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Blueberry Basics: Know What to Grow

We all strive to live a healthy life and that trend is making its way into the garden. Homegrown organic food doesn’t just taste good, but also packs a nutritional punch. It’s safe to say you’ll be anything but blue when growing blueberries.

Jams, muffins and smoothies are only a few steps away! And if those treats don’t inspire you, get this: When you eat antioxidant-packed blueberries, your brain gets a boost, your belly fat can be reduced and you may even prevent certain cancers.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Blueberries are simply the best. So grow the best blueberry varieties you can!

Answer a few quick questions below, and then skim our Blueberry Variety Guide to find the absolute best type for you.

Berry Basic: Questions to Ask Before Choosing Which Blueberry to Grow

Growing blueberries is easy as long as you pick the right berry variety for your yard. Set yourself up for a berry successful season by answering these common berry FAQs.

1. What type of blueberry works best in your area? There’s a type that works best for each USDA Gardening zone. Find yours using our chart below.

  • Half-High – Zones 3-6
  • Northern Highbush Zones 4-7
  • Southern Highbush Zones 8-10

2. What’s the pH of your soil? Grab a soil test and discover the pH of your soil. To thrive, blueberries need a soil pH between 4-5.5. Lower your soil’s pH with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier. This organic alternative is much safer than Aluminum Sulfate. Also, plan to use an organic fertilizer for acidic plants, such as Holly-tone.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

3. How many chill hours are in your area? Blueberries need a certain amount of time in dormancy, these are called chill hours. See how many chill hours are in your area and select a blueberry that matches.

4. When do you want your blueberries to ripen?

Early: Some blueberries ripen as early as May and are finished by the start of June.

Late: Other varieties of berries only ripen in mid-August and produce fruit through September.

5. What’s your ideal blueberry taste and look like?

Decide whether you want sweet or tart berries.

Then select the plumpness. Do you want teeny-tiny or super-sized blueberries?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Where to Buy

Blues Legends: The Best Tasting Blueberries to Grow

With vibrant hues of blue and sweet flavor, no summer fruit is better known (or better for you) than the blueberry. These blue wonders play a vital role in health and well-being.

Plant a blueberry bush today and savor the fresh berries all summer.

If flavor is your top priority, you absolutely must add these blueberries to your garden! Just imagine how mouthwatering that first, homegrown blueberry will be! Until then, though, you’ll keep busy! While growing blueberries, be sure to feed with Holly-tone and keep the soil pH low with Soil Acidifier.

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Richard Shiell for Monrovia.

Southmoon Blueberry – A southern favorite that does well in hot temperatures, the Southmoon blueberry is a delicious pick. The sky-blue berries are a nice touch, too. Plant in lighter, sandy soils and ammend with lots of organic material.

Blueberry Type: Southern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 6’ H x 6’ W

Zone: 6-9

Chill Hours: 300-500

Ripening Season: Early: Early-late July

Taste and Size: Large berries with sweet, juicy blueberry flavor

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Showy white flowers
  • Self-pollinating
'O'Neil' Southern Highbush, Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Photo courtesy of Richard Shiell for Monrovia.

O’Neal Blueberry – The O’Neal produces dark blue berries that taste more like candy than fruit. With high-sugar content, you’ll want to eat these yummy berries right as soon as you pick them. As a semi-upright shrub, you can let this blueberry grow wild and free or train it to grow up.

Blueberry Type: Southern Highbush

Light: Full sun

Size: 4-6’ H x 4-6’ W

Zone: 5-9

Chill Hours: 500-600

Ripening Season: Early: Early May-Early June

Taste and Size: Large blueberries that taste juicy and sugary-sweet

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Produces an extra crop
  • Works great in containers
  • Dazzling red fall foliage in cool climates
  • Evergreen in warmer climates

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Polaris Blueberry – If you love to eat blueberries early in the season, the Polaris is for you! The Polaris was developed in Minnesota, so you know it can handle the cold, too! Go ahead, and pair with Northblue to increase blueberry yield.

