Friday, September 29, 2017

Fenton Friday: Striking Gold

In our "Pepper Report" a few weeks ago (here), we reported that the 'Gold Standard' sweet pepper from Burpee had not colored up yet. Well, they have now! They are also as large and as sweet as promised. The photo above does not do it justice. A little patience was all we needed -- so it is with most gardening pursuits, lesson learned.

In the rest of the plot, all the cool-season seedlings are coming along nicely, except the Spinach, which now has proven to be a real dud seed batch. We will like replace that with the Broccoli seedlings tat I bought for show-and-tell at my Cool Season Edibles Talk I am giving tomorrow at Brookside Gardens. (BTW, still a few spots left for that, register here.)

How is your edible garden growing this week?

About Fenton Friday: 
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fenton Friday: HIgh Cotton

I reported earlier on my experiment in growing Red Cotton. (See post here:
Several of you asked me to share how it turned out and I am happy to say the I have several fluffy heads of white cotton! So cool looking. I plan on hanging the plants to dry in my sunroom and using them in a dried-flower wreath.

In the rest of the plot, all the cool-season seedlings are coming along, except the Spinach, which may be a dud batch, but we will give it another week or so to see.

How is your edible garden growing this week?

About Fenton Friday: 
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Win a pair of passes to the Fall Maryland Home & Garden Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds

For our September 2017 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we are giving away five pairs of passes to the Fall Maryland Home & Garden Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds (prize value: $18).
   Fall is when we spend more time with friends and family in our homes. With the holidays approaching, it is a great time to update, remodel, redecorate, and landscape your home. This is an opportunity to see hundreds of contractors in one location and purchase hand-made crafts and gifts. There is something for everyone and many exhibitors are offering special show pricing.
   Author and show favorite Boyce Thompson brings his interactive, cutting edge display of home products, including the virtual nursery, personal robot, home automation systems, speakers that screw into light bulbs, smart valves, and more.
   Trash or treasure? Bring it in! With over 20 years of experience, Annapolis antique expert Todd Peenstra will appraise your jewelry, paintings, toys, clocks, pottery, glass, silver – anything old!
   The Fall Maryland Home & Garden Show runs Friday, October 20, through Sunday, October 22. See more details online at
   To enter to win a pair of passes to the Maryland Home & Garden Show, send an email to by 5:00pm on September 30 with “Maryland Home & Garden Show” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us what your favorite article was in the current issue and why. Please also include your full name and mailing address. Winners will be announced and notified on October 1.


Congratulations to our winners!
Melissa Picone, Parkville, MD 
~ Robert Alonso, Glen Burnie, MD
~ Jeavonna Chapman, Baltimore, MD
~ Anne Hardman, Silver Spring, MD
~ Teresa Speight, District Heights, MD

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Video Wednesday: DC State Fair Preview from My Garden

I will be doing a Flower Arrangement Class at the DC State Fair this Sunday. This video created by Ari Hock of Knowledge Commons DC (KCDC) for the DC State Fair. See more free local class offerings at The DC State Fair 2017 schedule is at

Monday, September 18, 2017

Quick Pickles. Slow Flowers, and much more in the September 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

The September 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out.

Inside this issue:
  • Preserving Your Harvest: Quick Pickles
  • Locally Sourced “Slow” Flowers 
  • Garden Drama at Arena Stage
  • Growing Grass in Shade
  • Little Butterflies with Big Impact: Skippers
  • Your Garden Task List
  • Well-made Watering Cans
  • DC-MD-VA Gardening Events Calendar
  • Meet Global Aquaponics
  • and much more!

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the October 2017 issue are due by October 10.

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. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bloom Day Bouquet

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 today and to read their collective comments, go to
Here is the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border, the past month has continued the odd summer pattern of cooler and wetter than normal weather. I am not complaining! Every day it rains is one less hour spent watering!
For Bloom Day this month I thought I'd share this bouquet created from flowers from my community garden plot to use at our harvest potluck picnic -- Sunflowers, Celosia, and Queen Anne's Lace. We left out the Zinnias on this one. I could add some of my prolific Goldenrod from the home garden to fill it out or pop in some of my highly scented Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil, but I'll leave it alone for now and enjoy it for its rustic simplicity.
So what is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Fenton Friday: Cool Season Seeds

After clearing out most of the peppers and tomatoes, the interns and I started several cool season edibles from seed this past Sunday. They include:

- Lettuce 'Sandy'
- Lettuce 'Q's Special Mix'
- Radish 'Roxanne'
- Radish 'French Breakfast'
- Radish 'White Icicle'
- Spinach 'Gangbusters'
- Turnip 'Purple Top White Globe'
- Turnip 'Royal Crown Hybrid'
- Turnip 'Seven Top'

A scant 5 days later and almost all of the seedlings are up! I am most surprised by the turnips. I thought for sure they would not show for another week or two.

