Sunday, October 30, 2011

Organic Gardening Practices Survey

For our October 2011 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we asked our entrants to tell us if they gardened organically and why or why not those made that choice. Here is what some of our entries told us about their home gardening habits.
"I garden organically in my tiny vegetable garden," said Caroline Parr of Fredericksburg, VA."And mostly organically otherwise except for occasional sprays of Round up on recalcitrant weeds. I garden this way due to my parents, who composted everything and gardened happily together for many decades"

"I garden organically because the thought of man-made chemicals poured into my garden confounds me," commented Crystal Nguyen of Westminster, CA. "My garden aspires to be an unsullied haven and sweet blessing to all the bustling creatures who frequent it where, season after season, green happily bursts from the rare virgin ground heinously flanked by concrete and asphalt. It is important to me to give other life forms the opportunity of a more natural existence - of which we are often deprived."

"Our gardening is mostly house plants," explained Ron Horner of Kenosha, WI. "We have had a backyard garden with some fruits and veggies. Need to get back in to that."

Tom Mann of Clayton, NC said: "We organically garden for several reasons. While we're not yet certified, our gardens cater to wildlife. We love our birds and tolerate the occasional deer and rabbits that seem drawn to our yard and gardens, along with squirrels, turtles, and yes, even snakes.. We have a small (8'x10') goldfish pond so we've got to watch out for them as well. Most importantly, our children and their cousins, grandchildren and great nieces/nephew who live close by and are frequent visitors to our little slice of paradise. We want our yard safe for everyone, and everything, and in order to do that, we strive to work the yard as organically as possible, and that includes using Annie's Authentic Haven Brand manure teas for our veggies and flowers."

"I do not garden organically but, I’d really like to learn and remove all traces of chemicals from my garden," said Lara Ruiz of La Quinta, CA. "I have experimented a little and find my plants respond better without the harsh chemicals but I did have more aphid issues. I’m an amateur and open to learning how to garden organically for the health of me, my family and my garden."

Dale McCarthy of Carl's Watkins Pond Community Garden said: "I'm president of a community garden in the very densely populated community of King Farm in Rockville. The first plot in our organic garden is for children to learn to grow their own organic vegetables and edible flowers. They learn and practice composting, and we've even tried vermiculture - admittedly with limited success - and we would love to have some organic manure for next year's garden. We are about ready to plant our organic garlic the end of this month, and I would be really pleased to let the kids know (ages 5-11) that we have access to this important element to enrich their plots next season."
"I try to garden organically--especially for plants that I'll be eating!" explained Kenneth Moore of Washington DC. "Because I grow almost everything in pots, I try to use organic potting soil (trying to grow any edibles in a DC yard's soil is terrifying to me!). I'd love some of the MooPoo to give a little pep to my outdoor plants in the spring!"

"Yes! I am an organic gardener, taking full advantage of the mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria, compost, and mulch in the living soil! " said Geri Laufer of Atlanta, GA.

"I do garden organically as much as possible," said Paige Puckett of Raleigh, NC . "The only exception I make is when fire ants enter the garden. I have a toddler and a preschooler, and I can't risk their sweet little bare feet to ant stings. I've used a variety of fertilizers, but over the years I've moved towards natural sources, compost, and manures. I like being able to munch on arugula while I tend to the garden and not have to worry about chemicals being on the leaves. I'd love to try Moo Poo Tea, as I see people talking about it on their garden blogs and Twitter all the time. Thanks!"

Jeavonna L. Chapman of Baltimore, MD said: "I grow organically because it is cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly. Did I mention cheaper. I've know about the benefits of manure tea for years, but whipping up a batch was always a pain. This version is so easy. Just drop the packet in a bucket of water and wait three days. I mix it half-an-half. Very satisfied with the results. This was a terrible garden year - weeks of 95+ humid rain-free days, Two crazy hurricanes, Irene and Lee. I didn't expect much. I started to pull everything up after Lee, but Annie said keep feeding 'em. They'll be fine. I've got figs, cherry tomatoes and magnolia blossoms in late October. My plants are doing great. Thank you, Annnie and Haven Brand Manure Tea. I like quick, easy and effective. "
"I will not say I have an organic garden since I do not always use organic seeds nor organic dirt," explained Faith Hood of Falls Church, VA. "I do my best to keep it as organic as possible. I also try to draw the proper insects. Though, I guess my garden was so good, that it drew more plant-eating insects such as grasshoppers."

