Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Seed Exchange 2020 Speakers Announced

Here are the speakers for the upcoming Washington Gardener Seed Exchanges 2020. Seed Exchange attendees trade seeds, exchange planting tips, hear expert speakers, and collect goody bags full of gardening treats. For more information on the exchanges and how to register, go here.

"Hardening off and Transplanting your Seedlings"
Speaker: Debby Ward of Prior Unity Garden
Hardening off your seedlings is an important step to ensuring they bound into growth and production when put unto the ground. Hardening off refers to how we acclimate seedlings; who have been started indoors, to their final outdoor environment, by slowing getting them used to increased amounts of sun, wind and rain. If we do not harden off our seedlings, they will experience what is called “transplant shock” and likely die, or at least not grow well and thrive. Hardening off does require a bit of flexibility and may be the most attention-intensive part of starting your plants from seed indoors.  Debby will share her best tips for success during that process as well as for transplanting your seedlings once they are hardened off.
   Debby Ward is Founder & Owner of Prior Unity Garden, helping make your organic garden dream a reality, and has been gardening since she could crawl. Her family always had food and herb gardens in which she participated and she has continued that tradition.   She loves to help grow gardeners and taught for The Mason Sustainability Institute, Master Gardeners of Fairfax County, and many local events and organizations.  She has focused on plants for food and medicine since being a young adult and holds several certificates in medicinal herbalism and has training in biodynamics, organic and native gardening. She values biodiversity, community, healthy living soil, fresh organic food and the prior unity inherent in all beings.

Speaker 2:
“Companion Planting for Pest Management in the Home Garden" 
Speaker: Linda L. Jones, owner, Elements of Nature
Companion Planting is a method of growing plants in proximity to each other because of their ability to enhance or complement the other's growth or attract beneficial insects or repel insect pests. Companion planting includes techniques such as trap cropping, spatial protection, beneficial habitat, and nurse cropping.
    Linda L. Jones is a certified master gardener and owner of Elements of Nature - Botanicals and Farmaceuticals, Clinton, Maryland . She focuses on growing flowers and herbs and gardening education. She is an avid seed collector and has a collection of over 500 varieties of open-pollinated and heirloom, annual, perennial and herb seeds.
   She has presented on several diverse gardening topics and has led workshops throughout the DMV since 2010, beginning as a master gardener intern.
   She often incorporates tips on creative, effective and alternative ways to maximize growing potential and space. In addition she uses her knowledge of growing, food, herbs and flowers and incorporates them into designer and exotic loose leaf teas, lotions and other home arrangements and into her natural products and skin care line - all of which are available at
   She believes that “Through saving and sharing seeds we are all helping to spread hope and enrich lives across the world”

Washington Gardener Seed Exchange 1
on Saturday, January 25, 2020, 12:30–4:00pm 
National Seed Swap Day!
at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD
 Registration is now open at 


Speaker 1:
"Seed Saving 101"
Speaker: Niraj Ray of Cultivate the City  
With a little bit of space, time, and basic equipment, saving your own seeds can be easy! Different types of seeds require slightly different treatment to save them properly- learn about seeds that mature in wet fruits, seed heads, pods, and more! We will also discuss how to keep certain tender perennials alive through the winter for rapid propagation in the spring, so you don't have to start from scratch each year. 
   Cultivate the City is an urban farming organization based in Washington, DC. In addition to managing a network of school and corporate gardens, CTC also runs a rooftop garden center and nursery where they start most of their plants and hold weekly workshops. CTC focuses on growing hard-to-find and ethnically and culturally important foods- they have been practicing saving their own seeds for more than 5 years!
   Niraj founded Cultivate the City (CTC) in 2015 to inspire healthy and sustainable living by empowering local communities with the tools, training and resources for urban agriculture and vertical farming. CTC currently manages over 25 locations around DC, including a rooftop farm at the Washington Nationals Stadium. Niraj holds a B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology from the Ohio State University and a M.S. in Integrated Environmental Science from Bethune-Cookman University. He is a 2013 National Wildlife Federation Emerging Leader Fellow and formerly worked with the US EPA - Office of Water.  

