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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.  

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.

Out of Town? Don’t Let the Garden Go Brown

Gardener’s Guide: Hydration while on Vacation

As you pack your bags, finish up at work and plan your vacation adventures, one lingering question remains, “Who will water my plants?

Yes, we’d all like to have a friend or neighbor available to care for our garden while we’re out of town, but that’s not always a possibility.

Luckily, you can prep your garden before you go on vacation. Here are some tricks.

vacation garden tips

While You’re On Vacation, Treat Your Garden to a Stay-cation 

  1. Right on Time. Install a water timer to automate watering. You can opt for a more complex drip irrigation system or simply use a timer with sprinklers. Plan to give plants about 1” of a water a week.
  2. Pack a Snack. Keep your plants well-fed and packed with nutrients while you’re gone. Feeding your veggies, flowers and herbs with the right organic plant food sets them up for success and gives them the strength they need to survive tough situations.
  3. Much Mulch. Mulch helps plants retain 25-50 percent more water, so it’s perfect for vacation use. Make sure all plants have 2-3” of mulch. Water the mulch until it’s wet all the way through.
  4. Cluster Containers. Group containers in a shady spot where they’ll be watered by a sprinkler. Or if going out of town for 1-2 weeks, place containers out of direct sunlight in a kiddie pool filled with a few inches of water.
  5. Take Your Pick. Pick anything and everything from your edible plants. That includes any tomatoes showing color, pint-sized cucumbers and zucchinis and any beans you see. Picking will keep plants producing and provides healthy, organic snacks for your travels, too.
  6. Mow Before You Go. Mow the lawn the day before your trip. Simple!

Now, sit back, relax and get ready for an invigorating vacation! Your plants will surely miss you, but they’ll be just fine while you’re gone.  

Oh Snap! Pick and Serve Fresh Green Beans

The best time of the year is here! Harvest season!

And our green beans have never looked, well, greener. They’re ready to be picked and cooked for a yummy side dish. The best part is you’ll be picking and cooking beans now through late July.

Learning when and how to harvest green beans does take a bit of practice. Hang with us and in a few days, you’ll be a green bean pickin’ pro!

Give Beans the Green Light

  1. Pinch the Pod.  Harvest green beans when they’re 4-7” in length and the width of a pencil. Most importantly, they should be firm to the touch and have no visible bulges.
  2. They’re About to Snap!  With one hand, hold the bean where it connects to the vine. With the other hand, hold the vine. Now pinch off with your thumb.
  3. Cool (Green) Beans. Refrigerate in an airtight container. They’ll keep for about 4 days.

Put the Beans to the Test! Taste Test Green Beans with this Delicious Recipe  

As soon as beans leave the vine, you want to taste them! So, we always have a recipe ready to go ahead of time. Try one of our favorite recipes below.

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredientsgreen bean recipe

  • 1 ½ lb. freshly picked green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO (Extra-Virgin Olive Oil)
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions

  1. Boil Water.  Boil a pot of water over high-heat.
  2. Rinse and Trim.  Meanwhile, rinse and cut the stems off your fresh green beans.
  3. Cook. Add 1 tablespoon salt and boil the beans until tender, usually 4-5 minutes. Then drain and run under cool water.
  4. Whisk. Combine mustard, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper.
  5. Drizzle. Place in serving dish and evenly coat with mixture.
  6. Sprinkle. Scatter almonds over beans.
  7. …and Serve!  

Picking green beans is easy – and delicious. Get ready to enjoy fresh green beans all summer.  Yum!

Repurpose on Purpose: Trash Transforms into Beautiful Containers

Container gardening adds a whole new element of style and flair to your outdoor space. Not only do you get to showcase DIY containeryour style through plants, but also in the unique pots you choose. It’s twice the fun!

And you can do it for the planet, too. Growing herbs, veggies and flowers already makes the world a greener place. Now reuse and repurpose a forgotten item into an invigorated planter. Upcycling creates less waste and saves money, too.

