Donate Used Garden Tools to Support Washington DC Metro Communities

garden toolsAfter this snowfall, I will be ready to get out and garden! But first, I have to take stock of what I have, need, and can afford to replace. Community Forklift must have read my mind — they are joining forces with nurseries to collect donations of garden tools and supplies for a good cause. Community Forklift is a nonprofit, reuse center for building materials and architectural salvage. In March, they will be looking for donations of patio furniture, lawn and garden supplies in working condition (mowers, hoses, hand tools, power tools or lighting), or decorative landscaping items (pottery, birdbaths, arbors, edging, brick or stone). The following nurseries will accept the donations on their behalf:

March 7, 10 am to 4 pm, Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center, 5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Olney, MD
March 14, 10 am to 4 pm, Campbell & Ferrara, 8351 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA
March 14, and March 21, noon to 5 pm, and March 21, noon Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD

Needless to say, donations are tax-deductible and if you are unable to attend the collection events, or if you have a large donation such as a riding mower or building materials, e-mail to schedule a free pickup at your home.

Community Forklift will host its annual Garden Party and Sale on Saturday, March 28, to welcome the spring gardening season, complete with free workshops, live music and a lemonade lunch. Gently-used garden supplies and patio furniture will help make this fundraising event a success. Proceeds from the sale of the garden items will support Community Forklift’s work to lift up communities in the Washington DC metro region by reducing waste, creating green jobs, and making repairs affordable.

To learn more about the garden tool collection event or Community Forklift’s Garden Party on March 28th, contact them at (301) 985-6011 or e-mail
Community Forklift is located at 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD 20781.

You Can Grow That! Sugar Snap Peas

plump sugar snap peas

plump sugar snap peas

March is the time to grow peas here in Northern Virginia. In our family we prefer the sugar snap peas where you eat pea and pod together but shelling peas and snow peas are also started during March’s cool weather. Last year we grew Amish Snap from Seed Savers Exchange which was excellent; this year we will try Renee’s Garden’s Sugar Snap Peas just to compare. We have already tied the nylon netting to the banister that leads to the front door and, in the back, to the deck railing, wherever I could ensure that the peas would receive full sun. Pea plants are light in weight and their small tendrils need to wrap around thin nylon or string. In the beginning, you may have to “train” them to wrap around the nylon or unwrap them if they find a nearby plant but eventually they learn to wrap up and create a pretty green screen. St. Patrick’s Day is my cue to soak the seeds in water overnight, insert in cone shaped coffee filters (could have used paper towels too), and place in zipped plastic bags. I left them on a shelf, I did not put them under grow lights. Within two days, the seeds germinated and after a few days, when it was necessary for the shoots to receive sunlight, I planted them outside about 4 inches apart. Planting them when they have germinated as opposed to planting seeds makes them able to withstand the cold soil temperatures. Last year, in April and May, we picked them almost every day when the peas had expanded enough to make the pods plump – hence – snap when you bit them or bent them. They were so sweet, we ate them raw as the vegetable portion of dinner. Peas are easy to grow, nutritious and delicious, and are a great kid gardening project.

You Can Grow That is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Usually articles on posted on the fourth of the month. Visit to read more posts.Youcangrowthat

Peg’s Picks: Books on Edible Gardening in the Washington DC Metro Area

booksA colleague asked if I could recommend books related to edible gardening. I quickly replied that I have a Books Page on my site but afterwards realized that those books are about gardening in general but specific to the Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC area. Over the past few years, I have become much more interested in growing edibles rather than ornamentals and have read many books, most are specific to this area. I typed up a short, 2-page list to give to her and thought I would post my recommended list here in case any one is interested in growing their own veggies, herbs, and fruits in the Washington DC metropolitan area. These are in alphabetical order.

American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden & Gardens Across America, Michelle Obama

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, Jessica Walliser, and her other books

Backyard Berry Book, Stella Otto

Cool Season Gardener, Bill Thorness (and his other book, lives in WA)

Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager, Jennifer Bartley

Eat Your Yard, Nan Chase

Edible Front Yard, Ivette Soler

Edible Heirlooms, Bill Thorness (and his other book, lives in WA)

Edible Landscaping, Rosalind Creasy (new edition and any of her other books)

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, Michael Judd (lives in Frederick MD)

Four Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman and his other books

Good Bug/Bad Bug, Jessica Walliser and her other books

Groundbreaking Food Gardens, Niki Jabbour and her other books

Grow a Sustainable Diet, Cindy Connor

Grow Great Grub, Gayla Trail (You Grow Girl)

Guide to Year Round Vegetable Garden in the Southeast, Ira Wallace

Homegrown Herb Garden, Ann McCormick and Lisa Morgan

How to Grow More Vegetables, John Jeavons

How to Grow Perennial Herbs, Martin Crawford

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers, Edward Smith (and any of his other books)

