Friday, April 26, 2013

Fenton Friday: Thin is In

This week in my community garden plot we had several nights hovering around the freeze/frost point. A set of grafted tomatoes I'd been sent to trial was delivered with a bit of frost burn. Hoping they will recover by planting time in mid-May.

I spent my time in the plot this week watering and thinning out the baby seedlings -- carrots, lettuce, and radish (pictured here). I weeded a bit too, but left a bunch of tiny orange cosmos seedlings and what I hope are returning marigolds.

My asparagus has to gather energy for another year before I can harvest any, but I was happy to have some from my friend's Beth plot when she let me know she would not be getting by the community garden this week. Noms!

I was pleased to see that my strawberry plants (pictured here) are flowering profusely and I'm expecting some nice fruit this season. Now, if I can just beat the birds to them!

What is growing in your edible garden this week?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Win the Ultimate Plant Cage

For our April 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away the Ultimate Plant Cage to one lucky winner (prize value: $17.95). It’s the first-ever fully adjustable plant cage. The Ultimate Plant Cage’s unique, patented design opens up your plants to the sun and lets those nourishing rays penetrate from the fruit to the root.

   The cage revolves around a stable, durable and 100% recyclable plastic base and six adjustable support poles that direct your plant’s growth but does not stunt it. The poles extend up to 32" — giving your plants plenty of room to grow. Using the device’s simple, snap-together design, your plants can be turned or moved with NO fuss. No more annoying afternoons spent wrestling with cheap metal plant cages. And best of all, with the Ultimate Plant Cage, the branches and fruits of your plants are fully secured to the support poles. Find out more at

   To enter to win the Ultimate Plant Cage, send an email with “UP Cage” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Monday, April 29. In the body of the email tell us: “what plant you have that needs caging” and please include your full name, email, and mailing address. The Ultimate Plant Cage winner will be announced and notified by Tuesday, April 30.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Video Wednesday: Kenwood Blooms

Cable TV Montgomery posted this video of the Bethesda, MD, neighborhood of Kenwood transformed into a world of soft pink and white puffs. It is some of the best cherry blossom viewing around. Thanks to @bgrunbaum on Twitter for tipping me off to this video.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fenton Friday: Dandelions Out, Potatoes In!

Fenton Community Garden I weeded out a few dandelions as they started to flower and garden folklore tells us that is the best time to plant your potatoes. Elizabeth Olson, our EdibleHarvest columnist for Washington Gardener Magazine, shared part of her potato order with me. I got a few each of Kennebec, All Blue, German Butterball, and Red Norland.
This week at my garden plot in the

I picked a lunch bag full of buttery lettuce that had self-seeded into the back third of the pathways of my plot. I had let one plant bolt (go to seed) last year to bring as a demo for a seed-saving talk I gave. Am so glad I did! This lettuce is so tender and sweet, it practically melts in your mouth.

I noted that all my seedlings are up -- sugarsnap peas, carrots, radishes, and lettuce. I will need to thin them all asap, but as a thunderstorm is rolling in, that will have to wait until early next week. This weekend I'll be at the Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival. If you are there too, come by and say "hi" -- I'm right off the main drag, in space #3 just inside the entrance of the Lightfoot Lot.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Video Wednesday: Franciscan Monastery Tour

I stumbled across this lovely video of the Franciscan Monastery Tour in Washington, DC. If you have never been there, NOW is the time of year to go by for the fabulous bulb displays and on the weekend of April 27-28 is their Garden Guild's annual plant sale. They always have a terrific selection of herbs and annuals.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Washington Gardener Enews ~ April 2013 ~ Impatiens Alternatives

 The Washington Gardener Enews ~ April 2013 issue is now sent to all current Washington Gardener Magazine subscribers. It is also posted and archived online at:

~ Impatiens Alternatives: Downy Mildew Disease Drives Local Gardeners to
Search for Inventive Solutions for Color in the Shade
~ Top Local Garden Events Calendar for April-May
~ Magazine Excerpt: A Dependable Duo of Native Azaleas
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for April-May
~ Reader Contest: Win the Ultimate Plant Cage
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ Spotlights Special: Mulberry ‘Issai’
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Back Issue Sale!
and much more... 