Speaker 2:
"The Lost Art of Plant Sharing: Taking Cuttings, Saving Seed and Dividing"
Speaker: Carol Allen, Horticulturist
There was a time when you would admire a shrub or perennial in a friend’s garden and they would give you cuttings or root divisions for your garden. Unfortunately, the art of home propagation is rarely being passed down from generation to generation anymore. Enter Carol! She will give you guidelines on how to start with cuttings, seed gathering/planting, and how/ when to divide plants. 
   Carol Allen has been involved in many aspects of gardening and horticulture since childhood and likes to describe herself as a committable plant-a-holic. She has more than 25 years experience in the horticulture industry with special interests in Integrated Pest Management, landscape design, native plants, tropicals of many kinds, and especially orchids. Carol enjoys helping people understand how to care for their plants and holds a monthly diagnostic clinic in Washington, DC. After serving a term of two-and-one-half years as supervisory horticulturist at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory, Carol returned to college and earned a degree in horticulture. Fascinated by the interplay of pest and prey, Carol continues her education on plant pests and diseases. She enjoys teaching people how to outwit their garden pests with little or no pesticide application and also authors the “InsectIndex” column in the Washington Gardener Magazine.

Washington Gardener Seed Exchange 2
on Saturday, February 1, 2020, 12:30–4:00pm
at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA
Registration is now open at 

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

DIY: Keeping a Garden Journal

Level: easy
Cost: minimal
Use: record-keeping

Notebook Paper
3-Ring Binder

Optional Materials:
Glue sticks
Graph Paper
Colored Pencils

One of the many joys of gardening is looking back and seeing where you came from. From barren weedy lot to perennial beds bursting with color, you put the work in and it shows.
    By keeping a garden journal you will be able to keep track of your progress from year to year and you’ll have a record you can constantly refer to when planning your garden in the future.
   Many gardeners spend a pleasant winter’s evening going back over their past garden journals, not just as a planning tool, but for sheer amusement. To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined garden is not worth growing. 
   With all the fancy scrapbooking accessories available, it is easy to go overboard and be overwhelmed with the innumerable amount of information and decorations you could include in your journal. You can also keep your journal online as a blog or website or stored on your own computer. We suggest you keep it simple. Here is a list of things you can include in your journal.
  Step 1: Make a general information page. List your zone, frost date, soil test results, local Master Gardener hotline numbers, and anything else you will be referring to frequently.
  Step 2:  Keep a page for each month of the year. List on it what chores need to be done, what plants are in bloom, and any other incidental observations you may have.
   Step 3: Insert pages for plants purchased. If they are mail-order purchases, cut out the catalog photos and descriptions and paste those in. If locally purchased or grown-from-seed, staple the plant tags or seed packs to your pages. Leave space for future notes on where you planted these new purchases and how they did.
   Step 4: Cut out and/or print out useful magazine articles and either paste them in, hole-punch them, or insert into clear page protectors.
   Step 5:  Make a chart for seeds started. Draw columns for the plant name, seed starting date, outdoor sowing date, and any notes.
   Step 6: Use graph or blank paper to map out beds and draw plantings.
   Step 7: Set aside one page for bird sightings and other creatures that visit your garden. Note what they were, how many, time and date seen. Add photos if you take any.
   Step 8: Devote a page to a “wish list.” Plants you’d like to buy. Projects you are contemplating. Paste in magazine photos and ideas.
   Step 9: Take a few pages for an “inspiration” section. Quotes and poems you liked. Plant combinations you saw in a neighbor’s garden. Gardening books you’d like to read.
   The “how” of keeping a garden journal is not that difficult. Just pull out some blank paper and write. The hard part may be in finding the time to do so. Try scheduling in a regular appointment in your calendar to do some garden journal entries. Just 15 minutes a week can be plenty and you’ll be thankful in the years to come for all of the knowledge you have stored.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a few pennies from Amazon.

This is a monthly blog series on DIY projects for the beginning home gardener. Look for the other installments in this DIY blog series by putting "DIY" in the search box here at

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Garden PHOTO CONTEST Kicks Off!