Create a repurposed container for a beautiful (and thrifty!) container garden.

Your soon-to-be favorite container may already be in your house. Almost any vessel can be repurposed into a garden container! You’ll be amazed by what you discover (and by what containers you didn’t even know were hiding in your cupboards).

Up for Grabs: Upcycled Containers

  1. Pin Your Style. Create a look that is truly all your own. Decide if you want a rustic, modern, country or bold look. Then browse Pinterest for inspiration.
  2. Start the Search. Browse your kitchen, closet, garage and cupboards for items you no longer use. Any size works! Branch out to yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets for more unique looks.
  3. Add a Special Touch. Personalize your container by painting it, covering it in old wallpaper, or even turning it into a mosaic. Get crafty!
  4. Show Them the Drill. Then Fill. Drill holes in the bottom of your repurposed container to provide drainage. Without drainage holes, soil becomes too wet and causes roots to rot. When ready, fill with the ideal potting soil, Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix, and your favorite plants.
60bc838855263aa8a8875fd58e171bca

These upcycled tires are stacked and painted- as seen by Ellen Wells at Syngenta

Colander-planter_wm

A colorful, retro colander makes a great hanging container

Toy-truck-planter

Think outside of the (toy)box

bra-planter

And, of course, the bigger the better for this container…

Other Types of Repurposed Containers:

Get inspired by some of our favorite items to turn into garden planters below.

  • Teacups and teapots
  • Pitchers
  • Tires
  • Boots and shoes
  • Colanders
  • Desk drawers
  • Buckets
  • Wine crates and whiskey barrels
  • Wheelbarrows and wagons
  • Clothes and lingerie
  • Toolboxes
  • Suitcases
  • Watering cans

Creating repurposed containers is a quick, affordable and fun way to expand container gardens. Once you start, the possibilities are endless!

*thank you MicroGardener for the photos!

 

Double your Roses by Feeding and Deadheading

Is there anything better than walking into your garden, smelling the heavenly scent of a rose and seeing a luscious rose bloom?

Believe it or not, we think there is!

More roses!

Once your roses start blooming, all you want is for more roses to grow, too! Stack the odds in your favor by feeding and deadheading your roses now.

Give Your Roses an Energy Boost!

roses

 

To create those gorgeous, lovely rose blooms, roses need lots of energy! You don’t think those beautiful blooms just happen, do you?

  1. Ohm. Find the Right Balance. Roses need a balanced, organic fertilizer made specifically for roses. A balanced food with the same amounts of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) keeps the roots, flowers and foliage growing strong and healthy.
  2. Do as the Experts Do. Don’t the experts always know best? That’s what it seems like from those toothpaste commercials at least! The same is true in the garden. Rose-tone by Espoma, an organic plant food, is preferred by professional rose-growers. Follow their lead to grow bigger, better roses! Dare we say, prizewinning?
  3. The 30 Day Phase. Feed your roses once a month during the growing season. When you use a slow-release, organic fertilizer, your roses have enough to eat for 30 days. After that, they’ve consumed all the soil’s nutrients and need their energy source replenished. If the soil is dry, make sure you water roses heavily before feeding them. Find out more here.
  4. Look Dead? Off with their Head. Anyone who grows roses knows the value of deadheading. Roses will bloom all season if you remove spent flowers. Otherwise, the roses focus on seeding – not flowering. Plus, deadheading is easy! With pruners, simply cut dead roses just below the flower to the first set of leaves. Leave the leaves though, since these help plants grow strong. During drought, deadheading also reduces the plants need for water, increasing its chance of surviving this dry spell.
  5. Don’t stop there. Continue to deadhead roses until late August. This will allow the rose to form the important seed bearing hips it needs to produce even more flowers next spring!

Soon, roses will be coming up every which way! Go forth and create big, beautiful blooms with your newfound knowledge.