Peg’s Picks September Gardening Events Washington DC Area

fallgardenAug2014 018Wow! So many events in September, from plant sales to harvest festivals! Below are Peg’s Picks for local events related to edible gardening except for one big event at Monticello, which I described at the end — it is on my bucket list!

Wednesdays, September 3, 10, 17, 24, Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 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.

Thursdays, September 4, 11, 18, 25, Food in the Garden: Waterways & Foodways: 1814-2014. Four different presentations on Thursday evenings in September starting at 6:00 pm in the Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History, Washington DC. Register, fee.

Saturday, September 6, Weeds, Soil Health and Cover Crops, 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:;

Saturday, September 6 & Sunday, September 7, Managing the 4 P’s: Pollinators, Parasites, Predators and Pests, Saturday, September 6, 2:00 to 4:00 pm and Sunday, September 7, 2:00 to 4:00 pm. (presentation given twice).U.S. Botanic Garden, presentation in the Conservatory classroom. Free but must register. 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC (202) 225-8333 (general) & (202) 225-1116 (to register for events).

Tuesday, September 9, Composting Yard and Kitchen Waste, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Presented by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Walter Reed Community Center, 2909 16th Street South, Arlington. Free but must register (703) 228-0949. E-mail:

Saturday, September 13, Fall Garden Day & Plant Sale at Green Spring, 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 642-5173.

Saturday, September 13, 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. call for more information (301) 962-1435.

Saturday, September 27, “Living Garden Spaces,” Green Spring Gardens’ Garden Symposium, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 642-5173. Learn about native plants, attracting native beneficial insects, and managing the unwanted wildlife in your garden. Co-sponsored by the Virginia Native Plant Society and Washington Gardener magazine. Must register by 9/19 and fee.

8th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival, September 12-13, at Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

The 8th Annual Heritage Festival is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Thomas Jefferson is often called America’s “founding foodie”. He championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation, and sustainable agriculture. 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 Friday evening, Aaron Keefer, the culinary gardener of The French Laundry, will offer the keynote speech and there will be a Chefs’ Harvest Dinner on Montalto, Jefferson’s high mountain overlooking Monticello. This year an additional pre-festival program on edible landscaping will be held at Montalto on Thursday, September 11. For more information, including ticket information, see

Jefferson's Monticello, copyright Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, photography by Robert Llewellyn

Jefferson’s Monticello, copyright Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, photography by Robert Llewellyn

Fall Vegetable Gardening

This past July, popular seed companies announced that it was time to start the fall vegetable garden but I dismissed it as it was high summer and I was rolling in red tomatoes and yellow peppers. Now, as the tomato plants begin to yellow and the peppers turn red, I am focusing my attention on cool season veggies in hopes of reliving the greens I enjoyed this past spring. I did not plan for it though, it caught me by surprised. August is a time for harvesting and processing the summer bounty while at the same time planting another round of seeds for the fall/winter/spring edibles, depending on what you plant and if you can extend the season with covers. I was fortunate enough to have seed left over from the spring and planted pak choi, sugar snap peas, lettuce, scallions, spinach, and carrots both in the garden bed and in containers.

spinach seedlings

spinach seedlings in a basket

Last weekend I attended a 90-minute presentation called “Fall Vegetable Gardening,” where Libby Good, a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, expanded the concept of fall vegetable gardening to include planting crops to harvest before frost or that can overwinter, planting cover crops to add nitrogen, extending the season with cold frames or row covers, garden clean up, and overall getting ready for the next year. Libby explained that planting in the fall has advantages: the soil is workable, the air temperatures can be cooler with less direct sun, the moisture levels can be higher, and there can be fewer insects and weeds. “Most fall veggies don’t rely on pollinators and are high in nutrition,” she said.