Blueberry Type: Half-high

Light: Full sun

Size: 3-4’ H x 3-4’ W

Zone: 3-8

Chill Hours: 800+

Ripening Season: Early: Early July-Early August

Taste and Size: Medium, firm blueberries that taste sweet with a hint of acidity

Yield: High yield, 4-7 pounds of blueberries

Features:

  • Native
  • Very aromatic
  • Extremely cold-hardy
  • All-season beauty: white blooms in spring and rosy red foliage in fall

Espoma soil acidifier, Holly-tone, growing blueberries

Bushel and Berry™ Blueberry Glaze – These berries are small in stature and have incredibly glossy, dark green leaves reminiscent of boxwood, and can easily be sheared as such. Small, almost black berries present in little bundles mid-summer. With their deep flesh color, Blueberry Glaze packs a healthful punch with antioxidant-rich qualities.

Blueberry Type: Dwarf

Light: Full sun

Size: 2’ H x 3’ W

Zone: 5-8

Chill Hours: 600

Ripening Season: Mid-summer

Taste and Size: Small, intense flavor much like the flavor of wild blueberries

Yield: Moderate yield

Features:

  • Works well in containers or in landscape
  • Likes acidic soil
  • Beautiful year-round foliage

Looking for more options? To learn more about blueberries, the best blueberries for containers, how to plant, care for and grow, visit our Organic Blueberry Growing Guide.

More is More: Hydrangeas that Bloom All Summer

Once upon a time, hydrangeas would only bloom once a season. Not anymore! Now, you can choose a variety of hydrangeas that bloom all summer long. You can even prune these at any time.

Reblooming hydrangeas flower on both new and old growth, meaning you can enjoy flowers from June until the first frost. They’ll continue to bloom long after other flowering shrubs and perennials have stopped. Long lasting blooms of blue, violet, pink, white, or chartreuse add brilliant pops of color to any garden.

Plus, these hydrangeas perform a magic trick. Depending on your soil’s acidity, the hydrangea color changes. Creating breathtaking blue hydrangeas is extremely easy. All you need to do is amend your soil with Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier. 

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

The Original Endless Summer Hydrangea – A beautiful game changer! The Original Endless Summer hydrangea was the first non-stop blooming hydrangea. Plus, it’s easy to care for. You’ll be wowed by its color-changing blooms all season.

Hydrangea Type: Mophead

Shrub Type: Deciduous

Light: Part sun-mostly shade

Size: 3-5’ H x 3-5’ W

Zone: 4-9

Blooms: Late-spring-early fall. Blooms can be blue, purple or pink based on soil pH.

Features:

    • Blooms all season
    • Very disease tolerant
    • Easy care
    • Works in container gardens

Soil: Moist, well-drained soil. 5.5 or lower soil pH for blue blooms. 5.5-6.5 soil pH for purple blooms. 6.5 soil pH or higher for pink blooms.

 

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Photo courtesy of Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Penny Mac Hydrangea – Large flowers that just keep blooming! The Penny Mac hydrangea is super easy to care for and seems to thrive on neglect. While the blooms can change color, they’re naturally a vivid blue.

Hydrangea Type: Mophead

Shrub Type: Deciduous

Light: Part sun

Size: 4-6’ H x 3-4’ W

Zone: 5-8

Blooms: Mid-summer-early fall. Blooms are typically blue, but can be changed to pink or purple based on soil pH.

Features:

  • Attracts birds
  • Repeat bloomer
  • Fast growing
  • Easy care

Soil: Moist, well-drained soil. 5.5 or lower soil pH for blue blooms. 5.5-6.5 soil pH for purple blooms. 6.5 soil pH or higher for pink blooms.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Let’s Dance Starlight Hydrangea – You’ll feel like dancing when you see this breath-taking bloom. It’s elegant, bright and beautiful textured. Plus, it’s the first-ever, re-blooming lacecap hydrangea.

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Shrub Type: Deciduous

Light: Full-part sun

Size: 2-3’ H x 2-3’ W

Zone: 5-9

Blooms: Mid-summer-early fall. Vivid, lacecap blooms can be blue, purple or pink based on soil pH.

