Friday, September 13, 2019

Fenton Friday: Cool-season Seeds

New Fall semester interns Jessica and Taylor planted two sets of seeds after I cleared out space for them in the plot. Jessica is growing two greens - 'Bloomsdale' Spinach and 'Nancy's Baby Leaf Blend' Kale. Taylor planted two kinds of carrots - 'Oxheart' and 'Purple Sun'.

It went from temps hovering around 100 for the past few days to an almost chilly high of 70 degrees today. Fall is coming.

Eagle-eyed readers will note that I skipped last Friday's Fenton blog post. I was in Salt Lake City at the annual GardenComm (formerly GWA) meeting with my fellow garden communicators. I got back a few days ago and am still feeling the effects of the altitude, time change, and long days of garden tours, talks, and networking events.

On the tours I attended I did not see very many edible gardens, so I cannot do much comparison with our Mid-Atlantic climate to Utah in that aspect. I will say that a visit to the Pioneer Park farmers market near our hotel was a highlight for me and I sampled some very tasty cherries and peaches. The dry atmosphere there means that fruit growing is a lot easier (not as severe fungal diseases), but that also means they have to run drip irrigation to almost everything.

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 in zone 7 Mid-Atlantic MD/DC border. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 8th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

DIY: Painted Allium


 This is an easy and fun project. The color combinations are as wide as your imagination. Try metallics in winter or bright jewel tones in summer. Pop them around your garden to add color in any season. You can also use these in a modern floral arrangement in a vase. 

Usually, this project is done with dried allium flowers, but you can use other perennial flowers as well such as Astilbe or Echinacea.


  • Gather your allium flowers after they have dried on the plant
  • Choose a location to paint the allium that is well ventilated (ideally, outdoors) and spread cardboard or newspaper out
  • Determine what direction the wind is blowing and plan to spray with your back to the wind -- wear gloves, mask, and clothing that you don't mind getting paint on
  • Insert or attach a dowel rod onto the base of the allium flowers and wrap with floral tape, if the stems are not strong or need reinforcement
  • Hold the dowel/stem of the allium and spraying the bloom while rotating it to fully cover all parts of the flower
  • Lay down or hang the flowers to let them dry
  • Optional: Put a piece of cardboard just under the flower to act as a protective collar and spray the dowel/stem green
        You can also use this collar method to spray dried flowers that are still attached to the plants in a container or a garden bed. 

    These painted flowers can last for years inside or only a season outside. Add a layer of shellac spray to keep them intact longer.

    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

    Friday, August 30, 2019

    Fenton Friday: Bean Gone

    The beans are definitely done. Someone/some thing came and nibbled all the top foliage off yesterday. I think it was a rabbits, but am not sure. In any case, bean production had pretty much ended and I was planning on clearing out the space this weekend for starting some cool season crops.

    The weather has moderated and the humidity comes and goes, so it is not unpleasant to be out in the plot during the day and I am more motivated to start anew.

    I'll be switching everything over to cool season edibles and cover crops after Labor Day. It is too early to start planting garlic, though I need to make sure to save a good-sized spot for it.

    Meanwhile, the Swiss chard is growing beautifully and tomatoes are still producing.
    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 in zone 7 Mid-Atlantic MD/DC border. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 8th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

    Thursday, August 29, 2019

    Meet the New Interns - Jessica and Taylor

    Jessica Kranz and Taylor Markey
    This fall, I have taken on two editorial interns. If you attend any of our upcoming events, like the DC Plant Swap, you are sure to meet them. Look for their author bylines in upcoming issues. As a first assignment, I asked them to write a short introduction to our readers...

    My name is Jessica Kranz and I am a senior broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am thrilled to be one of the two interns working at Washington Gardener Magazine this fall semester. I have a passion for producing creative video and editorial content, and I am very excited to share these skills that I have with all of you! While this is my first internship during the school year, this past summer I interned at Group Nine Media, where I was involved in helping create video content for their brands. I look forward to gaining even more video and editorial experience through this internship, and I am excited for you all to embark on this journey with me!

    Hello! My name is Taylor Markey, and I am a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am majoring in multi-platform journalism. Some of my interests include working in social media, editing, and writing, all with an emphasis on entertainment. I have freelanced and edited for The Writer's Bloc, an arts publication at UMD. Outside of classes, I am also the president for Student Entertainment Events, UMD's primary student programming board.  This past summer, I was a social media/new media editorial intern with Marvel Entertainment in New York, NY. I am looking forward to a great semester with the Washington Gardener Magazine!

    Freshly painted, new gloves for their first visit to our garden plot.