sugar snap pea seedling

sugar snap pea seedling

Libby also explained that if you are starting seed or buying transplants you have to first determine your frost date, which Libby says is around Halloween in the Northern Virginia area. Then you have to work backwards to determine when to plant the seed or transplant. But the difference between fall and spring planting is the “Short Day” factor, which usually is not addressed on a seed packet. If you are going to plant seed, you have to add 2 weeks to the numbers on the seed packet to allow for the cooler night temperatures and the shorter day lengths. According to her handout, if you want to sow spinach seeds for a fall harvest (i.e., before first frost), you have to add the 7 to 10 days for germination, 35 days to reach maturation, and 14 days for the Short Day factor for a total of 56 to 59 days. Therefore, the latest you can sow seeds is the beginning of September. The length of time would be shorter if you bought transplants from a nursery.

pak choi seedlings

pak choi seedlings

Another factor to keep in mind is the plant’s tolerance for cold temperatures, for example, beets, cauliflower, chard, Chinese cabbage, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, peas, and rutabagas can survive light frosts. Broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, collards, kale, radishes, spinach, and turnips can survive heavy frosts. Chicories, garlic, kale, leeks, multiplier onions, spinach, and shallots can stay in the ground over winter.

carrots in a fabric bag

carrots in a fabric bag

You can extend the season, which means to be able to harvest after frost, by protecting the plants from low temperatures with row covers, cold frames, hoop houses, and greenhouses. Libby has been gardening for many years and uses both row covers and cold frames to extend her harvest. She passed around her own row cover, made out of a synthetic fabric that allows light and water through and provides several degrees of protection. She also showed photos of her cold frames which she made with discarded windows. By growing greens in a cold frame she was able to harvest lettuce in February.

“Fall Vegetable Gardening” was free, courtesy of the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and will be offered again on Thursday, September 4, at Fairlington Community Center, 7:00 to 8:30 pm; and Saturday, September 20, 10:30 to noon at the Barrett Branch Library. Call (703) 228-6414 or e-mail to register in advance.

Master Gardener Classes Starting in Northern Virginia

The Master Gardener program is a great way to learn more about gardening, meet new friends, and get involved in civic projects. Conducted throughout the United States, the program usually is managed on a county level through state/county extension agents. Interested gardeners receive a manual and horticultural training from horticulturists and experts in the field. In return, they volunteer to assist the community with a variety of activities such as staffing plant clinic booths, answering phones, teaching, gardening in community areas, helping youth or elderly with gardening, etc. The program was initiated as a means of extending horticultural and pest management expertise of the state extension office to the general public. Usually the fee is the cost of the manual and a promise to volunteer and continue with education for a fixed number of hours annually. Becoming a Master Gardener is like joining a gardening club with many extended learning opportunities.

In Virginia, the Virginia Tech University manages the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) program which has extension agents at every county. The extension agent manages the county Master Gardener program. The following is just a quick snapshot of five Master Gardener programs in Northern Virginia to give you an idea; there are similar Master Gardener programs in Maryland and Washington DC. Among these five programs, the application deadlines, times/days programs are offered, cost, and the commitment in terms of hours vary so contact them directly for more detailed information. For example, if you work full time and can only attend evening classes you may find a program that offers evening classes and does not limit registration to county residents. Or some programs have one class a week instead of two thus extending the education over a longer time but making it more manageable.

In Fairfax County, there are two Master Gardener programs because so many people are interested. Green Spring, part of the Fairfax County park system, manages a Master Gardener program that requires a commitment of 100 hours in the first year. The classroom training is held at Green Spring in September and ends in November, usually two three-hour classes per week. Afterward, a 50 hour internship is required (volunteer work). After the first year, the Master Gardener status is maintained by remaining active in the program as a volunteer for 20 hours per year and participating in 8 hours of continuing education in horticulture. The orientation meeting is held in May and applicants are interviewed in the summer. The deadline to apply was this past June 2014 but if you are interested in learning more contact Pamela Smith, Community Horticultural Program Coordinator, (703) 642-0128,;

The other Fairfax Master Gardener program has classes at Merrifield Nursery at Fair Oaks. The classes are January through March, one day a week for 3 hours, during the day or during the evening. To become a certified Master Gardener, one has to complete 30 hours of classroom education per year for 3 years, and 24 hours of community service per year for 3 years. Once a person becomes a certified Master Gardener, he/she has to complete 8 hours of continuing education each year and 24 hours of volunteer work each year. The deadline for enrollment is September 8. There will be an open house on September 10 at Merrifield, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, to learn more about the program and obtain applications (free but register in advance just so they can get a head count). For more information contact Maryellen Leister, (703) 821-1146,;

