Friday, May 30, 2014

Fenton Friday: Salad Days... Again

We had a few very warm days and then several days of rain this week. My spinach is already bolting, but what is really weird is that my spinach seeds and my cilantro seeds are coming up in the same row (pictured here). I think one of the seeds "merged" into the other during one of the 3+ inch rain storms we had earlier this season. So now I'm having to carefully pluck out the spinach leaves out from among the more fast-growing cilantro as I have found the two greens definitely do NOT go together taste-wise.

Elsewhere in my community garden plot, I have harvested two quarts of strawberries and 50+ radishes. In a fit of optimism, I re-seeded one row of radish with 'Cherry Belle' seeds. I'm not sure we will have many more cool days ahead for these to mature properly, but I thought why not take the chance?

I have also given away a few newspaper sleeves full of salad greens and eaten a few salads for dinner myself. Shockingly, I have found out that I have a real passion for Arugula. There is something so addictive about that sharp, full, nutty flavor. I did not have that many seeds of it planted, so I only use a little bit at a time on each salad, but it sure does give it a nice kick!

I managed to plant a few tomatoes and weed out most of the tiny crabgrass invasion that threatens to take over my plot. I also started a container of nasturtium seeds and a row of lisianthus flowers. There are still several tomato, pepper, and herb plants to go in next week as well as a number of things I want to start from seed - okra, melon, etc.

So how is your plot growing?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DC Green Festival ~ May 31 & June 1 ~ FREE Tickets for Washington Gardener Magazine Readers

The Washington DC Green Festival ~ May 31 & June 1 ~ yes, THIS weekend! And we have 100 FREE Tickets for Washington Gardener Magazine Readers. The FREE TICKETS MUST be redeemed ONLINE ONLY BEFORE FRIDAY, MAY 30th by 5pm by going to www.greenfestivals.org/exhibit-ticket and entering the code EX014GF.
If you miss out on the 100 free ticket offer, there are HALF-price tickets available by using this promo code: KA14DC at  https://tickets.greenfestivals.org/event/washington-dc-2014.

Washington Gardener Magazine will be there in BOOTH #1057. Please come by. We will be selling the current and back issues of the magazine as well as signing up new subscribers, taking renewals (save a stamp and an envelope!), and gift subscriptions.

If you have never been to the DC Green Fest or don't know why it is one of my favorite events of the year, here are just a few reasons to attend:
  • over 200 exhibitors from eco-fashions to transportation to sustainable gardening
  • complimentary instructor-led yoga classes
  • vegan cooking demos
  • organic beer and wine garden
  • green business and technology
  • inspirational speakers
  • family-friendly activities such as a performance by StepAfrika
  • and lots of green samples!


Stay Connected, Informed, Engaged while at Green Festival!


Connect with us on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/greenfestival
Tag us with @Green Festival

“Follow” us on Twitter -  http://www.twitter.com/greenfestival
#GreenFest , #TheNew Green and #GreenIsTheNewBlack


Instagram: http://grnfe.st/ZV9ZGZ Search ‘GreenFestival’ within the Instagram app

Foursquare: http://grnfe.st/11nFtZl (You can follow our page for tips on local green businesses. There will also be a check-in the weekend of the festival.)


 


Video Wednesday: How and When to Plant Tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic



Here is a new video I shot out at the community garden plot with Chris Mills, local realtor. I demonstrate the right way to plant tomatoes for our region. And yes, NOW it is finally time to do so that the soil has warmed up enough.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WIN passes to Butterflies LIVE! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

For our May 2014 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away passes to Butterflies LIVE! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. (Retail value: $22.)

   Experience the wonderful world of butterflies! Tropical beauties, fascinating and showy, transform the Conservatory’s North Wing into a wonderland of vibrant colors...captivating sights...and extraordinary discoveries. The show runs from May 2 - October 12, 2014 (daily 9am-5pm). See details at http://www.lewisginter.org/butterflies.

