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How to Plant an Organic Vegetable Garden

Want to always have fresh veggies on hand, taste juicy tomatoes and save $600 annually on grocery bills?

We thought so! Get all that and more by planting an organic vegetable garden.

The veggies will be the best you’ve ever had, hands down. And, you’ll feel incredibly empowered by growing your own food. When you plant and harvest your own vegetables, you know your food.

You can be confident you’re feeding your family the absolute best. No worrying about the freshness of the produce, or any applied pesticides. Your veggie garden will be organic from start to finish.

And you’ll slash your grocery bills. The average family spends $70 to make a vegetable garden and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables, according to the National Gardening Association. Think about all you could do this summer with that extra money.

The first step to creating a veggie garden like that is deciding what to grow.

To save the most, grow veggies that are expensive at the store —tomatoes, salad greens, herbs and onions, etc. Plus, plant what you love to eat!

Next, strengthen your soil. Improving soil creates big, healthy roots, which absorb more nutrients and water. Before planting, ensure success by performing a quick soil test.

Then, make sure your soil is jam-packed with the nutrients your veggies need, so they will always have something to eat.

An organic fertilizer like Espoma Organic Garden-tone, provides vegetables with nutrients they need to grow big and strong. When fed with an organic plant food regularly, you’ll have a bigger veggie crop than you ever thought possible.

Created for professionals, Garden-tone also helps improve the soil as it feeds the veggies.

So, when preparing your vegetable bed, use 3.5 pounds of Espoma Garden-tone per 50 square feet. Then, pair with either compost or Espoma Organic Garden Soil. Mix both into the top 4-5” of soil.

Once your soil is ready, plant either cool-season or warm-season crops depending on what your weather is like.

We know this winter and spring have been cold for many regions. If a hard frost is still possible, plant cool-season crops like broccoli, salad greens and herbs. If the threat of frost is gone, feel free to plant warm-season crops too, such as peppers, tomatoes and beans. Get the lowdown on frost dates here.

Now here comes the fun part – planting.

Remove plants from their containers. Dig a hole as deep and an inch wider than the container they were growing in. To see how far apart to plant them, check the plant tag!

Arrange them in the hole and fill with soil. Remove any pesky air pockets by pressing down on the soil.

All that’s left to do now is lightly water them since vegetables need about 1” of water a week.

In 7-10 days, feed your new veggies another helping of Garden-tone.

What’s the best (or most memorable) vegetable you’ve ever grown? Comment below to share your story.

Get More Blooms on Roses with a Monthly Organic Feeding

Imagine growing a rose bush bursting with big, beautiful flowers. It’s easy.

All your roses need is a well-balanced meal. Roses are one of the hungriest plants, so they need to be fed often to perform their best.

You’ll instantly see the difference once you start regularly feeding your roses. Bigger, better and even more roses are on their way! Plus, your plants will look healthier since they’ll fight off disease more efficiently.

It’s amazing how much a healthy, organic meal can improve your roses.

Your roses are waking up now since spring is just beginning. They’ve made it through a long winter and they are starving! Feed them the most nutritious meal you can.

Espoma’s organic Rose-tone includes more nutrients than any other rose food. Most rose fertilizers contain three nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). Rose-tone goes far beyond that. This organic rose food contains 12 more micronutrients roses need, including iron, calcium and magnesium.

Feeding roses with Rose-tone is like providing a perfectly balanced meal. Your roses get all the nutrients they need to work as hard as they can.

Another benefit of organic rose foods, such as Rose-tone, is the gradual release of nutrients. Due to its slow-release formula, Rose-tone will never burn or leach plants. Plus, this is the only organic rose food that improves soil structure.

In beds, spread 6 pounds of per 100 square feet. For individual roses, use 1¼ cups of Rose-tone per plant.

Now, let’s boost your roses and soil with an organic feeding.

For established roses in beds, spread 6 pounds of Rose-tone per 100 square feet. For individual roses, use 1¼ cups of Rose-tone per plant.

Sprinkle the granular organic rose food around each plant out to the widest branch. This encourages your roses to stretch their feet and grow a little!

Then, scratch the food into the top 1” of soil.

If you’re planting new roses, add a mixture of peat moss and 3 cups Rose-tone to the planting hole.

Either way, feed your roses monthly from early spring to mid-September to keep them producing beautiful blooms.

Feeding roses with organic plant food is one of the best ways to get bigger, healthier roses. Share another trick to keep roses booming below.

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 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!

Feed Your Flower Bulbs Now with an Organic Fertilizer

Breathe it in! Spring has arrived and brought the first flowers of the year with it! After the white of winter, sunny daffodils and a rainbow of tulips are a welcome sight.

Flower bulbs are inexpensive, easy to plant, provide stunning cut flowers and can last for years when taken care of properly.

The secret to keep spring flowering bulbs producing year after year is a spring time feeding of Bulb-tone.

Think about it. When planted, bulbs are packed full of nutrients to last all winter. Come spring, they’ve used all the food they have stored.

It’s like they’ve just run a winter-long marathon — and now they need you to greet them at the finish line with snacks and water.

Right now, your spring bulbs — tulips and daffodils included — are exhausted and starving even if they don’t look like it!

So, they need a hefty feeding to keep them robust.

Bulb-tone gives them everything they need to come back strong next year. Fertilizing spring bulbs also helps them fight off diseases and pests.

So, when should you feed spring flowering bulbs?

