Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Art of Cookery

Riversdale Mansion's 2nd annual Art of Cookery evening last Saturday was divine. If you are a local foodie and weren't there, you missed out. Big time. I don't cook. (There I blogged it, now deal with it.) I DO bake though and grow food and eat food, so I think I can comment safely on the "art" portion of the evening. The hosts thought of everything from a tent for the garden reception (and how often I have attended outdoor events that did not bother to provide guests with some shade!) to printing the Federal-era recipes in the program to goody bags full of items grown on the growns (horse radish, pears, and red garlic). You know it is a successful food evening when the guests fall silent in rapture as they consume their dinner and then recount similar food ecstasy experiences. For my part, I left stuffed to the gills and plotting how I could squeeze more space out of my garden to plant ground cherries and gooseberries next year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Winning Smile

Judging at the DC State Fair last Saturday afternoon was a hoot. Washington Gardener Magazine sponsored the Biggest Vegetable categories and being a first time event on a busy (understatement of the year!) weekend in DC, we had no idea what would should up as far as entries. When I arrived for the judging time, only a few veggies had been entered and none in the container-grown category, so a quick pow-wow with IndoorGardener later, we decided on two categories of "Big" -- length and weight. One of the crowd wanted a girth category too, but we demured. For length, a tape measure from stem to stern, but NOT including the stem, was the deciding factor. For weight, we had a bathroom scale and one of the organizers got on the scale pre-vegetable to establish the starting weight, then she got back on one at a time with each entrant veggies. Brave girl indeed! After some quick math, the heaviest veggie was determined. Pictured here is our 3rd place winner in the length category, a charming purple okra. First place winners in both "Big" categories received a year's subscription to Washington Gardener Magazine. The full winners' lists and more photos will soon by up on the DC State Fair web site.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lemon Boy Wins by 1 Vote!

Over 100 tasters voted in our 3rd Annual Washington Gardener Tomato Taste held yesterday morning at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD. It was a close one, with just a single vote separating out the the winner and a two-way ties for second place and fourth place. Here are the results:
1. Lemon Boy from Down to Earth Farms - 28 votes
2. Sungold from Sligo Creek Farm - 27 votes
2. Green Zebra from Three Springs Fruit Farm - 27 votes
3. Purple Cherokee from Spiral Path Farm - 13 votes
4. Beefsteak from Spring Valley Farm - 6 votes
4. Jolly homegrown by Montgomery County Master Gardeners - 6 votes
5. Black Cherry homegrown by Montgomery County Master Gardeners - 4 votes

A HUGE thanks to the Montgomery County Master Gardeners, not only for donating some of their homegrown produce for the taste, but also for helping me field tomato growing questions from the crowd and for their excellent knife skills in cutting up 20+ pounds of tomatoes.
   Also thanks to FreshFarm Markets for hosting our taste once again and for providing three prize packs for our random drawing at the end of the taste.
   You can see more photos from the taste at our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WashingtonGardenerMagazine.

UPDATE:
I have just tallied those taste voters who wrote their city on the ballots. (About 2/3rds of the voters filled out their contact information.) Truly amazing how far away some came to visit the market and wonderful to know!
   From close-by Maryland suburbs: Silver Spring with 64, Burtonsville had 3, Takoma Park, 5,  Hyattsville 1, Kensington 1, and Wheaton 1.  Washington, DC with just 4 voters was the surprise to me. Afterall, the DC border is less than a mile from this market.
   From a bit farther away, but within our coverage area: Arlington, VA had 2, Columbia, MD with 2, and Germantown, MD had 2.  Gaithersburg, MD, North Bethesda, MD, North Potomac, MD, Potomac, MD, Walkersville, MD, and Laurel, MD all with 1 each.
   From over a two hour drive away, were: Ohio 1, New Jersey 2, deep southern Virginia 3, and West Virginia 1. Glad to have met you all!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

People, Plots, and Plants of DC

Guest Blog by Susi Baranano

I will visit every plot in all of DC’s eight wards and report back here in my guest blogs. I started with two gardens in Ward 3: Whitehaven Community Garden and Melvin Hazen Community Garden.

There are nearly 45 community gardens in DC. A few are new. Others began in the 1940s as Victory Gardens. Some are searching for a location. Some gardens are small - with only 8 individual plots – while others have more than 200 plots. Others offer communal beds. Some plots are as small as your closet - 4 x 8 - and others are as large as a 25 x 25 conference room. Some plots are for children. Some gardens charge an annual fee, and have meetings, rules and responsibilities. In some, you can plant tomorrow, but in others you have to wait several years.

