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Care for your lawn or garden without the guesswork with this helpful gardening advice and guides from Armstrong Garden Centers.

Gardening For Beginners


Saturday, February 18 at 9am

At Armstrong Garden Centers, our mission is to take the guesswork out of gardening. Learn the basics and gain the confidence to grow anything.

Note: Class not held at Irvine Outlet. 

Contact your store for more information

Grow Your Own Strawberries


Saturday, March 11 at 8am

Plant Strawberries now for flavorful summer harvests. Armstrong has its largest selection in stock now - chosen just for your neighborhood by our experts. Strawberries are so easy to grow, even in small spaces. We'll show you how.

Note: Class not held at Irvine Outlet. 

Contact your store for more information

Grow Your Own Hot Peppers


Saturday, March 25 at 8am

Kick up your veggie garden a notch with hot peppers. Choose from mild to nuclear. Our experts will show you the best varieties for California Gardens.

Note: Class not held at Irvine Outlet. 

Contact your store for more information

Hydroponics

Harvest Veggies & Herbs from Your Kitchen
Grow your own fresh veggies, herbs and more right in your kitchen! Choose from a hydroponics growing kit or indoor gardening station.

 

Getting Started
Ready to grow indoors? Take time to consider where in your home you’d like to setup the garden, how big is that space, what is the current light and your budget. Also, think about how much or how little time you want to invest in your harvest. Once you’ve given those items some thought stop by Armstrong Garden Centers and our friendly garden experts can help you get started or expand your indoor garden.

 

Passive versus Active Growing Systems
If you’re new to indoor gardening a passive growing system is your best choice. Passive growing uses a wicking material to draw nutrients up to the plants roots. Typically, passive growing systems use hydroponics where the root tips are suspended in the water while the main root ball hangs in the air. This is great for growing small plants.

An active growing system is best for larger plants or indoor gardens. It utilizes a pump and timer to flow the nutrients to the plant roots and the pump also provides needed aeration. An active system is more efficient and once set up needs less care.

 

Hydroponics versus Traditional Indoor Gardens
A hydroponics growing system allows you to grow plants without any dirt or sunshine! The plants receive their complete nutrients from the water and plants’ roots are anchored in a plank. Hydroponics allows you to grow more plants with less space and the plants grow faster. That means a quicker, more abundant harvest for you! Plants growing hydroponically are less susceptible to soil-borne disease or pests and no weeding is needed. Once you invest in a hydroponics system growing is very economical since you’ll just need to purchase new plants and fertilizer as needed.

Grow plants for harvesting or start your own plants to later go in the garden with a traditional indoor growing system. First, choose a tray and growing medium like coco coir peat bricks with a high air to water ratio for great water retention and aeration or clay pebbles that are 100% natural, are clean, pH stable and offer aeration and drainage. You’ll need to place your garden on a heating pad to help seeds germinate and provide a more consistent temperature. The last aspect of the garden is light. Choose a plant light based on current lighting conditions, the light requirements of the plants and the size of your indoor garden. Setting up a traditional indoor garden takes more time initially but very little care is needed since it will run on a timer.

 

Our Experts are Ready to Help You Get Started

 San Anselmo Temecula Torrance (Coming Soon)

 

Easy Indoor Gardening Kits

 

Salad Box Hydroponic Salad Garden Kit

 

Start growing your own salad greens and other plants indoors using soil-free hydroponics. The salad box uses passive hydroponics for clean and easy growing. Mix the powder nutrient included with water and pour into the reservoir, then wrap the root ball of each seedling with the included “root wraps”. Place each wrapped seedling into a net pot, pair with a grow light (sold separately) and you’ll be enjoying your harvest in no time!

