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Caring for Acid-Loving Plants

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For Sweet Results, Feed Acid Loving Plants

Imagine enormous pink rhododendrons, evergreens that are vigorous and deep green without any yellowing, and sweet blueberries fresh from your garden. These popular plants and many more seem to have nothing in common, but actually, they share an important characteristic – they’re all acid-loving.

Take a look at this short list of just a few to see how many you know and love (and are in your garden):

Amaryllis
Andromeda
Aster
Azalea
Bayberry
Bleedingheart
Blueberry
Camellia
Dogwood
Evergreens
Ferns
Fir
Gardenia
Heath
Heather
Hemlock
Holly
Huckleberry
Hydrangea
Inkberry
Juniper
Leucothoe
Lily-of-the-Valley
Lupine
Magnolia
Marigold
Mountain-ash
Mountain-laurel
Oak
Pacheysandra
Phlox
Pieris
Pine
Raspberry
Rhododendron
Spruce
Strawberries
Whitecedar
Woodsorre

5 Steps to Give Your Acid-Loving Plants a Boost

  1. First, test your soil. It’s not a big deal and it will tell you a lot. Get an inexpensive kit from your local garden center or a meter with a probe that you can poke into the ground and take a reading. It will make you feel like a very important scientist. Or space alien. Either way, these tests will provide you with a pH number. 7.0 is neutral – a lower number is more acidic, a higher number more alkaline. Set a goal of 5.5. Simple, eh?
  2. Adjust the pH if necessary. If the test says soil is too alkaline, add a product that contains sulfur such as Espoma Soil Acidifier. It’s safe, long lasting and better than aluminum sulfate. If the test says it’s too acidic, add a safe, pelletized lime product like Espoma Garden Lime. Always follow application instructions
  3. The Need for Feed. Feed all of these plants with a rich, organic plant food specially formulated for acid-loving plants; one that will spur deep evergreen color and dynamic blooms like Espoma Organic Holly-tone®
  4. Hot and Sour? Watering requirements vary depending for each plant, but be certain to keep acid-loving plants well watered at the root zone during hot Summer months.
  5. Too mulch is never too much. Add mulch a couple of inches deep around shallow roots for protection against hot or cold weather.

What Does Acid-Loving Mean?

Don’t worry. The term “acid-loving plants” shouldn’t strike terror in your heart. It simply identifies certain plants that need a more
“sour” (or acidic) soil to thrive. “Sweet” and “sour” refer to the acidity/alkalinity of the soil, also called the pH level. Most plants like a slightly acidic soil, around 6.5 to 7, but acid-loving plants need a lower number closer to 5.5. The reason this matters is that acid-loving plants can’t take the nutrients they need from the soil if it isn’t in the proper acidity range. The good news is that you can adjust the acidity in your soil.

That covers the easy basics of what you need to know to help your acid-loving plants thrive. Hopefully this information alleviated any anxiety you may have had about caring for your acid-loving plants—or at least it neutralized the excess acid!

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Hydrangea Hype: Garden Inspiration

Beautifully flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

Hydrangea Basics

Besides their obvious beauty, there are some facts about hydrangeas worth knowing before embarking on your hydrangea garden journey. With many varieties of the hydrangea species, it is important to keep in mind which ones thrive in your zone and garden. For example, if you live in a cool zone, the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a great choice to add to your garden.

Hydrangeas are acid-loving plants. To keep your hydrangeas happy use Espoma’s Organic Holly-Tone to fertilize.  You can even adjust the acidity of the soil to change the color of some hydrangeas. Do you prefer blue to pink? It’s easy to enjoy a garden full of blue hydrangeas by simply decreasing (lowering) the pH of the soil. We recommend amending your soil with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to help turn your hydrangeas blue.

Hydrangeas in containers

Short on space? No problem! There are several varieties that will thrive in your small space. Our Hydrangea Variety Guide will help find the right dwarf hydrangea to put in your containers.

Next, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need. Be sure to use a good quality potting soil such as Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. Choose a container that is 1/2 or 1/3 bigger than the plant itself. It is important that the plant does not get crowded in its container. The last step is to water well and most importantly, enjoy the big beautiful blooms!

 

 

Don’t settle for bushes. Grow a tree!

While we’re typically used to seeing low growing hydrangea bushes, how great would it be to see hydrangeas on trees? Well, the good news is, you can! Hydrangea paniculata, also known as Grandiflora, produces white conical flowers instead of big spherical blossoms. With some pruning and proper care, it can grow up to 25 feet tall! Grandiflora, known among gardeners as Pee Gee Hydrangea, is your best bet for growing a hydrangea tree.  Check your hardiness zone, as hydrangea trees thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8a. Hydrangeas prefer full sun for most of the day and a bit of afternoon shade, so be sure to choose a generally bright spot.

One of the most important parts of growing a hydrangea tree is pruning. The main difference between a hydrangea shrub and a tree is training, pruning and proper care.

