Friday, July 22, 2016

Fenton Friday: First Cuke

This week at my community garden plot we are starting our third serious heat wave of the summer -- ushering that in was a huge storm overnight a few days ago that dumped 2 inches of rain in an hour. Both those factors are making the garden explode. I have reined in the tomato plants a few times and the cucumbers and sweet potato vines keep making a run for the plot borders.

The summer interns' cucumber plants are covered in flowers and pictured here is there first cuke of the season. I predict we are about to be inundated with them.

The basil is getting really big now and the garlic has finished curing as well so I plan to make a batch of pesto to have at our upcoming garden photo show.

How is your edible garden growing this week?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 5th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: Wings of Fancy at Brookside Gardens

The Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit in Wheaton, MD, runs daily through September 25, from 10am to 4pm, Brookside Gardens South Conservatory features live butterflies. Come witness the butterfly life cycle as tiny eggs hatch into crawling, chewing caterpillars, which then encase themselves in jewel-like chrysalides and emerge as sipping, flying adult butterflies. Learn about the best annual and tropical plants, and hardy shrubs that are used as nectar sources, to attract butterflies to your own garden.

See more details at

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine blog, we feature a current advertiser from our quarterly print magazine or monthly online enewsletter. To advertise with us, contact today. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fabulous Flowering Tobacco in the July 2016 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

The July 2016 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out.
Inside this issue:
~ Fabulous Flowering Tobacco
~ When and How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
~ Your Monthly Garden Tasks To-do List
~ DC’s Public Gardens via Public Transit
~ Gain More “Legroom” in the Garden
~ Local Gardening Events Calendar
~ Growing a Cutting Garden in the Shade
~ Meet Community Gardening Guru: Pat Lynch
~ Summer Watering Tips
~ Safer Gardening in Polluted Urban Soils
and much more!

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the August 2016 issue are due by August 10.

  Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly publication sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

Video Wednesday: Waterlily and Lotus Fest 2016 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The annual Waterlily and Lotus Fest 2016 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens includes gardening workshops, traditional Asian & African dancing performances, and much more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Invasive Species Spotlight: Garlic Mustard

Guest post by Jacqueline Hyman

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) may be an almost-attractive flowering plant, but it is actually an invasive species containing toxic chemicals, according to Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas.
            This invasive was introduced by settlers coming from Europe for use as medicine and as a “flavoring agent in soups,” according to the Maryland Invasive Species Council (MISC).
However, the plant quickly spread and became harmful to native eastern U.S. plants and animals, according to a 2003 post on MISC’s web site.
            The plant is a biennial herb in the mustard family, with leaves and stalks that change as the plant ages. Additionally, the book says that the “crushed leaves and stems smell like garlic,” presumably giving the plant its interesting name.
            Garlic Mustard overtakes and impacts many plants, including wild ginger, bloodroot, and toothworts. When toothworts are taken over, three native butterfly species, the West Virginia white, the mustard white, and the falcate orange-tip, are greatly impacted, according to Plant Invaders.

            This is because the chemicals in the plant are extremely toxic to the larvae of the native butterflies, which inhabit the toothwort plants. The butterflies feed on toothwort, and if their eggs are laid on Garlic Mustard instead, they will not hatch, according to MISC.
Garlic Mustard can occur not only in forest habitats, but also along roadsides and disturbed lands. However, according to the University of Maryland Home & Garden Information Center, the plant does prefer the shady environment of the forest and floodplain.
Management of Garlic Mustard takes a long-term effort, as the seeds can survive for over five years in the soil, according to Plant Invaders. The book says that hand removal can be effective for lightly scattered infestations of the plant, but suggests different methods for flowering plants with mature fruits.
So, if you want to see wildflowers and butterflies thrive, planting Garlic Mustard is not the wisest idea. Just make sure to eradicate it if the plant is already growing, because this intrusive plant will overwhelm anything nearby.

The  "Invasive Species Spotlight" is a summer blog series focusing on a different plant each week that is a problem for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners.

About the author:
Jacqueline Hyman is a junior journalism and English major at the University of Maryland. She is the editor-in-chief of the Mitzpeh, an independent Jewish newspaper at UMD. In addition, Jacqueline enjoys musical theater, and teaches piano and voice at Guitar Center. She is excited to be interning this summer for the Washington Gardener.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fenton Friday and Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Collide

It is Garden Blogger's Bloom Day again! On the 15th of each month, we gardeners with blogs share a few bloom photos from our gardens. It is also Friday during the growing season and that is when I do my weekly community garden plot update. So rather than do two separate posts, I figured I'd combine the two and report that here in the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border the past week had been hell-a-hot! I have been out watering almost every day. The home garden and garden plot are loving all the summer heat and are bountiful with sun-loving flowers - ranging from sunflowers to hibiscus to waterlilies.

In the section of my garden plot that I set aside as a cutting garden, the Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil is doing well and so is the Celosia and Nicotiana. The Zinnias are all starting to pop (Benary’s Giant Pink Zinnia, Benary’s Oklahoma Zinnia Pink, and Lime Green Zinnia). I expect to be gathering them by the armful soon.