 

Kit includes:

1 - Reservoir tray
1 - Top plate lid with eight plant sites
1 - Top-off bottle with cap
8 - Net cups
8 - Root wraps
1 - Packet of general purpose nutrient
6 - Drain plugs
& Instructions booklet

 

OxyClone 20 Site Cloning System

Propagate your favorite plants by taking a cutting from an existing plant and helping it establish into its own plant with this compact, recirculating cloning system. This active hydroponic system is powered by Active Aqua’s premium, BPA-free water and air pumps. The submersible pump continually agitates the water reservoir while the attached Venturi valve naturally draws in air bubbles. The system allows for maximum aeration for propagating success.

 

 

 

Jump Start 24-Cell Grow Plug Mini Germination Station with Heat Mat

Start growing your own seedlings indoors year-round with this compact starter kit. The germination station has a heated mat and vented domes to give plants just the right amount of heat and humidity for successful germination and healthier plants.

 

 

Kit includes:

1 - Vented dome 2 Inches
1 - 24-Cell seedling inserts
1 - UL Listed heat mat 6 x 13 Inches
1 - Waterproof tray
24 - Grow plugs
1 - Rooting additive

Contact your store for more information

Begonia Big

Begonia Big is about as easy, and as Big as it gets. The name really says it all: BIG color, BIG performance, and an even BIGger show in the landscape.  It performs so well, and has so much color throughout the summer, that they have quickly becom a favorite “go to plant." They are available in three colors -  Bronze Leaf Red, Bronze Leaf Rose, and Green Leaf Red. The lush foliage and bright flowers are perfect for hanging baskets, mixed containers and window boxes. They also make stunning garden bed displays.

Below are several more great reasons to try them.

EASY.  Begonias are easy. You can truly plant it, and sit back and enjoy it.  

BEAUTIFUL: You get masses of colorful, huge blooms that go all summer long. 

VERSATILE: Begonia Big thrives in sun or shade, and a wide range of soil types and requires little water. 

CARE FREE: They are “self-cleaning,” so there’s no pinching off spent flowers. You get beautiful plants with regular watering and occasional fertilizing.

 

 

 

Follow our Pinterest Boards for Home and Garden Diys, Tips and Inspiration >

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Homegrown Superfoods for Heart Health

Do you know that some of the best foods for healthy hearts are easily grown right in your own backyard? That’s right, to prevent heart problems, plant and enjoy fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fat. 

Here are the top 10 homegrown fruit and veggie superfoods for heart health.

Avocado – The creamy texture of avocados comes from “good” fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol. Like olive oil, the “good” fats from avocados have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get hardening of arteries. They’re also high in antioxidants and potassium. 

Avocado trees are wonderful additions to home landscapes, but some are rather large for typical urban gardens.       However, there are smaller (and even dwarf) trees. Consider ‘Holiday’ (extra-large fruit with green skin), ‘Whitsell’   (medium-sized, high-quality fruit), Gwen’ (green-skinned fruit), ‘Littlecado’ (good for pots; green fruit), or ‘Reed’ (rough green skin, good flavor). If you’ve got a larger garden, any avocado will be ideal. 

Avocado trees don’t like frequent, shallow watering, so avoid planting in lawns. Give them full sun, allowing them to dry before watering. Feed quarterly with E.B. Stone Citrus and Avocado Food.

Beans and Peas – Both of these legumes lower blood sugar levels which is important in helping people avoid complications related to diabetes such as heart disease. They also are a great source of protein without “bad” fats. 

Research has shown that people who ate beans, peas and lentils four times a week lowered their risk of heart disease by 22% compared to those eating only one serving of legumes. 

In California, beans are warm-season veggies (planted in spring for summer harvests), while peas are planted during our cool season (October – March). Both need full sun and well-amended soil. Add Sure Start fertilizer when amending. 

Give beans and peas something to climb on unless you’re planting bush beans which need no support. They’re all easily grown from seed. 

 

Blueberries – Anthocyanins give blueberries their blue coloring and antioxidants. They also contain flavonoids, another antioxidant. Together, these compounds help decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Research has found that people who ate three servings of blueberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack. 