 

Friends that bloom together stay together

Hydrangeas make great companion plants. Pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers or subtle ornamental grasses for an extra pop of color in your garden. Pair with shrubs, flowers and grasses for a look that pleases.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades making them a perfect companions for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias. Whichever you choose, look for companion plants that bloom around the same time.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Multi-size, multi-color, and just plain beautiful

When we picture hydrangeas — with their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage — we naturally envision large plants. Believe it or not, hydrangeas come in not one, not two, but three sizes! Dwarf varieties are petite beauties that pack a powerful punch. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf or full-size hydrangea for you.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Hydrangea appreciation

Appreciate your hard work growing your hydrangea garden by putting together hydrangea bouquets to decorate your home, creative art projects, making a hydrangea wreath, or dry them out for year-round arrangements! There is no end to the beauty your hydrangeas will bring to your garden and your home.

 

Espoma Products Hydrangeas will Love:

When to Plant Strawberries (Hint: Think Spring)

Juicy, sweet strawberries picked from your own garden are simply the best. Plus, taking strawberries from your own garden to your plate is so rewarding. Create a berry garden by pairing with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The key to growing berries, no matter where you garden, is good-quality organic soil.

Choosing your Strawberry Plant:

The first step is to pick the type of Strawberry plant you want to grow. Take the amount of growing time Think about where you’ll plant your berries to get the best results. Visit your local garden center to find the best type of strawberry for you.

June-bearing. This traditional berry will usually produce one large harvest in late spring or early summer depending on temperature. June-bearing strawberries are available in early, mid-season and late varieties.

Ever-bearing. These scrumptious strawberries produce two to three harvests intermittently during the spring, summer and fall. Because ever-bearing plants do not send out many runners, they make great choices for containers.

Day-Neutral. Grow these to keep producing fruit throughout the growing season. They continuously fruit if temperatures are between 35-85°F. Because they produce few runners, they are great when space is limited, but the fruits are usually somewhat smaller than June bearers.

Once you’ve picked your plants, it’s time to get them in the ground. Strawberries grow best in full sun and in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.  If your pH level is too high, add Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for ideal soil conditions.

4 Steps to Plant Strawberries

1. Plant strawberries as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.

2. Space plants at least 20” apart. Dig holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system.

3. Plant the crown (the parts of the plant that are above ground) at soil level; firm soil around it.

4. Add compost to bed and encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

Short on space or looking to grow strawberries vertically? Check out how Laura from Garden Answer grows.

 

 

6 Cool Weather Growing Tips

As evenings become cooler and crisper and the daylight gets shorter and shorter, it’s a signal that frost is not too far away. The change in temperature and season can leave gardeners longing for the warm summer air, instead of prepping for winter.

There’s still plenty of gardening to be done this time of year. Get the most out of your fall harvest and set your garden up for spring success by jumping on these garden tasks now.

6 Tips for Fall Gardening

Plant Trees

It’s no secret that the best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. Before you plant, evaluate the landscape to assess the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation, proximity to permanent structures, and hazards, such as overhead wires or underground pipes. Choose a site where the tree will be able to grow to its mature height. Then, dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Place the tree in the hole at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or Espoma’s All Purpose Garden Soil. Mix in an organic fertilizer such as Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil. Backfill the hole, give it a nice drink of water and watch your tree grow.

Get Bulbs in the Ground

Spring-blooming bulbs can generally be planted any time before the soil begins to freeze. Give bulbs their best shot by planting a few weeks before the ground is frozen to help them establish roots. Be sure to add in a scoop of Bulb-tone to each planting hole.

Improve the Soil

While fall is for planting, it’s also the perfect time for prepping for next season. Healthy soil is the backbone of every successful garden. Test soil now for pH and nutrient levels and amend accordingly. Dig 4” deep with a stainless steel trowel and either use a DIY soil test or send your soil sample to the county extension office.

To adjust the PH level of your soil, use Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime to raise the pH of very acidic soil. Poke holes in the soil’s surface and scatter on the lime. Rake lightly into the top inch of soil. Or, apply Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soil.

 Create Compost

All of those colorful leaves that are falling make for perfect additions to your compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile already, start one! The best compost contains about 25 times more carbon-rich materials than nitrogen-rich materials. Think of these as brown and green materials. Brown materials include paper, straw or dried leaves. Green materials include garden and food scraps. Add Espoma’s Compost Starter to help speed the composting process, for rich, fertile compost.

 Top with Mulch

Add a thick blanket of mulch to reduce evaporation and control weeds.

Choose organic mulch that will improve the soil as it decomposes. Lay 2 – 3” of mulch around established plants.

When mulching trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to just beyond the drip line covering a bit of the roots. Keep 2 – 3” away from the stems of woody plants and 6 – 12” away from buildings to avoid pests.

Prep and harvest fall crops

If it looks like frost will arrive earlier than expected, protect your crops and extend your growing season by covering with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Use stakes to keep the cover from touching the plants.

 

Looking for an indoor project? Check out this low-light succulent planter from Garden Answer.

Plant Perennials for Easy Curb Appeal

Summer is a great time to spruce things up, giving you the chance to make your home feel warm and welcoming.

If you want to add curb appeal or if your yard just seems a bit bare, plant perennials that will come back year after year. Look for them in many different colors, heights, and forms.