   To enter to win the Butterflies LIVE! passes, send an email to: WashingtonGardener@rcn.com by 5:00pm on May 30 with “Butterflies LIVE” in the subject line and in the body of the email, please also include your full name and mailing address. Tell us: “What plant(s) were lost in your garden due to the harsh winter season... ” The pass winners will be announced and notified by June 1.

UPDATE:

Our winner of the two passes to Lewis Ginter's Butterflies Live was Suzette Agans of Greenbelt MD.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tomato Patch: Three Grafted Burpee Varieties



In this guest blog series by Bob Nixon, he explores various tomato varieties and how well they grow in the Mid-Atlantic region. Look for Tomato Patch posts every Monday for the next few months as our local tomato season gets underway.

Burpee grafted Brandywine Pink tomatoes
Last March I wrote about my purchase of three grafted tomato plants (Brandywine Pink, Mortgage Lifter, and Rutgers) from Burpee

They were expensive—more than $10 each, including shipping—but how could I resist trying the tomato fad of 2013—grafted plants with heirloom tops and disease-resistant roots that reportedly could give superior yields.

The three transplants arrived nicely and securely in a plastic clamshell package in the week I had requested for delivery.  I planted them according to directions—on pain of death, don’t plant the graft joint below soil level—and watched the three plants grow and produce.

Have I been I impressed?  Not really.

Were they each worth the better part of $11?  No. The plants grew well, but their production was ordinary or less.

'

'Brandywine Pink' produced only six tomatoes of medium to small size—fewer and smaller than Brandywines I’ve been growing for years from seed—but they were mouthwatering delicious as a Brandywine should be.

'Rutgers' produced a dozen or so mostly baseball-sized fruit with good flavor.  I haven’t grown any of the Rutgers varieties, so I cannot compare to past crops.

The best of the three was 'Mortgage Lifter', which yielded about 10 medium to large fruit with outstanding “true, old-time tomato flavor,” better tasting than even Brandywine Pink, at least to my tastebuds.

For me the grafts were an interesting “trial” but the results were disappointing.  I feel I could have grown equivalent fruit from seed, or even from plants bought at a local nursery, at a fraction of the cost.

Grafts again next year?  I think I’ll stick with seed packets, thank you.

If you grew grafted tomatoes this past summer—Burpee or another brand—please post a Comment about your experience.

Burpee grafted Mortgage Lifter tomatoes
About the Author
Bob Nixon is a retiree who lives at Meadow Glenn, a rural residential home near Clarksville in the piedmont region of Maryland. He loves gardening with emphasis on veggies and perennial flowers, and he is gradually reforesting parts of his home lot with native trees. And while he is gardening or mowing or just walking about, he sometimes reflect on life and what’s happening beyond Meadow Glenn at his blog: http://www.ancientgardenerblog.blogspot.com/.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fenton Friday: Strawberry Scandal

So somebody stole the first ripe strawberries in my community garden plot this season. We don't know who -- and maybe they were not even human -- but they are gone and so are berries from others' plots. One of the main reason I have a plot at the Fenton Garden was protection of my edible plants, both from human and animal predation. We have a high mesh deer fence all around the garden with three locked gates. Of course, if the thief is am unsupervised child of fellow community gardener, all the fencing in the world will not protect against that. The whole thing has me re-thinking whether the plot is worth it, but I plan to continue on and finish out this season there at least.

Fortunately, I was able to snag a few ripe strawberries a few days later for my breakfast cereal. Though they are not as dead-ripe as I'd like them as I'm anxiously picking them early in an attempt to beat the food felons to the punch.

In other plot news, I had my first salad with my plot greens and was able to plant a few of the tomato plants I recently purchased -- 'Sun Gold' and 'Evergreen.' Then several more tomato plants arrived on my doorstep for trialing. I will see which ones I actually have space for this season. I plan to spend the Memorial Day weekend getting in these and also finally starting my melon, cucumber, bean, and okra seeds.

How is your edible garden growing this week?


Thursday, May 22, 2014

American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn

For our next selection Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club selection, we are reading American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn by Ted Steinberg.

   We have reserved a meeting room at the Petworth Neighborhood Library , 4200 Kansas Ave. NW, Washington,  DC, in the Conference Room on Thursday, July 10, 2014, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.  The room allows food and drink and you may bring your dinner and/or snacks to share.