Landscaping Fruit, Lee Reich and any of his other books

Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles: DE, MD, PA, VA, DC, and WV, Katie Elzer-Peters

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One Tenth of an Acre, Eric Toensmeier (and any of his other books)

Perennial Vegetables, Martin Crawford

Perennial Vegetables from Artichoke to “Zuiki’ Taro, Eric Toensmeier (and any of his other books)

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Claire Kowalchik, William Hylton, and other Rodale books

Square Foot Gardening, second edition, Mel Bartholomew, and his other books

Starter Vegetable Gardens, 24 No Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens, Barbara Pleasant (and any of her other books, lives in VA)

Take Our Advice: A Handbook for Gardening in Northern Virginia, Margaret Fisher

The Bountiful Container, Rosemarie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey (good for minimum depth of container to grow veggies)

The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch (and any of their other books)

The Sustainable Vegetable Gardener, John Jeavons

The Veggie Gardener’s Answer Book, Barbara Ellis

The Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Book, Felder Rushing and Walter Reeves

The Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman, and his other books

The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, Niki Jabbour (and her other book)

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, Peter J. Hatch

Fruits for Every Garden, Lee Reich (and any of his other books, lives in NY)

Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible, Edward Smith (and his other books)

Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners by Wesley Greene

Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits, Matthew Biggs and Jekka McGiver

Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook, Ron Kujawski and Jennifer Kujawski

What’s Wrong with my Vegetable Garden, David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, they have a series of “What’s Wrong” books

75 Exciting Vegetables, Jack Staub, has an “exciting” series – herbs, vegetables, and fruits, lives in PA

This list could go on plus there are books focused on particular types of plant/vegetables. Other sources are public or botanical gardens such as Greensprings in Virginia and Brookside Gardens in Maryland; both have non-lending libraries. One can look at publishers’ web sites such as Chelsea Green Publishing, St. Lynn’s Press, Timber Press, Story, Rodale Press, and Cool Springs Press.

Peg’s Picks March Gardening Events for the Washington DC Metro Area

You know spring is around the corner when there are so many gardening events, lectures, and shows in March that I can list only a sample below. Check out the organization’s web site for more and don’t forget the Philadelphia Flower Show from February 28 to March 8, see previous article posted on January 24 (

Saturday, February 28 to Sunday, March 1 and Friday, March 6 to Sunday, March 8. Maryland Home and Garden Show, Maryland State Fairground, Timonium, MD. Admission fee

Saturday, March 7, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, Worm composting, Greenstreet Gardens, 1721 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302 (703) 998-3030. Free

Saturday, March 7, 10:00 to 5:00 pm Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd Street, South, Arlington, VA 22204; free

Monday evening, March 9 through April 13, (except March 23), 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Local gardening talk series of five classes on Capitol Hill by Kathy Jentz, owner of Washington Gardener magazine. Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE Washington DC 20003; (202) 549-4172; Fee and must register,

Sundays, Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series at Green Spring Gardens,1:30 to 2:30. After lecture, meet presenter and enjoy refreshments. Can register for individual topics or for all; fee.

  • 3/1: Teaming with Nutrients, Jeff Lowenfels
  • 3/8: Hellstrip Gardening, Evelyn Hadden
  • 3/15: Plants I Haven’t Killed (Yet).. and Potential Victims, Sandy McDougle

Saturdays Sessions at Merrifield Garden Center, free lectures at 10:00 am in three locations.

  • 3/7: Merrifield, Making a big impact in a small space; Fair Oaks, Grass roots initiative; Gainesville, Repotting your bonsai workshops
  • 3/14: M, Bulbs corms, and tubers; FO, Gardening for year round interest; G, Seed starting
  • 3/21: M, Spring cleaning in the garden; FO, Perennials in every garden; G, And now for something different
  • 3/28: M, Spring color with trees and shrubs; FO, Growing herbs; G, Growing herbs 2:00 (same speaker and content as the 10:00 am session at FO)

Vegetable Gardening Series, three-part series (first part already occurred in February), hosted by the VCE Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington, VA. Free but must register, (703) 228-6414; e-mail: Register at

  • Session 2: Preparing the Vegetable Garden, Saturday, March 14, 9:30 to 11:00 am; or Tuesday, March 17, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
  • Session 3: Managing the Vegetable Garden, Saturday April 11, 9:30 to 11:00 am; or Tuesday, April 21, 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

Also by VCE Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia: Monday, March 16, 7:00-8:30 pm, Introduction to Sustainable Gardening at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington; and Monday, March 23, Herb Gardening, 7:00-8:30 pm, Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria, free but must register at (see above).

