Friday, October 31, 2014

Fenton Friday: Frost Coming, No Body Panic

'Sun Gold' tomatoes
As you have likely seen in my last blog post, we have a frost/freeze warning for the region this weekend. That means will soon be draining the cistern at the Fenton Community Garden, so I went over today and filled up over a dozen kitty litter and milk gallon containers to have water on stand-by over the long winter as I hate lugging it from home.

My tomatoes, especially 'Sun Gold' apparently love these cool nights as the plants have taken off like crazy and are crowding out my pathways and I picked over 30 ripe tomatoes today and had harvested another couple dozen earlier this week. All those that were split or green I left behind. We shall see if the forecasts are correct, but until they actually get frost-bitten, I'm leaving the tomatoes and other summer crops in the ground.

In related news, garden writer wrote up a piece on community gardening for Parade online. Read it here. I supplied here with a few quotes about my experiences as a childhood community gardener and more recently at the Fenton Community Garden. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about other garden writer's experiences as well. And now I know where C.L. Fornari gets all her energy -- it is all those fresh-grown veggies!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Giving Tender Plants Extra Frost/Freeze Protection

“Bundle up,” your mom always advised you when you went out to play in the frigid winds. The same advice applies for your tender and newer outdoor plantings. The freezing northern winds and freezing nighttime temps can damage or kill those annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that are more marginal in our Mid-Atlantic planting zones. If a plant is classified as hardy only to zone 8 or above, than it is wise to take a few minutes to evaluate it for frost/freeze protection needs. Here are the top methods to give your plantings a bit of warmth and relief during any freeze/frost alerts:
  • Take it indoors. You may not have a greenhouse, but you probably have a garage, cellar, or protected porch. Sometimes all your potted tender plant needs is a sheltered spot for those worst weeks of the year. You can also wrap a blanket or burlap around the base of the pot to keep it insulated. Alternatively, group a bunch of pots together and stuff the area with leaves.
  • Plant it right. The warmest part of your yard is most likely at the base of a southern-facing wall. This is the spot to plant your camellias, figs, and others in your zonal edge.
  • Mulch it. Pile up mulch around the base of the plant to give its root-zone a nice blanket of warmth. Grafted trees and shrubs especially are vulnerable to die-back, so give an extra mulching to your fruit trees and rose bushes now. Be sure to pull pack that mulch layer at the first signs of spring.
  • Cover it. If you have just a few small tender plants to cover or want to give an early start to next season, use a cloche or glass bell. (An assortment of Colonial era cloches is pictured here.). You can make a modern cloche out of plastic soda bottles or milk jugs. Be sure to take them off or vent them during the day. To vent them, you can prop them up with a small stick or on stones.
  • Blanket it. Watch the local weather closely and on the coldest nights of the year, have cover cloths or old blankets/sheets on the ready to throw over your plants. This is a good precaution to take on nights with an ice warning. Many plants that are solid Zone 6 and 7 can still suffer severe frost damage and breakage, so go ahead and cover them when an ice storm is predicted. Then uncover when the danger of icing has passed.
  • Insulate it. Surround your most vulnerable plants with a metal cage (like your old tomato cages) or plastic mesh and stuff the frame full of leaves. You can also wrap the plant burlap tied with twine to achieve the same purpose. Then unwrap and un-stuff your plant in early spring.
Finally, if you find you have a real cold spot in your garden that is a frigid micro-climate, consider more long-term solutions for this spot... 

See the rest of the article in the Washington Gardener November 2011 issue posted here:

Note: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about local gardening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Video Wednesday: Save Seeds Before Winter

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Here is another "vintage" video from our productions. It is about Save Seeds Before Winter. Enjoy! (BTW, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to load while listening to a brief sponsor commercial.)