The gardeners of DC’s community gardens jump start their plants, helping them regain their footing. Just down the street from their apartments, gardeners arrive at 6:30am to stay until the sun beats overhead. With visions of savoring delicious dinners, they return to the routine of clearing the weeds and ground cover, removing the crop eating bugs, turning over the soil, and saving those that survived the week’s searing sun, gale winds and muggy air. They started planting in April and harvest in August and September. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, bees, and butterflies abound. Tall wire fences keep deer away, but not rabbits and moles.

The Melvin Hazen Community Garden harks back to the 1940s as a Victory Garden on National Parks land. The Parks staff lay down the walkways that divide the plots with wood chips, which come from the downed trees they cut down and chopped.

I came upon Deon Glaser pulling out her broccoli, now withered and done. But Deon was proud of her brocolli, for they had produced a constant supply to her dinner table. She also pulled out a dozen of her carrots, ready to eat today. During her week break her garden plot had been completely taken over. But with determination and persistence, she returned to reclaim her plot, as she has done for the past 4 years. She started planting in April to fulfill her visions of savoring cucumbers, rhubarb, basil, and cherry tomatoes for dinner. Now it was just a matter time, sweat, gloved fingers turning the soil, sun and water before her crop would ripen and be harvested.

By noon, another Melvin Hazen gardener, Jocelyn, had cleared the ground cover and weeds from her garden. She lost the zuccinni and cucumber to last week’s searing heat, gale winds and inches of rain. She lost her wax beans to the rabbits living wild in the community. But Jocelyn was harvesting potatoes, red peppers, red and green leafed lettuce, beats, onions and basil.

Matt Riley, manager of the Whitehaven Community Garden was preparing new plots. He working his way 2 feet down to the clay soil below. He will mix coarse sand, horse manure and chopped leaves with the mound of soil, and then refill the ditch. His own plot had Swiss chard, leaks, string beans, peppers and parsley soon to be picked for his dinner table.

An open iron gate welcomed me to Joey and Kirstin, who were resting under the mulberry bush after clearing their plot. They posed for a photo with pitchfork in hand. They left their tomatoes on the vines, green peppers, herbs, oregano, chives and rosemary in the soil to grow a little more.

Searching for people, plants and plots!!! Contribute to this new guest blog series about DC’s community gardens, contact me at susigbf@yahoo.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Big is Your Zucchini?

This past weekend I picked up my ribbons from my Montgomery County Fair entries. Got 8 in total for 22 entries submitted. Not bad. Surprisingly, the one first place ribbon I earned was for the Aster category. I had submitted one of my New England Aster blooms. When I arrived at the fair check-in table, the aster flowers had curled into tight, little balls and were swooning in the hot, humid evening air. I did have them in water, but they still were wilted and looked awful. Since I'd come all that way, I decide why not enter them and hope they came back by judging time 36 hours later. Taking that chance paid off.

Another of the entries I submitted was far less successful. My cherry tomatoes did not win, place, or show. Nor did anyone get to eat and enjoy them as at the end of the Fair week they were infested with flies and I just had them composted. I think I'm giving up on this category and sticking with flowers for the next few years.

This weekend I have three events to attend and I hope you will join me for one, if not all three. The first is our 3rd annual Washington Gardener Magazine’s 3rd Annual Tomato Tasting. Saturday morning, we'll be at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD, asking folks to vote on their favorite tomato based on taste. Full details on the Tomato Taste were posted previously in our blog here.

The second is Saturday afternoon at the first annual DC State Fair in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of NW, WDC. This time I'm not entering anything, instead Washington Gardener Magazine is sponsoring the Biggest Vegetable categories. Read more about the DC State Fair here at their web site. "Biggest" being relative as one category is solely amongst container grown plants. I'm thinking for this first ever event, entries may be sparse so odds of winning are quite good. Start looking under leaves and picking up vines to find your biggest pumkin, zucchini, etc.

The third event is Riversdale House Museum's second annual Art of Cookery on Saturday evening. This event will include tours of the historic house and kitchen gardens, and a dinner buffet featuring recipes from the early 19th century that use produce grown in the gardens at Riversdale. Come out and explore this beautiful site, just 10 minutes outside DC in Rivesdale, MD. For ticket reservations and further information, call  301.864.0420.