    Sunday, August 25, 2019

    Tomato Taste Results - "Meaty" and Sweet Wins!

    We had more than 250 people come to last Saturday's Washington Gardener Magazine 12th Annual Tomato Taste at the FreshFarm Silver Spring Market. Here are the results of the ballots submitted.
    1. Red Grape from Spiral Path Farm 
    2. Sun Gold from The Farm at Our House 
    3. Chocolate Cherry from Mock's Greenhouse
    4. Field Red from Chicano Sol
    5. Jaune Flamme from Three Springs Fruit Farm
    6. Black Cherry from The Farm at Our House
    7. Cherokee Purple from Three Springs Fruit Farm
    Usually, our top few tomatoes are close in votes, but this year the #1 tomato had double the votes that the #2 tomato did (60 versus 30) -- so it was a true land-slide. The rest of the pack had in the range of about 20 each and were separated by just a few votes. This shows you that there were no real "losers" in this batch and that every tomato had its share of hard-core fans. 
    'Red Grape' is a firm, cherry-type tomato with a shiny skin and bright, clear red color. The taste is one of overall sweetness. The texture is fairly "meaty" with a nice mouth-feel and is not overly juicy.

    Last year, 
    'Red Grape' came in second and 'Sun Sugar' was third. You can read the 2018 results here.

    Do take a minute to click on the photo link here to view the Facebook album of photos from the event. I think you will agree that the market tomatoes are absolutely gorgeous and very photogenic -- and so are the market patrons!

    In addition to the tasting, many people stopped by to create colorful tomato art and to pick up the free tomato seeds, growing tips, and recipes that we gave out.

    Across the aisle, the UMD Cooperative Extension Service had a nutrition and recipe tasting booth that was giving out samples of a yummy Watermelon-Tomato Salad. That made a great companion for our annual event. 

    Heather Dylla, (pictured here) won the prize drawing of a gift bag full of gardening tools, tomatoes, market goods, and market money! 

    Most of the taste attendees were local, though we also had many who came quite a distance. About half live in Silver Spring. Another third live close by in Washington, DC or the neighboring towns of Takoma Park, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Burtonsville, Hyattsville, and Wheaton. From farther away in Maryland, folks came from Rockville, Columbia, Laurel, Clarksville, Riverdale, Crofton, Brunswick, Frederick, and Greenbelt. Some crossed the river from Virginia. From out of the area, we even had votes from New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida!

    Thank you to all who came and participated. Thanks to the farmers for growing great tomatoes and to FreshFarm Markets staff for hosting us. Special thanks also to our volunteers Taykor, Kay, and Lexi for helping with all the tomato sample cutting, vote tallying, and helping greet all the tasters in the short two-hour event!

    Friday, August 23, 2019

    Fenton Friday: A Break in the Heat Wave

    Today a cool breeze blew through and we finally broke our chain of 90+ days (and record summer heat) in Washington, DC. I don't want the summer to end, but today is a but of a relief.

    This week at the community garden plot, we kept on picking tomatoes and beans - I am at that stage of giving away as much as I may eat. You know that point in that season where you are actually tired of fresh, juicy, off-the-vine fruit? Well, I'll be kicking myself this winter for not taking more advantage of them.

    And speaking of tomatoes, I hope you will join us tomorrow (Saturday, 8/24) for our 12th annual Tomato Taste at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD. Here are all the details: The farmers have already submitted set aside some great selections for us to try and I will have seeds, recipes, kid's activities, plus much more to share. It is always a fun time!

    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 in zone 7 Mid-Atlantic MD/DC border. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 8th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

    Thursday, August 22, 2019

    Win a Signed Copy of The Lifelong Gardener in our August 2019 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest

    For our August 2019 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a signed copy of The Lifelong Gardener (a $20 value).
      You can keep gardening for life; you just need to make adjustments as you age. Adaptive gardening expert Toni Gattone shares her proven methods for making your favorite hobby easier on your aging body. Inspired by Gattone’s own physical needs, The Lifelong Gardener shares simple solutions—from vertical growing to bins on wheels—that will help you work smarter, not harder. Her message of empowerment will stir you to find joy in your garden for years to come!
       To enter to win the signed copy, send an email to by 5pm on Saturday, August 31, with “The Lifelong Gardener” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us which was your favorite article in the August 2019 issue and why. Please include your full name and mailing address. The winner will be announced and notified on September 1.

    UPDATE: The winner is Annie Shaw of Greenbelt, MD.

    Monday, August 19, 2019

    Sunchokes, Echinacea, Why Aren’t Your Hydrangeas Blooming?, etc. in the August 2019 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

    The August 2019 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out.