   We checked and made sure that the DC library and other local library systems currently have copies available for borrowing of American Green.

   The book club meetings are FREE and open to anyone who would like to attend. Please RSVP to “WG Book Club” at WashingtonGardener@rcn.com. We limit attendance to 20. If you need to cancel, please let us know ASAP so we can give your spot to someone else, should we have a wait-list.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Video Wednesday: The Invaders - Tree of Heaven



Here is an informative (and fun!) video from UMD-HGIC. Professional Horticulturist and Master Gardener Ellen Nibali identifies the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and explains how to remove this invasive plant from your garden.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

7th Annual DC Plant Swap Details


7th Annual DC Plant Swap Details

hosted by Washington Gardener Magazine

NOTE THE NEW LOCATION!


What: A Plant Swap -- bring and receive free plants to expand your garden

Why: Free Plants! Last chance to do so before the season heats up.

Date: Saturday, June 14

Time: starting at 11am bring your plants for sorting by category (shade perennial, groundcover, herb, etc.) -- swap starts promptly at 11:30am -- do not be late (the swap goes fast and can be over in a matter of minutes!) - after swapping, we can socialize, snack, and trade more info on the plants we brought - we plan to conclude and be cleaned up by 12:00noon. so you will have the rest of the day to plant and enjoy your Saturday.

Place: US National Arboretum's R Street parking lot  --  if it rains, we will move inside to the auditorium. 
Who: anyone is welcome as are any of your friends, relatives, or neighbors -- it is FREE -- feel free to forward on this invitation

How: be prepared to BRIEFLY introduce yourself and describe your plant swap offerings

Bring:
~ a name tag - home-made or from work or school -- whatever works
~ pen and paper - you will want to take lots of notes as folks describe the plants and their growing conditions
~ plants to swap - pot them up NOW -- the longer they can get settled in their pots, the better their chance of success and survival - (no plants to share? see note below)
~ labels - fully label all your swap plants with as much info as you have - optimally that will include: common and scientific name, amount of sun needed, amount of water needed, any other special care notes, and color of the blooms (if it is not currently in flower)

What NOT to bring: common orange daylilies* and any invasive species - use this list to screen your plant offerings
*Hybrid daylilies are fine and totally welcome, but the common orange ones (aka "Ditch Lilies") usually end up with no takers and we end up having to throw them into compost.

What if you do not have plants to swap? Come anyway! Bring refreshments like cold drinks and yummy finger foods to share with the other swappers:-) Be sure to also bring cups, napkins, utensils, serving spoons, etc., if your food item requires those for consuming it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Top Ten Tips for Photographing Wildflowers ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ May 2014



The Washington Gardener Enews ~ May 2014 issue is now out. It is also posted and archived online at:  
http://issuu.com/washingtongardener/docs/wgenews-may14

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
• Back Issue Sale
• May-June To-Do List
• Magazine Excerpt: Chanticleer
• Latest Blog Links
• Local Garden Events Listings
• Top Ten Tips for Photographing Wildflowers
• New ‘Marrakesh’ Coleus
• Reader Contest to Win Passes to Butterflies LIVE! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly enewsletter sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. 

Tomato Patch: Delizia, a French Import

In this guest blog series by Bob Nixon, he explores various tomato varieties and how well they grow in the Mid-Atlantic region. Look for Tomato Patch posts every Monday for the next few months as our local tomato season gets underway.

Delizia Hybrid tomatoes
Howard County Master Gardener Kent Phillips and I swapped plants of our “trial” varieties last spring, and in the transaction I got a transplant of Delizia Hybrid, seed of which Kent got from Cook’s Garden.

The Cook’s Garden catalog describes 'Delizia,' a “customer favorite,” this way: “Tomato connoisseurs rave about the marmande variety's meaty flesh and sweet deliciousness. This hybrid brings a new level of disease resistance to this flavorful classic French beefsteak. 'Delizia' is exceptionally vigorous, producing heavy yields of large, succulent, pumpkin-shaped 1 lb. fruits. A standout tomato in our 2010 and 2011 summer trials.”