Wednesdays in the Garden, led by Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, these gardening sessions are Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 or 9:00 pm, from mid-March through mid-October, at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington VA; (703) 228-5990, free. In addition, Saturday, March 21, is the AFAC Spring Garden Kickoff.

  • 3/4: Seed starting & portable sunshine (starting seed under lights)
  • 3/11: Principles of garden layout, design, and orientation
  • 3/18: Soil building and testing
  • 3/25: From the grocery store to the garden to the kitchen

Saturday, March 21, Annual Gardening Symposium, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Loudoun County Master Gardeners, Ida Lee Recreation Center, 60 Ida Lee Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176; fee and must register.

Garden Talks at Behnkes Nursery, free, also, Saturday, March 21 is Behnke’s Spring Open House, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD; (301) 937-1100;

  • Sunday, March 1, Garden Talk: Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes: Planting, Pruning and Preparing for Spring, with Bill Mann
  • Saturday, March 7, 11:00 am and Sunday March 8, 1:00 pm Garden Talk: Your Edible Garden, Starting from Seed and Planting Spring Vegetables, with Carol Allen

Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Introduction to Organic Food Gardening, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902; (301) 962-1400; fee and must register.

Saturday, March 28, the 29th Annual Lahr Symposium, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. “Native Plants: Making Connections.” U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington DC 20002; (202) 245-4521. Fee and must register (native plants will be for sale and entrance to the plant sale is free; one can buy plants even though one is not registered for the symposium).

New Book: Homegrown Herb Garden

IMG_5811Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses serves a dual purpose: the book is an introduction to 15 culinary herbs for gardening novices and is an inspiring cookbook for experienced gardeners to incorporate herbs into meals, desserts, and drinks.

Ann McCormick, an herb expert and long-time Texan gardener, relays her experience with growing basil, bay laurel, chervil, cilantro, dill, French tarragon, Italian parsley, lemongrass, mint, onion chives, rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram, thyme, and winter savory. For each herb, she describes common varieties, care and feeding, harvesting, and tips on growing the plants in small spaces. To use basil as an example, Ann recommends ‘Spicy Globe’ for an “extra flavor kick,” Thai basil for Asian foods, and ‘Purple Ruffles’ or ‘Red Rubin’ for vinegars. For planting in smaller pots, small-leaf varieties such as ‘Windowbox’ or ‘Italian Cameo’ work well.

A graduate from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles, Chef Lisa Baker Morgan describes the culinary uses for each of the 15 herbs. She prefaces the recipes with combinations and cooking techniques but these are not just traditional combinations one would see in an herb book. Chef Morgan describes how the herb pairs with vegetables, meats, seafood, fruits, dairy products, oils, sauces, and other herbs. For example, basil is “wonderful with hydrating fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and melons …” and “balance the sweetness of grilled or pan-fried fruit with a simple syrup.” Several recipes are listed for each herb from a wide variety of cuisines. Instead of the usual pesto, basil is used in “kobocha and coconut soup with Thai basil leaves” or “zucchini and basil soufflé.”  It is a joy to see how the herbs can be used in novel ways and with different cuisines.

Ann and Chef Morgan have done a wonderful job of pairing herbs in the garden with dishes in the kitchen. Published by Quarry Books, Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses is designed to inspire people to grow culinary herbs and try new recipes. To learn more about the authors, visit their own websites: Ann blogs at and Chef Morgan writes at

Tweeting over the Garden Fence: Weekly Chats

Echinacea or Coneflower

New Echinacea Cultivar

As an oldie to garden writing but a newbie to social media, I have discovered that Twitter can make life fun. It adds a new dimension to watching the Superbowl or the Grammy Awards but more importantly, Twitter grants you access to gardening experts and current information. There are several hour-long chats on Twitter related to some aspect of gardening, every day of the work week. This past Monday was a holiday so I was able to participate on #plantchat for the first time.

On Mondays, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EST, Corona Tools hosts #plantchat, which is a great way to learn more about plants, gardening, and horticulture. Corona Tools (@CoronaTools) lines up a guest and a specific topic. The first few minutes are spent on introductions; people can elect to tweet where they live or their hardiness zone; most comment on the weather. I use tweetdeck to keep up with the conversation because it enables me to focus only on the plantchat conversation; not other tweets. Except for your internet connection, a twitter chat is free; all you have to do is sign in to Twitter and tweet using #plantchat. You don’t have to tweet; you can just read the conversation. With some chats, a transcript is available if you miss the live chat (as I have in the past when I am at the office). For #plantchat, @CoronaTools uses Storify to provide the recap.