In Arlington County, classes start in the beginning of September, Tuesdays, from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm, and last 12 weeks. Classes are held at the Fairlington Community Center in Arlington and other local garden venues. There is no application deadline and acceptances into the program are determined by mid-August. Residents of Alexandria City and Arlington receive preference and all training and internship hours must be completed in the Arlington/Alexandria area. After 75 hours of classroom training, the trainees must complete a 60-hour internship to hone their skills in core Master Gardener educational projects within one year of training. Once the classroom program, internship, and student project are completed participants become certified Master Gardeners. To maintain certification, they must volunteer a minimum of 20 hours and attend 8 hours of continuing education programs every year. For more information, contact the VCE Master Gardener Horticulture Help Desk at (703) 228-6414 or e-mail;

In Loudoun County, the process starts in the fall but the classes start in February 2015. The Master Gardener program requires 60 hours of classroom education and 75 hours of the internship. The classes are held at the Extension office at 30 Catoctin Circle in Leesburg. Certified Master Gardeners must complete 25 volunteer hours and 8 hours of continuing education. This program has an early bird special where if you apply by November 15 you get a discounted tuition fee. Their application form online has quite a lot of information and there is an open house on November 6, 7:00 pm, at the Loudoun County Extension office, 30-B Catoctin Circle, SE, Leesburg. Call (703) 777-0373 or (703) 857-4575 for more information or e-mail at;

In Prince William County, 70 hours of classroom education and 50 hours of internship are required. To remain a Certified Master Gardener you must volunteer 20 hours per year and complete 8 hours of continuing education each year. There is an orientation on Monday, August 25, 6:30 to 8:30 pm in room 202A&B, Development Services Building 5, County Complex Drive, Prince William; and another orientation on Wednesday, August 27, 6:30 to 8:30pm, McCoy Conference Room, Sudley North Government Building, 7987 Ashton Avenue, Manassas. Must register for the orientation by calling (703) 792-7747 or e-mail;








Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

Serendipitous snapdragons snap color in a Virginia garden for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, the 15th of every month.

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bicolor snapdragon


New Products Coming for Edible Gardens

Last week I wrote about the Independent Garden Center (IGC) show at the National Harbor, MD, and several new plant introductions. When I used to write about new plant introductions for Chesapeake Home magazine, I focused on what was truly new and different, not just the newest shade of red. Here are a few gardening products that would truly make a difference to a gardener. For more information and to see if the products are available at your local garden center, check the web site and Facebook page for the product.
Slug Gone is new to our country; it is British wool from sheep fleece that has been shaped into small, ¼ to ½ inch pellets, similar to rabbit food. Wool fibers have very fine scales with small barbs on the tip called cuticle cells. These enable the wool fibers to link together to form a mat. When wet, the pellets form a natural barrier to slugs both because the minute fibers irritate the slugs and the wet pellets spread to form a mat. This mat also becomes a barrier to weeds and helps retain moisture. What I like about Slug Gone is that it is a natural product, safe for children and pets. This product is distributed by Quince Creek in Pennsylvania which has a Facebook page called SlugGoneUSA. or

Bag of Slug Gone with pellets in a plastic container

Bag of Slug Gone with pellets in a plastic container

Fabric aeration containers are not new, in fact, there are more brands and designs on the market now. Smart Pot is a well known brand that has been around for a number of years and is available in various sizes from 3 to 20 gallon, circular shapes. What you might not know is that Smart Pot has the Big Bag Bed, Wall Flowers, and Compost Sak. Big Bag Bed is a very large, circular fabric “raised bed” similar in size to the “kiddie pool” you would put in the backyard for toddlers. Its circular shape comes in three sizes: original, 50 inches x 12 inches; junior, 36 inches x 12 inches; and mini, 24 inches x 8 inches. These are intended to serve like raised beds and are designed so you can reach into the center from any point on the perimeter. Wall Flowers are 3 gallon bags that can be hung on a wall or hung over a rail, similar to a saddle bag. These are perfect for adding vertical color or even growing annuals and herbs on your deck. Compost Sak is 30 inches wide and 38 inches tall, with a 100 gallon capacity. You can throw in your refuse and let it decompose naturally.