The 14th Annual Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest kicks off now! The entry period is January 1-22, 2020. 

Note that eligible entries must have been taken during the 2019 calendar year in a garden setting within 150-mile radius of Washington, DC.


~ Garden Views (landscape scenes)

~ Garden Vignettes (groupings of plants in beds or containers, unusual color or texture combinations, garden focal points, and still scenes)

~ Small Wonders (flower or plant part close-ups)

~ Garden Creatures (any living creature in a garden setting)

Remember that garden photos need not all be taken during the first week of May nor should they all be tight close-ups of a red rose. Look for the unusual and for beauty in the off-season too. Our judges give equal weight to the following criteria when evaluating the entries: technical merit, composition, impact, and creativity.

Anyone can enter: professional or amateur, adult or student, local area gardener or visiting DC tourist. Past winners have included teenagers entering their first-ever photo contest and home gardeners trying out their new digital cameras. Our next Grand Prize Winner could be YOU!


Also, here is the entry form text:

Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest Entry Form:
• Name -      
• Full address-
• Phone number –
• Email –
• Years of photography experience-
• Whether you are a Pro or Amateur-
• Image File name and title-
• A brief description of each image-
• The category each image is to be entered in -
• The location where each image was taken -
• All available photographic information regarding the image (i.e. camera type, lens, lighting, etc.)

For any contest inquiries, contact

*A PDF of the rules is available on request, if the JPG is not legible for you.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Top 10 Garden Books of 2019

Here is a list of the best gardening books that came out in 2019 as reviewed in Washington Gardener Magazine. (Note that these 10 selections are in no particular order.)

Buy a few of these for yourself and for the plant geeks, garden lovers, and horticultural nerds in your life! (Note that if you click on the links, it takes you to the book's Amazon page and we get a few pennies if you order it from there.)

By Matt Mattus

Our reviewer by Erica H. Smith said, "This book is a trove of advice from a gardener who’s sharing the results of many successes and failures. It’s a deeply useful book for gardeners—and the gorgeous full-color photos remind us that vegetables are pretty, too!"

By Nancy Striniste

Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "Maybe creating a respite from the electronic gizmo culture isn’t your focus, but reading this book just might send you out to the natural spaces that nourish us, reinvigorate us, soothe us, and open worlds within worlds to us." 

By Jane Hurwitz

Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "The book is a straightforward, important how-to resource about the type of gardening that supports the entire life cycle of butterflies. It invites readers to grow attuned to the eco-relationships between plants and butterflies, especially those that certain butterflies have with specific plants—like Monarchs and the milkweeds that support the Monarch’s life cycle. Hurwitz’s friendly writing style makes a wealth of information accessible to aspiring and longtime butterfly gardeners, advising all on how to implement the ideas presented and showing them in existing landscapes

By Toni Gattone

Our reviewer Taylor Markey said, "This book would be a perfect gift for anyone you know who is looking for an easy way to get started in gardening and would like some tips on how best to adjust their garden to their lifestyle and preferences. The author provides easy-to-follow steps and tips on how to create a garden that is the best for you, while emphasizing the importance of gardening and the positive results that come from it."

By Clare Nolan

Our reviewer Jamie Moore said, "Nolan’s easygoing prose gives me hope that even I can aspire to grow such charming and beautiful blossoms... This book inspired a successful trip to a local thrift store to beef up my vase collection in anticipation of my new, improved cutting garden... There are several gardening books that I reread annually, to lift my spirits when the winter days are at their coldest and darkest. This book will become one of them."

By Linda Jane Holden

Our reviewer Jim Dronenburg said, "This is a coffee table book, large and heavy. The text makes for interesting reading, but the pictures are incredible. Of course, there is first-class material to work with, but almost all the pictures are gems. The book will probably not be of use to anyone trying to grow things (such as Mellon’s beloved topiaries), but it certainly is an eye-opener for what can be done when you have as much judgment as you have money. The lessons of proportion and scale can be adapted to our lesser gardens."