The nights are starting to get cooler and the days are noticeably short now. It is more pleasant to be out in the garden weeding and sowing at this time of year. Yet, many of my fellow community gardeners have abandoned their plots. It is sad to see their harvest rotting on the ground and weeds taking over. Have to keep repeating to myself, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

What are you starting from seed for the fall season?

About Fenton Friday: 
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Discuss "Ghost Image" at Washington Gardener Magazine's Garden Book Club's Fall 2017 Meeting

For our Garden Book Club's Fall 2017 Meeting we will be discussing:

 Ghost Image: A Sophie Medina Mystery (Sophie Medina Novels) by Ellen Crosby (fiction) 

This is one of the few fiction selections our club has ever chosen, but we think you will soon see why we couldn't resist including it: "When freelance photojournalist Sophie Medina finds Brother Kevin Boyle, a Franciscan friar and controversial environmentalist, dead in the magnificent gardens of a Washington, DC monastery, she is sure her friend was murdered. Shortly before he died, Kevin told Sophie he was being stalked, possibly because he uncovered a botanic discovery potentially worth millions of dollars. Left with few clues to his secret, Sophie is determined to figure out who killed Kevin."

Please join us on Thursday, November 2 from 6:30-8:00pm at Soupergirl, located right next to the Takoma metro stop. Soupergirl offers soups for sale that are incredibly healthy. They are 100% plant-based, low salt, low fat, and most importantly, absolutely delicious, so plan to come a bit early to purchase and eat your dinner with the garden book club. 

At this meeting, we will also decide the 2018 Garden Book Club titles, so please come with your suggestions!

Please RSVP to washingtongardener (at) or at the book club event page at by October 30, so we know how many chairs to reserve for our group.

The Washington Gardener Magazine's Garden Book Club is free and open to all. We meet quarterly on a weekday evening near a metro-accessible location in the DC-area. We will announce the details of each upcoming meeting about two months in advance. Please check back on this blog for schedule updates and announcements.


Friday, September 08, 2017

Fenton Friday: Does This Look Like Okra to you?!

At the far back right corner of my community garden plot is a tall, red gorgeous plant with dramatic tropical leaves. It is supposed to be a Red Okra. It is not.

The seedling I was given this spring at a local plant swap was labeled as an Okra and it sure looked like one to me. As it grew over the summer, I patiently waited for the familiar hibiscus-like blossoms to form and the the horn-shaped fruit to form. I waited and waited and waited.

Finally, a few weeks ago, a flower started to form. The spike was not at all okra-like. It was more like the clusters of some tall grasses. And then it hit me. This is NO Red Okra! It is the Castor Bean plant. Not only is it NOT edible, but its seeds are quite deadly. WTH! What kind of careless person mixes these two plants up and passes them on to unsuspecting gardeners!

It is not the first bait-and-switch seedling mix-up I have been the victim of in my plot -- see last year's "flowering" Tobacco debacle here -- and it likely won't be the last. So, what to do in future? I generally trust fellow gardeners to be correct in their labeling, but from now on I should be more selective in quizzing gardeners at the local plant swaps I attend.

How about you, what mislabeling crimes have you suffered from in your garden?

About Fenton Friday: 
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Meet the Fall 2017 Interns

This autumn, I have taken on three new editorial interns. If you attend any of our upcoming events, like the recent Tomato Taste, you are bound to run into one or more of them. As a first writing assignment, I asked them to write a short introduction to our readers...

Hi! My name is Nicole Reisinger (pictured at left) and I am a senior multiplatform journalism major and history minor at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill School of Journalism. I’m excited to spend this semester going to the numerous horticulture events the DC area has to offer and embracing the gardening culture that connects this community. I grew up maintaining gardens with my family and have experience working with a premier floral designer in Annapolis, so I love getting my hands dirty in the name of creating something beautiful. Journalism has an awesome power that is able to unite people and I look forward to having the chance to do so with the Washington Gardener. I cannot wait to learn more about this community its passion for all things gardening!

My name is Maeve Dunigan (pictured center) and I’m a senior multiplatform journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park. My on-campus positions include being a Senior Staff Writer for The Diamondback and a Student Ambassador for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. In the past, I have worked in science journalism, as an intern for the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. I have also worked for the College Park City-University Partnership where I served as the Communications and Digital Content Development Intern. In the fall of 2016, I was lucky enough to study media abroad for five months at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands. I am so excited to grow my knowledge of horticulture while interning for Washington Gardener this semester!

Hi Washington Gardener readers! My name is Uyen (pronounced when) Nguyen (pictured at right) and I am a senior multiplatform journalism major, with a minor in business, at the University of Maryland. I was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and raised in Baltimore city.  My experience in journalism is mainly on the UMD campus, it includes working as assistant managing editor at The Diamondback, some freelance reporting for various campus publications and as the fitness editor for The Campus Trainer. I personally do not have horticulture experience. but I never say no to trying different types of food so I am very excited to learn how to grow my own! I look forward to being one of three interns this fall for Washington Gardener and getting the opportunity to target local readers and attend gardening events in the area.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Fenton Friday: Pepper Report

Today I pulled out several of the pepper plants at the community garden plot to make room for the fall plantings. These plants were care for by our summer interns and had really nice yields. Today, I was even able to pull another 5 pounds fruits off of them before I composted the foliage and stalks.