The winner of our October 2011 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest is: Paige Puckett, who was chosen at random from all the submitted entrires. She receives a Sampler Pack of Manure Tea, which includes one each Cow, Horse, and Alfalfa manure tea bags from Authentic Haven Brand (a $13 value). Authentic Haven Brand ( offers a full line of all-natural, premium soil conditioner teas for the home gardener, landscaper, and farmer. Haven Brand uses only the highest quality manures from livestock that are raised on permanent, native grass pastures at the Haven Family Ranch.

So do YOU garden organically? Why or why not?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fenton Friday: Still More to Harvest

Frost/freeze warnings last night and snow(!) predicted for this weekend, caused me to run over to my plot at the Fenton Community Garden and see what I could salvage before the cold moved in. I was surprised at how much is still there. I picked ripe tomatoes, tomatillos, and an eggplant.

I also cut down my okra and it is a bit too woody for eating, so I placed them on a screen in my unheated sun room to dry out. I want to save seeds and also use them for craft projects. (Spoiler alert: Everyone is getting an okra Santa ornament for Christmas this year!) I'll also be sending some up to NY for my crafty, garden writer friend Ellen Spector Platt. She requested some for her dried arrangements.

Then I remembered I still had two rows of German Butterball potatoes (three mounds each) that I had not dug up yet. I unearthed one mound and found those gorgeous little tubers. Guess what's for dinner tonight? I'm going to leave the rest in the ground for a bit until I do the full garden clean-out.

Win a Sampler Pack of Manure Tea

For our October 2011 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener Magazine is giving away a Sampler Pack of Manure Tea, which includes one each Cow, Horse, and Alfalfa manure tea bags from Authentic Haven Brand (a $13 value).

Authentic Haven Brand ( offers a full line of all-natural, premium soil conditioner teas for the home gardener, landscaper, and farmer. Haven Brand uses only the highest quality manures from livestock that are raised on permanent, native grass pastures at the Haven Family Ranch.

To enter to win Sampler Pack of Manure Tea, send an email with “Manure” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on October 30. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, mailing address, and tell us if you garden organically and why or why not*. The sample pack winner will be announced and notified by November 2.
*NOTE: Some of the contest entry responses may be used in future online or print articles by Washington Gardener Magazine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Video Wednesday: How to Over-Winter Coleus

Washington Gardener Magazine ( shows you how to over-winter your coleus plants by taking cuttings from them and rooting them in water.

My cat, Santino, was a BIG help filming this one. Because he would get out of the shots, I worked him into the video. I think a star is born!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fenton Friday: Shared Herb-Cutting Garden Created

Last week, a bunch of us at Fenton Community Garden gathered and weeded out an unused corner of the fenced-in garden space. It was quick work after all these recent rains. I was shocked to pull up all of weeds with deep taproots like dandelions and Queen Anne's Lace fairly easily. We laid out two large pathways to make access and future weeding just as easy. I dug one large lavender (think it is 'Hidcote') from my garden and transplanted it over to start the perennial herb section. Others came in the last week to weed the border and add straw mulch. We'll see next spring about filling out the garden with additional perennial herbs and cutting garden plants.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Video Wednesday: How to Hold a Plant Swap

How to Hold a Plant Swap featuring the Takoma Horticultural Club, based in Takoma Park, MD, and the Takoma neighborhood of NW, Washington, DC.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Acorn-ucopia ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ October 2011

Washington Gardener Enews ~ October 2011

~ Acorn-ucopia: A Bumper Crop of Oak Seeds Litter Our Local Landscape
~ Magazine Excerpt: Earwigs - Foe or Friend?
~ Washington Gardener Magazine 2011 Day Trips
~ Reader Contest: Win a Sampler Pack of Manure Teas from Authentic Haven Brand
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ Spotlights Special: ‘Strawberries and Cream’ and ‘Blueberries and Cream,’ two new, lacecap, long-lasting "gift" hydrangeas
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for October-November
~ The Top Local Garden Events Calendar
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Back Issue Sale!
and much more...

Blog Action Day: Food

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

I thought I'd take this world-wide Blog Action Day centering on Food to spotlight again the Plant A Row program organized by the Garden Writers Association. As gardeners, we know that the best way to source local, organic food is to grow our own. We also know that sharing that bounty is one of the greatest joys in life.