By Rachael Cohen

Our reviewer Johnny Moseman said, "This book is also filled with stunning images depicting every step along the way of preparing your succulents in the best way possible. There are few pages that do not have a breath-taking picture of succulents. Photographer Marie Monforte knows exactly how to capture the essence of the beautiful little succulents.
   Overall, Infinite Succulent, provides a great, in-depth look at how to care for succulents throughout the year. It is a must-read if you have any interest in making your array of succulents the best it can be."

By Joel Karsten 

Our reviewer Alexa Silverberg said, "This book is great because it is so detailed. Karsten uses real pictures, drawings, and charts to thoroughly explain how to use straw bales to garden. This is the perfect book for those looking to branch out in their gardening adventures, or those who are struggling to make the most of their gardening space."

9. Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees

By William Bryant Logan

Our reviewer Alexandra Marquez said, "This isn’t a typical, must-read book for gardeners, but it’s a valuable journey into the history of trees and their importance to humans. It will leave you with an appreciation for those giant plants that we may not tend to every season like our hydrangeas or squashes, but that are just as integral to our lives as the plants we do tend to dearly."

By Michael Judd

Our reviewer Jessica Kranz said, "If you are looking to start growing pawpaws, Michael Judd’s new book is what you should read next. In this book, Judd takes you step-by-step through the best practices for growing and caring for the pawpaw fruit... This book is a terrific guide for growing and harvesting pawpaw trees. It has tons of beautiful photos and I recommend this book if you are looking to grow your own pawpaw tree."

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Washington Gardener Magazine presents the 
15th Annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchanges
on Saturday, January 25, 2020, 12:30–4:00pm 
National Seed Swap Day!
at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD
 Registration is now open at 
on Saturday, February 1, 2020, 12:30–4:00pm
at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA
Registration is now open at 

Join us for:
Seed Swapping
Door Prizes
Planting Tips
Expert Speakers
Goody Bags
Indoor Plant Cuttings Table

UPDATE: We are adding a new table this year for houseplant cuttings and starts. We have always had a tropicals/indoor plants table category, but this will be an expanded offering. We encourage everyone to bring your cuttings labeled and packed in individual baggies to share.

Washington Gardener magazine, the publication for DC-area gardening enthusiasts, is hosting the 15th annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchange at Brookside Gardens and Green Spring Gardens. These seed swaps are in-person and face-to-face. You bring your extra seeds and swap them with other gardeners. Everyone will leave with a bag full of seeds, new garden friends, and expert planting advice.

We are holding a duo of Seed Exchanges one week apart on opposite sides of the Washington Beltway. We urge you to attend the one closest to you.
   One exchange will be held at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD. The other will be at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA.

How to Register
   Register online at for the 1/25/20 event and for the 2/1/20 one. 
    Registration fee is $20 per person. Friends of Brookside members, Friends of Green Spring members, and current Washington Gardener subscribers receive a discount rate of $15 per person.
We strongly urge you to register in advance. There is a limited enrollment of 100 participants at each location!

We are GREEN!!!
We also have a Garden Book and Seed Catalog Exchange table. Seed Exchange attendees are encouraged to bring their used or new garden books and seed catalogs to swap and share at this year’s event. 
   We also ask you to bring your own water bottle or reusable mug and a home-made nametag. We will have a“best nametag” contest, so get crafty!

Event Hashtags #GardenDC and #SeedSwapDay

If You Have Seeds to Bring and Swap:
Please package them in resealable plastic zipper or wax sandwich baggies. Put an average of 20 seeds per baggy — more for small seeds like lettuce, fewer for large seeds like acorns. Label each baggy with a white sticker (such as Avery standard 5160 address label sheets) giving all the information you have on the seeds. If known, include the plant's common and scientific names; its soil, sun, and watering needs; and, its origins — where and when you collected the seeds. If you don't know all the information, that is okay; just provide as much as you can.
Yes, you can bring unused or opened commercial seed packs.

What If You Don't Have Any Seeds to Swap?
Come anyway! Even if you don’t have any seeds to trade, you are welcome to attend. We'll have plenty of extra seed contributions on hand and many attendees will be there just to learn, network, and prepare for next year's seed collecting.

Education Program
Expert speakers from the local gardening community will give short talks on seed collection and propagation tips. There will be ample time for individual Q&A throughout the program with the featured speakers, and invited experts as well.

