Friday, May 31, 2013

Fenton Friday: Tomato Time!

It occurred to me this week that we have just reached our two-year anniversary at the Fenton Street Community Garden! On May 13, 2011 I posted my first weekly "Fenton Friday" report about our first days in the garden. It is very hard to believe it has only been two years in Plot #16.

One of the biggest changes from the start of the garden to now is that the soil is finally in decent shape. This week I added a big bag of aged horse manure from gardening friend, Lynn Title. I mixed that into a 3x3 foot area and that is where I planted my 9 tomato plants. Three are for me -- 'Sun Sugar,' 'Sun Gold,' and 'Yellow Pear' -- as I love the sweet, cherry-sized ones. The rest are tomato plants I was sent to trial (one of the great perks for being in the Garden Writers Association) -- three are grafted tomato plants from Mighty Mato and the other three are 'Sakura' Tomato from Harris Seeds. No cages for me this year. I find the PVC-coated green garden stakes and nylon ties work much better and take up much less room.

This week we had a "Bermuda High" weather front sitting on top of us, which meant several days in the 90-degree range and daily watering trips to my plot. Plus, worrying about my lettuce and other cool weather crops bolting (aka going to flower and setting seed) in this humid, sticky heat. So far, so good.

Every day I'm harvesting about a cup of Sugarsnap Peas, several bunches of Lettuce, and over a cup of Strawberries. I checked one of the Carrots, but they are still too small -- will give them another couple weeks. This coming week, I plan to put in melon, cucumber, and (new) okra seeds.

Here is an overview shot of my plot I took today by standing on a chair -- 10 ft wide by 20 ft long -- I have a wide border all around and a wide path in the window (I've learned long ago at my home garden that with edibles, access from all sides is key for weeding and harvesting. I have two long beds of about 3.5 ft wide and 18 ft long. On the left-hand bed, in order from front to back, are: Calendula flowers (not pictured), Sugarsnap peas with Basil and Nasturtium seedlings coming in below, Lettuce, Carrots, and four Potato hills. On the right-hand bed, in order from front to back, Strawberries (not pictured), Ornamental (hot) Pepper, Asparagus, a blank space where Okra seeds have yet to emerge, Bean seedlings, Garlic, Tomato plants, and lots of Cosmos.

an overview shot of my plot this week

9 tomato plants are finally in this week
sugarsnap peas are ripe - picking about a cup a day

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Win Butterfly Exhibit Passes!

For our May 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away 5 sets of passes to the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit (each set has two passes and is a $12 value).
   Running daily through mid-September, from 10:00am to 4:00pm, Brookside Gardens South Conservatory features live butterflies. Come witness the butterfly life cycle as tiny eggs hatch into crawling, chewing caterpillars, which then encase themselves in jewel-like chrysalides and emerge as sipping, flying adult butterflies. Learn about the best annual and tropical plants, and hardy shrubs that are used as nectar sources to attract butterflies to your own garden.
   To enter to win one of the 5 pairs of passes, send an email with “Wings2013” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Friday, May 31. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, mailing address, and tell us: What Local Nursery/Garden Center You Shop at the Most and Why. The pass winners will be announced and notified by June 2. Some of the entry responses may be used in future online or print articles.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fenton Friday: Seeing Red!

I was so excited to arrive at the garden plot on Tuesday to see the strawberry plants covered in ripe fruit. What a change in just a few days! I sat right down and ate a handful -- just heavenly. I have picked a cup of fruit for my breakfast each day since. I found a few berries chewed on with ants on them. Sacrificing a few is alright, but any more than that and I will have to pull out the garden guns.

In the rest of my plot everything is up and growing well, except my okra. No sign of them at all. If they do not surface soon I will plant a new batch from Landreth Seeds.

New this week were some Sweet Potato slips another plot gardener left for communal use. I put them in quickly just so they would not dry out, but I think I will move them to a better location shortly.

The 'Bright Lights' Cosmos mix I had last year has re-seeded all over the back third of the plot and the Basil and Calendula also seeded all about. I thinned out a bit of them and also potted up several of the seedlings of each for the DC Tropics plant swap this Sunday. If they do well, I think I will pot up some more also for the Washington Gardener Magazine plant swap on June 16 at the H Street Farmers Market.

ripe strawberry!
something chewed on a few
beans getting bigger every day
sweet potato slips are in
nasturtium seedlings are up
lettuce is booming - salad anyone?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club: Farm City

For our next selection Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club, we will be reading Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter.

