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

Here are Peg’s Picks for September 2015 gardening events focusing on edible gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free presentations every Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm. The website lists the topics and provides gardening resources for gardeners in the area. 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington VA; (703) 228-5990. http://www.library.arlingtonva.us/events/garden-talks/

  • September 2: Putting the herb garden to bed for the winter
  • 9: Cover crops and crop rotations
  • 16: Extending the season: cold frames, row covers, etc.
  • 23: Inside Arlington kitchens: tasting our cultures
  • 30: Preparing the garden for winter: tool and garden bed care

3, Thursday, Using Fresh Herbs in Summer Cocktails, 6 to 8 pm with a rain date of September 4, 6 to 8 pm, National Herb Garden, U.S. National Arboretum. Must register via e-mail, fee is $59 or $47 if a FONA member. Fee includes food and drinks, a garden tour, and demonstrations. 2400 R Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002. http://www.usna.usda.gov

11, Friday, Garden Talk: Edibles: Mix It Up. Green Spring, 1:30 to 2:30 pm. Must register; $10 fee.4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312. (703) 642-5173. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/events.htm

12, Saturday, Fall chores in the garden: clean up, plant division, soil preparation, fall cover crops in the cooks garden, MGPW plant sale, 9:00 am to noon, “Saturdays in the Garden” at the Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, presentations are given by VCE Prince William Master Gardener Volunteers. 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136; Free but must register (703) 792-7747. E-mail: master-gardener@pwcgov.orghttp://pwcgov.org/grow

12, Saturday, Friends of Brookside Gardens annual plant sale, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Brookside Gardens Service Hill, follow signs on Glenallen Avenue, Wheaton, MD.  (301) 962-1435. http://www.friendsofbrooksidegardens.org

12, Saturday, Fall Herb Faire, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free admission, parking, classes and tours. Lavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Road, Glen Allen, VA 23059; (804) 262-7167; http://www.lavenderfieldsfarm.com

14, Monday, through October 5, Landscape for Life (sustainable gardening practices), Monday evenings 6:30 to 9:30 pm with a field trip on October 3.  Crossroads United Methodist Church, 43454 Crossroads Drive, Ashburn, VA 20147. $60 and must register, call Sharon Hines (703) 729-5100 to register or e-mail instructor Nan McCarry at landscapeforlifeclass@gmail.com for more information. http://www.landscapeforlife.org

19, Saturday, Fall Garden Day & Plant Sale at Green Spring, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312. (703) 642-5173. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/events.htm

26, Saturday, Hot! New! Plants! Walking tour. 9:00 to 10:30 am, meet in visitor center at the U.S. National Arboretum. Hot: thrive in hot humid weather; New: creative designs include new cultivars; Plants: incorporated into striking designs. Free but registration recommended. Call (202) 245-2708 to register. 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington DC 20002. http://www.usna.usda.gov

9th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival, September 11-12, at Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

The 9th Annual Heritage Festival is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Each year the Heritage Harvest Festival honors Jefferson’s legacy with this fun, affordable, family-oriented, educational event promoting gardening, sustainability, local food, and the preservation of heritage plants. Participants enjoy tastings, workshops, hands on demonstrations, interpretive walks, and a variety of garden tours and exhibits.  Friday and Saturday offer more than 100 programs and workshops, 90 vendors and exhibitors, and sample food from local farms and restaurants. On Thursday, September 10, from 1 to 4: pm, there is a special presentation with Craig LeHoullier author of Epic Tomatoes; Nan Chase, author of Drink the Harvest; and Ira Wallace, author of the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. Afterwards, there will be questions and answers, book signings, and a tomato tasting. For more information, including ticket information, see http://www.heritageharvestfestival.com.

