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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

Plant Some Pansies to Celebrate Spring’s Arrival

Pansies and violas look delicate but are in fact, tough as nails. They liven up our gardens and decorative pots in early spring and late fall, unfazed by cold weather or even snow. The first and last flowers of the year are the most precious and their “faces” shine even on the grayest days. Treat yourself to these little sunshines.

All pansies are violas but not all violas are pansies. Think of the smaller flowered varieties like the good old Jonny Jump Up as violas and the larger flowered varieties as pansies. Some violas are perennial, but they are mostly used as cool season annuals. Whichever you choose, they’ll provide seasonal color for weeks, and even months on end!

Today’s violets are descended from a European wildflower. In the Victorian language of flowers they were used to convey feelings of love and admiration or “I’m thinking of you.” Sentiments not openly shared in that time. The pansy was also the symbol adopted by the Free Thinkers Society, as the word pansy is from the French verb pensée, meaning to think. Wouldn’t you like to send a secret message to someone special?

Another charm of this family of flowers is that they are edible. In the simplest form, you could float one small flower on top of a cocktail. Decorate cakes and salads with their fresh blooms, add them to herb butters or suspend them in honey or jellies. Just one petal of the larger flowered pansies looks heavenly when garnishing appetizers. They even go with grilled meat. When consuming, it’s always best to use your own organically grown flowers and give them a quick rinse before eating.

Both pansies and violas can be planted in the ground, accentuating the edge of borders or growing up together with your spring bulbs. They are marvelous in containers too. An early season container combination could include a closely planted base of violas with pussy willow branches stuck into the soil between them for height. In the autumn, look for the orange and black varieties for a Halloween theme.

When assembling your container, make sure to use good quality organic potting soil like Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix and feed your container plants once a month with a Espoma’s Bloom! Liquid Fertilizer. This foundation will ensure that your plants have everything they need to thrive and bloom and be safe to eat. If you’re planting your violas in garden beds give them a feeding of Plant-tone, an organic, slow release fertilizer.

Violas and pansies will grow in sun or part shade but will do best with about 5-6 hours of light per day. Pansies will bloom longer if they get late afternoon shade. They don’t really like the heat. They both do best in moist but well-drained soil. In general violas tolerate both cold and heat better than pansies. Deadheading spent flowers is well worth your time and will keep plants flowering longer.

Espoma products for pansies and Violas

Espoma Organic Potting Soil MixBloom! Plant Food

 

Spring Flowers Melt the Winter Blues

Spring has sprung and it’s time to get outside and plant up some early spring containers. A trip to the local garden center will surely inspire you. Plant big pots of brightly colored bulbs and annuals to liven up entryways, patios and balconies. Laura from Garden Answer shows you just how easy it is to do.

Laura fills her containers with tulips and violas, true harbingers of spring. Alternatively, you could also use daffodils and other cold hardy annuals like Iceland poppies or nemesia. In cold climates, it’s important to select plans that are hardy enough to withstand a cold snap.

These early spring containers will flower for a month or so, bridging the gap from early spring to the frost free date. When it’s time to plant summer containers, replant the tulips out into the garden where they’ll bloom again next spring. The violas may also be moved to a lightly shaded area of the garden.

Four Easy Steps to Early Spring Containers

  1. Prep Containers. Fill containers three quarters full with good, quality potting soil like Espoma’s Potting Mix and prepare to plant bulbs at the depth they were in the nursery pot.
  2. Add Nutrients. Add Bulb-tone fertilizer to the soil, following package directions.
  3. Get ready to plant. Gently remove the plants from their pots and loosen roots. Add plants.
  4. Finish it up. Back fill containers with more potting soil and water deeply.

Enjoy flowers for even longer by choosing tulips or daffodils that are not yet in full bloom. When finished blooming, just remove the flower stem. The leaves will still provide a vertical accent and the bulbs need the foliage to replenish themselves.

Taking time to deadhead the violas will extend their bloom time. If temperatures are cool, you may only need to water containers once a week.

