow up, support them with a trellis or stake. They will be ready to harvest within 60-90 days of planting, which will give you a delicious late summer – early fall treat.

Zucchini

Zucchini is definitely a fan favorite when it comes to summer squash. This fast growing vegetable will be ready to harvest within 45-55 days after sowing seeds. Zucchini tastes best when it measures around 4-6 inches. If it grows much bigger, the flavor will become bitter.

Be sure to give your zucchini plants plenty of room to grow as they often produce lots of vegetables very quickly.

Melons

If you live a climate where the hot summer heat lasts well into the fall, try planting watermelons in your vegetable garden. Watermelons are extremely pest and disease resistant, making them perfect for an organic garden. Watermelons typically need 80-100 days of hot, humid weather to develop their delicious sweet taste, so only plant if you live in the right climate.

For those in climates a bit more mild, try planting honeydew or cantaloupe. These melons prefer warm weather but don’t require the same amount of heat as watermelons.