Start Hardy Annuals now for Spring Flowers

love-in-a-mist

love-in-a-mist

I forgot to grow zinnias. Every year I grow zinnias so I can put a vase of flowers on my desk at work but for some odd reason, I didn’t this year. Now in the heat of summer I don’t have many options to choose from but next year I will grow zinnias for summer blooms and on top of that, will start even earlier with spring flowers.

dianthus

dianthus

To learn more about increasing the diversity of flowers in my Northern Virginia garden, I have been following Lisa Mason Ziegler’s virtual book study for the past month. Each Friday for 10 Fridays, she posts a 10-minute video that corresponds to a chapter in her book, Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques. The videos can be viewed on her website any time and she is more than happy to answer questions.  Lisa manages a commercial cut flower business in Newport News, Virginia. She is well known in the horticulture field, has written books and given lectures, and has an online garden shop called The Gardener’s Workshop. Lisa is an expert on hardy annuals, which prefer to bloom during spring’s cool temperatures. Hardy annuals differ from the summer annuals in that the seeds are sown in August/September or February/March, depending on the plant. In contrast, summer annuals, like zinnias, prefer the heat so they are sown after the danger of frost has passed in late April/early May.

Of the 30 plants mentioned in her book, I have seeds of six plants on hand. I can start snapdragon, dianthus, and feverfew indoors now and transplant at the end of August. I can direct sow love-in-a-mist, larkspur, and calendula seeds at the end of August to the beginning of September. All of these will bloom in the spring and peter out when summer arrives which will increase my number of cut flowers from spring to early summer. From then on the summer annuals can take over and I will look for a few more in addition to zinnias. In her videos and in her book, Lisa discusses her preference for direct sown versus transplants and starting in the fall versus early spring. If the plant is hardy to a zone colder than one’s own zone, plant in the fall. If the plant is not has hardy as one’s own zone, plant in early spring.  However, early spring can mean cold, wet soil so she suggests preparing the bed in the fall and covering with mulch or landscape fabric to prevent weeds and to enable the ground to be worked easily in February and March.

So far I have viewed 5 of the 10 videos and I have read the book. If hardy annuals are something you would like to try, you can catch up by visiting her web site and listening to her videos or buy her book on her site or at a bookstore but it is not necessary to have the book in order to follow along with her videos.

Success with Eggplant This Year!

eggplant (2)On June 13, I posted an article about my frustrations with growing eggplant here in Northern Virginia. I had tried several times only to be defeated by flea beetles or improper pollination. This year I tried growing them in EarthBoxes and I am pleased to say it worked. Not only do I have plenty of eggplant but my family loved my  eggplant parmesan! I really like eggplant as a summer annual in the garden: structurally, the plant provides large striking leaves and dark purple fruit. Now I am inspired to grow different varieties and to try different eggplant recipes. Maybe even get a few more EarthBoxes!

Believe It or Not: Now is the Time to Plant for the Winter Garden in Virginia

mustard

mustard

August is the time for harvesting and enjoying the summer’s bounty in the vegetable garden while thinking ahead to a winter’s garden. Even though it is hot and humid, planting carrots, green onions (scallions), and cole crops such as cauliflower, broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collards will give great yields in cold months. Later or by September, also consider planting spinach, Swiss chard, radish, turnip, and Asian or hardy greens such as mustard, tatsoi, mache, and kale. You still have time to plant garlic: that’s in October.

To determine when to plant look at the “days to maturity” on the seed packet. Count backwards from the average first frost date (Halloween in Northern Virginia) to determine when to plant. But the difference between fall and spring planting is the “Short Day” factor, which may not be addressed on the 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.  For example, to sow spinach seeds 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 one can sow spinach seeds is the beginning of September. The length of time would be shorter if nursery transplants were used instead of seed because they have a head start.

mache

mache

Also, find out the best temperature range for seed germination (start indoors versus outdoors), keep the seeds moist during dry times in the summer, and get to know each crop’s tolerance for cold (soil and air) to know if you should provide additional warmth with row covers. Good sources to learn more about fall/winter gardening are the local extension offices.