As far as the veggies in my plot go, the cucumber vines have started to fight it out with the sweet potatoes and the beans are coming along well. Peppers and okra are producing - slow and steady.

The only bad news is that this week I noticed yellowing and brown spots on the tomato plant foliage. I think it is Fusarium Wilt  and that is typical for our humid climate, even though I used resistant varieties and rotated the tomato plant location in my plot there is not much I can do to escape it. The plants still have many fruits, they just look ugly while doing it.

What flowers are blooming for you today?

How is your edible garden growing this week?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 5th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Garden Visit: Wendy Bell

Guest post by John Powers

Wendy Bell is a Takoma Park, MD resident of 23 years who maintains a large, four-season garden in her front and back yards. 

“I am retired, so I spend quite a bit of time playing in the garden,” said Bell, who started cultivating her garden little-by-little when she first moved to the property in 1993. The lawn was only grass at the time, but you would not guess that from looking at the garden today. The dense array of pollinators, small trees, and lawn decorations cover the front yard, giving viewers something new and beautiful to notice each time they pass by.

Bell has been showcasing her garden this summer for the Takoma Park House and Garden Tour, the Montgomery County Master Gardeners, and the Takoma Horticulture Club. She has tried to prune most of her plants in order to prepare for the coming tours. “It’s always fun to see each other's gardens,” she said. Bell, a graduate of the landscape design program at George Washington University, decided that gardening would not be her livelihood, but rather an intensive hobby.

Stepping into the backyard, you are sealed off from the rest of the world by several large trees on the outskirts of the area. Two crape myrtle trees provide shade throughout different parts of the garden, and in the middle is a vegetable garden, which gets the most sun. Bell has been growing vegetables since she was in college and has continued the practice to this day, with beans tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and many more. Though Bell admits that she has not netted them properly, she has a number of berries growing in her back yard as well.

“At least we’re feeding the birds,” said Bell as we watched a sparrow nibble at her bushes. A fig tree off to the right of the vegetable garden had a very fruitful crop of figs, to be picked once they are fully ripe. The backyard also features many plants for pollinators, specifically hydrangeas, which Bell loves and wishes she had room for more of them, and viburnums.

Bees fly from flower to flower in this hidden paradise of plant life, and blue jays call from the treetops of Bell’s backyard. She pointed out a plant she was particularly fond of, her bottlebrush buckeye. It took six years, but the plant is finally flowering for the first time. 

The "GardenVisit" is a monthly blog series showcasing a Mid-Atlantic home garden.

About the author:

John Powers is a rising senior multi-platform journalism major and environmental economics and policy minor at the University of Maryland. He has worked as a staff writer for "Stories Beneath the Shell," an online publication at UMD, and currently works at the copy desk of The Diamondback, the university’s official newspaper. He has spent a summer working as a farmhand back in his home state of Massachusetts. He is an intern with Washington Gardener Magazine this summer.

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: Green Spring Gardens

Green Spring Gardens ( in Fairfax County, VA., is a "must visit" for everyone in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. It's a year-round gold mine of information and inspiration for the home gardener. It's an outdoor classroom for children and their families to learn about plants and wildlife. It's also a museum, a national historic site that offers glimpses into a long, rich history with colonial origins. There's something here for everyone: a wooded stream valley with ponds, a naturalistic native plant garden, over 20 thematic demonstration gardens, a greenhouse filled with tropicals, and a well-stocked horticultural reference library. Visit the Garden Gate Plant Shop and the two gift shops, where you'll find gift ideas ranging from books and gardening gloves to china and wind chimes. Green Spring will educate, inspire, and delight you. The gardens are always changing, so come back often for new ideas. Be sure to come to the BIG SPRING Plant Sale and Fall Plant Sale.

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine blog, we feature a current advertiser from our quarterly print magazine or monthly online enewsletter. To advertise with us, contact today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Video Wednesday: Sunflower Fields

Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area located in Western Montgomery County. Each summer, the state of Maryland plants fields of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers for feeding and attracting migratory game birds. (This is a hunting preserve.) Photography and art clubs love it, but it is so big and never so crowded that it is a problem.

McKee-Beshers WMA is a 2,000-acre area located on River Road just outside of Seneca, Maryland  (between Potomac and Poolesville in Montgomery County). It is not far from the intersection of River Rd and Rt 112. McKee-Beshers is on the left hand side of the road. Just pull in, walk around the gate, go 20 yards around a clump of brush, and BAM! Sunflowers as far as the eye I can see. Totally hidden from the road.

A few photos I took are posted here at the page. BTW, no need for a step ladder this year (as one friend had recommended I bring), the flowers are all between waist and chest high. If you like birding, go early in the day. I went in late afternoon and saw lots of butterflies and bees. The blooms should last a few more weeks and you can go anytime during daylight hours. Best of all, it is free!