I have reserved a meeting room at the Takoma Park* DC Neighborhood Library
Room in the downstairs Meeting Room on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM. 

The room allows food and drink and you may bring your dinner and/or snacks to share.

I have made sure that the DC library and other local library systems currently have several copies available for borrowing of Farm City.
The book club meetings are FREE and open to anyone who would like to attend.

Please RSVP to "WG Book Club" at I will be limiting attendance to 20. If you need to cancel, let me know ASAP so we can give your spot to someone else, should we have a wait-list.

In case you like to read ahead, the Fall 2013 book club selections is:
Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes by Judith Tankard
I will announce the date for the next book club meetings after each previous meeting. We will meet roughly once each quarter.

*Note that there is also a Takoma Park, MD town library. This meeting will take place at the library in Takoma, DC at 416 Cedar Street, NW, WDC. It is just a couple blocks from the Takoma metro station and is near several bus lines. Street parking is available.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Video Wednesday: Prof. Doug Tallamy on Sustainable Landscaping

Prif. Doug Tallamy at University of Delaware, the author of the award-winning book Bringing Nature Home, has identified the top 10 native plants for butterflies and moths in the Mid-Atlantic region. More information at:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cicada Tips

The Brood II cicada invasion have arrived in parts of Virginia and Maryland. The females can cause damage to some young and small trees and shrubs, such as lilacs, crepe myrtles, and ornamental cherries. Experts from Davey Tree say there are several things you can do to protect your trees:
1. Delay pruning your trees until the cicadas are gone. This can help remove some of the limbs they have damaged.
2. Protect smaller trees is by covering them with a breathable covering like cheesecloth, Reemay fabric, or tulle.
3. Put out additional bird feeders because birds naturally prey on cicadas.

Photo credit: By William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Special Note to Our Loyal Readers...

I posted the following note in the latest Washington Gardener Enews:

Some of you may be aware, but most of you are not, that my father went into hospice care with Colorectal Cancer last fall and passed away in the winter. I suspended publication of the magazine for those two quarters. The Spring 2013 issue is in production and will go out shortly. I sincerely apologize for the delay.
   Current subscribers have had their records adjusted to extend their subscriptions by two additional issues.
   New subscribers will start their subscription with the Spring 2013 issue and will receive a full year of issues. I am working on catching up and getting “welcome” notices out to all of you.
   During this time, I have tried to ensure that this monthly enewsletter and all other aspects of the Washington Gardener brand (bus tours, book club, seed exchanges, blog posts, garden talks, etc.) were without interruption.
   I am grateful for the support and friendship of so many of you in the local gardening world and from family and friends.

Kathy Jentz
Washington Gardener Magazine

PS Since putting this note in the Enews, several people have asked how they can help, so I put this list together:
~ Subscribe or Renew to Washington Gardener Magazine
~ Let all your local gardener friends know about Washington Gardener Magazine
~ Forward, Like, Retweet, Link, G+, Pin, etc. Washington Gardener Magazine social media posts online
~ Ask your local library to carry Washington Gardener Magazine
~ Suggest to your local garden center/nursery that they advertise in Washington Gardener Magazine
~ Have your garden club contact Washington Gardener Magazine for a speaker for an upcoming meeting
Again, thank you for your offerings of sympathy and assistance. It is very much appreciated.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fenton Friday: Berry Promising

This week in my community garden plot we had some bizarre weather. On Monday night we had the latest spring frost in a hundred+ years. Then 36 hours later it was almost 90 degrees. I was pleased to not have lost anything in the plot to the frost. I have not planted my tomato seedlings yet and threw a plastic shower curtain over them. I hope to plant them early next week when the soil has warmed up.

This week I planted okra and nasturtium. My bean seeds sprouted and all came up. The strawberries are heavy with fruit about to ripen. I have high hopes of actually getting to eat some this year!

My radishes went from cherry-sized to softball-size in a matter of four days. I have been pulling them and giving them away left and right plus eating a few with my dinner each night. The lettuce is all in and I cut a stretch of it to make salads for myself and to share as well.

The carrots are coming along nicely and still no blossoms on my sugarsnap peas -- will try to be patient for both of those.

bean seedlings
strawberries pre-ripening

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Washington Gardener Enews ~ May 2013 ~ The Turnip Point - Growing and Cooking This Tasty Brassica

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

~ A Special Note to Our Readers
~ The Turnip Point - Growing and Cooking This Tasty Brassica
~ Top Local Garden Events Calendar for May-June
~ Magazine Excerpt: Eastern Hemlocks Threatened
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for May-June
~ Reader Contest: Win Passes to the Wings of Fancy Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ Spotlights Special: Chapel View™ Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
~ 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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: May Blossoms

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 had a blast of late frost this week (see earlier post today) and this spring has been a long, cool one in general. It has also been a very windy week and that has done more damage than the cold -- a few tall irises have snapped off and my jasmine and other vines have taken a beating. More winds expected today along with a high of 85 degrees. Go figure!