Victory 8 Garden has taken fabric aeration containers in a different direction. Once filled with soil, their fabric containers become square-shaped, making them perfect for square foot gardening enthusiasts. The EZ-Gro Garden line of containers is designed to be “instant raised beds.” They come in several sizes: small, 2 feet x 2 feet; medium, 3 feet x 3 feet; and large, 4 feet x 4 feet, all almost a foot tall. They also have rectangles which look like two squares attached: small, 2 feet by 4 feet; medium, 3 feet by 6 feet; and large, 4 feet by 8 feet, all almost a foot tall. They have a line of just square containers called CuBe, which are 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot tall. You can either plant them singly or arrange the cubes in any arrangement: lines, squares, or rectangles. Using the square foot gardening concepts, Victory 8 Garden illustrates the number of plants that can be planted in one cube for most popular vegetables. Victory 8 Garden also sells DekProTek, which is a 1 foot by 1 foot wire mat, about an inch or two thick, that can be placed under the fabric container to allow air circulation and to protect the deck from too much moisture if the fabric containers are on a deck.

DekProTek on left and a CuBe, folded with tag, on right

DekProTek on left and a CuBe, folded with tag, on right

New Plants Coming for Edible Gardens

When I wrote gardening articles for Chesapeake Home magazine, I would write an article every spring about new plant introductions. In the same vein, the following are a few new plants I learned from attending the Independent Garden Center (IGC) show at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland. The IGC is “America’s largest marketplace for gardening products and plants.” As a trade show, I was allowed to attend as press, listen to speakers, as well as visit hundreds of booths where wholesale companies showed their products or plants to retail garden center staff. The following are new plants or ideas that I thought would be useful to people who are interested in edible gardening, have limited time & space, or are new to gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Some of these will appear next year but if you don’t see these products in your local garden center, either ask for them or contact the company directly. This August 8 post will focus on plants and my next post will focus on products.

When growing veggies, I am very aware of color and size. Tiffany Heater, Burpee Home Gardens Program Representative, showed me ‘Tangerine Dream,’ a compact pepper plant with bright orange peppers. Perfect for containers, patios, and edible landscapes, these tapered peppers look like hot peppers but only have a “hint of heat.” She also showed me Ruby Frills Basil, a frilly purple basil plant that can be used in containers with other plants for color and culinary use. Burpee of course is a well known name with a wide variety of plants and seeds, but it is important to note that they have a Patio-Ready line of veggies and herbs for those who live in condos or apartments.

This is dating me but I remember years ago when HGTV was new and it was just one television show. This week, I met Allison Beukema, Marketing Manager with HGTV Home Plant Collection, who explained to me how HGTV has grown so much it is now HGTV Home with many shows; a glossy, full color magazine; a great web site; and now the HGTV Home Plant Collection. The HGTV Home Plant Collection consists of Expression Annuals, Essential Perennials, Smart & Stylish Shrubs, and Patio Veggies & Herbs. Because we were talking about edibles, she showed me the Patio Veggies & Herbs collection featuring “container ready, edible style for the patio” plants. Next year, your local garden center may be selling compact veggies like basil, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and hot peppers in white plastic pots with green “HGTV Home” imprinted on the side.