I’ve grown tomatoes, it seems to me, longer than they’ve been invented, but I had to look up the meaning of “marmande” variety.  “Marmande” is the French term for tomatoes that the English call “beef” and Americans call “beefsteak.” If I were alert and not dreaming about tomatoes, I should have figured out the meaning from the catalog description.

Does Delizia rate a “rave” notice?

I may not be a “connoisseur,” but I’ve tasted scores of tomato varieties, and Delizia’s flavor is, well, delicious.  Ok, I give it a “rave.”  It also has been disease resistant with heavy yields.  The fruits are shaped something like small, squat pumpkins with modest ribs, but the ones on my plant averaged about the 7 or 8 oz. given in the second catalog description, not the one-pounders of the first catalog description.

This yummy variety has one downside.  It’s so squat—most less than two inches tall—that core removal takes away a significant part of the fruit, leaving relatively little flesh left for eating.  With so much of the tomato going into the recycle bucket rather than onto a plate or into a sandwich, I think I’ll have to call Delizia a great “chunker” but not a good “slicer.”

Will I grow Delizia next year?  I will if Kent gives me another plant.  Hey, Kent….
About the Author
Bob Nixon is a retiree who lives at Meadow Glenn, a rural residential home near Clarksville in the piedmont region of Maryland. He loves gardening with emphasis on veggies and perennial flowers, and he is gradually reforesting parts of his home lot with native trees. And while he is gardening or mowing or just walking about, he sometimes reflect on life and what’s happening beyond Meadow Glenn at his blog: http://www.ancientgardenerblog.blogspot.com/.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fenton Friday: A Rash of Radishes

It has been another weird weather week at my Fenton Community Garden plot. Two days that hit near or over 90 degrees and then yesterday brought a deluge -- over 2 inches of rain overnight.

Now, I'm getting word of a frost-alert for the next few nights, which means I'll be running over to cover and uncover the tender plants each morning and night.

It has been so hectic with various spring garden events that the only thing I was able to do in the plot so far was to "thin" the 'French Breakfast' radishes. The thinnings are pictured here and I've already eaten about 10 of them before taking the photo.

The only other thing I accomplished in my plot was a bit of weeding as some kind of thistle has exploded and I would to grab them now before their long taproots became established.

The strawberries are ripening up so I'm keeping an eagle eye on them to beat any slugs or ants to the punch. I cannot wait to have them with my morning cereal!

I have a long to-do list for the plot that I hope to tackle early next week including planting my tomatoes, starting okra and melon seeds, and putting in a lisianthus flower border from plugs I bought from a local cut flower grower.

What is growing in your edible garden this week?

Catch Me If You Can... Where to find Washington Gardener Magazine This Weekend and beyond

April-May-June is a crazy-busy time for local gardening and no less so for Washington Gardener Magazine! I will be at the following events over the next week or so. I will have subscription cards and the current magazine issue with me so when you see me, you will be able to subscribe on the spot.

~ Saturday May 17, 9am-3pm
Spring Garden Day: The Big Plant Sale at Green Spring Gardens Park (4603 Green Spring Road) and find rare and unusual plants from more than 40 vendors. Find Washington Gardener Magazine under the shade of the big tree by the Visitor's Center. Friends of Green Spring (FROGS) members receive 10% off new Washington Gardener subscriptions.
Event details: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/

~ Sunday, May 18, 12n-2pm
Spring Plant Exchange on May 18 at Heffner Park in Takoma Park, MD. Bring your garden extras and take home new-to-you plants. You must be a club member to participate, but you can join at the event for just $12.
Event details: http://takomahort.org/

~ Sunday, May 18, 2-5pm
10th Annual Shepherd Park Garden Tour in Shepherd Park, DC near Takoma, DC and Silver Spring, MD.A self-guided tour of eight of the loveliest gardens in the area. The gardens of Shepherd Park, Colonial Village, and North Portal Estates offer a superb combination of beauty, creativity, elegance, and originality. Gardens of all sizes will be featured–from the small city garden to the large estate, from the easily obtainable to the dream.
Event details: http://www.shepherdpark.org/garden.html

~ Monday, May 19, 7:30-9:30pm
Garden Photography Talk hosted by the SILVER SPRING GARDEN CLUB at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus Health Sciences Center Building Room 222 in downtown Silver Spring, MD. 