Gardener Bloggers Bloom Day: ‘Sugar Tip’ Rose of Sharon

Sugar Tip double flowers

Sugar Tip double flowers

Today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, the 15th of the month. Seven years ago, I was given a cultivar of the rose of Sharon shrub called Sugar Tip (Hibiscus syriacus) by Proven Winners Color Choice. I was unsure as I knew rose of Sharon plants were weedy, self-seeders. Like tall, thin cowboys, they provide lanky silhouettes across our Virginia countryside, too common to actually purchase and plant in one’s garden. But I had a particular space against the back fence that needed shrubs in full sun so I planted the cowboys, knowing they could take anything. Fortunately for me, my Sugar Tip plants grew to be large, robust shrubs, about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Although their shape is still vase-like at the bottom, at the top they are broad enough to screen out the view of the neighbors in the back forty. Unlike the species, Sugar Tip’s foliage is variegated green and cream and the entire bush is studded with pink, double flowers that look more like roses than the few simple, hibiscus-like flowers on the species.

Sugar Tip buds

Sugar Tip buds

In addition to beauty, my Sugar Tip shrubs grow in full sun, too far away from the garden hose, so the only water they receive is rain. Rose of Sharon is a “low maintenance,” deciduous shrub, tolerant of our Virginia heat and humidity. I never fertilize and I don’t prune (or worse, spend time deadheading the spent flowers), yet my Sugar Tip bushes thrive in the summer and bloom continuously until the fall. Try growing a variegated rose of Sharon cultivar such as Sugar Tip instead of the species and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sugar Tip variegated leaves

Sugar Tip variegated leaves

Discovering New Plants and Gardening Products at IGC East Trade Show

Last week, I visited IGC East in Baltimore and was impressed with several new gardening products as well as plants. IGC is a trade show where staff from Independent Garden Centers gather to learn and possibly order new plants and products from wholesale vendors to sell at their garden center. They also have the opportunity to attend lectures designed to help them in their nursery business. I attended as press and visited hundreds of vendor booths to see what new items might appear in the garden centers next year.

Medinilla on left and Dolce Vita on the right

Medinilla on left and Dolce Vita on the right

I think the biggest “Wow!” plant was the Medinilla and the double bloom variety called Dolce Vita. Native to the Philippines, these large-leaved plants are grown as houseplants year round or outdoors in the summer here in our Mid-Atlantic area. They have incredibly large pink flowers that last for months. I originally thought “banana” when I first saw them because of their pendulous shape but the spokesperson from Northend Gardens said the two varieties are related to the tibouchina plant, another tropical plant that is commonly sold in the summer here for its purple flowers. A series of Medinilla plants on a rafter with the pink blossoms hanging down would be such an eye catching “Wow!” for customers in a nursery but also in any public area such as restaurant or store.

Succulent Combos

Lil’ Cuties

For me, the second “Wow!” plant was a red-stemmed, green-leaved succulent that I spotted in the Overdevest Nurseries’ booth. This particular plant stood out for me as unique but it was part of their line of “Lil’ Cuties,” arrangements of succulents in small containers. Drought-resistant, these succulent combinations offer a lot of color for minimal effort; perfect for decks and patios.

Overdevest’s new line of “Chick Charms” was cute and would make a nice gift. Chick Charms are hens and chicks in small containers, each with a novelty name. This particular collection of hens and chicks were selected from an evaluation of over 400 varieties of sempervivums; who knew there could be so many!ChickCharms

In the world of edibles, I thought 2 Plant International had an exciting idea: The “Seeds are Easy” line of cleverly designed burlap bags of seeds would entice anyone to start growing herbs or vegetables.

Seeds are Easy

Seeds are Easy

These bags are easy to pick up by the handles, making them a clean, no mess gift–easy to drop into the shopping cart. All one has to do is water and watch the seeds germinate and grow. Perfect for windowsills. Distributed by Bloom Pad North America, there are bags of tea herbs, culinary herbs, and vegetables. They also sell a sprouts glass jar with sprout seeds such as radish, mustard, and alfalfa.

Lake Valley Seed packages of sprouts

Lake Valley Seed packages of sprouts

Speaking of sprouts, Lake Valley Seed has increased their line of sprouts and I love the design of the seed packets. You should be able to find their rack of seed packets in your local garden center – look for alfalfa, broccoli, mung bean, radish, rainbow mix, salad mix, and sandwich mix. My family would be particularly interested in eating the sandwich mix and the salad mix, which I know are easy to grow indoors.