Check out these videos from Garden Answer about tulips and early spring planting.

Plant Your Window Boxes Like Garden Answer

How to Care For Your Tulips After They’ve Bloomed

 

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Hello Sunshine – Plants that Love the Sun

While most plants need only need some sunshine throughout the day, others love being in the sun all day. Sun loving plants can fill spots where you need some life or color in the garden. Know where the sun hits the most in your garden before picking plants out and then head over to your local garden center for the best choices.

Sun Loving Plants:

1. Sunflower

As the name states, this flower was made for the sun. It screams summer the way no other flower can. Since they are native to the United States, they will grow well and easy pretty much anywhere there is sun while bringing along pollinators to help. Your climate will determine how big and tall your flowers get.

2. Black-eyed Susan

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susan’s thrive in the sun. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for the long summer days. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Hardy in zones 3-9.

3. Catmint

This perennial is drought tolerant, and has a long flowering period through summer into fall. They can sprawl throughout the garden, which makes this a fun groundcover. It comes in a large variety of colors. It is a powerhouse in the garden and is easy to grow. Hardy in zones 3-9.

4. Peonies

Another fan favorite, peonies make the most amazing cut flowers. When growing them in a cutting garden, be sure to get them into full sun. With so much texture, color and fragrance, there is no shortage of reasons no to include them in your garden this year. Hardy in zones 3-8.

5. Dwarf Fountain Grass

Fountain grass is a perfect ground cover anytime you want to add texture to your garden.  Planting a dwarf variety will help you add texture in smaller areas. This pant does well in both dry and wet areas, so as long as you give it sun, it will do well. Hardy in zones 5-9.

6. Sedum

This is a plant that will keep on giving. Every year, sedums tend to grow bigger, so it is a perfect plant for a border or an area that needs filling. Depending on the variety it will either hug the ground or grow up to 3 feet tall. Hardy in zones 3-10.

Since these plants will be hanging out in the sun all day, be sure to keep them watered and give them a boost they deserve with Espoma Organic’s Bloom! liquid fertilizer. After planting, mix it with water and give them a good drink! See the back of the bottle for directions.

Once you’re done in the garden, try making a hanging basket for your porch.

Espoma Product Featured in this Post

Bloom! Plant Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bulbs to Plant Now for Late Summer Color

Right about now, daffodils and tulips are in full bloom making even the simplest of streets beautiful.

People are snatching up the blooms and putting them in vases and arrangements. And some are even heading into garden centers to get those flowers for their garden.

But, in most regions, spring blooming bulbs are best planted in fall to be able to bloom in the spring.

Don’t worry! There are many varieties of spring-planted bulbs that are just as beautiful as your traditional favorites.

Keep your garden thriving and plant bulbs now to have amazing summer color. Wait until the last frost date has passed to plant to ensure your bulbs won’t freeze. Check the tags on your bulbs for planting information or head over to your local garden center for specific region information. Don’t forget to mix your soil with Bulb-Tone to create beautiful big blooms!

Our Favorite Bulbs to Plant this Spring

Dahlia

With a variety of sizes, colors and designs, dahlias have become one of the most popular flowers. Be sure to buy a bunch of bulbs though, it’s hard to plant just one. Bloom time is between mid-July and September. These dazzling beauties will showcase your garden anywhere you plant them. They are technically a tuber, but are planted the same way you would plant a bulb.

Lily

Stay on trend this year and plant a lily. With the option of Asiatic, Trumpet or Oriental, or a mixture of the three, your garden will be full of color lasting summer through fall. Look for lilies with the color and pattern to add texture and design. Bloom time is between June and September, depending on variety.

Begonia

Known as a grandmother’s flower, begonia’s are perfect for any garden. Most people don’t know that the begonia family is quite large, with lots of colors, shapes and sizes. Bloom time starts in mid-July. Since there are so many options with begonias, choose something in the double flower, ruffled double flower or the pendulous varieties.

