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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?

Hip, Hop, Hurray! Grow Hops for Homemade Beer

Homebrewed beer made of homegrown hops takes the craft beer movement to the next level. As you take that first sip, you don’t just taste the beer. You taste the pride, satisfaction and joy of brewing it yourself from scratch. Become a true brewmaster by growing your own hops.

Plus, growing your own hops is cheaper and makes your beer taste incredible.

Let’s plant some hops!homegrown hops

Get Hoppy! Grow Your Own Hops for Homebrews

  1. Which Hop to Crop? Buy hop rhizomes online that match the flavor and type of beer you like. They come in every flavor under the sun. Brewers typically use multiple hop varieties in their beers, so plant several varieties that you can mix and match.
  2. Spot a Spot. Hops need LOTS of sun to thrive — about 6-8 hours daily. Plus, the spot where you plant needs to have vertical space. Hops grow up, not out.

homebrewed beer

 How to Plant Hops for Home Brewing  

  1. Dig a Cozy Home. Dig 4” deep holes and mix in an organic fertilizer like Bio-tone Starter Plus by Espoma. If planting the same hop variety, dig each hole 3’ apart. If planting different hop varieties, plant them 5’ apart.
  2. Get ‘Em Situated. Place the rhizome horizontally in the hole with the root side down, pointy side up. If the rhizome is budding, plant the bud facing up. Fill hole, cover with soil and add mulch to conserve water.
  3. Bursts of Water. When soil is dry, provide a frequent, but short burst of water!
  4. Hungry, Hungry Hops. To grow strong hops, feed them an organic plant food each month. Find out how to apply Espoma’s Plant-tone.
  5. To New Heights. Once your hops are 1’ tall, select the strongest 2-3 vines and wrap them counter-clockwise around an 8-12’ trellis. Prune the remaining vines from the base of the hop. Over the next few days, keep wrapping the vines around the trellis to train them. Hops grow quickly so continue to check your vines regularly and keep wrapping!

Now those tiny hops don’t look like beer. Before long though, you’ll be sipping on their flavors in the most refreshing homebrew yet!

Feed Boxwood with Organic Plant Food in Early Spring

Evergreens — the name says it all. These plants and shrubs add color to your garden all year long, even in the dead of winter!

Though, we admit there’s one evergreen we love most: boxwoods.

Boxwood shrubs do it all. They’re super easy to care for, stay green all winter and are deer resistant.

These shrubs add instant definition, structure and privacy to outdoor spaces. Plus, boxwood shrubs morph into any shape when pruned. If an artful topiary isn’t for you though, they look just as beautiful when pruned slightly or left to grow free-form.

As easy as these shrubs are, there’s one BIG mistake people make when growing boxwood.

All too often, people believe that Holly-tone fertilizer is the feeding solution for boxwoods, just like they do with other evergreens. But that’s not the case.

While boxwood is part of the evergreen family, there’s one thing that makes them different. Most evergreens need to be fed Holly-tone, an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants. But, boxwood — and arborvitaes — are evergreen shrubs that are not acid-loving plants. So, they need an all-purpose plant food.

Avoid the #1 mistake people make when growing boxwood. Fertilize your boxwood with an organic all-purpose plant food to keep them a healthy green. Plus, feeding these shrubs in early spring helps them fight off disease all season.

How to Feed Established Boxwood:

To see how much fertilizer your boxwood needs, measure the width of your boxwood with a tape measure.

For each foot, use 1 cup of Espoma Plant-tone. For example if your boxwood is 4’ wide, use 4 cups of organic plant food.

Then, sprinkle around the boxwood’s drip line, which is a circle formed around the shrub’s widest branch.

How to Feed New Boxwood:

If you want to add a border or line a path, boxwood is just what you’re looking for. Go ahead and get planting.

Boxwood grows best in zones 6-8. As always before planting, make sure the area you’d like to plant matches the plant’s likings. Read that plant tag! Most boxwood need full to partial sun and well-drained soil.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot and the perfect boxwood, it’s time to plant.

Dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Scoop a handful of soil to test, too. Boxwood needs a soil pH between 6 and 7. If your pH is too low, add Espoma Organic Garden Lime. If your soil pH is higher than 7, amend with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Now, loosen roots and position boxwood in the hole.

Replace 1/3 of the soil with compost or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. And, mix in 1-2 cups of Organic Plant-tone. Adding an organic plant food now helps plants thrive in their new home.