~ Tuesday, May 20 at 6-9pm
GreenDrinksDC Happy Hour at Local 16 DC, 1602 U Street NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20009. Double 10-min SPOTLIGHT SPEAKERS: Kathy Jentz,  Editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, and Ian Fisk, Exec. Dir. of the William James Foundation. Network with over 1,260 "GreenDrinkers" in DC. No cover charge/membership fee. Drink specials. Drinks not literally green, but the people are a pale shade of chartreuse. "Are you Green?"
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2398457524/

~ Wednesday, May 21, 5:30-7:30pm
GoodGreenFun Happy Hour with Silver Spring Green at Mi Rancho in downtown Silver Spring, MD.
Event details: http://silverspringgreen.com/

SAVE THE DATE:
~ May 31-June 1 weekend
DC Green Festival - see Washington Gardener Magazine at our booth and visit 100s of green companies at the DC Convention Center.
Event details: http://www.greenfestivals.org/
PS I will have FREE DC Green Festival passes to give away to Washington Gardener Magazine readers look out for details on that next week!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: May Abundance!

 This month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is glorious! Spring has finally spring here in the Mid-Atlantic USA (zones 6-7).  Since so much is in bloom, I thought I'd share just a few flowers that are new-ish to my garden.

I added the Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) to my hellstrip last fall as part of my efforts to create a butterfly garden and something that will not get me fined by the county for "not weeding."

Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus)
I bought this Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) from Melwood at the FONA Garden Fair last year. Confession: it never made it into the ground. Happily though, it seems fine in the original pot and came back with lovely blue blooms -- though most of them got knocked off in yesterday's rains....

Jacob's Ladder  (Polemonium caeruleum)
The Candytuft (Iberis) was something I ordered from Classic Groundcovers last spring for the Silver Spring Garden Club sale. It did not sell well so I kept one for myself. I think it is quite lovely planted here under a Hydrangea 'Limelight.'
Candytuft (Iberis)




   The rest of the garden is bursting with May blooms: Wiegela, Roses, Iris, Epimedium, Euphorbia, Azaleas, and lots of annuals. Just ended are the Lilacs, Tulips, Rhododendrons, Crab apple tree, Lungwort, Lily of the Valley, and many of the spring ephemerals like Dutchman's Breeches.
 
   What is blooming in your garden today?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Video Wednesday: Container Gardening Tips



Container gardening is a great solution for homes who want plants and flowers to enjoy but have very little outdoor space.



Christopher D. Mills, a local REALTOR®, with Keller Williams Capital Properties, came and shot this video in my garden last week. We plan to shoot another few videos on urban vegetable growing as well.




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Native Spotlight: Sedum Ternatum



Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw

Sedum ternatum is an easy to grow shade-loving native groundcover.

Sedum ternatum in early spring
One of my favorite groundcovers is Sedum ternatum, native to much of the eastern U.S. This is a small plant, no more than six inches high including the flower stalk, which blooms for a few weeks in April or May in our area. Mine are just coming into bloom now, a little late like many other things this year.

Sedum ternatum in flower
This versatile little evergreen plant likes moist conditions and part-shade to shade, but is also reasonably drought tolerant.  In my yard it is one of the few things I have been able to grow under the dry shade of a large silver maple on a slope, together with the native Pennsylvania sedge, Carex pensylvanica.

Sedum ternatum and Carex pensylvanica
Sedum ternatum is easy to transplant. I’ve put some of mine at the edge of my gravel driveway, where it has filled in nicely, and I’m planning to put some in other spots around the yard. Just keep in mind that it is not the most rapid of spreaders, and as the plants are small, it is probably not the best choice for filling in a large space rapidly. On the other hand, if you decide for whatever reason that you need to take it out, removal is easy. But my guess is that you’ll want to spread it around the yard, not get rid of it!