You can access it as well as all of the other Washington Gardener Enews back issues online now and anytime in the future at

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: April Smiles

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 and to read their collective comments, go to

Here is a small selection of what is blooming in my garden on the Washington, DC/Silver Spring, MD border -- solid USDA zone 7. We have had a very slow start to spring this year, so these flowers are most welcome as are the warmer temps.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Black Hellebore (Lenten Rose)

Veronica 'Georgia Blue'

Daffodil 'Rip van Winkle'

Fritillaria  Uva-Vulpis

Weeping 'Higan' Cherry Tree

 So what is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fenton Friday: Seedlings Emerge!

Pea seedlings

Radish seedlings

This week was a crazy one at the Fenton Community Garden plot. We hit record high temps for early April in the Mid-Atlantic -- in the low 90s for three days in a row. That helped warm up the soils a bit. The really bad part was for the whole week we had ZERO rainfall and constant winds. I watered my emerging seedlings daily, but it felt like throwing pebbles at a T-Rex (futile). The ground became almost rock hard. Thankfully, last night the rains finally came and all is well again.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Saucer Magnolias: Who Needs Cherry Blossoms?

Saucer Magnolias in peak bloom at the Enid A. Haupt Garden -- in back of the "castle" -- part of the Smithsonian complex on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Profiles in Urban Farming: Sam Ullery, School Garden Specialist

Guest blog by Capital City Farm Co.

Profile of Sam Ullery, School Garden Specialist at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in D.C.
urban gardening, urban farming, school gardens, OSSE, Sam Ullery, Washington D.C.I sat down with Sam, before our second to last Master Gardener class last Tuesday, to talk about his work at OSSE, how he got there, school gardens in D.C. and what parents and avid gardeners – like you – can do to support school gardens in your community.
Like a lot of folks in this field, Sam came at it sideways – starting out somewhere else. Before becoming D.C.’s School Garden Specialist, Sam was a high school science teacher – most recently at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast D.C. (where Capital City Farm Co.’s owner Kate Lee works as the Garden Specialist; check out the photo of Kate and Sam with Thurgood Marshall’s berry patch). And what drove him to want to introduce high school students to science eventually drove him to want to introduce kids of all ages to the garden: the intrinsic value of bringing nature into the classroom.
His love of gardening started in the Peace Corps, where he saw real dependence on the fruits of garden labor – if a harvest of potatoes didn’t make it, there was no grocery store to visit to buy those potatoes… there just weren’t any potatoes that year. And his love of gardening grew while he was teaching in the Bronx. He started a school garden, and was touched by the ways in which it spoke to and drew out his students: kids who weren’t engaged in the classroom got engaged in the garden, finding a new way to express themselves, and kids who were king of the hill in the classroom – straight As, etc– suddenly found themselves on a more even playing field… and his students depended on each other in the garden, in ways they didn’t in the classroom.
So what does it mean to be D.C.’s School Garden Specialist?
Sam does four big things: manage $200K in grants to schools to use to start, staff and maintain gardens; train school garden coordinators and teachers in conjunction with DC Greens; provide a rubric for measuring the success of school gardens, and conduct site visits to provide feedback based on that rubric; and act as the state lead for the Green Ribbon Schools program, recognizing schools for their greenness (beyond just the garden). He’s been at it now for 2 years, and is the first in his position. The position was created as part of the Healthy Schools Act – which we’ve mentioned in this blog before; it was a big turning point for school gardens in the District.
WAMU 88.5 covered the passage of the Act and it’s creation of Sam’s position. You can listen to their October 2011 story here.
And how do D.C.’s school gardens stack up to other big cities across the U.S.?
Sam says we stack up nicely. D.C. schools currently host a total of 83 gardens, meaning we have gardens at nearly 40% of our public and charter schools. And with the passage of the Healthy Schools Act, D.C. implemented a bond to help fund school gardens, a tax model very few jurisdictions have put in place (think San Francisco, Portland, Denver… places like that), and even fewer have someone like him.
DC Greens, urban gardening, urban farming, school gardens, OSSE, Sam Ullery, Washington D.C.Sam has seen the interest in school gardens sky rocket over the last several years, even months – and he’s psyched to see it, and thinks it goes hand in hand with the growing interest we’re all seeing in community gardens and urban farming, ways to eat healthy and eat local. He loves that schools gardens means kids are bringing gardening – and healthy eating – home to their families and communities.
His next steps at OSSE are to secure more grant funding to give away to schools to support the biggest need, staffing: only 3 or 4 schools have a full-time or near full-time garden coordinators right now (most gardens are managed by a full-time teacher or administrator, around the edges of their full-time job); and improve the assessment tools he and others can use to make the case for this funding: specifically, quantifying the significant health and behavioral benefits.
And what he hopes you’ll do is get involved!
If you’re a parent, and your kids’ school already has a garden, contact the school and find out more about the garden and who coordinates it and how you can help. Volunteer to help maintain the garden, organize a work day, or adopt a plot over the summer.
If you’re school doesn’t have a garden, help start one! Check out Sam’s handy school garden checklist, and get in touch with him directly at (If you live in Maryland or Virginia, there are counterparts he can put you in touch with).
~ Monique, Capital City Farm Co.
Capital City Farm Co. is an independent, woman-owned company specializing in the design, construction and maintenance of custom vegetable gardens, and more, in the greater Washington DC area. Once a month on their blog they profile one of the people who make the greater Washington, DC area’s gardening community so rich and successful.