Then, fill the rest of the hole with amended soil or Espoma Garden Soil.

Lightly water now, and continue watering once a week during spring and summer.

Finally, make the boxwood look right at home by adding 2-3” of mulch to control weeds and conserve water.

Boxwood transforms any area into a defined, stately space. Soon, these beautiful evergreens will even be dotted with sweet, white blooms.

What’s your favorite evergreen? Comment below to share!

Spruce up to Jumpstart the Gardening Season

Even though we still need cozy scarves and burly winter coats, we won’t for much longer. Our favorite time of year is almost here! We cannot wait to be outside, gardening, playing and basking in the sun in about two weeks.

Enough dreaming about the warmer days though, it’s time to start the yard and garden prep.

Although we’ve got green lawns on the mind all year long, even when they’re covered by 18” of snow, we’re eager to get outside and start prepping for our best lawn yet. Same for you?

Here are our professional tips for tackling early spring yard prep:

First, remove dead or diseased branches from trees and shrubs by cutting at a 45º angle with pruners.

Armed with your pruners, cut flowering perennials to 4-5” and trim ornamental grasses to 2-3”. Just like haircuts make hair grow faster and healthier, pruning plants does the same!

While walking around the yard, pick up fallen branches, spent annuals, lingering leaves and other natural debris. Doesn’t your yard already look better?

Then if the snow has melted, grab a rake and break up any matted, crunchy or discolored spots in the lawn to renew the area.

Finally, if the ground is thawed, scoop up a small handful of soil to test. Testing soil either with an at-home kit or with help from your extension agency is one of the most beneficial actions you can take.

Soil tests tell you what to add to get the perfect soil. Imagine racking your brain to figure out why your veggies are too small or your flowers look unhealthy. In reality, the problem could be your soil.

Take time to test and amend your soil needs — from soil acidifier or organic fertilizer. Cultivating organic, healthy soil now means your garden will deliver its absolute best later on. Come back to our blog later this month for more specific tips on adjusting your soil for that perfect lawn or plant.

Ah, the garden is gearing up for its comeback. Now, start planning what additions you’ll make to the garden this season.

Start Seeds Indoors in 10 Easy Steps:

Planting seeds inside is the first step toward Spring! Starting now means you’ll be planting seedlings outside in just 4 to 6 short weeks.

Plus, planting seeds is as easy and fun as can be. Gather your kids, family or friends to plant seeds with you for a “think Spring” get-together.

There’s nothing more refreshing or rewarding than crunching down on produce you’ve grown from seed.

How to Plant Seeds Inside:

1. Dream big

Choose your favorite high-quality seeds from a huge selection. Starting hard-to-find or expensive plants from seed will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

2. Stock up

Get plastic trays with holes in the bottom or a seed-starting kit as well as an organic soil starter, such as Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter. An organic soil like this is made specifically to help your seedlings grow strong, sturdy roots in a healthy, safe environment.

3. Get plantin’

Fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top and lightly water. Then, follow seed packet instructions to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and label.

4. Water wisely

Water perfectly by placing tray in a larger pan of shallow water for a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes so the water seeps up from the bottom.

5. Find the right spot

Place seeds in a warm, safe place. To warm up a spot, place a space heater nearby or place trays on top of the refrigerator.

6. Take cover and wait

Loosely cover the tray with plastic wrap, or use the cover in your seed-starting kit. Check seeds daily for moisture.

7. Spot a sprout

Once you see sprouts, remove the cover and move seeds to a sunny, south-facing window that is 65-75°F. Then, turn the container a little each day to prevent leaning seeds.

8. Boost plants

When leaves grow, add a bit of fertilizer such as Espoma’s Plant-tone. Plant-tone is an organic fertilizer, so it’s safe to use on edibles and helps plants grow bigger than ever before.

9. Strengthen seeds

Check seed packets to see when to plant after the last frost. Before planting you’ll want to harden off seedlings. Hardening off is a process that gets seeds used to the outdoors. Simply place your tray outside for a few hours a day for 7-10 days. Each day, increase their time outdoors and reduce watering.

10. Plant permanently

Once the last frost date has passed, you’re ready to plant! Gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. Plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food to keep them strong, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus.

You did it! Spring is just a step away – and so are your crisp, garden-fresh veggies and fruits!

Tell us, what seeds are you starting this year?

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