UPDATES:

~ Riversdale House has let me know the Art of Cookery event is now sold out. For those who miss it, I'll take photos and share them on our FaceBook page.

~  The DC State Fair organizers have written to say:
>>We'd like to encourage any gardeners with vegetable plots or container gardens to enter the contests--they have a good chance of walking away with a prize if they just take the time to enter. We also want to ensure that people know that these contests are open to DC residents only - there's no competition from the manicured tomatoes and giant squashes of the suburbs!

Here's the info on the veggie contests:

DC State Fair - August 28 - 11th and Irving Streets NW (Columbia Heights Day)

Funkiest-Looking Vegetable - Entry Drop-Off: 12:30-1PM - Judging: 2PM-2:30PM

Biggest Vegetable (Container Garden) - Entry Drop-Off: 1-2PM - Judging: 2:30PM-3PM

Biggest Vegetable (General) - Entry Drop-Off: 1-2PM - Judging: 2:30PM-3PM

Tastiest Tomato - Entry Drop-Off: 2:30-3:30PM - Judging: 4PM-4:30PM

Entry forms here: http://dcstatefair.wordpress.com/enter/ <<

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Accidental Gardener

The gardening life is full of happy accidents. Like the plant that self-seeds in a new area of your garden and creates a  lovely color contrast that you never would have imagined on your own. Or the the perennial that exceeds its stated mature size and now fills in an empty gap in your back border.

For me, a new happy accident often happens out of garden laziness or rather too-busyness doing everything but getting out in the garden. For months, I walked over and past a sprawling Sweet Autumn Clematis that I had planted by a street sign in my front yard. Last year, I trained and tied it up the sign pole. This year, the ties broke and I just never got around to putting it back in place. The other day, I rounded the corner and saw that letting it go on the ground had created this gorgeous combination of the Sweet Autumn Clematis winding through a bed Black-Eyed Susans. Talk about low-maintenance, I have done absolutely nothing this year on this 5x10 foot slope! Neither overwhelms the other and both plants are hitting their bloom peak at the same time. I could not have planned it better if I had tried.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Landscaping to Sell Your Home

Washington Gardener Enews
August 2010 issue contains:
~ Landscaping to Sell Your Home
~ Reader Contest to win an Iris Collection
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List
~ Local Garden Events in the Washington DC region
~ Magazine Excerpt: DayTrip to Mt. Cuba Center
~ Spotlight Special: Variegated Caryopteris
and much more...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Golden Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

For this month's Garden Blogger Bloom Day post, I'm focusing on that common "weed" Goldenrod (Solidago sp.).

Late summer color that lasts for weeks, pollinators love it, and it grows without any care from this gardener, what more could you want from a back-of-the-border perennial? Can't forget to mention it also make a great cut flower and as a filler in mixed arrangments, it is unmatched.

I started off my clump of it by digging it up from a apartment house construction zone near me. It looked sad for a few days, then settled right in.

I like it so much, I entered a stem of it in the local Montgomery County, MD Fair competition. Do I think it will win or even place? Heck, no. But I do think having it shown lined up in a wall display of vases filled with many other gorgeous garden flowers will give other home gardeners "permission" to grow it and to not think of it as a lowly weed.

 My only problem with this plant is that it self-sows a little to vigrously and that means weeding it out between pavers in my walk and other places where a 3 ft tall plant just cannot remain. It is fairly shallow-rooted though so not a big problem to pull up.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Parade of Pond Passes - Pronto!

For our "flash" Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving out five sets of two passes each (worth $30 per set) to the Parade of Ponds in the Washington, DC metro area. The event runs over the weekend Augudst 7-8, 2010 from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily. It is a self-guided tour of over 30 water gardens, ponds, and water features. Most of the tour locations include residential and commercial properties in Montgomery County, MD and Howard County, MD.

Premier Ponds of Burtonsville, MD is the coordinator and tour host. All ticket sales will benefit Shepherd’s Table. Shepherd’s Table mission is to provide help to people who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance in an effective and compassionate manner.
For more information about the Parase of Ponds and how to buy passes, please visit http://www.premierpond.com/Paradeofponds.html.

To enter to win one of the 5 sets of Parade of Ponds passes, leave a comment on this blog posting here by 7:00pm, Friday August 6. The pass winners will be chosen at random from the blog posts and announced shortly after.