Grow blueberries in pots or in the ground in a sunny area. In hot inland areas, place where they will get some shade during the hottest hours of afternoon sun. Plant with an acidic planting mix (E.B. Stone Camellia and Azalea Mix) and feed with a food for acid-loving plants. Plant more than one blueberry variety for larger crops. 

 

 

 

Broccoli, Spinach and Kale – These three cool-season veggies are particularly high in carotenoids, antioxidants that can rid your body of harmful compounds. Of course, they’re great providers of vitamins, minerals and fiber. All kinds of kale have omega-3 fatty acids. 

Plant broccoli, spinach and kale October through March in temperate California areas. As with all veggies, amend the soil well, adding a starter fertilizer. These three are all “short-season” or quick crops, meaning that you can plant multiple times during the growing season. 

 

 

 

 

Citrus Fruits – Citruses of all kinds are high in vitamin C, which research links to a lower risk of heart disease. They also contain flavonoid compounds, lowering the risk of strokes caused by blood clots. Be aware, however, that grapefruits can disrupt cholesterol-lowering drugs. 

In temperate-climate California gardens, citruses of all kinds are both ornamental and productive home landscape trees. Dwarf citrus trees are excellent choices for pots. Choose your variety with the help of an Armstrong expert, as some varieties are better for cooler coastal gardens. 

Plant citrus trees with organic E.B. Stone Citrus & Palm Planting Mix in a full-sun area. Water regularly, but soil should never remain soggy. Feed with E.B. Stone Citrus & Avocado Food which is also organic.

 

Red and Black Grapes – You’ve heard of the heart-healthy advantages of moderate amounts of red wine? Well, it’s not the alcohol. It’s the juicy red or black grapes that provide the benefits of resveratrol, which helps keep platelets in your blood from sticking together. 

Table grapes are wonderful additions to gardens—especially if you have an unattractive fence to hide. But any sunny fence will support grapes. Simply train the rampant vines on the side (using wire) or along the top. 

At planting time, amend your soil and add a starter fertilizer. Once you have the plant structure you want, prune each year’s growth back, leaving only two- to three-inches on top of the previous year’s woody stems. 

 

 

Pomegranate – Pomegranate juice has shown to improve blood flow to the heart. Pomegranates contain various antioxidants, including heart-healthy polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help delay hardening of the arteries. 

They’re very easily grown in mild California gardens—and almost nowhere else in the United States. Pomegranates form lovely, large, arching shrubs with small leaves that turn beautiful yellow, orange and red in fall. The large fruits stay on for a long time—looking a bit out of place once the leaves fall.

Plant pomegranates in full sun in well-draining soil. Add amendments and starter fertilizer. Once established, pomegranates can be surprisingly drought-tolerant. 

 

 

Raspberries and Blackberries – These succulent berries are loaded with polyphenols -- antioxidants that wipe out damage-causing free radicals in your body. Additionally, they’re rich in fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke. 

Be sure to plant “low-chill” raspberries in mild California gardens. The varieties ‘Bababerry’ and ‘Heritage’ are best. Most blackberry varieties grow anywhere in California. Amend the soil well, as these will be permanent plants. Give them plenty of sunshine. 

Give these berries lots of room and sturdy support; arching canes can grow six feet or more. Each winter remove only the canes that fruited the previous year. This will encourage new canes to grow, which will produce fruit the following year. This way you’ll have berries each year.

 

Potatoes – Potatoes have lots of health benefits even though they’re sometimes frowned upon as unwelcome starch. There’s no question that they’re good for your heart because of their high amounts of potassium, which can lower blood pressure. The fiber found in potatoes lowers the risk of heart disease, too. 

Potatoes can be grown in any well-draining soil in full sun. Amend the soil well with E.B. Stone Planting Mix, adding a starter fertilizer at the same time. As potatoes grow, the tubers may become exposed, causing discoloration. To avoid this, gradually pile up soil around the plants as they grow, always leaving 3- to 4-inches of leaves showing. 

Potatoes are fully mature once the tops begin to brown at the end of the growing season. If you can’t wait, test to see if tubers have reached “baby potato” size. If so, harvest as you use them.

