Before You Buy That Plant, Answer Five Basic Questions

azaleaThe weather has been beautiful lately and the nurseries have been crowded. Plant sales are scheduled (in person!) and gardening events are filling up the weekends. So many plants to get, so much to do. But no matter how tempting those plants are, consider five basic criteria before you purchase them so you can have better success once they are in your garden. Continue reading

Honesty, Money, and Sincerity: What More Could You Want in a Plant?

silver dollar flowers

Some plants provide beauty in the spring and then step off stage, only to be forgotten until next spring. Others provide beauty in the spring, come back with an encore in the fall, and stay with us all winter long. The silver dollar plant (Lunaria annua) is the latter, a plant that keeps coming back to center stage. These are blooming now in April in the Washington DC area.

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Bleeding Heart Blooming Early in March

A few years ago, a friend offered to give me the root of her bleeding heart plant she called Fred. This was in the fall but unfortunately it was some time before I could drive to her home. By the time I picked up Fred, the root was dry and hard. Continue reading

Chives: Culinary Herb, Landscape Edible

chives coming back in early March

chives coming back in early March

Chives are a great addition to the garden, any garden, does not matter what is growing already, add chives. These perennial herbs are great landscape edibles; they come back year after year. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are narrow, foot tall plants that can be tucked in between ornamental shrubs and flowers. Continue reading

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post: Local Gardening Newsletter

fertilizerEnter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, an e-newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This monthly communication lists local gardening events, recently published gardening books, recipes, articles, and tips specific to this area. Each issue also features the opportunity to win a free plant or gardening-related product. For the upcoming April 2021 Pegplant’s Post, the giveaway is the Boutique Organic Plant Nutrient Kit courtesy of the Whole Gardener.

Whole Gardener is a Virginia-based soil and nutrient company. They sell kits consisting of the three basic fertilizers, micronutrients, and a recipe book so gardeners can formulate the nutrients for their plants.  Using one of almost 200 different Whole Gardener nutrient recipes from the Whole Gardener nutrient recipe book, and the four Whole Gardener nutrient ingredients, gardeners can create a customized fertilizer blend that will fit the nutrient needs of any plant they want to grow. The giveaway is the boutique organic plant nutrient kit which is designed for gardening on a smaller scale. It is tailored to the urban gardener or anyone with limited space to grow plants. The boutique kit consists of the four nutrients, the recipe book, the applicator jar, the measuring spoon set, and the pH test kit.  According to the plant’s needs as outlined in the recipe book, gardeners mix the right amount of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and micronutrients in order to have a thriving garden.

Culinary Herb Recipes

parsleyNo doubt you will be buying herb seeds and plants for this growing season. To know how much to purchase, think of how you may use them in recipes and how often you and/or your family will use them in the kitchen. Here are a few simple recipes to try this summer. The herb you use depends on the flavor you want so try experimenting. For easy reference, print this article and tape it on the inside of your kitchen cabinet along with the list of herbs you are growing. To learn more about growing and using culinary herbs, including sharing recipes, join the Culinary Herbs and Spices Facebook Group. For more information on herbs in the DC metro area, check out the page entitled Culinary Herb Resources.

Herbal vinegar

tarragon is often used in herb vinegars

Wash one cup of herbs, allow to air dry. Pack leaves (can use stems too) in quart glass jar with wooden spoon. Fill with 3 to 3 ½ cups vinegar to one inch from top. The vinegar should be 5% acidity and best types of vinegar are white or red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. Push down with spoon and bruise leaves. If a metal lid, first cover with plastic wrap, if plastic lid, just close. Store in dark place for 4 to 6 week, shaking every few days. Taste to see if too strong, add more vinegar, or too weak, add more herb. When done, strain leaves out and pour liquid into clean bottles and add a sprig of fresh herb for decoration. Label.

Butter

Wash herbs, let dry. Take a stick of unsalted butter out of the fridge, put in bowl, and let come to room temperature so is soft. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the chopped herb, do this to taste. Depending on the leaf, may have to cut into small pieces. Can put in a container to keep in fridge for 2 weeks or roll into saran wrap like a log and freeze for up to 6 months.

Syrup

Put one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. When sugar dissolves, turn off heat, add large handful of herb leaves. Bruise with wooden spoon by smashing against side of pot. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. When cool, strain leaves out and pour syrup in glass jar and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

mint has a variety of uses in the kitchen including sweet syrups

Pesto

Pulverize in the blender 2 cups washed fresh basil, 4 cloves of garlic, (chopped), and ½ cup olive oil until pasty. Add 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, blend again. Can freeze in plastic ice cube trays or flat in plastic bags.

Marinade for meat

Depending on the amount of meat can change the quantities but the ratio is 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of vinegar like a wine vinegar, ¼ cup water, a dash of salt (like soy sauce), a dash of sugar (honey or brown sugar) and about a cup of fresh herb leaves (tear leaves apart if large). Have meat sit in this mixture for at least 30 minutes. Drain and cook meat.

Herb paste

If don’t need pesto, make basil paste to preserve

Can use this as a frozen base for pesto and then add the fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese to the thawed paste or a frozen base for stew or soup. Clean herbs but make sure are completely dry as water and oil do not mix. Blend in the food processor 4 cups of herb leaves to ¼ to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil to make a paste. Freeze in bags or plastic ice cube trays. There should be some texture to herb so is a paste and not pureed like liquid. Good with savory herbs such as basil, parsley, and cilantro. If using a “sweet” herb like mints, may want to try sunflower seed oil instead.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy Your Shamrock Plants

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although the shamrock plant looks like a three-leaf clover it is actually a species of Oxalis. These are commonly sold as St. Patrick’s Day gift plants but they make great houseplants and garden plants. Continue reading

National Plant a Flower Day

Today is National Plant a Flower Day. I always have flowers in my garden. Before this pandemic, I used to cut the flowers and bring them to my office. I am no flower arranger, I just put the zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos in a vase on my desk. My colleagues loved them. Invariably they would smile and strike up a conversation. Some would be brave enough to ask me to bring flowers for them while others were inspired to bring flowers of their own into the office. Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Order Bulbs for Summer Blooms!

Many gardeners focus on obtaining seed now to start their garden in the spring. But given the increased interest in gardening it may be best for gardeners to also focus on ordering summer-blooming bulbs as soon as possible. It will be too cold to plant them now in the DC metro area and some nurseries do not even ship them until later when it is warmer. But given the high demand for seeds, gardeners may want to select and order their summer blooming bulbs now to make sure they have them when it is time to plant in May. Continue reading

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post: Gardening Newsletter for the DC Metro Area

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, an e-newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This monthly communication lists local gardening events, recently published gardening books, recipes, articles, and tips specific to this area. Each issue also features the opportunity to win a free plant or gardening-related product. For the upcoming March 2021 Pegplant’s Post, the giveaway is a 16-quart bag of Organic Mechanic’s Seed Starting Blend Potting Soil.

Organic Mechanics is a manufacturer and distributer of premier organic potting soil and soil amendments. Founded by Mark Highland in 2006, Organic Mechanics is based in Pennsylvania. Products include insect frass, biochar blend, cactus and succulent blend, potting soil, Fuhgeddaboudit! root zone feeder packs, hardwood bark mulch, worm castings, rice hulls, potting soil, container potting soil, and more. All the products are organic, peat free, and made with locally sourced ingredients. Home gardeners can purchase through the Organic Mechanics website or through retail locations listed on their website such as independent garden centers, natural food stores, farmer markets, and botanical gardens. Mark also wrote the Practical Organic Gardening: The No Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally book and gives lectures emphasizing the importance of organic gardening and soil health.