Here is an article I wrote about the program for our Washington Gardener enewsletter in July 2009:

Is your garden’s bounty overflowing?
Donate Your Excess to Others in Need

Are your tomato plants groaning with loaded down branches of ripe fruit? Do your neighbors pretend their not home when you come over with yet another bag of zucchini? Looking for a place to donate your garden’s bounty?
Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR) is one answer. The concept is simple. There are over 70 million gardeners in the U.S. alone, many of whom plant vegetables and harvest more than they can possibly consume. If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food banks and soup kitchens, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger. Food agencies will have access to fresh produce, funds earmarked for produce can be redirected to other needed items and the hungry of America will have more and better food than is presently available.
One in ten households in the United States experiences hunger, according to the U.S, Department of Agriculture. With the current economy, those extra fruits and vegetables from your backyard garden are needed now more than ever.
“Local help trickles down,” says garden writer and PAR spokesman Jeff Lowenfels. “PAR donations now really do mean acting locally and impacting globally.”
Lowenfels began PAR in his local Alaska garden column, when he asked gardeners to plant a row of vegetables for Bean’s Cafe, an Anchorage soup kitchen. Since then, PAR has grown exponentially through continued media support, individual and company sponsorship, and volunteerism. PAR does all of this without government bureaucracy and red tape -- just one gardener at a time helping their neighbors.
Carol Ledbetter, PAR coordinator at the Garden Writers Association, says, “Donating your excess produce is particularly important now... local gardeners’ donations are urgently needed. This is directly helping in our own neighborhoods.” Part of Ledbetter’s mission is to direct gardeners trying to find out where to donate their excess and also working with anyone wishing to start a PAR program in their local area. She can be reached at or 877.492.2727 (toll-free).
The Capital Area Food Bank has just launched the Grow A Row project. Gardeners throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area are encouraged to participate. Whether you grow an extra row, dig up your entire yard, or organize a collective donation from your community garden, we appreciate your contribution. Donated produce is provided to Capital Area Food Bank member agencies and local community organizations that have the capacity to use the produce. The Capital Area Food Bank works with a network of over 700 charitable organizations in the DC metro area, including food pantries, soup kitchens, youth programs, and emergency shelters. Contact Anika Roth (202.526.5344 x298 or to participate and they will work with you to determine the best way to distribute your produce to the community. All participants will receive a Grow A Row Participant sign to put up in their garden and will be recognized on their web site.
In Prince William County, VA, the Virginia Cooperative Extension office oversees a volunteer master gardener program which coordinates donations to local food banks. On Thursdays and Saturdays, they do collections at the Manassas Farmers Market. Local gardeners can bring their excess produce to donate and we also collect any unsold produce at the end of the day from the market. This saves the farmers from hauling it back home and stops needless waste. For information on this program, contact the Virginia Master Gardener helpline at 703.792.7747.
One little known but highly effective local excess produce donation program is Harvest for the Hungry at the USDA in Beltsville, MD. Between 70,000 – 100,000 pounds of produce (tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, melons, potatoes, sweet corn, squash, etc.) per year is harvested by volunteer groups and given to Food for Others. The USDA tests out hundreds of new plant varieties and at the end of their testing the food would otherwise just go to waste in the fields. Last year, in one weekend, over 200 Girl Scouts toured the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and then helped pick produce which Food for Others uses for individual food boxes and local DC area food banks. For more information on the program, contact the USDA coordinator at 301.343 8295 or visit:
During this harvest season, before you let your fruits and vegetables go to waste or straight to the compost pile, take a few minutes to pick a few and drop them off at your local area food bank or give them directly to anyone you know in need. The answer to your problem of excess is just a few minutes of extra planning and the satisfaction of giving where it is most needed.