Here is the report from Mika Park:

This summer, I grew six different types of peppers at the Fenton Community Garden in Silver Spring. I planted the six types on May 31 as seedlings we were sent to trial, and most were expected to be harvested within 80 days. The varieties I planted are hot 'Fish' peppers, hot 'Dragon Roll' peppers, ornamental 'Black Pearl' peppers, sweet 'Mad Hatter' peppers, sweet 'Candy Cane' peppers, sweet 'Lemon Dream' peppers, and sweet 'Gold Standard' peppers.

The hot, heirloom 'Fish' peppers were a bit small, more like 2 inches than the 3 that they are supposed to reach. They were supposed to take 80 days, and at day 82 they were still small. The plant itself did not grow to the 18-24 inches it was supposed to, but rather stopped at about 10 inches. Despite the size, they were relatively spicy, even more so the hot 'Dragon Roll,' which has a scoville rating of 200. They retained their striped cream and green color.

The hot 'Dragon Roll' peppers from Burpee were not as hot as they should have been. However, they grew to the expected size of 3-4 inches. They had some spice at the top near the seeds, but not anywhere near 200 scovilles. The foliage developed beautifully and the plant grew to its intended size. Some peppers turned red and mushy after the 67 day harvest point, but the majority remained green after that point or began to turn red.

The 'Black Pearl' peppers grew beautifully. The peppers developed early on, emerging as a very dark purple color that looked almost black. Some bunches have turned bright red in color as they were ready for harvest at day 85. These are ornamental peppers, because they are ridiculously spicy. They have a scoville rating from 10,000 to 30,000.  I sampled a tiny piece of one and can understand why this is ornamental and not used for cooking.

The sweet 'Mad Hatter' peppers from PanAmericanSeed remained green, with some developing yellow at the top, although they can turn red. They are probably still green because they are ready at 85-90 days and I ended my trial at day 82. Some have started yellowing, but they are all the right size at 2-3 inches. While they are a sweet pepper, this harvest was definitely lacking in flavor.

The sweet 'Candy Cane' peppers from PanAmericanSeed were mainly green and white stripes, and some developed a red tint -- 2 or 3 became a bright red. It was strange that not all of them became red, since the harvest time was relatively shorter, at 60-65 days. They grew to the expected size at 3.5-4 inches, and had a sweet and light flavor.

The 'Lemon Dream' peppers from Burpee mostly remained green, although some turned yellow and orange. This was surprising because they were supposed to be ready for harvest at 70 days, and despite growing to the expected size of three inches. They were very sweet!

Lastly, the 'Golden Standard' peppers from Burpee did not fully turn yellow by the end of my trial. They look reminiscent of yellow and green tie-dye. They do taste sweet. They also did not get to be the expected 5 inches by 5 inches size, and were closer to 4 inches by 4 inches.

How is your edible garden growing this week?

About the auhor: 
Mika Park is a sophomore multi-platform journalism major at the University of Maryland. This past summer, she was an editorial intern at Washington Gardener Magazine. She was born in Holland and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

About Fenton Friday: 
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

DIY: Tomato Jam Recipe

At the end of the growing season, you may find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes and some a bit under- or over-ripe. This recipe is a great choice to use many of them up.  You can use canned tomatoes as well, if your own home garden doesn't produce enough at once.

This tomato jam has a bit of kick to it. You can serve it with cream cheese to lower the heat of it or just use less of the red chili flakes in your batch.

It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. Try it with duck or pork chops. It is great on a grilled cheese sandwich and slathered on biscuits or warn cornbread. 

   5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped (skin, seeds, and all)
   2 1/2 cups sugar* (add more or less to taste)
   8 tablespoons lime juice
   2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
   1 teaspoon cinnamon
   1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
   1 tablespoon salt
   2 teaspoons red chili flakes (add more or less to taste)
   1 packet of Sure-Jell pectin

1. Combine all ingredients (except the Sure-Jell and 1/3 cup sugar) in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Scoop off any foam from the surface and discard (or eat on toast as is). Stirring regularly, simmer the jam between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat.
2. Bring the jam back up to a boil. Stir together 1/3 cup sugar and the contents of 1 package of Sure-Jell pectin in a small bowl. Then add the mixture to the jam, stirring constantly. It should thicken up quickly. Boil for a minute.
3. Remove from heat and ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head-space. Wipe rims, apply new lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
3. When time is up, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Notes: The finished yield on this recipe varies depending on the kind of tomato you use, the width of your pan and the finished thickness to which you cook it. Typically yields 4 pints.

Thanks to my garden club pal Lynn Title for her assistance in cooking and canning this jam.
This recipe is adapted from one created by FreshFarm Markets.

This is a monthly blog series on DIY projects for the beginning home gardener. Look for the other installments in this DIY blog series by putting "DIY" in the search box here at

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