Calla Lilies

This eye-catching flower will add wonder to your garden. Calla lilies are elegant and timeless and perfect for containers. They come in a large variety of colors and textures to match every style. Bloom time is between July and October. Grab varieties of calla lilies such as Flame, Captain Marrero or Ruby Sensation for the paintbrush affect.

Ranunculus

This exquisite flower is a display itself with its layer upon layer of silky petals. It is similar to a rose and is often considered high end delicacy. One thing to remember is to soak the bulb before planting to encourage growth. Bloom time is between June and August.

Watch below as Laura from Garden Answer shows how to plant bulbs!

 

Rain, Rain, Come My Way

April showers bring May flowers. The old saying is true. April is full of rain, but there’s no reason you can’t have flowers before May.

During rainstorms, water gushes out of downspouts, across lawns and gardens. It has a tendency to accumulate in one place and can overwater or even flood a garden. Excessive rain saturates soil, suffocates roots, breaks plants and attracts pests.

However, when you’ve strategically planted for rain, gushing downspouts are no longer a problem. A rain garden is a garden that uses water-loving plants, with strong roots. It helps use rain where it lands instead of letting it run-off into streams, lakes and rivers.

How to Build a Rain Garden:

1. Choose your location

Measure out at least 10 feet from your home. Keep your new garden away from septic systems. Find somewhere with a natural downgrade, away from the house, if possible. If your garden is level, then find a place where soil is already absorbing water easily. Stay away from soil that holds moisture for an extended period of time.

2. Create a design

Measure the size and shape of the area. Once you determine what you are working with, you can begin planning what to plant. Plan out what looks best to the eye first, while keeping in mind the plants that do best with wet feet should be in the middle.

3. Choose your plants

Since each region gets a different amount of rainfall, native plants tend to do best. You will want plants that do well in wet and dry conditions. Rainfall will add up occasionally over the year, but the soil can dry out in the warmer months. Choose plants that don’t mind having wet roots for extended periods of time such as blue fescue grass, daylilies, elderberry and tupelo trees. Look for water-resistant natives such as black chokeberry, meadowsweet shrubs, Joe-Pye weed, Colorado blue spruce, bayberry, ferns and winterberry. Check out your local garden center for tips on the best plants for your region.

4. Prepare the soil

As all gardeners know, it starts with the soil. Good drainage is key to prevent water from sitting. If your soil needs a fresh start, or to be amended, add Espoma’s Garden Soil to help set your rain garden up for success. Further improve drainage by using pervious surfaces, edging puddles and creating paths through low-lying areas with sand or stones.

5. Get ready for rain

It’s time to plant! Get your plants in the ground and watered in to stabilize them. Water every other day for two weeks to get it ready for a heavy rainfall and watch your garden grow!

Planning your garden will keep your garden running smoothly.

Prefer a vegetable garden? Here’s how to plan.

 

Spring Cleaning for Your Garden

Spring has arrived! Nothing beats walking outdoors to the sunshine and a beautiful landscape. Now is the time to give your lawn and landscape the TLC it needs. After winter, plants might be in rough shape. Don’t worry, your garden will be back up and running in no time!

From weeding to fertilizing, there’s always something to do when spring rolls around.

When updating your landscape, there may be a few things you need to pick up. Head to your local garden center to find everything you need.

5 Ways to Spruce Up Your Spring Landscape:

Prune

Trim back trees or shrubs that need a little push. It’s best to do this early, before new shoots start to come in. Be sure to carefully remove branches and flowers that have been damaged by the winter storms. You don’t want the branch doing more damage later on.

Soil

Prepare your soil for new growth and new plantings. Sometimes that means getting all new soil like Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil or it could mean freshening up the soil you have by adding Espoma’s Organic Bio-Tone Starter Plus.

Plan

Evaluate your garden. Take the mature size of your plants into account. What holes do you have? If any of your plants need to be caged or staked, planning now will allow you to plant around it without disturbing your growing seedlings later on. Plus it will set top heavy plants up for success, especially tomatoes, which bend easily.

Fix Uneven Ground

Rain, wind and snow can wreak havoc on your landscape. When the ground is wet and people walk through it can even cause compaction, which makes for poor growing conditions. But with a little love it will be ready to host your gorgeous garden once again.

