Peg’s Picks: July Edible Gardening Events in Washington DC Metro Area

In addition to my pick of edible gardening events below, remember that July is National Park and Recreation Month so check local parks to see if they have demonstration gardens, classes, and tours related to gardening.

11, Saturday, 9 to noon, Composting and Starting the Fall Vegetable Garden. Hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Prince William County Master Gardeners as part of their “Saturdays in the Garden” series. Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. Free but must register in advance, (703) 792-7747 or e-mail

25, Saturday, 10 to 11:30 am., Low Tunnels and Winter Gardening, Course #316453, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. Must register, fee involved; (301) 962-1451.

25 and 26, Saturday and Sunday, The Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale, most farms will be open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm both days. A map and brochure are on the site below.

The Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free, one-hour presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm starting in mid-March through the end of October. The web site lists the topics and also serves as a resource for gardening in the area.
1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA; (703) 228-5990.

July 1: Top Ten Vegetable Plant Diseases: Rot Not!
July 8: Solar Cooking
July 15: Foraging the Wild Edibles
July 22: Lasagna Gardens – the Layered Approach
July 29: Preparing Your Entry for Arlington County Fair

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation is offering over 50 free garden workshops from May through September, taught by the leaders of DC’s urban garden movement. Each class is 2 hours long, on Monday or Wednesday evening, and there are various Saturday field trips. Free but must register online at For a full list of classes and locations, check out

For further questions, contact the DPR community garden specialist, Joshua Singer, e-mail: Here is a sample of July topics:
• Starting Seeds, Propagating and Grafting at Home
• Intro to Urban Bee Keeping
• Fall Asian Vegetables from the Garden
• Dealing with Deer and Other Mammal Pests in Your Garden
• Soil Biology

Look ahead: August 1, Saturday, University of Maryland Extension’s Grow It Eat It Open House, 8:30 to 1:00 pm, Agriculture History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD. Free but must register for some classes, check out their brochure.

Free Master Gardeners Plant Clinics to Help You With Your Garden

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

School is out, summer is here and the garden is in full swing. Now is the time for gardening questions — what is that bug, why does my tomato look like that, and what should I do about my zucchini! Fortunately for us, the Fairfax County Master Gardeners offer free advice on caring for our gardens. They provide gardening fact sheets, soil test kits, and help us to identify bugs, insects, diseased plants, and assorted problems. It is always best to actually bring a sample of the diseased plant or the bug in a jar to show the Master Gardeners but if not, just talk with them at their plant clinics, no appointment necessary. The Master Gardeners staff plant clinics at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets, several Fairfax County libraries, Green Spring, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension office at the Fairfax County Government Center. Plant clinics at the farmers markets and libraries are open May through September 2015.

Farmers Markets

See the link below for street addresses. Note the times below are for the plant clinics, not necessarily for the rest of the market time;

  • Annandale, Thursday, 9 am to noon
  • Burke, Saturday, 8 am to 11 am
  • Fairfax County Government Center FM, Thursday, 3 to 6 pm
  • Fall Church City, Saturday, 9 am to noon
  • Herndon, Thursday, 9 am to noon
  • Kingstowne, Friday, 4 to 7 pm
  • Lorton, Sunday, 9 to noon
  • Mclean, Friday, 9 to noon
  • Mt. Vernon, Wednesday, 9 to noon
  • Vienna, Saturday, 9 to noon
  • Wakefield, Wednesday, 2 to 5 pm
  • Reston, Saturday, 9 to noon


  • Chantilly, Saturday, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
  • Fairfax Regional, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Kings Park, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Oakton, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Richard Byrd, Tuesday 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Tysons-Pimmit, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

Other Locations

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’

Amethyst in Snow (2)It’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! An interesting perennial to grow for spring flowers is Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’. This member of the aster family is very easy to grow, tolerates poor soil, dry times, and full sun or partial shade. From April to June, I can cut the flowers and bring them to work where colleagues gasp, “ooh, aah!” (just kidding, but they do garner attention). The 2-inch flowers have a spiky, thistle-like appearance; purple centers are surrounded by white petals, like spokes on a wagon wheel. The species, often called mountain bluet, produces solid blue flowers while Amethyst in Snow is the first bicolor cultivar and the contrast between purple and white is striking.

Amethyst in Snow

My plants are five years old and so far, no problems despite full sun and poor soil. Over time they have spread enough that I can share divisions with friends or plant in other places in the garden. Hardy to zone 3, the plants are about a foot tall and you can tell by the silvery, woolly leaves that they are drought resistant; their leaves will not lose moisture fast. The butterflies love the flowers and supposedly the deer are not interested but in my Northern Virginia garden I don’t have enough deer to know if this is true or not. Grow Amethyst in Snow for a drought-tolerant, spring blooming, cut flower perennial.