Features:

  • Small hydrangea
  • Repeat bloomer
  • Works in container gardens
  • Salt tolerant

Soil: Prefers moist, well-drained soil. 5.5 or lower soil pH for blue blooms. 5.5-6.5 soil pH for purple blooms. 6.5 soil pH or higher for pink blooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the blooms coming all season long with the hydrangea that speaks to you! Want one that grows in full sun? Learn about the best hydrangeas for beginners. Find out even more about hydrangea care in our Ultimate Hydrangea Guide

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!

How to Know When to Feed Acid-Loving Plants

Are your plants suffering from a long winter?

Popular plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, strawberries and heathers, are all acid-loving, meaning they need a soil pH of about 5.5.

Knowing whether your soil is acidic or not is the first step to healthier plants season after season.

If your leaves or needles take on a yellow-green hue, your soil is too alkaline is and this condition is called chlorotic. Plants become chlorotic when they cannot access important nutrients due to the soil’s high pH level. Plants that struggle for too long may lose leaves, branches and flowers. Left untreated for seasons, the plant could die.

Another sure sign of a high soil pH is if your hydrangea’s flowers are blooming pink.

However, it’s easy to correct the problem — simply lower the pH level and fertilize.

First, check your soil pH with a quick, DIY kit found at your local garden center. Grab a trowel of soil near your acid-loving plants and follow the kit’s directions.

Don’t worry. No matter what your pH is, fixing it can be easy.

If you have a soil pH higher than 5.5., add Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier to amend alkaline soil. If your soil has a number lower than 5.5., remedy with Garden Lime.

Save your coffee grounds, which are rich in nutrients and acidic, and sprinkle them lightly under your shrubs to help keep pH down.

Shredded leaves, sawdust, peat and pine needles also make great additions to your soil before planting. This decaying organic material will decrease the pH of the soil over time.

After you’ve identified and fixed your soil’s pH, it’s time to feed acid loving plants. Feeding them with Holly-tone in spring creates bigger blooms — and more of them. Feeding them again in the fall will ensure year-round health and beauty of your Acid-Loving plants.

Fertilize evergreens, like spruces, firs, hemlock and pines, to encourage a deep, healthy green color. Check out this video to learn more.

Fertilizing acid-loving plants only takes a few minutes, but creates bigger, better flowers and trees than ever before. You’ll be amazed by the results!

There are many plants that survive or thrive in low pH soils. Perhaps the most well-known acid-loving plant is the blueberry, which thrives in about 4.0 – 5.0 pH. However, strawberries and blackberries also favor acidic soil.

Find out if you have acid-loving plants here.

Each spring, begin your gardening with a simple pH test of your soil and plan your soil amendment around the results. Then, be sure to feed with Holly-tone spring and fall. Your rhodos, azaleas and camellias will thank you with bright-green leaves and huge, colorful blooms.

Help us share the knowledge. Tweet “Time to fertilize acid-loving evergreens and plants for bigger, better blooms and greenery.”

 

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Espoma Holly-tone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

How to Turn Pink Hydrangeas Blue

Picture the bluest hydrangea you’ve ever seen. It’s easy, isn’t it? This vibrant flower is as bright and bold as Elvis’ blue suede shoes.

So, how can you get a blue hydrangea? The secret is in the soil, and the power is in your hands.

Create a blue hydrangea simply by amending the soil. Most hydrangeas, except white ones, change color based on the pH or acidity levels of their soil.

And, it doesn’t stop there.

You can continually tweak the soil pH until you get exactly the shade of blue you’ve been dreaming of.

Transforming your hydrangeas to a jaw-dropping blue does take a bit of time. For especially big hydrangeas, the color conversion can take months. But, it is definitely worth the wait.

Creating breathtaking blue hydrangeas is extremely easy. All you need to do is amend your soil with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Other soil acidifiers contain Aluminum Sulfate, which can be incredibly harsh on plants, and even toxic to some, such as Rhododendrons. To keep your garden organic, all-natural and safe for people, pets and the planet, lower soil pH levels using an organic soil acidifier like Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Before changing your pink hydrangeas to blue, check two things.

First, are there any other plants growing near your hydrangeas? Make sure they like acidic soil, too.