It is kind of a relief really not to have EVERYTHING blooming at once and to get to enjoy things at a more relaxed pace. I would estimate that my blooms are about a week behind what they are in a "normal" year here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Weigela florida shrub

Native honeysuckle vine

Video Wednesday: Unexpected Frost

I always advise local gardeners that Mother's Day is the all-clear date for planting tender annuals and that was true forthe past 100 years or so. This year, Mother Nature had other ideas. Parts of the Washington, DC region fell to 32 degrees on Monday night and many gardeners scrambled to cover up newly planted or purchased tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Here, one local gardener, Gary Pilarchik in Maryland, shares his experiences in trying to protect his plants during the cold snap:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fenton Friday: Cool Beans

This week at my community garden plot it rained every day, so aside from a bit of weeding and harvesting some lettuce and radishes, I have stayed mostly out of my plot.

One thing I did plant is the 'Royal Burgundy' Bush Bean from Seeds of Change. This photo is from the Seeds of Change web site. I hope they turn out to be so pretty! I planted them inside a square, purple trellis I had sitting unused at home. We shall see the results in about 55 days.

Meanwhile, I'm soaking Okra and Nasturtium seeds to plant over the weekend. Also, I have grafted tomatoes I'm waiting to go in once the soil warms up a bit. Finally, we are revamping the shared Herb/Cutting Garden area of the community garden. Lots to do between the May rains and many local garden events and plant sales.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Video Wednesday: Growing Veggies in Containers

Carol Allen, InsectIndex columnist for Washington Gardener Magazine, filmed this helpful video for Behnke Nurseries on growing vegetables in containers.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Lungwort: You Can Grow That!

Lungwort (Pulmonaria) is a terrific plant for shade, but it can also take a good deal of sun. The plant prefers wet, humus-y soils, though it can also be quite drought-tolerant once established. Keep it well mulched.

It awakens in early spring and has a long-lasting bloom. The flowers are purple, pink, and blue. They somewhat resemble our native Virginia Bluebell.

The foliage ranges from plain green to silver spotted to frosted almost totally silver. Its fuzzy leaves make it deer-resistant.

It is a small-ish plant so does best situated in mass groupings or a the front of a border. Pair it with primrose, hosta, carex, and hellebores, which grow in similar shade, part shade, and sun situations.

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 03, 2013

Fenton Friday: First Radish of the Season

This week in my community garden plot:



Basil seedlings

'All Blue' Potato foliage emerging
'Kennebec' Potato foliage emerging

Lettuce mix

First radish of the season!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Washington's Wild Plants

For our April 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine reader contest, we asked entrants to tell us “what plant you have that needs caging.” Here is a sampling of some of the responses:

"My philodendron needs caging, several of them. They are growing up and down and over and across. Always giving away cuttings."
~ Jeavonna Chapman, Baltimore, MD 

"I would plant my ginger plant in the cage."
~ Joan Richards, Fairfax, VA 

" I have a night blooming Cereus plant that seriously needs caging."
~ Gloria June Sherman, Silver Spring, MD

"I need to cage my passion flower that I just bought from a local Farmers' Market."
~ Mary Valentine-Boutte, Hedgesville, WV

"Would love to try Up Cage for my Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan vine) on the deck. So tired of the upside down tomato cage or the bamboo sticks that fall over.  Keeping fingers crossed!"
~  Michele Bitters, Sterling VA 2

"I have tall zinnias that desperately need caging - they are just too tall and they lean toward the sun and start to fall over. I also needed to cage my brussel sprouts because as the sun gets lower in the fall, they also bend just enough to fall before they get really stiff."
~ Barbara Elkin, Alexandria VA

Many responded with that sprawling vine, the tomato.

What wild plants do you grow that need caging?

The winner of our April 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest chosen at random from the entries submitted is Katie Rapp. She wins the Ultimate Plant Cage (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. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Video Wednesday: Pieris Japonica

I shot this video for Meadows Farms Nurseries and was so convinced by Ted Zurawski's testimonial that I bought the plant right out of his hands. Now to find a spot for it in my garden...

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