Beans: Easier than Radishes for Encouraging Kids to Garden

bush beans (2)People recommend radishes for encouraging kids to garden but I say BEANS! Beans germinate quickly; are easy to grow; are more visible; are sweeter; and the leaves are not as prickly as radishes. I grow pole beans in the ground and bush beans in containers on the deck and my kids love to pick them as a snack and for dinner.

This year, I am growing ‘Rolande’ bush beans from Renee’s Garden. Bush beans make a pretty “deck” plant, as long as the container has drainage holes, is large enough (mine are 12 inches wide and tall), and is in full sun. Although bush beans do not have to be staked like pole beans, I put a short stick in mine to lift the plant up to better find the beans. This particular type is called “filet” or “haricot vert.” The beans will grow to be very thin, no thicker than a pencil, and about 6 inches long. Because they are thin, they cook quickly. I grew mine from seed indoors in early May but I could have started them outdoors after the last average frost (mid-May in Northern Virginia). By the end of May, when I was sure that night time temperatures were staying in the mid-fifties, I transferred one seedling to one container which had been supplemented with granular vegetable fertilizer. The plant in this photo is quite lush, but it will put all its energy into producing beans quickly (I can already see beans) over a short period of time and then exhaust itself.bush beans in container

My pole beans will produce beans later in the summer, but over a longer period of time. They are a little more work in that I have make sure their tendrils climb up a pole (until they figure it out on their own) and I have to harvest for a longer period of time. Beans should be harvested often, sometimes as often as every other day, in order to encourage more beans. I am growing Renee’s Garden’s ‘Emerite.’ ‘Emerite’ is a filet type, just as thin as ‘Rolande’, but longer, about 7 to 8 inches.  I have learned early on to keep it simple when it comes to beans. I don’t mix varieties in one place; I grow one type in one location so I know when to harvest that particular bean. With the filet type, I harvest when the beans are thin, so I know not to wait for them to “fatten up.”bush beans Fresh beans can be eaten raw or sautéed or steamed with herbs such a parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, savory, tarragon, or dill. Garlic or onion is good as well as sliced almonds.


You Can Grow That: Hardy Geranium ‘Biokovo’


Early May Biokovo blossoms in my garden

Because June is Perennial Gardening Month, this month’s You Can Grow That plant on my web site is Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’ A hardy geranium, Biokovo has thrived in my Northern Virginia garden for 10 years. In April and May, the small, white/pink flowers, reminiscent of apple flowers, appear but what gives them away as hardy geraniums are the unusually long, pink stamens. Eventually, these flowers will create an elongated seed pod, similar to a crane’s bill, hence the common name, cranesbills.

Spreading by underground stems called rhizomes, these plants are easy to divide and give to friends or plant elsewhere in the garden. If given optimum conditions such as good soil and partial sun, they may spread but mine are in poor soil and full sun which tends to limit growth. After they bloom in the spring, the green leaves are low enough to serve as a groundcover or border plant. In the fall, the leaves turn red/bronze and most remain during the winter months. I like the fact that the leaves remain above ground over winter so you don’t have as much of a bare spot in the garden. By winter, the leaves are red and very low to the ground. In early March, as new green leaves appear; the plant puffs up a bit, giving it volume and height so the spring flowers appear about 6 to 8 inches above ground.

Biokovo (2)

reddish Biokovo leaves in March in my garden


Biokovo is the 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year, sponsored by the Perennial Plant Association (PPA). The PPA will be hosting its 33rd Symposium in Baltimore on July 27 to August 1, open to members of PPA as well as non-members.  Because Biokovo is the 2015 Perennial Plant of the year, the PPA website has more information on Biokovo and is selling T-shirts with pictures of the plant.

Click on “You Can Grow That!” for more gardening related posts. You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Gardeners usually post articles on their blog on the fourth day of the month.



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

Peg’s Picks for June 2015 Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area, with an emphasis on edibles

3, Wednesday, 10:00 to 11:30 am or 4, Thursday, 10:00 to 11:30 am, Herb Container Garden, fee and must register, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902;

6, Saturday, 10:00 am to noon, Saturdays in the Garden: Keep Your Garden Growing Strong, presented by the VCE Loudoun County Master Gardeners, free. Outside at the Loudoun County Master Gardeners demo garden, Ida Lee Park, Leesburg, VA.

6, Saturday, Joe Yonan, food/dining editor at the Washington Post and author of “Eat Your Vegetables,” will talk on eating and growing vegetables, 2-3 pm. The U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC; (202) 225-8333; free but must register. There are many more events and exhibits; check out the USBG’s calendar on their web site,

6, Saturday, Behnke Nurseries’ Annual Garden Party, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Behnkes, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD; (301) 937-1100.