Finally, are your hydrangeas growing near a concrete walking path or patio? Concrete often contains lime, which can make it tough to turn hydrangeas blue.

Now let’s make magic happen!

To turn new hydrangeas blue, use 1¼ cups of Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. Or to transform established hydrangeas into blue beauties, apply 2½ cups of Organic Soil Acidifier.

Spread evenly around the hydrangea out to its drip line, or the widest reaching branches.

Then, water well.

Repeat every 60 days until you’ve got the perfect color for you.

The intensity of blue hydrangeas is dependent on your soil’s pH levels. For deep blue blooms, aim for a soil pH of 4.5. For a more muted blue, you want your soil pH to be 5. Finally, if you want violet-blue hydrangea blossoms, your soil pH should be 5.5.

Perform a simple, DIY soil test if you want to discover your soil’s exact pH levels.

Craving hydrangeas super-saturated with blue color? Feed hydrangeas regularly with Espoma Holly-tone. Holly-tone fertilizer for acid loving plants also lowers your soil’s pH. Plus, a well-fed hydrangea will have bigger, better blooms.

Let’s get the word out about this gardening magic trick. Tweet if you’re going to magically turn hydrangeas from pink to blue!

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How to Plant Colorful Flowering Shrubs: Azaleas and Rhododendrons

A yard without shrubs is like a completed puzzle, minus one piece. The look is almost perfect, but something is missing! Shrubs work wonders — especially ones with bold, colorful flowers. These easy to care for plants instantly fill in gaps in your garden landscape and look fabulous every season. Complete your garden by planting a shrub or two today! Azaleas and rhododendrons are some of the most popular flowering shrubs. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these shrubs thrive in almost any garden. Plus, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow — from bold pinks, purples and reds to soft, muted yellows and whites. As an added bonus, hummingbirds and bees cannot get enough of azaleas and rhododendrons.

For Established Shrubs: Spring feeding helps develop new growth and the production of new flower buds. Sprinkle one cup of Holly-tone per foot of branch spread now. Holly-tone is long-lasting so you’ll only need to fertilize twice in a season. Don’t wait too long, or you risk encouraging green vegetative growth at the expense of flower bud development. Once now, and again in the fall will ensure a perfect Rhody!

For New Shrubs: Spring is the perfect time to plant so pick your favorite color and variety. Before buying, check the plant tag to see if you have enough space for a full-grown shrub. Azaleas and rhododendrons can range from 2 feet to more than 20 feet tall! If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2 feet to 6 feet apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. Now, before you start digging, choose a spot for your shrub and envision the great impact these plants will have on your landscape! Both these flowering shrubs like to hang in the shade and do not grow well in full sunlight. So, make sure you’ve selected a perfectly shaded spot!

Before you start digging, plan for growth. If planting shrubs in a row, ensure you have enough space to plant 2-6’ apart depending on how big your shrubs will get. These flowering shrubs are so easy to care for because most of the work is done before planting. Keep azaleas and rhododendrons bursting with beautiful blooms by picking the right spot and ensuring you’ve got ideal soil for growing. Don’t forget to test the soil! These acid loving shrubs need a soil pH of 4.5-5.5. If your soil test reveals a higher pH, your soil is alkaline. Solve the problem by amending with Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Once your soil is ready, it’s time to plant! Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Then, remove the shrub from its original container, loosen the roots and dip in a bucket of water. Next, arrange the shrub in the hole, so the top of the root ball is slightly about the ground’s surface. Fill half the hole with compost, peat moss or humus, and mix in 1 cup Holly-tone fertilizer for better blooms. This organic plant food is specially crafted for acid loving plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons. Feeding new shrubs with an organic fertilizer now keeps them well-fed for months, spurs deep evergreen color and dynamic blooms. Fill half the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil. Now finish planting your shrub by filling the hole with Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil, and add 2-3” of mulch. Water now, and tomorrow, too.

Doesn’t your garden instantly look brighter? For more tips on caring for azaleas, rhododendrons or other acid-loving plants, click here. We’d love to see how a flowering shrub completed your garden. Share a before and after picture on our Facebook page!

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.