 

Tomatoes – Tomatoes are well-known as a source of lycopene, an antioxidant and carotenoid that helps keep blood vessels open, lowering the risk of heart attacks. They also help get rid of “bad” cholesterol. Tomatoes are related to potatoes and like them, are also high in heart-healthy potassium. 

Nothing’s easier to grown than fresh, juicy, health-promoting tomatoes. Find a sunny site and amend the soil well with E.B. Stone Flower and Vegetable Planting Mix and Sure Start fertilizer. 

Place the plants about three feet apart and provide sturdy supports. Feed once or twice during the summer, but not more. Overfeeding can cause lots of leaf growth, but not fruiting. Water regularly, allowing the soil surface to dry between watering times.

 

 

 Top 5 Homegrown Fruits and Veggies to Prevent Diabetes >

 

 

 

Contact your store for more information

Tell Mosquitoes to Buzz Off!

With warm weather comes the return of mosquitoes! Here are some ways to keep these pesky bugs from invading your garden and backyard BBQs this summer. 

The best way to reduce mosquitoes is to make sure you don’t have any stagnant water. Turn over empty pots, lids, etc. so they don’t collect water. Clean and refill your bird baths regularly.

Drop Mosquito Beater Water Soluble Pouches into your ponds or other spots of standing water to control mosquito larvae (it stops their lifecycle). And, it’s not harmful to fish or other aquatic organisms. 

 

 

Citrosa (Citronella) Scented Geranium

This Geranium is often called the Mosquito plant. It produces the citronella scent. When leaves are touched or crushed the fragrance from the citronella oil is released. Citronella oil is the main ingredient for lots of repellents.

Plant these in full to partial sun spots around your patio or in pots to help repel mosquitoes. 

 

Lemon Grass 

Lemon Grass also contains citronella oil. This pretty, nearly lime colored grass is a great addition to the garden. Use it to repel mosquitoes but also try in your tea, lemonade, or recipes.

Plant in full sun




 

 

Lavender

Lavender oil can repel mosquitoes as well. Also a pretty addition to the garden. Can use as cut flower, to add fragrance to your home, and in recipes.

Plant in full sun






 

 

 

Thermacell


Thermacell is portable, odorless and creates a 15 foot mosquito-free zone. Take it with you while gardening, grilling, camping, tailgating and more. Starts working in just 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact your store for more information

5 Herbs for Summer Kitchen Gardens

Five Fresh Herb Standouts

Fresh herbs are a home foodie’s staple. Here are the top five for summer. 

Basil

Of course you’ll want fresh basil to accompany those backyard tomatoes. Italian large leaf basil is the classic, all-purpose variety. But there are lemon, lime, purple (slight anise tones), Greek (spicy), Thai (anise and clove) selections and more. 

Rosemary

Rosemary is ubiquitous in Southern California and should be. It’s a great landscape plant and all types can be used in the kitchen. Since plants get rather large, don’t take up space in your kitchen garden for rosemary. Find a place in your landscape for it. 

Tarragon

Be on alert when shopping for tarragon. For seasoning, you want French tarragon. Even if it’s labeled as such, give it the smell test. Rub a leaf slightly and if it has a strong tarragon scent, you got the right one. Otherwise you might end up with Russian tarragon which has little seasoning quality. 

Chives

Tarragon, chives and thyme are excellent container herbs. Easy to grow chives makes this list because of its exceptional usability. Fresh, chopped chives can enhance the flavor (and appearance) of just about any salad or savory dish. 

Thyme

You’ll find lots of thyme varieties in nurseries but only a couple are used in cooking: English and lemon.

 

What Herbs Need

Give herbs full sun and well-drained soil. You’re asking plants to produce a lot for you, so you’ve got to give them well-amended soil with an organic starter fertilizer added before planting. Once they’re established (a month or so after planting), feed regularly with a granular, organic Tomato and Vegetable food made by Dr. Earth or E.B. Stone.