6 & 7, Saturday and Sunday, Virginia Herb Festival, hosted by the Sunflower Cottage Garden Center; admission fee required.150 Ridgemont Road, Middletown, VA 22645; (540) 869-8482.

12, Friday, 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, A Permaculture Homestead, spend a summer morning at local author and permaculture expert Michael Judd’s homestead. Fee and must register, meet at Wheaton Regional Park, 11715 Orebaugh Avenue, Wheaton, MD, for van transportation, register via

13, Saturday, 9:00 am to noon, Saturday in the Garden: A Walk Through the Native Bed and tips and tricks used in the Drought Tolerant Bed. Taught by VCE Prince William Master Gardeners at the teaching garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136. Free but must register. E-mail or call 703 792-7747

13, Saturday, 11:00 am, 8th annual DC plant swap hosted by The Washington Gardener at the U.S. National Arboretum, R Street parking lot, Washington, DC 20002. For more information & instructions on how to do a plant swap, check out “events” on

18, Thursday, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, “Managing Pests and Diseases in the Landscape.” Presented by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia at the Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA 22206. Offered again on Saturday, June 20, 10:30 to noon at Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria. Free but must register.

19, Friday, Todd Brethauer, USBG science education volunteer, will talk about “The Right Soil and Fertilizers,” noon to 1:00 pm. The U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC; (202) 225-8333; free but must register.

27, Saturday, Under the Arbor: In Love with Lavender, at the National Arboretum’s National Herb Garden, presented by the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America, 1:00 to 4:00 pm, free. 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington DC 20002.

The Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free, one-hour presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm starting in mid-March through the end of October. The web site lists the topics and also serves as a resource for gardening in the area. 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA; (703) 228-5990.

  • June 3:             Insect pests & beneficiaries
  • June 10:           Weeds, mulches, tillage
  • June 17:           to be determined
  • June 24:           Pollination, pollinators, and perennials

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation is offering over 50 free garden workshops from May through September, taught by the leaders of DC’s urban garden movement. Each class is 2 hours long, on Monday or Wednesday evening, and there are various Saturday field trips. Free but must register online at For a full list of classes and locations, check out

For further questions, contact the DPR community garden specialist, Joshua Singer, e-mail: Here is a sample of June topics:

  • medicinal and edible plant walk
  • garden pests and diseases
  • edible annuals tour
  • native and invasive identification walk
  • garden leadership course
  • urban fruit tree management


Simple to Grow Culinary Herb: Cilantro Leaves, Coriander Seeds

cilantroI am a firm believer in “right place, right plant,” but there is also “right time,” which is especially true with edibles. Here in Virginia, Memorial Day Weekend brings down the curtain on Act 1, cool season herbs and vegetables. As the sunny days approach 80 degrees, the cilantro leaves the scene and the tomatoes enter stage right.

I love cilantro and I plant it every spring even though I am the only one in my family who likes it. It is a love it or leave it herb but it is used extensively in Asian, Mexican, Indian, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, is a member of the carrot family. Because of its tap root, it is best to sow seeds directly in the garden bed or in a container in late March/early April. Often called Chinese parsley, the leaves do look like parsley but if you rub them you will smell a somewhat citrusy/woodsy scent. Cilantro is a cool weather annual; it will “bolt” or flower as the days get hotter, often in May or June. Mine are in morning sun and afternoon shade which tends to cool them down and delay bolting. I noticed a patch of blooming cilantro at Green Springs Gardens in Alexandria a few weeks ago. The plant sits in full sun in their vegetable garden, topped with tiny white flowers. It’s not bad that it is flowering because the flowers attract beneficial insects and the result are coriander seeds but the flowering causes the leaves to become bitter so they are no longer useful in the kitchen.cilantro flowers

I like to harvest the leaves on a regular basis from April through June for fried rice pad thai, stir fry chicken, salsa, Mexican dishes, and any type of fish or shrimp. The trick is that you have to either add the leaves toward the end of cooking because they cannot take a lot of heat or use the leaves raw. Always use fresh cilantro leaves, don’t dry the leaves.

Last year, I made a point of letting some plants go to seed so I can start to use the seeds in cooking and baking. I simply put the head of tan seeds into a paper bag and let them sit for a few weeks. I then pulled the seeds off the stems and stored them in a glass jar. My first experiment with coriander will be to make cookies. If you have any other ideas/recipes for coriander or cilantro, please send them to me, I am always collecting recipes for herbs.

Coriander Cookies

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds

3/4  cup soft butter

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Mix first 3 ingredients, stir in butter. Mix next 3 ingredients and add to first bowl, roll into 2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet, flatten with a fork. Bake at 400 F for 6-8 minutes, don’t overcook.