Mulch

After planting, provide beds with a fresh layer of mulch. Mulching is the perfect way to get your garden off to a great start. Not only does it help settle in the roots, but it will provide warmth, hold in moisture, suppress weeds, encourage growth, and make your beds look all around beautiful.

 

Not quite ready to get in the garden? Learn how to fertilize Houseplants with Homestead Brooklyn!

 

These Flowers Will Bring Back Spring

The gardener’s itch has really set in! It’s only days until those beautiful and bright spring flowers pop up. Now is the perfect time to start making a list and planning what to plant.

Start browsing magazines and blogs and coming up with all your favorite plants now. Narrow down your choices so you are ready to pick the moment you enter the garden center. As the soil starts to warm up, give your new flowers a head start with Espoma’s Flower-Tone for bigger, brighter blooms.

When choosing, be sure to look at the plant tag or the back of the seed packet for specific information. Pick up your favorites at your local garden center.

Top 5 Spring Flowers

Creeping Phlox

These flowers carpet any area you put them in. They spill into open areas, filling cracks and crevices with their tiny green leaves. Plant in between rocks, on a wall, or en masse to really make a show stopping display. The flowers come in pastel pink, lavender and white. They love being anywhere from sun to shade. They can grow up to 6” tall and 24”wide in zones 3-9.

Bloodroot

One of the best perennial flowers to plant in spring, these little white flowers hold strong all season. This plant is called bloodroot for the reddish rhizome and bright orange sap that grows at or below the soil’s surface. They love the shade and thrive in moist soil. They can grow up to 12” tall and grow well in zones 3-9.

‘Oakleaf’ Hydrangea

Go big with the oakleaf hydrangea. Its big flowers and oversized foliage will take your garden into spring with full force. It grows vigorously, all while providing a show stopping beauty. They love to be planted in partial shade. They can grow up to 6’ tall and 8’ wide in zones 5-9.

Pansy

This sun-loving flower will brighten your garden. Coming in a variety of colors, the pansy is a gardener’s favorite. For those who don’t have a lot of space, pansies are great for containers and window boxes. They can grow up to 10” tall and 12” wide in zones 4-8

Primrose

Primrose is a unique spring flower, as they look best in clumps. Keeping them close together allows the beauty of the buttery yellow or white florals to really stand out. They love to be anywhere from full sun to partial shade. They can grow up to 12” tall in zones 3-9.

Looking for a fun way to add color to your space? Try hanging baskets!

Spring Container Plants that Pop

Enjoying fresh air, sunshine and beautiful containers filled with spring blooms is a sure sign warmer days are on their way.  Adding a spring container is an easy way to refresh your porch, patio or outdoor area.

Get started by finding the perfect planter. Once nighttime temperatures remain above freezing, not dipping below, 30°F, you’re reading to plant.

Before planting, check to make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom. When you’re ready to plant, use Espoma’s organic potting mix to fill the container and then mixing in Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil to give it that extra oomph.

Remember to use a “thriller, filler and spiller” when planting new pots. Put the tallest growing plant in the middle, or at the back. Surround it with smaller plants and finally, those that spill over the edge.

Combine any of the below plants for a look that pops!

Pick Perennials

English daisies, hellebores, pansies, primroses and bergenia make for good choices for early perennials.  Find out if a plant can’t tolerate the cool temperatures of early spring by referencing the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Think bulbs

There’s still a way to get those beautiful tulip and daffodil blooms even if you didn’t plant them in the fall. Just stop by your local garden center to pick up already-blooming bulbs place them into your container for an instant pick me up.

Enjoy Edibles

Choose plants that do double duty. Plant a mix of greens including spinach, kale, red and green lettuce and more. A container filled with spring greens will provide healthy salads while also brightening up the landscape. Add in viola blooms for a fun touch of color and don’t forget that herbs will help to create texture.  Use Espoma’s liquid Grow! to give plants a healthy dose of nutrients.