And for the upcoming holidays, gardeners may be interested in the new line of soaps by Garden Voyage Botanicals. These are all natural, shea butter enriched soaps made in the U.S.A. Of particular interest is the Gardener’s soap with cranberry seeds and walnut shell powder and a special Noel holiday line of peppermint, bayberry, and evergreen soaps. I am always looking for a good soap to use after gardening, I hope Santa puts some of these in my stocking this year.

Gardener's, Peppermint, and Lavender soaps

Gardener’s, Peppermint, and Lavender soaps

Flexzilla Garden Hose

Flexzilla Garden Hose

But really Santa, try fitting a Flexzilla garden hose in the stocking this year. I had seen these kink-resistant garden hoses on the P. Allen Smith Facebook page but at IGC East I was able to see a demonstration of the swivel grip connections that make them easy to fit onto the spigot and garden attachment – really ingenious!  Plus these hoses have extreme all weather flexibility making them easy to bend around trees and bushes and are drinking water safe. Flexzilla markets its products in its signature lime green color and its garden hoses come in various lengths. P. Allen Smith introduced the “water colors” collection of blue, green, coral, and brown in 50-feet lengths.  I don’t care if Santa gets me a water colors shade or the lime green — a kink-free hose with swivel grip is a must for every gardener!

Two other new items for veggie gardeners like me: Neptune’s Harvest, a well-known line of organic fertilizers, will introduce a liquid tomato and vegetable fertilizer next year with a 2-4-2 formula. Made with hydrolyzed fish, molasses, seaweed, yucca extract and humic acid, this all natural fertilizer is supposed to repel deer. That’s what I need for those few times I accidentally left the garden gate open only to discover in the morning that my pepper plants have been decapitated.

EarthBox Root & Veg Garden Kit, photo courtesy of EarthBox by Novelty Mfg.

EarthBox Root & Veg Garden Kit, photo courtesy of EarthBox by Novelty Mfg.

The second new item hails from my favorite self-watering system, EarthBox, which will introduce a root and veggie box  in 2016 designed to be deeper for root vegetables. I have several of the original EarthBoxes on my deck that I use specifically for tomatoes and I never have a tomato disease problem so I am most interested in trying the new design for root crops. These boxes are taller than the original EarthBox and square instead of rectangle but with the same tube, screen, fertilizer, and black plastic wrap.

These are just a few highlights from spending a day at IGC East. If you don’t see these items at your independent garden center next year, contact the dealer directly (click on the hyperlink) to locate a local retailer in your area.

Peg’s Picks: August Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

Peg’s Picks of Edible Gardening Events, August 2015

1, Saturday, University of Maryland Extension’s Grow It Eat It Open House, 9:00 am to 1:30 pm, Agriculture History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD. Free but must register for some classes, check their brochure. http://extension.umd.edu/growit/montgomery-county-vegetable-gardening-classes-and-events

1, Saturday 11:00 am and Sunday August 2, 11:00 am. “Your Edible Garden: Harvesting, Storing, and a New Seed Season”, lecture by Carol Allen. Also, on Saturday, August 15, 11:00 am and Sunday, August 16, 11:00 am, “Cannin’ and Jammin’” with Carol Allen. Free but registration required. Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD, (301) 937-1100. http://behnkes.com

8, Saturday, 9:00 to noon, “Saturdays in the Garden: What’s that Weed?” hosted by The Master Gardeners of Prince William County, at the teaching garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA, free but must register, (703) 792-7747. http://www.mgpw.org

Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 pm starting mid-March through end of October. The website lists the topics and provides gardening resources for gardeners in the area.1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington VA; (703) 228-5990. http://www.library.arlingtonva.us/events/garden-talks/

  • 5: Vegetables for the Fall
  • 12: Composting: Why and How
  • 19: Food Preservation: Canning, Drying, and Freezing
  • 26: Tours of Central Library Garden

8, Saturday, 2:00 to 3:30 pm, Legumes: Life with Special Roots, lecture by Todd Brethauer, USBG Science Education Volunteer, U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory Classroom, free; must register. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC (202) 225-8333. http://www.usbg.gov