This Monday’s guest was Rodale Institute (RI) and the topic was medicinal plants and herbs in the garden. I tweeted a question specifically to Rodale Institute about Echinacea. I knew the roots were beneficial in preventing or stopping a cold because I tried it years ago but wanted to know if the new cultivars on the market were equally effective. @RodaleInstitute first said: “General immune booster but most wait till symptoms start to take it. Prevention is best!” The person then responded: “Generally, it’s the Echinacea purpurea, other cultivars don’t carry the same quality at the same strength,” which is just as I had suspected but where else would I get such a quick answer from a leading expert? As people chatted, I learned the benefits of tulsi (holy basil) tea (reduces stress and anxiety) and the fact that comfrey and yaupon holly tea are anti-inflammatories. Someone recommended elderberry syrup for cough and cold, which led to another person chiming in that lemon balm makes a great tea and soothes the throat and stomach. Another person explained that stevia, an herb, can be used as a sweetener. I explained how I grow dill and cilantro in the cool months and someone said that cilantro provides Vitamin K, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. This was a paradigm shift; an herb such as cilantro may not be used for treating an illness but in addition to culinary benefits, it may act as a preventative.

Try out a Twitter chat, each are a little different but all are fun and educational.

Monday:          #plantchat, 2-3 pm; #gardenchat 9-10 pm

Tuesday:          #treechat 2-3 pm; #pollin8rchat 9-10 pm

Wednesday:     #landscapechat 2-3 pm; #seedchat 9-10 pm; #rosechat 9-10 pm

Thursday:        #herbchat 2-3 pm

Friday:             #groundchat 2-3 pm

Eastern Standard Time

Master Plan for 2015 Gardening Season

cilantro seedlings, last spring

cilantro seedlings, last spring

During this past three-day weekend, when I experienced my first “squall” and several inches of snow, I was able to make a dent in my master plan for the 2015 gardening season. We live in a typical Northern Virginia suburban area; we have been in this 50-year old house for 12 years. In the beginning I grew a lot of ornamentals and herbs. Recently, I have been growing more edibles and as the kids grow up and out of the backyard, I am able to carve out more lawn to create new beds for my veggies. This results in a patchwork of small beds and containers, not the traditional long rows of vegetables found in a farm. Thus, my garden plan is complex because I am fitting edibles into a small, but established garden.

The master plan is more like a road map, it gets me started in the spring to where I want to go this year. As the summer heats up, I tend to make detours, slight modifications: buy a plant here, move a plant there. By autumn, I feel like I have traveled an exciting and rewarding journey — I learned a lot, I grew and harvested a lot –and now it is time to create road map II for  the fall/winter seasons.

So in February I create a list, in alphabetical order, of the seeds I have and then I put the seed packets in paper bags, each labeled with a letter of the alphabet. Then I create a chart of when to start the seeds, whether indoors under lights or outdoors, depending on if they are cool or warm season and how long it takes from seed to fruit. I list where I would eventually grow the plants outdoors depending on sunlight, soil moisture, insects/pests/disease, etc. I also allow for succession planting. For example, I want to sow lettuce, spinach, and scallions several times because as we eat them, I want more to be growing. Also, in one area I want to grow peppers when it is warm after the initial sowing of lettuce has bolted.seeds

Right now March looks like this: sowing seeds of eggplant, bulbing fennel, leaf fennel, lovage, and sweet peppers under lights in mid-March. I don’t much care for cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, Brussell sprouts) so I don’t grow those.  I will start snap peas indoors, not under light, but soaking in water overnight, then placing in plastic bags to initiate germination so can be planted outside in cold soil. At the end of March, I will sow seeds of spinach, radish, pak choi, kale, lettuce, and scallions outdoors directly in soil or in containers.

April gets busier: I will sow seeds of cilantro, dill, parsley, alyssum, nigella, and chives outside as our average last frost date is mid-April. I will sow more seeds of kale, lettuce, scallions, and spinach in order to have a continuous harvest.  Indoors, under lights, I will start the warm season tomatoes, melon, and cucumbers. Instead of seed, I will buy plants that do not over winter here like lemon verbena, lemon grass, and pineapple sage.

May of course is the beginning of warm weather and anything goes. It will be warm enough to plant seeds of basil, lemon basil, beans, Swiss chard, marigolds, yellow summer squash, zucchini, and trombetta squash directly outdoors. I will continue to sow the seeds of cool season greens such as kale, lettuce, spinach, scallions again until it gets too hot in July.

This does not mean that these are the only plants or the only edibles in the garden. I already have other plants such as parsley, alpine strawberries, raspberry, blackberry, thyme, rosemary, oregano, goji berry, shallots, lemon balm, hardneck garlic, and mint.

By May I will have started to deviate off course a bit as I will have attended a few plant sales, visited a few nurseries, and traded with my gardening friends. My plans will have altered with new additions but the journey has begun!