Virginia Cooperative Extension

Fall Vegetable Gardening publication #426-334

Vegetable Planting Guide and Recommended Dates #426-331

University of Maryland Extension

Planting Dates for Vegetable Crops in Maryland #HG16

Vegetable Planting Calendar for Central Maryland #GE-007

Best Baptisia Plants for the Mid-Atlantic Gardens

baptisia_lemon_merinque_cjw12_6_copy

Baptisia ‘Lemon Meringue’ photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Baptisia, also called false indigo, is an herbaceous perennial shrub that performs well in our hot and humid summers. Recent breeding efforts have expanded the range of flower colors requiring a new look into an old favorite. I myself have falling in love with two top performers according to Mt. Cuba Center’s 15-page report, Baptisia for the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden, managed by George Coombs, research horticulturist, evaluates native plants and their related cultivars. From 2012 to 2015, staff evaluated 46 selections of Baptisia including representatives from 11 species to determine which performs best in the mid-Atlantic region. Over 60 percent of the plants tested receive 4 or 5 stars. Among those, 10 superior cultivars outperformed the rest. Fortunately for me my two recent Baptisia additions to my garden are included in the ten.

baptisialemonmeringue_hh2

Pea-like flowers, photo courtesy of Proven Winners

This year I acquired two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. They are small now so a photo won’t give you the full flavor of their beautiful flowers but I was able to borrow Proven Winners‘ photos of what my plants should look like when they grow up. Baptisia plants die back every fall and comes back in the spring. By summer, the plants will have grown to their mature height of about 3 x 3 feet each year. However, they do not like to be moved so give them plenty of space when you do plant them. Chances are the nursery plants will be young thus small but they will grow into full bushes once established in the garden. In May, pea-like flowers bloom on tall spikes, similar to lupines. In the fall, pods appear, which can be used for dried flower arrangements. Baptisia plants are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established. These natives make great additions to the garden and the new cultivars increases the color selection.

baptisia_dutch_chocolate

Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’, photo courtesy of Proven Winners

 

Peg’s Picks: August 2016 Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

The following are Peg’s Picks of local gardening events for August 2016. If you are new to the Washington DC metro area, check out the classes/events tab on my site for gardening events that have occurred in the past 12 months to get a feel for regularly occurring events.

3, Wednesday, Food Preservation: Can, Freeze, Dehydrate, Ferment. 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

4, Thursday, Orchid Repotting, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

6, Saturday, Fall Gardens Can Be Great, Planning for a Fall Vegetable Garden. 10:00 to 11:00 am at the Loudoun Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at Ida Lee Park, Leesburg, VA. Free. Call (703) 777-0373 or visit http://www.loudouncountymastergardners.org

6, Saturday, Grow It Eat It Summer Open House, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Hosted by the Montgomery County Master Gardeners at the Agricultural History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD. Most events free. https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/grow_it_eat_it/8.6%20program%20schedule.web_.shade_.pdf

10, Wednesday, Hydroponic and PVC Pipe Gardening, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

10, Wednesday, Food in the Garden series “Gardens and Community,” 6:00 to 8:30 pm. Fee and must register in advance. Will take place at the Smithsonian’s Victory Gardens, Washington DC (Constitution Avenue entrance of the National Museum of American History) http://americanhistory.si.edu/topics/food/pages/food-garden

11, Thursday, Houseplants 101, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

13, Saturday, Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardening: Extending Your Harvest, 10:30 am to noon. Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria. Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Free but must register in advance. http://www.mgnv.org

14, Sunday in the Organic Vegetable Garden, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Potomac Overlook Park, 2845 Marcey Road, Arlington, VA. Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Free but must register in advance. http://www.mgnv.org

17, Wednesday, Vegetables for Fall, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

18, Thursday, Floral Design: Building a Winning Arrangement, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

20, Saturday, “Class: Trees 101,” 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Casey Trees, 3030 12th Street NE Washington DC. Free but must register in advance. (202) 833-4010. http://www.caseytrees.org

20, Saturday, National Honeybee Day, 10:00 am to noon, Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. Free but there is a charge for a craft ticket. Designed for children and adults. (703) 642-5173. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

20, Saturday, Cover Crops, Succession Planting, and Rotation in the Vegetable Garden. 9:00 am to noon. Saturday in the garden series, hosted by the Prince William County Master Gardeners and Virginia Cooperative Extension Prince William County staff. Free but registration requested. Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. E-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org (703) 792-7747

24, Wednesday, Preparing the Garden for Winter, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

25, Thursday, Rose Care, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

27, Saturday, Best All Round Landscape Shrubs, 11:00 am. Free, Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

28, Sunday, Keep ‘em Fed: Tips to Extend the Vegetable Garden Through the Fall. 1:00 pm., Free, Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