UPDATE:

Congratulations to the following comment authors:


~ Anne H

~ Nina

~ Gina

~ Sharon

~ Wes

Winners, please send an email to washingtongardener (at) rcn (dot) com and I will send you the link to the Parade map and tour listings. Enjoy!

Monday, August 02, 2010

3rd Annual Tomato Tasting: Wear a Bib!

YOU are invited to


Washington Gardener Magazine’s 3rd Annual Tomato Tasting

Saturday, August 28; 10:00am-12:00noon*
Sample the multitude of tomatoes at market and vote on your favorites. Stop by for tomato recipes, growing tips, and much more...

Free.

FreshFarm Market in Downtown Silver Spring, MD

(on Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia Avenue)

Last year, in a clear lapse of common sense, I wore a nice dress and got splattered while cutting a juicy cherry tomato, My advice, to Tomato Tasters: Wear a bib!

A new benefit this year is we will be right next to the Montgomery County Master Gardener's booth. So if you have any questions about late blight, squash borer, etc., these are the gals and gents to ask in person. BTW, it REALLY helps them if you bring a photo or cutting of your problem plant to show them.
*Note that the market hours are longer than our tasting hours. No early tasting is allowed and we do clear out at Noon sharp.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Eastern Woodland Plants

For our July 2010 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we asked readers to tell us their favorite Eastern Woodland plant. Our winner, chosen at random from the entrants, is Kathy G. of Gaithersburg, MD, who said, "My favorite wildflower is Spring Beauties. They create a carpet of flowers in my woods - absolutely beautiful."

Kathy G. gets an author-signed copy of An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Woodland Wildflowers & Trees: 350 Plants Observed at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland by Melanie Choukas-Bradley (a $19.95 value). This volume is an exquisitely illustrated guide to 350 eastern woodland wildflowers and trees found onsite at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland. It includes a botanical key and an illustrated glossary of common and scientific names, and is packed with nearly 400 elaborately and artistically detailed pen-and-ink drawings to make plant identification simple and fun.

Here are a few other entrants responses that I thought were worth sharing:

My favorite woodland wildflower is a May Apple. I have fond memories of my youth exploring the woods behind my house in the early spring and searching for the sweet little may apple flower hiding below the broad leaves. It always gave me such pleasure when I found them. They are simple, but beautiful.
~ Dorothy W.
Favorite Woodland Wildflower--Cinnamon fern. I just love those fiddleheads!
~ Madeline C.

Early in my elementary school education, a teacher asked me to write down my favorite color. That should have been an easy question to answer, but it wasn’t for me.
    The teacher waited impatiently while I seriously deliberated the merits of a gloriously blue sky on a spring day over the sharp shades of green experienced after a summer rain.
   I haven’t changed that much since then. I still find it difficult to easily choose just one tree or wild flower as a favorite among so many choices. So I force myself to finalize a decision with a roll of the mental dice and choose an underdog, the much maligned Black Walnut. (Juglans nigra) I love these fighting trees.
   The Black Walnuts don't just grow in the ground idly waiting for pest or a competitive plant’s assault. They are proactive. They exude juglone into the soil around them to mark their own territory, and dare you to cross the line. They seem to be able to hold their own even against the horrifically invasive garlic mustard. Garlic mustard exudes its own potent chemical brew thought responsible for killing many native seedlings. Who knows why so many disapprove of a tree that may hold the secret to controlling invasives?
   Each Black Walnut tree has its own personality starting with its woody structure that implies more character than grace. This is accentuated by compound leaves that pop out rather tardily in spring and then drop summarily in fall. The lovely wood of the Black Walnut has been exploited for so long, that it is now rarely commercially available. You may need to haunt the second hand shops to find hand crafted furniture made by earlier connoisseurs of this quality dark wood.
   Finding a fecund Black Walnut tree is also a rarity in today’s sterile landscapes. The survivors in the Mid Atlantic region are often found near old farmsteads where the extra protein source of their nuts was valued. The size, shape, weight and even the taste of the bitter-sweet black walnut can vary considerably. These trees do not give up their precious progeny easily. The green husk protecting the nut will darken the fingers or clothes of the unwary trying to obtain the omega 3 laden nut meat. I think that you would agree that it is all worth the effort, if you could only taste the black walnut cake of my childhood memories complimented by a clear icing made also with ground black walnuts …Yum.
~ Gale MB

I have to say mine would be Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis L.) though it likes far more wet than I can give it in my own garden.

So what is YOUR favorite Eastern Woodlands plant?