Speaking of Seed Saving, our dual Seed Exchanges are set for early 2015. In the drab, dreary heart of winter, join us for seed swapping, expert speakers, great goody bags, and much more. Save these dates: January 31, 2015 at Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD and February 7, 2015 at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA. Registration and full details will be posted in early December.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Announcing the Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club 2015 Selections

With the success of another year of the Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club, we are announcing our 2015 selections and schedule so that you can get a head start on obtaining the books and reading them.

For our first 2015 selection, we will be reading: Tulipomania by Mike Dash. I am reserving a meeting room at a DC Library for a weekday evening in early February. (We will move the location around to various DC library locations near public transit for each meeting pending library staff approvals, the location will be confirmed to you when you RSVP.) The library room allows food and drink and you may bring your dinner and/or snacks to share.

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.

I will announce the date for the next book club meeting's date and location after each previous meeting. We will meet roughly once each quarter/season.
The other book club selections for 2015 are:

~ Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
~ Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
~ Teaching the Trees by Joan Maloof 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Fenton Friday: Full Plot and New Markers

 Yay! We got new plot markers this week at the Fenton Community Garden, which is great as the old wooden stakes were rotting and mine no longer could stand up. I find my new marker in the middle of my neighbor's plot and quickly moved it lest he think I was staking a claim on his Swiss Chard!

My plot is busting out of bounds, but I still have lots of tomatoes ripening and annual flowers blooming so I will keep stuffing cool season crops in around them as best I can. The photo above is an overview of the whole plot. Going clockwise from the top-left corner are: tomatoes on top pf potatoes, cosmos tangled with a morning glory vine, parsley and cilantro, cool season crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, arugula, carrots, and radishes), strawberry with asparagus in the middle, a pot of hot peppers, a dying okra, marigolds, Swiss chard, celosia and lisianthus. I'm sure I've forgotten a few things, but that gives you a good overview and what a contrast to way back to the start of the season pictured here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Video Wednesday: Create a New Garden Bed Without Digging

Here is another video from our "classics" vault:

In this video, Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, demonstrates how to winterize a vegetable garden including how to create a new garden bed without digging.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus): Grow Your Own Spice Cabinet

Sponsored blog post by:

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) is the source of saffron that makes Indian curry and Spanish paella so special. You understand why this spice is so expensive when you see how tiny the red-orange stigma (female organs) of the flower are and that it takes dozens of these little threads to make enough to be used for one dish.

This bulb is reliably hardy here in the Mid-Atlantic region (USDA Zone 6-8) and just needs good, well-draining soil and a full sun location. It is best to plant them in a bed that is not irrigated so they do not rot over the summer when they are dormant.

Whether your bring them home from a local garden center or buy them via mial-order, the corms (bulbs) should be planted immediately upon arrival. As you can see in the photo above, the bulbs I received from were already sprouting and ready to go.

This crocus blooms in the fall season and they are often lumped in with the autumn-blooming colchicums. However, colchicums are in the lily family and saffron crocus is related it iris, along with freesia and crocosmia.

Even though the emphasis is on their culinary use, I think these bulbs hold their own just for their ornamental value. The blooms are a translucent purple with darker veining and a deep-purple center that make them a striking addition to any garden.

Colchicums are members of the lily family whereas crocus belong to the iris group - See more at:
Colchicums are members of the lily family whereas crocus belong to the iris group - See more at:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fenton Friday: Sweet Potato Plot

This week at my plot in the Fenton Community Garden, we had another round of torrential rains (almost 3 inches dumped at once) along with tornado warnings and fierce winds. I did not get much time out in the garden, but did manage to dig up the one sweet potato I planted. It was almost 3 pounds worth from one tiny slip so I'm happy with that. It is now curing in my sunroom.

I did notice that my brussel sprouts are taking off rapidly and I have high hopes of being able to harvest some for Thanksgiving!

How is your edible garden growing?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Washington Gardener Magazine October 2014 ~ Winterthur: Last of the Wild Gardens

Washington Gardener is the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the Mid-Atlantic region.   
The October 2014 issue is now published and being sent as a PDF attachment to all current subscribers.