27 and 28, Saturday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday noon to 3:30 pm. Annual Begonia Show and Sale, hosted by the Potomac Branch of the American Begonia Society at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. Free and begonias for sale. (703) 642-5173. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Remember the DC Parks and Recreation has a Summer Garden Workshop Series. More than 50 free workshops every Monday, Wednesday and various Saturdays from April 18th to September 28th. Focused on practical urban gardening and taught by the leaders of DC urban garden movement. Monday Classes: 6:30-8:30pm – Deanwood Rec – 1350 49th St. NE; Wednesday Classes: 6:30-8:30pm – Raymond Rec – 3725 10th St. NE; Saturday Classes: 10-12pm – Times and locations vary.  Check registration for more details:
http://bit.ly/UrbanGardeningPrograms

A full schedule flyer is at this link
http://dpr.dc.gov/node/1124742

For more info about all DPR Urban Garden Programs click on this link
http://dpr.dc.gov/service/urban-garden-programs

 

Corpse Flower to Bloom This Week at U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington DC

Peak Bloom in 2013

Peak Bloom in 2013

Take your kids to see the corpse flower! The plant went on display at the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) Conservatory on July 22 and should be at peak bloom between this Thursday and Sunday, July 28-31. Once fully open, it usually remains in bloom for 24 to 48 hours and then quickly collapses. The plant is famous for its large size and pungent odor — it emits a putrid scent while in bloom to attract pollinators such as carrion beetles and flies. Native to the tropical rain forests of Indonesia, Amorphophallus titanum can take several years to several decades to store enough energy to bloom so there are very limited times that the public can see the bloom in the United States. The USBG last displayed a blooming corpse flower in 2013. The USBG is open to public free of charge every day of the year from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. However, the Conservatory will stay open until 8:00 pm while the corpse flower is on display and will remain open until 11:00 during peak bloom (forget the kids, think of this as an unusual “date”). The USBG Conservatory is at 100 Maryland Avenue SW; (202) 225-8333.

Track the bloom’s progress via live video at http://www.USBG.gov/CorpseFlower

Successes in my Virginia Garden: July 2016

Cardinal climber among oregano and sage

Cardinal climber among oregano and sage

July is a good time to take stock of the garden and determine what worked and what didn’t. This year I tried growing cardinal climber because I have banisters and rails in several locations on my property. Cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida) is a flowering vine, grown as an annual in Virginia. It is easy to grow indoors in the spring from seed which I obtained from Renee’s Garden. In May, I transplanted them outside and trained them up to the banisters with yarn. They learned quickly and began to wrap themselves around the banisters. Now that it is hot, they bloom every day in full sun. The flowers are bright red and simple but I discovered that they add a pop of color against the other plants. The leaves are very lacy and the vines are light enough to weave into neighboring plants (I like it when two or more plants tumble into each other’s space).  Cardinal climber is a winner in my book.

Vanilla Cream marigold with Cossack Pineapple ground cherry

Vanilla Cream marigold with Cossack Pineapple ground cherry

The other winner flower this year is ‘Vanilla Cream’, part of the Alumia series of French marigolds from Park’s Seed. I started the seed indoors in the spring although it was not necessary, I could have started them outside later. In May I plant them outside in a row in front of a vegetable bed so the lawn service crew wouldn’t get too close to the veggies with the weed wacker. The marigold plants have filled out nicely. Each bushy plant has several blooms at a time. The flowers are unusual for a marigold, they are anemone-shaped and bright yellow. I like the fact that they are a clear solid yellow — they glow like beacons in the garden.

ground cherry

husks pulled back from ground cherry fruit on spoon

Speaking of yellow, this year I grew Cossack Pineapple ground cherries. I bought seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and started them indoors under lights in very early spring. I was surprised at how well they germinated. In May, I transplanted several in my tomato patch and although I thought I gave them enough space I did not realize how fast they grew. Mine are a few feet wide and tall and completely cover the ground. Members of the tomato family, the fruit is small like a pea covered in a papery husk. The husks are green on the plant and gradually turn yellow and drop to the ground. I have learned that some of the ones on the ground are empty, maybe something got to them before I did, so I gather the ones on the ground and gently touch the yellow ones on the plant to see if they will drop into my hand. The fruit really does taste like pineapple but without the zing so more like a cross between a pineapple and an apple. They can be eaten raw, used in desserts, or used in savory dishes like salsa.

These are just a few success stories in my garden, more to come!