Fertilize spring bulbs after the plants have bloomed and are about 6” tall. That’s just about as tall as a dollar bill!

Now, what should you look for in bulb food?

Use an organic plant or bulb food that is low in nitrogen and has a higher amount of phosphorous. Nitrogen is the first of three numbers on fertilizer bags, — phosphorus is the second number on the bag. For example, Bulb tone by Espoma has a 3-5-3 Nitrogen- Phosphorous-Potassium ratio, which is exactly what bulbs need.

The advantage of using a plant food made specifically for bulbs is that it provides a complete feeding.

Your bulbs will love Espoma Organic Bulb-tone. This specially formulated bulb food is fortified with microbes to create a healthy soil and environment for bulbs. Plus, of course, it’s pet and kid friendly.

Now to boost spring bulbs, apply Bulb-tone at a rate of 4 lbs. per 60 square feet. Simply sprinkle the organic bulb food around the bulbs to ensure they come back stronger than ever next year.

One thing to remember – leaves on flowering bulbs produce food, and keep bulbs well fed throughout winter. So embrace your bulbs’ leaves! They add a lovely pop of glossy greenery to your landscape.

Only cut bulbs’ leaves when they begin yellowing or showing signs of decay. For tulips and daffodils, this can happen as late as June or July.

Now that your spring blooming bulbs are stocked with food and nutrients, they should come back next year!

What’s your favorite spring blooming bulb? We love white and yellow daffodils with green leaves – since they showcase Espoma colors! Share your favorite on our Facebook Page.

Wait! Before You Plant This Year, Test the Soil!

Healthy Soil is the Secret to a Great Garden

Want to grow bigger tomatoes, taller sunflowers and all-around healthier plants this season?

The secret is in the soil. Read more

Apply Mulch Now for Benefits all Season

Spring is almost here — only eight more days! We are itching to get our hands dirty in the garden.

Never do we appreciate the richness of the soil or the sunshine more than at the start of spring. Plus, our garden seems just as happy to see us.

During these first few weeks, we set ourselves up for success in the season ahead.

And one of the first items on the to-do list is laying a new bed of mulch. Not only does it look great and make your neighbors envious, but mulch provides a world of benefits!

Organic mulch can reduce water use in the garden by 25-50 percent, which saves money on water bills and conserves water. A thick blanket of mulch reduces evaporation, so you don’t have to water as much. Mulch also controls weeds. Plus, your flower beds look polished and complete with a finishing touch of mulch.

Best of all, organic mulch improves soil health as it decomposes throughout the season.

To reap these benefits, mulch has to be organic.

While non-organic mulches, such as plastic film and rubber, are cheaper, they cause major problems later. Inorganic mulches do not break down over time, so they don’t condition the soil. Even worse, they begin to block air and water from plants’ roots. Nine out of ten times, you’ll need to remove non-organic mulches by hand later.

Natural mulches are composed of plant matter and are very popular. From wood chips and pine needles to shredded bark, pick the organic mulch you like best. These mulches decompose over time which helps improve the soil but it also means they must be replaced once or twice a year.

How do you apply it? It’s easy and can be done this weekend.

First, you’ll want to lightly rake the soil to loosen up the surface. Once loose, pull any weeds or dead plant material.

Then, give your mulch the smell test. Mulch should smell woody or earthy; if mulch smells sour like vinegar, replace it entirely.

This is an ideal time to feed evergreen and acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwoods and hollies with Holly-tone. Apply it in a circle around the drip line of shrubs or trees.

Finally, lay 2 – 3” of mulch around established plants. Mulch that’s too deep can actually smother young plants.

When mulching trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to a little beyond the drip line covering a bit of the roots. But don’t build volcanoes! Never pile up mulch. Instead, keep 2 – 3” away from the stems of woody plants and 6 – 12” away from buildings to avoid pests.

Keep your garden healthy and your home safe this season by choosing organic mulch. Make it a priority on your spring garden to-do list.

Make Landscapes Not Landfills with Compost

Why Compost: Turn Food Scraps Into Garden Gold

Stop! Don’t throw out those leftover vegetables and coffee grinds. Mixing these kitchen food scraps with other ingredients turns ordinary garbage into black gold for the garden.

The secret to creating enriched, organic soil is compost. Compost gives the soil nutrient-rich materials and helps plants resist diseases and grow stronger. Plus composting food scraps keeps organic materials out of landfills and garbage disposals and puts them back into the earth. Best of all, it’s free!

Plus, you’ll make the planet cleaner and greener. The US tossed a whopping 131 billion pounds of food in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At Espoma, we are always looking for natural solutions. When we founded our company in 1929, we transformed ordinary ingredients into an extraordinary product for your garden.

So, to make great compost, simply follow the recipe, just like when cooking. The best compost is 50 percent green material made of garden and food scraps and 50 percent brown material, such as paper, straw or dried leaves.

Add Espoma Organic Compost Starter to help speed the composting process, for rich, fertile compost. This 100% bio-organic mix contains microbes cultured for fast, healthy composting.

Toss your compost about every two weeks to help it decompose quicker. Make it even easier by investing in a compost tumbler. Trust us, it’s worth it!

And finally, make sure your compost is getting enough to drink. Squeeze a handful of compost – while wearing garden gloves of course! If water drips, it’s too wet, so add dry brown material. If no water dribbles but the compost crumbles when released, moisten with a bit of water. Or if your area often gets rains, make an indent in the top of the compost to collect rain water.

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.