This issue includes:
~ Winterthur: Last of the Wild Gardens
~ Ramps: Wild Leeks of Appalachia
~ October Garden Tasks
~ Local Events List
~ 5 Flower Bulbs You Should Grow
~ Meet Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping
~ Don’t Move Firewood Warning
 ~ Before-After of a Garden for an Orange House
~ New Elderberry Introduction
~ Rhododendrons Disturb Soil Nitrogren Cycle
and much more...

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Video Wednesday: Virginia Pumpkins

The Mid-Atlantic is a big pumpkin-growing region. Here is a clip from the Virginia Farm Bureau on the big business of pumpkin growing.

Instagram sharing on Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

On this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, I thought I'd alert my blog readers that every morning on my Instagram account ( I share a photo of the day. Most often that is a flower photo and about half the time the plant photos come from my own home garden or my community garden plot. Here is a recent share:

Muhly grass against my back fence #gardendc #gardening #pink #picoftheday #nofilter #grass #muhlenbergia #native #plants #plantsagram #plantsomething #smile

You don't need to be on Instagram to visit the page and view the photos, but I believe you do need an account to "heart" and comment on them.

Do you share your garden blooms on Instagram? If so, share your account link in the comments page below.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Reader Contest: Win Passes to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show

 For our October 2014 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away three sets of passes to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show (Retail value: $18.)

   To enter to win a pair of passes, send an email to: by 5:00pm on October 16 10am on October 17 with “MD Holiday Show” in the subject line and in the body of the email, please also include your full name and mailing address. Tell us: “What is your favorite thing about gardening in Autumn?” The pass winners will be announced and notified by email by October 18th.
Maryland Home & Holiday Show
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 18, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, October 19, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Redecorate the halls this holiday season with cheerful and inventive ideas from the Maryland Home & Holiday Show. This three-day event gives homeowners the opportunity to meet with hundreds of contractors, shop the latest home improvement trends and purchase seasonal gifts for friends and family. Highlights of the show will include:

More than 300 Exhibitors: Hundreds of knowledgeable contractors, landscapers, designers and house product gurus who will be showing off the latest trends in home improvement and answering questions about how to get started with, continue or add the finishing touch to home projects of any size.

World-Famous Frisbee Dogs: The Disc-Connected K9s—four world champion, acrobatic dogs—will be making an appearance at the show. Spectators will watch world-class dogs jump, flip and catch Frisbees in a pawstively-perfect performance. Pet products will also be available for visitors to browse and buy in-between the Disc-Connected K9s’ shows.

Holiday Crafts and Gifts: An array of unique, handmade products from juried craftspeople will provide shoppers with endless gift-giving options for everyone on their holiday lists—an awesome alternative to mass-produced gifts offered on Amazon.

Landscaped Gardens: Visitors will walk through beautifully-landscaped seasonal settings that incorporate hardscaping, native trees and shrubs, and fall flowers into breathtaking garden displays.

Tiny House by Sustainafest: The Annapolis nonprofit, Sustainafest, will be debuting its 210 square foot, student-built “Tiny House” model that demonstrates sustainable living practices for the home. Visitors can stop by the house to learn more about living sustainably, improving the environment and supporting the local economy.

Designer Sport Caves: For those looking for inspiration in displaying their Baltimore sports pride at home, the show will feature three, model “sports caves” decked out in Ravens and Orioles colors and memorabilia. Attendees can learn how to transform their own small space into a Baltimore sports cave with ideas from professional interior designers.

A Visit from Santa: Santa will be leaving the North Pole a little early this year to meet and greet children and read holiday stories on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Wine Tastings: Guests can sample some of Maryland’s best wine from Boordy Vineyards, Far Eastern Shore Winery and The Winery at Olney while perusing vendor booths.