I was fortunate to run into David Wilson, Director of Marketing at Overdevest Nurseries – I had met him years ago at another gardening event and he was as enthusiastic as ever. He showed me the Footprints Edibles, “the next generation of gardening.” Footprint Edibles includes blueberries, peppers, strawberries, rhubarb, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and many different kinds of herbs. His booth had racks of plants in biodegradable pots plus a mini cooking show. While Jonathan Bardzik, a local Washington DC chef, was demonstrating how to cook with these plants, David showed me how the plant tags are imbedded with a code. He scanned the Basil ‘Thai Magic’ with the digimarc app on his phone, which started a videotape of Jonathan making Thai Basil Whipped Cream. I told David I had seen QRC codes on plant tags before and they linked to recipes. He explained that this is different because it links to a video. (Naturally, after I got home, I downloaded the app, scanned the code on the Basil ‘Thai Magic’ picture on the brochure, and it worked!). In addition to this feature, the Footprints Edibles web site has many recipes and videos showing you how to cook with the veggie or herb you just bought. It isn’t just about the plant but how you can use it in the kitchen!

Chef Jonathan Bardzik demonstrating cooking with Footprints Edibles plants

Chef Jonathan Bardzik demonstrating cooking with Footprints Edibles plants

My next stop was Proven Winners, which will be introducing the Sugar Mountain series of haskap plants (Lonicera caerulea). These are very hardy plants that produce a blueberry type of fruit. They are supposed to be shrub like, not as particular about soil as blueberries, and deer resistant. Recently, Proven Winners introduced the Lifeberry series of goji berry plants (Lycium barbarum) and mine are doing well. These types of shrubs are easy ways to get fruit and the beneficial antioxidants in your diet. I then crossed over the aisle and talked with Heather Gartner of Pleasant View, which also grows plants for Proven Winners but specializes in annuals and perennials. Heather is a gardener herself and together we looked at the Proven Winners 2015 Collection book, which is over 250 pages, looking for perennials known to attract pollinators, which are necessary for growing vegetables and fruit. Heather recommended ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint, which provides a lot of purple flowers, and the Color Spires line of perennial salvias (‘Pink Dawn’ was cool). I then admired a tropical plant in her booth, a Cuphea hybrid that will be introduced in 2015. ‘Vermillionaire’ was in full bloom with many small, orange tubular flowers. At my home in Virginia, it would be grown as an annual, but it would flower well in the hot humid summers and would attract many hummingbirds!

Sugar Mountain Blue Haskap

Sugar Mountain Blue Haskap

Peg’s Picks of August Gardening Events Washington DC Metro Area

Peg’s Picks of August 2014 gardening events for the Washington DC Metropolitan area with an emphasis on edible gardening

The Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia host many events. The following are free, open to the public (that is, you do not have to be a Master Gardener), and registration is required. Call (703) 228-6414; e-mail;

  •  August 23, Saturday, 10:00 – 12:00 p.m., Fall Vegetable Gardening, Burke Branch Library 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA
  •  August 26, Tuesday, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Composting for Home Gardeners, Fairlington Community Center, 3801 S. Stafford Street, Arlington VA

The Master Gardeners of Prince William County has “Saturdays in the Garden.” Every month, from April through October, the Master Gardeners host an event from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at the teaching garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA., Free; must register in advance, (703) 792-7747.

Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 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;

Green Spring Gardens has several classes and workshops. Gardeners may be interested in “Backyard Composting Basics” on Saturday, August 2, 10:00 to 11:00 am. Registration and fee required via Fairfax County Park Authority’s ParkTakes; (703) 222-4664. 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 642-5173;

Washington DC

Casey Trees is sponsoring a free Fruit Tree workshop, but must register in advance, Saturday, August 9, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Stuart Center, 821 Varnum Street, NE, Washington DC 20002; (202) 833-4010;

The U.S. Botanic Garden is hosting “Fruits and Berries from City Lots Workshop,” in their conservatory classroom on Saturday, August 9, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm & a repeat performance on Sunday, August 10, 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The USBG has many other exhibits and events, check out their calendar on their web site.100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC (202) 225-8333;


The Washington Gardener magazine is hosting its 7th annual tomato tasting at FreshFarm Market in Silver Spring, Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia Avenue, Saturday, August 23, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, free;

The Behnke Nurseries Company has a variety of workshops including “Planting for Fall Crops” on Saturday, August 2, 10:00 am and 1:00 pm & Sunday, August 3, 10:00 am and 1:00 pm (same topic delivered four times). Free but registration required, (301) 937-1100l 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD;