Friday, August 30, 2013

Fenton Friday: Harvest for the Hungry

I'm back from the Garden Writers Association meeting in Quebec and fear my Fenton Community Garden plot is woefully neglected at this point. I did manage to get over a few times this week and water plus pick the always prolific okra and a few tomatoes.

Several of us plot owners gathered as a group on Tuesday evening and harvested the excess from our plots to donate to the hungry at Shepherd's Table. Here is the list of what we gathered:
~ Beans 1 lb 3 oz
~ Garlic 3 oz
~ Okra 3 oz
~ Cantaloupe 3 lbs 8 oz
~ Eggplants 1 lb
~ Dill seed 3 oz
~ Carrots 9 lbs
~ Sweet Peppers 3 lbs
~ Hot Peppers 1 lb
~ Squash/Zucchini 3 lbs 9 oz
~ Tomatoes 20 lbs
~ Flowers (nonedible) that we are not counting in our weight total.

The food donation TOTAL in weight was 42.8 pounds! I think this is great for a first-time event and hope next year we get an even bigger turnout.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adopt A Plot

GUEST POST BY  Daniel Holcombe,Grounds Conservation Manager, Historic Congressional Cemetery

About a month ago we started a new program here at the Congressional Cemetery.  Volunteers are stepping forward to “adopt” family plots by gardening and maintaining the plantings throughout the year.  Our new adopt-a-plot project will both restore part of Congressional’s historic landscape as well as enhance the overall beauty of the grounds.  The Cemetery was once called “gardenesque” by George Watterson, the third Librarian of Congress.  He described the Cemetery as a place that “the stranger as well as the citizen would feel a melancholy pleasure.”  This project is designed to replace some of the lost horticultural beauty of the Cemetery.

Volunteers will choose a family plot to maintain throughout the year, and with only a few exceptions, all family plots that use stone coping around their perimeters are up for adoption.  You are free to work whenever you would like and we will have tools, water, and mulch available for you.  We have a list available of suggested plants, including those historically appropriate as well as plants aimed at providing for our bees.

We have already had more than a dozen plots adopted, and a few have already been gardened.  The plots range in size from about ten square feet up to around five hundred.  Some are shaded, some are full sun; and our only rules are no vines, vegetables, invasives, or trees.  If you think you’d be interested in helping us with this project, please contact me at and feel free to look around for a plot you might want to adopt!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Video Wednesday: Montmorency Falls


Montmorency Falls in Quebec, Canada. I was there last week for the Garden Writers Association annual meeting. The falls are 98 ft higher than Niagara and can be accessed from the bottom by cable car or staircase. I shot part of this looking down over the falls from the suspension bridge the spans over it.

We had a great time visiting gardens in and around Quebec City. I will be sharing several albums of photos from the trip on our facebook page at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Join Us at the Heritage Harvest Fest at Monticello!

I'm ecstastic that Washington Gardener Magazine will once again be the part of the 7th annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello this year. It is a celebration of gardening, sustainable agriculture, and local food, held on the breathtaking West Lawn of Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. Taste heirloom fruits and vegetables and learn about organic gardening and seed-saving at this fun, family-friendly festival talking place Friday-Saturday, September 6-7, 2013.

We'll have a table in the Tasting Tent all day Saturday where you can sign up for subscriptions or buy current and back issues. I'll also be talking on "Local Gardening Challenges" and "Regionally Adapted Plants" on Friday and Saturday in Classroom 6, Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center. My talks are part of the premium workshop track and you must register separately for those. I urge you to do so soon at since they sold out last year in advance.

I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my friends and colleague there as well as participating in the old-fashioned Seed Swap on early Saturday morning.

I hope you will join me for all or part of the festival!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Win 7 False Solomons Seal Plants courtesy of Sunshine Farm & Gardens

For our August 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away 7 False Solomons Seal (Smilacina racemosa or Maianthemum racemosum) plants courtesy of Sunshine Farm & Gardens to one lucky winner. (Value: $35+.)
   False Solomons Seal is a long-lived, easy-to-grow, almost shrub-like in appearance, perennial plant. It will bring you, your friends and your visitors decades of pleasure in your garden. It typically grows in average soil in all types of light conditions from deep shade to filtered sunlight. The deep green, glossy, arching foliage is persistent all the growing season long and the attractive, long-lasting, elegant, feathery, creamy-white blooms light up the whole garden in early to mid-spring.
   Sunshine Farm and Gardens ( is the brainchild of Barry Glick, who takes full responsibility for all of the chaos and havoc surrounding the incredible palette of rare and unusual, but mostly idiot-proof plants. In the past 32 years, they’ve managed to amass a diverse collection of well over 10,000 different, hardy to zone 5 perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs from every corner of the Earth on their 60-acre mountain top at 3000 feet in beautiful Greenbrier County WV.
   To enter to win the set of 7 False Solomons Seal plants, send an email with “Sun Farm” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Friday, August 30. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, address, and tell us: What has been the Biggest Garden Pest this year and why. The winners will be announced and notified by September 1. Some of the entry responses may be used in future online or print articles.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Red Cherry Almost Upsets Incumbent, but Sun Sugar Wins Tastiest Tomato Again!