Plant a Row for the Hungry Area Drop-Off Coordinators

Maryland —
Baltimore: Roberta Sharper (410.624.3144)
Hagerstown: Charles Stewart (
Kent County: Barbara Ellis (

Virginia —
Arlington: Lisa Crye, Arlington Food Assistance Center (
Boyce: Steve Carroll, State Arboretum of Virginia (
Central Virginia: Annette Pelliccio, The Happy Gardener (
Culpeper County: Rob Burnett (
Loudoun County: Julia Brizendine (
Newport News: Lisa Ziegler, The Gardener’s Workshop (
Prince William County: Paige Duecker Prince William County Extension (
Rappahannock County: Hal Hunter (; 540.937.4744)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Toad lily (Tricyrtis)

Fenton Friday: Tomatoes Still Going Strong

My Tomatoes Runneth Over

Green Zebra Tomatoes

Yellow Stuffer Tomatoes

The tomatoes at my Fenton Community Garden plot are still going gang-busters. Not only do I have a lot of fruit, but many plants are still setting blossoms. Here's to an Indian Summer that lasts through December!

Thanks to several days this week of torrential rains, I haven't been out to the garden plot much and certainly was not going to put out any seed in these nonstop gully-washers. I plan on starting radish, carrots, and greens once the ground dries out a bit.

'Coconut Ice' white sunflower
 I was sad to miss the first-ever Harvest Potluck we had in the community garden on Columbus Day. My friend, Angela Erickson Jandrew, passed away and I was attending her memorial service that evening. I have been thinking a great deal about Angela this week when I did get out between rains to my home garden. I looked at my fence row of sunflowers in bloom and remembered how much she particularly enjoyed that flower. It matched her sunny personality and I think I'll always think of her when I see them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Video Wednesday: Super-Easy Seed Saving

Super-Easy Seed Saving with Washington Gardener Magazine. Here we are demonstrating seed collecting from a variety of flowering plants and herbs including basil, bronze fennel, marigolds, echinacea, and more.

Now is the ideal time to save seeds in the Mid-Atlantic and I hope you will attend our Seed Exchanges next year and share your seeds with us! Save these dates:
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, on Saturday, January 28, 2012
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA, on Saturday, February 4, 2012.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Fenton Friday: Saving Corn for Seed

So the corn plants at my Fenton Community Garden plot are done and played out, I'm yanking them out this week. Or rather, I TRIED to yank on them, but found their shallow roots are much stronger than expected, so I'll be digging them out. I'm saving the stalks for Halloween/Thanksgiving decor. I plucked off the last of the ears and am hanging them in my sunroom to dry out for seed saving. They actually are drying very nicely (see photo) so may go for decor use for a bit as well before I take off the kernels and label/store them for this winter's Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Video Wednesday: DC Farm to School Week 2011

This video is of DC Farm to School Week 2011 kick-pff event on 10/3/11. It is Washington, DC's annual week to focus on getting fresh, locally grown food into school lunches. This video features the chef competition, the school garden, and comments from the judges. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Favorite Autumn Perennials of DC-area Gardeners

For our September 2011 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest , we asked readers to tell us about their favorite autumn perennial and why. Among our entries were these wonderful submissions:

~ Katie Rapp of Gaithersburg, MD, said: "Solidago: I love all goldenrods... nothing says early autumn to me like goldenrod catching the sun's rays in the late afternoon. I have a dwarf variety in my yard that I like very much (although the deer do, too)."

~ Madeline Caliendo of  Washington, DC, said: "Sedum because it turns a beautiful bronze color in the fall (and it is easy to grow...)."
~ George Graine of Falls Church, VA said: "Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Nippon Daisy). This perennial extends the growing season with daisy-like white flower heads to 2-1/2 " across. The leaves are also different from the usual shasta daisy foliage."

~ Lena Rotenberg of Keedysville, MD, said: "My favorite autumn perennial is Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' when the deer don't get to it... My friend Marney gave me my first few plants and I've since purchased a few more. This year they look gorgeous in my native bed!"

Did we leave out YOUR Favorite Autumn Perennials? You can add it in the comments here.
The winner of our September 2011 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest chosen at random from among the submitted entries is: Lena Rotenberg of Keedysville, MD.

Congratulations, Lena! She wins a copy of The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer by Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra from Storey Publishing (a $25 value).

Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra, both Pennsylvania gardeners, are thoroughly obsessed with everything about gardens and gardening — digging, planting, designing, and creating great canvases of living color and texture. Their encouraging words, based on practical experience and the belief that there is more than one right way to create a garden, boost confidence and promote experimentation. Along with design basics, they present 20 garden plans, as well as the before-and-after stories of gardens they’ve created for themselves and their families.

Look out for future monthly Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contests announced in each issue of Washington Gardener's online newsletter.

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