25, Tuesday, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, Extending the Harvest: Fall and Winter Crops. Also on Saturday 8/29, 10:30 am to noon, Fairlington Community Center, 3801 S. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA. sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, free but registration required. Call (703) 228-6414; e-mail mgarlalex@gmail.comhttp://www.mgnv.org

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. For a full list of classes and locations, check out http://dpr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dpr/publication/attachments/SummerGardenWorkshopSeries2015.pdf. For further questions, contact the DPR community garden specialist, Joshua Singer, e-mail: Joshua.singer@dc.gov. Here is a sample of August topics:

  • Urban Garden Seed Saving
  • Improving Urban Soils with Biosolids
  • Cover Crops for Gardens
  • Rainwater Harvesting for Backyard Gardens including Rain Barrel Installation Demonstration

In My Virginian Garden: A July Update

I have not posted in a while partly because the garden is in full swing, I am so busy harvesting, and partly because we have been making changes here at the homestead that necessitate me being outside instead of inside at the computer. We had a few trees thinned and one chopped down entirely which has increased the sunlight, putting a few plants in shock, but great for some other plants that needed extra sun. I am now able to extend my front garden where the old crab apple tree was, which will be a fall project. We also had the deck power washed which traumatized the container plants that had to be put out on the lawn for now, including the tomatoes in the earthboxes, and greatly moved the soil around many plants. So I have spent much time moving, tending, nursing, and healing the garden but in the end I will have more light (always needed for edibles) and more garden beds.

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

So far, I have had great success with melons, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and the herbs of course. The puzzler of the year are the eggplants, which I grew successfully last year in a different place but this year, no fruit. Lots of flowers, and everything else nearby is flowering and fruiting, but no eggplant. I read that they are self fertile and I should brush the flowers with a paintbrush, which I just started to do, but still nothing. These are Black Beauty eggplants so maybe next year I will try a different type. I have about six plants among basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash, with plenty of bees,  and they are the only plants that do not bear fruit.

On the bright side, I am enjoying the Burpee celery plant,’Peppermint Stick’. I would have never grown a celery plant unless Burpee sent it to me but it has turned out to be really easy to grow and very tasty, much more so than what you get in a store. The stalks are more pungent and the leaves are so big they could be used to garnish as well. I am sold, will grow celery from now on!

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Another success is Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon plant. These I started from seed and grew in the large Smart Pots so they could get pampered with the richest soil and plenty of water. I have several melons so far. I have not eaten them yet but just having them is a success for me. We have been fortunate to have had quite a lot of rain in the early summer which I think is responsible for so many melons — it certainly has given me a bumper crop of cucumbers.

Renee's Garden's Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Another surprise was the Jericho lettuce, also from Renee’s Garden. It was partly shaded by a tree limb, which we cut down and since the sunlight has increased, these lettuce plants have been growing and doing well. Lettuce in July is a rare treat, will harvest these soon!

For fun, I planted Proven Winners’ Superbells calibrachoa ‘Holy Moly’, which is a flowering annual, in a large container with Burpee’s ‘Sweet Savour’ pepper. I really like the combination: Holy Moly lends itself to yellows, red and oranges but also plays off blue because it can been seen as an orange color (at first I could not decide if the container should be red, green, or blue). In early summer, the Sweet Savour peppers were yellow, but now at the end of July, the peppers have turned red and orange. They are small, perfect for a container, and although look like hot peppers are actually sweet.

Close Up of Proven Winners' Holy Moly

Close Up of Proven Winners’ Holy Moly

Burpee's Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Burpee’s Sweet Savour peppers in late July

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 master_gardener@pwcgov.org. http://www.pwcgov.org/grow

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.
http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside/

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.
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/AgServices/agfarmtour.html

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.
http://library.arlingtonva.us/events/garden-talks/

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 http://dcdpr.asapconnected.com. For a full list of classes and locations, check out http://dpr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dpr/publication/attachments/SummerGardenWorkshopSeries2015.pdf

For further questions, contact the DPR community garden specialist, Joshua Singer, e-mail: Joshua.singer@dc.gov. 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.
http://extension.umd.edu/growit/montgomery-county-vegetable-gardening-classes-and-events

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; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets

  • 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

Libraries

  • 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