(Note: This schedule is subject to change.)
12:00-12:30 Registration check-in
12:30-12:40 Introductions
12:40-1:20 Gardening talk
1:20-1:55 Gardening talk
2:00-2:15 Snack break and room reset
2:15-2:30 Seed Swap preview time
2:30-3:00 Seed Swap
3:00-3:30 Photo Contest winners
3:30-4:00 Door prizes and closing talk

How Do We Swap?
As you check in, staff will collect your seeds and place them at the appropriate seed category tables.
You will be assigned a random seed swap number. There will be a short period for attendees to preview all the seeds brought in and available for swapping. You will be called in by your number to pick a seed pack from each of the category tables (if desired).
After the initial seed swap is complete, attendees are free to take any of the left over seeds and to trade seeds with each other. Dividing of packets is encouraged and extra baggies with labels will be on hand for that purpose.

What Types of Seeds?
Seed swap categories will include natives, edibles, herbs, exotics, annuals, perennials, and woodies (trees/shrubs). If you can pre-sort your seeds in advance into which of these seven major categories fits best, that would help us speed up the process on the swap day.

Door Prizes! Goodie Bags!
Each attendee will receive a goodie bag at the seed swap. The bags include seeds, publications, and garden items donated by our sponsors. In addition, we have some incredible door prizes to give away especially for area gardeners.
   If your organization would like to contribute seeds or garden-related products for the goodie bags and door prizes, contact Kathy Jentz at 301.588.6894 by January 22.

Charitable Donations:
Extra seeds from the swap are donated to local, nonprofit gardening groups.
A donation from the event proceeds has been made to the Seed Savers Exchange.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Win a Local DC-MD-VA Garden Task Calendar from Washington Gardener Magazine

For our December 2019 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener Magazine is giving away a copy of our local DC-MD-VA Garden Task Calendar. (Prize value is $20.)
   Each month includes a list of what to do in the garden for local DC-MD-VA and Mid-Atlantic gardeners, along with a gorgeous photo of a seasonal flower from a local public garden collection in our area.
  Go to: to order this calendar for gifts and to treat yourself! This calendar is a keeper that you can use for years.
   To enter to win the DC-MD-VA Garden Task Calendar, send an email to by 5pm on Tuesday, December 31, with “Garden Task Calendar” in the subject line. In the body of the email, tell us your favorite article in the December 2019 issue and why. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The calendar winner will be announced and notified on January 1.

UPDATE: Our contest winner is Carol Yemola, Drums, PA!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Pansy and Viola, Upcycling, Urban Planning, and much more in the December 2019 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

The December 2019 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is out now.
Inside this issue:
·         Plant Profile:  Pansy and Viola
·         Alternatives to Invasive Nandina
·         Community Forklift’s Mission Uplifts Through Upcycling
·         Leaving Crops Up Over Winter Can Improve Soil
·         What To Do in the Garden This Month
·         DC-MD-VA Gardening Events Calendar
·         Seed Exchange 2020: Registration and Details Inside
·         Urban Planning and Street Trees
·         and much more…

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the January 2020 issue are due by January 5.

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.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Gifts for Gardeners ~ Gardening Gifts ~ Cool Gardening Gift Ideas

The holiday season is upon us and many of us are struggling to pick out that perfect present, so I thought I'd  share again the garden products I use almost every day. I added a few more on this year that I have personally trialed. These are the tried-and-true work tools that make my garden grow, save my back from breaking, and generally make life a little easier. Treat yourself!

BTW, the gift ideas are linked to Amazon, so if you click on them and order any, Washington Gardener Magazine gets a few pennies added to the account for the referral. Our full Amazon storefront is at:



And, if you like this list, you may enjoy these gift lists as well:

~ Gift Ideas for Garden Cats

Disclosure: Clicking on these links and then ordering anything from Amazon may put a few pennies in the Washington Gardener Magazine bank account. Thank you for anything you can direct our way. We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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Gifts for Gardeners ~ Gardening Gifts ~ Cool Gardening Gift Ideas

Today is Amazon Prime Day, so I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true w...