Tomato Taste 2013 Results

We had over 250 come to today's Washington Gardener Magazine 6th Annual Tomato Taste at the FreshFarm Silver Spring Market. Here are the results of the more than 250 ballots submitted.
  1. Sun Sugar from Spiral Path Farm
  2. Red Cherry from Chicano Sol Farm
  3. Cherokee Purple from Three Springs Fruit Farm
  4. Yellow Brandwine from Perry County Land and Cattle
  5. Pink Brandwine from The Farm at Our House
  6. Black Cherry from Mock's Greenhouse and Farm 
Marian Katz of Silver Spring, MD, won the prize drawing of a gift bag full of gardening goodies and $25 FreshFarm market dollars.

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 towns of Takoma Park, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Hyattsville, Rockville, Bethesda, and Wheaton in MD. Some were from farther afield in Maryland -- Baltimore, Frederick, Hanover, etc. From across the river in Virginia, attendees came from Alexandria and Charlottesville. From outside of the local area, we had attendees from New York, South Carolina, California, Wyoming, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, West Virginia,  Illinois and even as far away as Israel! 

Two young gentleman, Isaac and David, were the stand-out artists in our tomato coloring and art display area.

See many more photos from the event at

Thank you to all who came and participated. A BIG thanks to the farmers for growing great tomatoes and to FreshFarm Markets staff for hosting us. Special thanks also to volunteers Doree and Martha for helping with all the tomato sample cutting and helping greet all the tasters in the short, intense two-hour event.

See you next August!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Connect with Washington Gardener Magazine

Washington Gardener Magazine is at the annual Garden Writers Association symposium until 8/23. While we are away recharging and networking with our peers, you can also catch up on past posts from  Washington Gardener Magazine and connect with fellow local gardeners at our online resources:
• Washington Gardener Blog:
• Washington Gardener Twitter Feed:
• Washington Gardener Instagram Feed:
• Washington Gardener Pinterest boards:
• Washington Gardener Discussion Group:
• Washington Gardener Facebook Page:
• Washington Gardener Youtube channel:
• Washington Gardener Web Site:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What to Plant Now for Fall Harvest ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ August 2013 issue is now out!

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ August 2013 issue is now sent to all current Washington Gardener Magazine subscribers. It is also posted and archived online at:
~What to Plant NOW for Fall Harvest
~ Top Local Garden Events Calendar for August-September
~ How to Divide Iris in just a Few Easy Steps
~ Magazine Excerpt: Ask the Expert Addresses Your Garden Problems
~ Vacation Plant Care Tips
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for August-September
~ Reader Contest: Win 7 False Solomons Seal plants courtesy of Sunshine Farm & Gardens
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ Spotlights Special: Black Diamond - a new Crape Myrtle with dark foliage
~ 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

Friday, August 09, 2013

Fenton Friday: Potato Heads

This week at my garden plot in the Fenton Community Garden was potato digging time. I had planted four kinds of seed potatoes: All Blue, Red Norland, Kennebec, and German Butterball. All four multiplied well and I have several pounds of each.

The only one that had any problem with was the All Blue -- half of them were mushy and/or hollow -- perhaps insect damage or maybe I left them in the ground too long and they rotted. I will have to investigate what happened there.

I spent last night sorting out all the potatoes for the best 5 of each to enter into the Montgomery County Fair. Basically, I'm sacrificing them to the competition as by the end of the 10 days on exhibit they are no longer edible, but it will be fun to see if they earn any ribbons.

This year I also kept an eye out for any potatoes that looked like anything else for the look-a-like category. I have never entered that before and thought it might be fun. These were the only ones I could find that looked different enough to be something. I think the top left one will be "Mr. Peanut" and maybe the bottom right one will be "Make Way for Ducklings." What do you see in their shapes?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Video Wednesday: Container Gardening Tips from the US Botanic Garden


If you have ever been to the U S Botanic Garden on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in the summer, you have seen their wonderful container plantings -- big, bold, and healthy in the hot sun. In this video, USBG gardeners, Margaret Atwell and Beth Ahern, share some of their container gardening tips.

A few tips I learned from them that are not in the video footage:
~ Margaret likes to use 6 different plants per container.
~ They use their own soil mix -- basically a light potting mix.
~ After potting up, they sprinkle in Osmocote slow release fertilizer.
~ They do not use any rocks, gravel, or other fillers in the bottom of their pots for drainage.

From the Washington Gardener Magazine video vault -- originally created and posted July 2011.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Your Submissions Welcome!

We are always looking for reader input and contributions to Washington Gardener Magazine and our online publications. Here are several ways you can participate:

~ Ask a Gardening Question -- Send your questions to and use the subject line “Q&A.” Please also include your first name, last initial, and what city and state you are writing from. Then look for your answered questions in upcoming issues in the "Ask the Expert" column.