 

Video

Watch: Herb Basics Video >

 

DIY: Plant a Mixed Herb Container >

Contact your store for more information

Red, White and Blue Pots

Throwing a Fourth of July party? This year, go beyond the stars-and-stripes napkins and kick it up a notch with planters in patriotic colors placed around the pool and patio—and even on tabletops. 

A 20-Minute Project

Throughout the summer, garden centers will have party-ready, 4-inch annuals and perennials in full bloom just waiting to be used for holiday gatherings and casual dinner parties. It takes no longer than 20 minutes to plant up a pot once a few supplies are gathered. 

Choose Your Pot

Start with a colorful glazed pot. Pass over the neutral browns, beige and terracotta colors and head straight for those in oxblood red and cobalt blue. If you’re not that confident, a rich dark green glaze will work. These three colors are the perfect backdrop for flowers that Betsy Ross would be proud of. 

The Rule of Three

Now, choose your plants. You’ll want to follow the “rule of three” by selecting some of each of three types: “thrillers”, “fillers”, and “spillers.” This means a tall, upright plant (one is usually enough); plants that are rounded in their habit (fillers), and plants that will trail out over the edges of the pot. 

“Thrillers” in Red, White and Blue

Plants that can be used as thrillers are annual blue salvia; shrubby blue perennial salvias; red-leaved hibiscus; silver-white leaved Astelia; blue or white upright Angelonias; ‘Sun Parasol’ mandevillas (in red or white) trained on tripods; red coneflowers; red-flowering milkweed; white Sonata cosmos; and tall, red-flowered and red-leaved dahlias. 

“Fillers” in Red, White and Blue

Mid-range filler plants are red or white bedding dahlias; blue or white petunias; red-leaved coleus; white or red ‘Baby Wing’ begonias; red and white Salvia greggii varieties; spreading Angelonias; red or white bedding begonias; blue geranium ‘Rozanne’; red or white geraniums; deep red dianthus; ageratum; and Felicia. 

“Spillers" in Red, White and Blue

Trailing plants (spillers) in patriotic colors are white bacopa; white trailing lantana; red or white calibrachoa; lobelia, alyssum; star jasmine, small varieties of red or blue ‘Sun Parasol’ mandevillas; Santa Barbara daisy; and plumbago (best for larger containers). 

Before You Plant

Before you fill your beautiful glazed pot with organic potting soil, cover the hole with a round pot screen designed to keep soil in and bugs out. “Keeper Stoppers” is a well-stocked brand. Fill the pot to the top and press it down firmly with your hands. That usually puts the soil line about 5- or 6-inches from the top. 

Arrange Your Plants

Now, arrange your red-white-and-blue troop of flowers in an artful way. You can cluster colors together or just let them be a cacophony like the end of a Fourth of July fireworks display. But remember the “rule of three”: tall, upright plants (thrillers) at the center or back, fillers around them, and spillers at the pot’s edges. The tops of the plants’ root balls should be an inch below the top of the pot rim. 

Save Room for Water

Once you’ve placed plants, fill in all the soil gaps and firm the soil. Be sure that the top of the soil line is at least an inch below the top of the rim. Water well two or three times; afterwards water as needed, two or three times a week. 

Feeding: A Designer’s Secret

Here’s a garden designers’ secret for months of colorful blooms: feed your pots two ways. Once you’re finished planting, apply a time-release food such as Osmocote according to the directions. This will ensure a continuous light feeding. Additionally, feed monthly with a high-bloom liquid plant food. Your patriotic pots will put on a floral fireworks display all summer long.

 

DIY Red, White and Blue Summer Entryway >

 

DIY Patriotic Mailbox Garden >

 

 

Contact your store for more information

Top 5 Homegrown Fruits and Veggies to Prevent Diabetes

Homeowners most often grow fruits and vegetables at home so they can enjoy the old-fashioned “fresh from the farm” flavor. However, there are other advantages, too. Many of the most popular home-grown edibles have wonderful health benefits. Here are five easy-to-grow favorites that help prevent the debilitating effects of diabetes.

Beans 

These easily-grown veggies have lots going for them. They are high in fiber (fiber makes you feel full), keep blood sugar at an equilibrium, and lower cholesterol. Beans are a terrific source of calcium which helps burn off body fat. Not only that, beans are an excellent source of protein and are low in saturated fat, helping to fight both heart disease and diabetes.

There are lots of different beans to grow in home gardens and all are easy. Choose a sunny site and amend the soil well with E.B. Stone Flower and Vegetable Planting Mix, adding in Sure Start Fertilizer at the same time.

Most beans are vining plants and need support. Bamboo poles forming tripods are easy to make. Beans will easily twine their way to the top.

Berries 

In addition to tasting sweet (with no added sugar!) when fully ripe, berries are full of fiber and polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. In addition to fighting diabetes, eating berries can lower blood pressure and boost “good” cholesterol. 

Strawberries can easily be grown in home gardens either in containers or in the ground. Cane berries (raspberries, boysenberries or blackberries) require more room, but are very productive. All berries need full sun and rich, well-amended soil. You should also add a starter fertilizer when first planting.

Be sure to plant “low-chill” raspberries in mild California gardens. The varieties ‘Bababerry’ and ‘Heritage’ are best. Most blackberry varieties grow anywhere in California. Amend the soil well, as these will be permanent plants. Give them plenty of sunshine. 

Give these berries lots of room and sturdy support; arching canes can grow six feet or more. Each winter remove only the canes that fruited the previous year. This will encourage new canes to grow, which will produce fruit the following year. This way you’ll have berries each year. 

Chard, Spinach and other Greens

Leaf greens are considered the most important vegetable group for lowering the risk of diabetes. High consumption of these greens is associated with lowering risk by as much as 14% of developing type 2 diabetes. Leaf greens include turnip, mustard and beet as well. All are terrific sources of fiber and calcium. They also contain folate, a type of vitamin B, which can lower heart disease risk. 

In California, all these types of leaf greens are grown during our cool season—October through May. These are particularly easy to grow, and best started from seed. Prepare your soil well with plenty of amendment and a boost of starter fertilizer. 

Plant seeds in rows in a sunny spot. If you wait to thin until several “true” leaves appear, thinned plants can be pulled and cooked as super-healthy, baby greens. 

Winter Squash

Hard-skinned squash such as butternut or banana squash are high in fiber. Type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower overall blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetics have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels.

It’s perhaps a bit misleading, but winter squash is planted in late spring and summer. The hard skin allows it to be stored well into winter, thus its name.

Plant winter squash in spring to allow plenty of time for squash to mature. Top choices for home gardeners are acorn, butternut and banana squash. They form on rambling vines, so give them a sunny site with lots of room to spread. Amend the soil where planting and feed every two months with E.B. Stone Tomato and Vegetable Food.

Fresh Fruit 

Research suggests that eating three servings of fresh fruit each day can decrease the risk of diabetes by 18%. Fruits are full of fiber and antioxidants, and satisfy our needs for sweets while consuming lots of nutrients. Low-sugar fruits like melon, kiwi and oranges are best for those who are already diabetic.

Studies in Europe have found that those who consume the most vitamin C have the lowest occurrence of diabetes. Citrus fruits, of course, are a great source of Vitamin C.

Citrus trees of all kinds are easy to grow in mild California home gardens. Since most are not large trees as well as slow growers, they are excellent evergreen trees for gardens of all sizes. They can also be grown in pots for balcony and courtyard gardens.

Deciduous fruits such as apples, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines and pears can also be grown in California. Be certain that you match the “chilling hour” requirements to your area. An Armstrong Associate can help with your specific neighborhood.

Good drainage is required for fruit trees. Choose a sunny site and amend the soil well. Attend one of Armstrong Garden Centers’ free classes for proper pruning to increase production. Keep in mind that citrus trees need no pruning.

 

Homegrown Superfoods for Heart Health >

 

 

Contact your store for more information
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