(Photo courtesy of The Other 17 Hours, a Thurgood Marshall Academy blog, and DC Greens)

Friday, April 05, 2013

Fenton Friday: Cool Weather Edibles

This week was spring break and my nieces visited for a few days. While here, we visited my garden plot at the Fenton Community Garden and planted 'Radish 'Cherry Belle' from Botanical Interests, Carrots 'Danvers Half-Long,' and an organic gourmet lettuce mix from UMD's Grow It Eat it program.

The weather this week has not been cooperative though. Several days of cold, constant winds and nights with below-freezing temps have made for a very slow start to spring. Last night we finally got some decent rain, though it was in the form of ice pellets at times.

This weekend, we are finally getting our promised warm-up and I plan to spend several hours in the community garden helping to weed the common areas and adding wood chips to the paths plus non-growing areas of my plot.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sweet Alyssum: You Can Grow That!

You Can Grow That: Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia Maritima)

Sweet Alyssum is named for its light fragrance, though you may not ever notice it if you plant it in your garden borders as it is a fairly short -- sometimes trailing -- annual.

Equally at home in hanging baskets as in rock gardens, Sweet Alyssum is a wonderful addition to your cool season annual palette along with pansies, viola, ornamental cabbages and kales. It is great for those shoulder-times of years in the garden (mid-to-late autumn and early spring) when you want a touch of color in the garden while you go about your garden tasks.

It comes in white, pink, and purple blooms. There is no need to fertilize it. Sweet Alyssum grows easily from seed or purchase small started plants.

You can plant it in March and shear it back when summers heat sets in and see it come back full-force in October. Alternatively, you can plant it in fall and leave it to set seed and it could self-sow about the garden. (This may or may not be a desirable trait for you, but they are quite easily pulled up if not in a spot you desire.)

Pictured here is a new purple alyssum introduction 'Blushing Princess' from Proven Winners.

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.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Video Wednesday: Longwood Spring Awakening

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA,shared this  behind-the-scenes video of the beauty of early spring. Meet their expert gardeners and historian to learn more about how our Gardens and Fountains spring to life every year

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