Before planting, evaluate your space for the amount of sun and shade it gets. Check to make sure the perennials you’re selecting will thrive in your space.

Here are our top six picks for the prettiest perennials.

The Best Perennials For Summer Curb Appeal:

1. Hydrangeas. There are endless options of these bright bloomers to choose from. Pick a spot where hydrangeas will get afternoon sun and be sure to water daily. For bright blue hydrangeas, you’ll need to perfect the soil’s pH level. Use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for best results. Zones 4-9.

2. Black-eyed Susan. Black-eyed Susan blooms from midsummer to fall and always makes a strong comeback in spring. This vigorous bloomer is also a favorite of pollinators. These flowers grow best in full sun, but will tolerate partial sun as well. Zones 3-9.

3. Aster. The lovely pink or lavender blooms attract a wide range of late-season butterflies and beneficial insects. Position purple asters against a white picket fence or light colored background for a look that pops. Zone 4-8.

4. Daylillies. Daylilies are just as hardy as they are colorful. Blooming from early spring to late summer, these perennials make the perfect border or road-side addition. Since soil near roads and walkways tends to be in need of a boost, make sure to plant with Espoma’s liquid Start! plant food.

5. Hostas. Choose Hostas for their never-ending display of colorful summer foliage. You’ll find these perennials at your local garden center in a wide variety of colors, shapes and patterns. Plant under trees, near shrubs, or near your home. Hostas prefer shade, but some varieties do well in sun. Zones 3-9.

6. Sedum. One of the most dependable perennials you can grow, varieties of sedum will quickly establish themselves in any sunny spot. These creeping ground covers and low-maintenance plants will also attract pollinators. Zones 3-9.

Once you’ve chosen your perennials, all that’s left to do is plant. To get your best perennials yet, use Espoma’s new liquid Bloom! plant food.

Top 10 Small Space Gardening Solutions

Don’t let limited space discourage you from gardening.  Whether you have a big backyard or a one bedroom apartment, there are always plenty of ways to keep your living space green. If you have a green thumb but not a lot of space, container plants will become your best friend. When growing in containers, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Potting Soil Mix for best results.

Try these ten small space gardening solutions.

Dwarf Blueberries

These delicious summer fruits are the perfect fit for growing in containers. Although they might be small, blueberries provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Potted blueberry plants provide more than just a healthy snack, too – they create beautiful foliage all year long.

Cherry Tomatoes

While certain varieties of tomatoes can grow very large, cherry tomatoes are perfect for small space gardening. Grow cherry tomatoes in a sunny spot on your patio or balcony and pop them right off the vine when you’re ready to eat! Use Espoma’s Organic Tomato Tone for best results.

Hydrangeas

Choose a dwarf or petite hydrangea and the flowers and leaves will fill out the container in no time. Be sure to give hydrangeas plenty of light and water daily. For bright blue hydrangeas, you’ll need to perfect the soil’s pH level. Use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier for best results.

Succulents

Not only are they low-maintenance and easy to care for, succulents are also trending in the home décor world. With a huge variety – including cactus, aloe, sedum and many more – you’re sure to find a succulent you love. Plant in a sunny spot indoors or out and water as needed.

 

Herbs

Create a windowsill garden and fill with herbs. If you have a sunny spot in your kitchen, you’ll have fresh, homegrown herbs at your fingertips every time you cook. Basil, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow and essential in many delicious meals.

 

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

When it comes to choosing which berries to add to your organic garden, you can’t go wrong with summer’s favorite fruit — strawberries.

Strawberries

Another delicious berry to grow, strawberries can thrive in containers with the right care. Strawberries love sun, so place containers in a bright spot. Keep the soil moist, but keep leaves dry to protect your plants from disease. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the sweet tastes of this summer standard.

 

Sunflowers

While sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall, dwarf sunflower seeds produce much smaller blooms, typically measuring around 1 foot tall. They are perfect for small space gardening, and children love planting these bright flowers. Teach your kids about gardening by starting seeds together, caring for seedlings, and watching flowers bloom.

Image courtesy of Garden Answer

Fiddle Leaf Fig

These trees are very stylish indoor houseplants. The deep green leaves don’t grow too bushy, making fiddle leaf figs perfect for small spaces and empty corners. When cared for properly, fiddle leaf figs can grow up to six feet tall. These plants become a dramatic focal point in any room. Keep in a very sunny, warm spot and ensure the soil is well-drained.

 

Peace Lilies

Indoor houseplants have been proven to reduce stress and improve air quality. Peace lilies are one of the best providers of these benefits. Besides the health perks, peace lilies also provide beautiful bright white flowers contrasted with deep green leaves.

Peppers

Peppers are another edible perfect for small space gardening. Some peppers can even be grown on your kitchen table or counter. There are hundreds of varieties, so whether you live for the spice or prefer mild sweet peppers, you’ll find one you love. Peppers are typically compact and thrive in containers. Specific care may vary depending on the variety.

Ready to plant? Check out Garden Answer’s video on planting fruits and veggies in containers.

Product

Soil Acidifier