    Inside this issue:
    • Getting to the Root of Sunchokes
    • Plant Profile: Echinacea
    • Behind the Scenes at Brookside’s Butterfly Exhibit
    • The Best Time to Plant Your Shallots
    • Meet Mark Mills, MoCo Young Farmer
    • Why Aren’t Your Hydrangeas Blooming?
    • DC-MD-VA Gardening Events Calendar
    • Newest Garden Products Reviewed
    • and much more…

    Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the September 2019 issue are due by September 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. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

    Friday, August 16, 2019

    Fenton Friday: We Got Ribbons!

    We entered the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, which runs through this Saturday. From our several entries, we earned ribbons for our Garlic, 'White Currant' Tomatoes, and African Marigolds -- all grown in our little plot at the Fenton Community Garden. (The final ribbon we earned was for an Obedient Plant flower that I cut at the last second from my front perennial bed.)

    This is not a post to brag, rather to inspire. Our plantings and submissions are nothing special, IMHO, but we did take the time to grow them and submit them. Next year, set aside some of your garden's bounty for competition. Mark your calendars for next year's contests and plan to enter your local agricultural fairs and flower shows. As they say with the lottery, you got to play to win! 

    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 in zone 7 Mid-Atlantic MD/DC border. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 8th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

    Thursday, August 15, 2019

    Bloom Day: Pot Ghetto Survivor

    Here in the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border, the past month started off very dry, then it got hot - really hot. After a very wet spring and early summer, we seem to have slipped back into our usual mid-late summer drought pattern, where most every storm seems to just skirt the DC metro area. I am watering containers as needed and that includes my "pot ghetto" -- that sad gathering on my driveway of not-yet-planted and half-forgotten things. 

    Among the not-quite-dead hydrangeas and brown-ish boxwood is an intriguing plant scrambling out from among the pots. It has a tiny true-blue flower and pretty variegated foliage. I did some googling and find that it is Variegated Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis f. aureostriata). I suspect it came in from a plant swap. This often happens that other things hitch a ride with a plant you are gifted. Hence, the pot ghetto -- and a precaution of having a waiting period before adding some of these "gifts" into your landscape. (Once again, procrastination pays off in the garden!)

    It is an annual and the non-variegated kind is classified as an invasive weed in our region. It spreads and re-seeds in moist soil. As I have predominantly dry shade, I'm not too worried about it, but will pull it and toss it once I get around to cleaning out that section of the pot ghetto.

    Elsewhere in my garden, I have blooming:
    - Obedient Plant
    - Goldenrod
    - Black-eyed Susan
    - Butterfly Bush
    - Rose of Sharon (double, sterile)
    - Hydrangea
    - Blue Mist Shrub
    - Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
    - Torenia
    - Petunia
    - Fuchsia
    - Bacopa
    - Impatiens
    - Begonia
    - Alyssum
    and more...

    What is blooming in your garden today?

    It is the 15th of the month, which means Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again. To view links to other garden bloggers' blooms around the world to see what it blooming in their gardens today and to read their collective comments, go to:

    Wednesday, August 14, 2019

    Plant Profile: Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

    Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) is also known as the Swamp Rose Mallow and it loves our hot, humid summer. This perennial hibiscus is winter-hardy to zone 4, while the tropical hibiscus is an annual for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic.

    This dramatic flower of mid-summer into early fall is a real stunner in the back of flower borders or as a container plant. The individual flowers can reach 12-inches in diameter and are often referred to as “the size of a dinner plate.” Hardy hibiscus cultivars come in white, red, pink, and bicolor combinations.

    For best flowering, plant hardy hibiscus in full sun (at least 6 hours). Give it some room, as the plant can grow up to five feet wide and high in one season.

    It likes moist soil, so keep it well-watered and mulch it with bark chips.

    Dig in a bit of compost each spring and that is all the fertilizer they require.

    The hardy hibiscus is susceptible to insect problems such as aphids and Japanese beetles. The best way to prevent this is to keep the plants healthy and never let them get drought-stressed.

    To prevent it from self-seeding everywhere in your garden, regularly deadhead the spent flowers and cut the whole plant back after a hard frost.

    Note that any of their seedlings may not bloom the same color as their parents. If you want more of the same plant, you can propagate them easily from stem cuttings in spring before they start flowering.

    A few popular hardy hibiscus selections to try are ‘Lord Baltimore’, ‘Peppermint Flare’, and ‘Kopper King’.

    Hardy Hibiscus: You Can Grow That!

    The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.
    It was shot and edited by intern Alexandra Marquez.

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