About the Author
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at http://hummingbirdway.blogspot.com/. This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series that Rachel will be posting here around the 10th of each month.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tomato Patch: A Solid Gold investment

In this guest blog series by Bob Nixon, he explores various tomato varieties and how well they grow in the Mid-Atlantic region. Look for Tomato Patch posts every Monday for the next few months as our local tomato season gets underway.

Solid Gold tomatoes hang in long clusters
The price of gold may have been less than solid on the commodities markets in recent months, but my purchase of a packet of 'Solid Gold' Hybrid seeds from Tomato Growers Supply Co. turned out to be an excellent investment.

I was attracted to 'Solid Gold' because I wanted both a change of pace from the Sweet 100 and Sungold cherry varieties I’d grown in recent years and also a variety that wouldn’t crack after every shower or rain, as Sweet 100 and Sungold usually do.

The Tomato Growers Supply Co. catalog description of Solid Gold seemed just what I was searching for: “Clusters of one-inch long, golden yellow grape tomatoes appear in great numbers through an impressively long-growing season.  This plant just seems never to give up!  In our trials, it was the first tomato to ripen and the last one to stop producing.  The tomatoes are very crack-resistant and once harvested have a long shelf life while retaining their delicious, sweet taste.”

That description turned into reality in the Tomato Patch.  I’ve been amazed at the many cascading clusters—most with 16 to 22 tomatoes—growing from the vigorous plants.  The first tomato I picked this season was a Solid Gold, and they joined Juliets in the last colander of small tomatoes I picked before frost ended Tomato Patch 2013.  Solid Gold did not crack early in season, but about 50% of the fruit did in the last month or so.  Shelf-life seems eternal—well, almost—with Solid Gold fruits sitting on our kitchen counter for days sometimes without wrinkling or showing any signs of collapse.  When fully ripe, Solid Gold is both sweet and tomatoey, but not candy-sweet like the smaller Sweet 100 and Sungold cherry varieties.

Bottom line:  Solid Gold is a fine variety definitely worth a repeat next summer.  It is my current favorite “snacker.”  For Tomato Patch 2014 I’ll have to decide whether to plant Solid Gold again or return to the super-sweet Sungold.

Solid Gold: Solid and semi-sweet snacker



About the Author
Bob Nixon is a retiree who lives at Meadow Glenn, a rural residential home near Clarksville in the piedmont region of Maryland. He loves gardening with emphasis on veggies and perennial flowers, and he is gradually reforesting parts of his home lot with native trees. And while he is gardening or mowing or just walking about, he sometimes reflect on life and what’s happening beyond Meadow Glenn at his blog: http://www.ancientgardenerblog.blogspot.com/.
 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Fenton Friday: Broccoli Bolting

radish babies
A quick report from my garden plot at the Fenton Community Garden, the heat came in today and it went right to summer with a high of 88 degrees today and more heat on the way. The broccoli bolted overnight, so I harvested it all for dinner and maybe lunch tomorrow.









strawberries forming
Everything else is coming along very nicely and is now overdue for thinning. I hope to have a chance to get to that over the weekend.











broccoli bolting
The only thing that seems slow to me are the sugarsnap peas. We had to start them several weeks late due to the awful late winter, but I think they should still be over 3-4 inches tall by now. We will see if they start to catch up in the next week or so.









tiny lettuce
What is growing in your edible garden?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Video Wednesday: The Secret of White Asparagus Revealed!



Here is a never-aired clip from the "Maryland Farm & Harvest" MPT series. Al Spoler visits Rousedale Farm in Fallston, MD. Former rock jock, Steve Rouse, now raises chickens and grows vegetables, including amazing asparagus. He shares some great asparagus growing trips.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Tomato Patch: Grandpa Henry’s Paste Tomato

In this guest blog series by Bob Nixon, he explores various tomato varieties and how well they grow in the Mid-Atlantic region. Look for Tomato Patch posts every Monday for the next few months as our local tomato season gets underway.