Tickets to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 6-12, and free for children under 6 years old. Free admission is also available for active military, police and fire employees with ID.
The Maryland Home & Holiday Show is sponsored by M&T Bank.For more information on the show, visit or call (410) 863-1180.

UPDATE: Because of the short notice on this event - we are extending the entry deadline to 10:00am on October 17. 

UPDATE 2: The pass winners are:   
- Annie Shaw of Greenbelt, MD
- Teresa Liao of Arlington, VA
- Jan Baweja of Olney, MD
Congratulations to all!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fenton Friday: Cool Enough for Kohlrabi

At my plot at the Fenton Community Garden, I lifted up my cover cloth to find a few surprises today. One, is that ONE Kohlrabi plant is shaping up nicely. The others fizzled out, but I think this one was shaded by nearby cosmos flowers so had some protection from last week's harsh sun. I also caught a spotted cucumber beetle climbing on it, I grabbed him real quick! He better not have told his friends.

Arugula aka Rocket
 Also under the cloth, my Arugula re-seeded. Hurray! Don't you just love free garden volunteers?

The radish and carrot seedlings are also popping up finally as well. I will have to thin them soon as, of course, the ones that germinate are all the ones clumped together rather than those more well-spaced out.

So, how is your edible garden growing this week?

carrot seedlings

radish seedling

Native Spotlight: Small-flower White Aster

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw
“That’s really pretty,” the woman passing by called out from the sidewalk. “Baby’s Breath, isn’t it?”

“Uh, no,” I said, “It’s a native, but I’m not sure of the name.” Embarrassing, as just a couple of weeks previously I asked a friend what the plant was. I had transplanted some from the backyard to the front to fill in some bare spots, knowing there would be lots of late summer tiny white blooms when other plants were starting to fade. My friend gave me the genus name, Symphyotrichum, saying my plants were one of two species, she didn’t remember which.

That was the information I had to fall back on when I decided to feature the plant for this post. When I looked up the genus I saw that it included a gazillion asters (only a slight exaggeration), including the White Wood Aster which grows modestly in a shady corner of my yard, as well as the New England Aster, often recommended as a native planting for fall color. Double embarrassment! If I’d had my wits about me I could have at least told the passerby that it was a native aster! But this plant, one of several that have planted themselves in my yard over the years, was registered in my mind simply as the late-blooming, fulsome plant with many tiny white flowers.  

Having done my research, I think what I have is Symphyotrichum racemosum. (Though I’m happy to be corrected.) I base the ID on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center description: “white rays surrounding a yellowish to pinkish central disk; heads mostly clustered along one side of widely diverging branches on a smooth, slender, purple-tinged stem.”  Common names are Small-flower White Aster or Smooth White Oldfield Aster.

The plants in my yard are 2-4 feet tall and, it practically goes without saying, loved by bees. They do seed in, but are easy to pull out if you start to get more than you want. Although some of the flowers are starting to fade, there are plenty of buds on the stems. Altogether a satisfying plant when the season is starting to wind down.

What fall natives are blooming in your yard or nearby?

LOTS more about White Wood Aster at our plant profile linked here.

About the Author 
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, Maryland. She blogs at


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Video Wednesday: Seed Saving is Easy

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 Maryland, on Saturday, January 31, 2015
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA, on Saturday, February 7, 2015.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Fenton Friday: Time to Get Garlic in the Ground

This year I'm only planting one head of garlic (about 8 cloves). I've learned my lessons on bring garlic-greedy and then having a good portion of my small plot at the Fenton Community Garden be unused by anything else until garlic harvest time in early summer. The cloves I had this year after harvest are not as robust as in years past, so I bought new 'Chesnok Red' seed garlic from a local garden center. It is a hardneck variety as I like the look of it better and will get the bonus garlic scapes next spring.

Are you planting garlic in your garden? If so, what varieties?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Video Wednesday: Bamboo Plant Supports

Maryland Master Gardener intern Joel Warren shows how to construct trellises and support structures for your plants with bamboo.

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