~ Share Your Garden Story --  Let us know what makes YOUR garden special. Write a short essay about it (aim for 500-750 words) and send the text along with a few high-res images of your garden to and put "My Garden Story" in the email subject line.

~ Reader Reactions -- Tell us know what you liked or didn't like or agree with/disagree with from our recent issue of Washington Gardener Magazine. Please send to and put "Reader Reaction" in the email subject line so they do not get lost in my sea of email.

~ Guest Blog Posts -- Anything you want to share about local gardening -- from deer to a new tomato variety you are trying -- we'd love to have your take on things. Just include the text in an email and attached any images you want to include with the post. I then schedule it in on our blog calendar and will let you know when the post goes "live" so you can link to it and let the world know. Please send to and put "Guest Blog Post" in the email subject line so they do not get lost in my sea of email.

~ Before-After Story -- Are you a landscape designer, garden designer, or landscape architect who wants to share a local gardening before/after transformation? Write a short essay about it (aim for 500-750 words) and send the text along with a few high-res images of the garden to and put "Before-After" in the email subject line.

~ Have Your Club Profiled -- Got a Washington, DC-area garden group, plant society, or neighborhood club that you think should be profiled here? Send the full details to put "Garden Club Profile" in the email subject line.

~ Event Listings -- If you have an upcoming local garden-related event, send in the details for listing in our monthly Washington Gardener Enewsletter. Please send to and put "Event Listing" in the email subject line so they do not get lost in my sea of email.

Book Reviews -- We publish book reviews by volunteer members of the Washington Gardener Reader Panel. We are looking for a few additional volunteers who live in the greater Washington, DC, region to serve on our Reader Panel. This will consist of about two email exchanges per month. Reader Panelists may also be asked to review new gardening books and test out new garden plants, tools, and seeds.
   To join the Washington Gardener Volunteer Reader Panel, please send an email with your name and address to: We look forward to having you be a vital part of our local publication and its gardening mission.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Washington Gardener Magazine's Tomato Taste at Market is Back!

Washington Gardener Magazine's
6th Annual
Tomato Tasting
at the Silver Spring FreshFarm Market

It’s ‘Big Boy’ vs. ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ hybrid vs. heirloom, the tomato wars have just begun. Everyone is sure that their tomato pick is the tastiest. Join Washington Gardener Magazine at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD, on Saturday, August 24 from 10am-12noon for a Tomato Tasting. Best of all, this event is FREE!

Farmers at the market will contribute their locally grown selections — from super-sweet ‘Sungold’ to not-so-pretty ‘Cherokee Purple’ — and we’ll explore which tomatoes make the short list of favorites. We’ll have tomato gardening tips, tomato recipes, tomato activities for kids, and much more. All to celebrate one of summer’s greatest indulgences — the juicy fresh tomato.

Tip: Your tomato taste voting ballot is also your entry into our prize drawing for a basket full of gardening goodies. The drawing is at 12noon, so be sure to fully fill out your ballot by 11:45am and then stick around for the prize announcement as you must be present to win.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Gladiolus: You Can Grow That!

Gladiolus: You CAN Grow That!

 This summer-blooming bulb is known for its showy flowers that come in a rainbow of colors. My favorites are the chartreuse green ones, but I also enjoy the lavenders and pink blends as well. This cherry red one pictured here was a surprise in a "pastel mix" I purchased from a discount grocery store chain.

Gladiolus can be planted in spring after the last spring frost (mid-May here in the Mid-Atlantic) and comes up in mid-summer (about 90 days). After that, it will behave as a perennial in your garden. Be sure to plant the bulb deep enough and give it some mulch for extra winter protection if you are zone 6 or lower.

Glads require full sun for best blooming and may need some staking if they are not supported by surrounding plants.

After blooming, remove the faded flowers and then cut the whole stalk down. You can also cut the stalk when just a few blooms are open to enjoy the rest as they open in your indoor arrangements.

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, August 02, 2013

Fenton Friday: Okra and the Potato Thieves

okra flower
This week at my plot in the Fenton Street Community Garden the late-planted okra was finally ready for picking. That means from now on I will have to stay on top of it with daily garden visits, as once the okra gets past finger-sized, it is no good.

I also noticed that something dug into my German Butterball potato hill and pulled out a few. Three were left out with nibbles on them. I'm suspected a rodent, maybe a large bird. I should dig them all up now myself as the top foliage was all died back. This should give me an incentive to get on that task.

Also, I've decided in my next life to start a Southern rock cover band and it will be called "Okra and the Potato Thieves." I think we'll hand out fried treats between sets.

okra ready to be picked

German Butterball potatoes nibbled on by what?

Also, I write a monthly column for the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Voice newspaper (now only online.) This month's column is on the local community gardens, including Fenton where I grow, and the high demand for plot spaces. Check it out here:

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