Grandpa Henry's heirloom tomatoes
One of the most unusual paste tomatoes I’ve “trialed” in years is Grandpa Henry’s, the seeds of which were a gift late last winter from Henry Lysy, a Carroll County Master Gardener.

The Grandpa Henry’s I’ve grown this summer averaged just over 10 ounces.  They were long, narrow, with pointed ends, reminding me of a few other paste tomatoes I’ve seen in catalogs—such as Jersey Devil and San Marzano Redorta.  When visitors saw them, they often thought they were hot peppers, not tomatoes. 

Henry said his dad received the original seeds from an Italian immigrant neighbor in Rhode Island and passed seeds on to Henry, who’s been growing them at least 30 years.  For Henry’s family and his many gardening friends, Grandpa Henry’s paste tomato is truly an heirloom variety.  Thank you, Henry, for carrying on a grand gardening tradition—and for sharing seeds with me and many others.


'Solid, little juice...just perfect for making sauce'
“I’ve really seen nothing like them,” Henry said when he gave me the seeds.  “I gladly share seeds and just ask that they call them Grandpa Henry’s. They’re prolific producers and are solid with little juice—just perfect for making sauce.”

Though many of Grandpa Henry’s sported green shoulders when I picked them to avoid damage by brown marmorated stink bugs, they were mostly deep red inside.  The green shoulders turned red in four or five days on a counter in our garage.  I made several batches of sauce in late summer, and this open-pollinated family heirloom has been a welcome ingredient, along with my other trial paste tomato, Burpee SuperSauce, which I blogged about a few days ago.

Thank you, Henry Lysy for sharing a family treasure.  Maybe you’ve just proved again that some of the best things in life are free.

If you've grown Grandpa Henry's, please post a comment about how this heirloom performed in your Tomato Patch.

About the Author
Bob Nixon is a retiree who lives at Meadow Glenn, a rural residential home near Clarksville in the piedmont region of Maryland. He loves gardening with emphasis on veggies and perennial flowers, and he is gradually reforesting parts of his home lot with native trees. And while he is gardening or mowing or just walking about, he sometimes reflect on life and what’s happening beyond Meadow Glenn at his blog: http://www.ancientgardenerblog.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Iris cristata: You Can Grow That!

The Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) is a small iris that is native to the eastern United States. This dwarf iris is beardless and it faces right up at you, unlike so many other woodland and native flowers that require you to peer at them from a snail's vantage point.

It grows just a few inches tall and is best suited for the borders of woodland paths and fronts of part-shade flower beds. When not in flower, the narrow foliage is like that of bearded iris, but as it is much smaller, it is hardly noticeable.

The bloom time is late April to early May. It blooms on the previous year's growth, so it will take a year to establish and flower.

It spreads slowly by underground rhizomes. It is easy to divide and share or put in different spots around your own garden. If you want to propagate it by seed allow the seedpods to dry on the plant then break them open over an envelope to collect the seeds.

They are drought-tolerant, trouble-free, and require no care once planted. It does well in rock gardens and on slopes as well.

Garden Bloggers You Can Grow That! Day was started by C. L. Fornari of Whole Life Gardening because she believes “Gardening is one of the most life-affirming things we can do.…We need to thoroughly saturate people with the belief that plants and gardening are worth doing because of the benefits gained.” Garden bloggers who agree post about something worth growing on the fourth day of every month. Read this month’s You Can Grow That! posts.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Fenton Friday: Broccoli Crowned

I have not been in my community garden plot all week due to the crazy-busy garden event season going on and the monsoons we had mid-week. Local measurements show 5 inches in one day and that one stormed dropped over an inch of rain within one hour! We have not seen this kind of precipitation levels since the last hurricane came through.

I ran over to check on the plot today and everything is actually looking pretty good. All the seedlings are up now, even the notoriously slow carrots.

I pulled back my cover cloth today to reveal some tall broccoli plants that are developing nicely. I recovered them and will keep a close eye on the weather. I want to see how big of crowns I can get on the plants before the heat sets in and makes them bolt (set seed).

How is your garden growing this week?