Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guest Appearance on Seeds and Weeds Podcast

Bevin Cohen of Small House Farm in Michigan interviewed me on his podcast, Seeds and Weeds, episode #25. I talked about my website,; the Facebook group I created called Culinary Herbs and Spices; my favorite plant, basil, particularly Thai basil; this summer’s success with winter squash and Mexican mint marigold; and my new project to list new herbs for 2024. He asked who I would give a shout out to and I responded that I admire those who make it their life’s work to save seeds, particularly of cultures and certain groups of people. I gave a shout out to Truelove Seeds and their podcast Seeds and Their People for all their efforts to tell the stories of seeds and how the plants are used by the people who grow them.

Growing Ginger for Gingerbread

gingerbread menWhen we think of gingerbread, we think of breads, cakes, and little edible men. But what is gingerbread really? Where does the “ginger” come from?

The term “gingerbread” is from Latin “zingiber” via Old French “gingebras,” referring to preserved ginger. The term “Zingiber” is derived from Greek “zingiberis” which comes from Sanskrit name of the spice “singabera.” Continue reading

Subscribe to Local Gardening Newsletter for a Chance to Win CowPots

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, an e-newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This free monthly communication lists 50 to 100 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, and articles and tips specific to this immediate area. Each issue also features the opportunity to win a free plant or gardening product. For the upcoming March 2020 Pegplant’s Post, one lucky subscriber will win a package of CowPots. This is a combination of one #3 square 12-pack, one #4 square 12-pack, and one #3 six cell 3-pack.

CowPots are made on a third-generation family dairy farm in Connecticut. CowPots are biodegradable, plantable pots made from cow manure but they are odor and peat free. They are an alternative to plastic pots; however, eventually they degrade into the garden soil. Using CowPots provides better root penetration, air pruning, and reduces transplant shock. After you insert your transplant into the CowPot and water, the CowPot will remain intact for about 12-16 weeks, depending on the size. When you plant the transplant in the garden, plant the entire CowPot so the CowPot is buried in the soil. The CowPot will break down in one growing season. I have seen these for sale at the Ace stores in the Washington DC metro area but you also can order them online at Johnny’s Selected Seed, Gardener’s Supply Company, Gardener’s Edge, Territorial Seed, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. There are many sizes and styles.

Public Gardens and Demonstration Gardens in the Washington DC Metro Area

I have updated my list of public gardens and demonstration gardens in the Washington DC metro area, see tab with same name on my website, Many of these places are perfect to take the kids and visiting friends and family to this summer.

Public gardens are living examples of which plant performs well in the area. Many public gardens have a reference library, gift shop, web site, and gardening hotline. Usually, public gardens host seminars, workshops, classes, events, and plant sales. They may publish their own books on plants for the area or distribute free handouts. Some have staff horticulturists who can identify plants or answer questions.

Demonstration gardens are a great way to learn what works in our area and how to manage our local issues, such as deer. The gardens are open to the public, every day, from dawn to dusk, free. Each county that has a Master Gardener program usually has at least one demonstration garden, managed by the volunteer Master Gardeners.

If you have suggestions for additions, feel free to send them to me by commenting on this post.

Master Gardener Programs & Getting Help with Plant Pests and Diseases in Washington DC Metro Area

Just updated the information on these two pages on my website: Master Gardener Programs in the area and Plant Pests and Diseases. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener check out this page, there are several programs in the area. As the gardening season progresses and you need help with plant pests and diseases, look to these resources in the Washington DC metro area.

Updated List of Local Garden Centers and Nurseries in Washington DC Metro Area

Johnson’s Florists and Garden Centers have announced that they will close their Washington DC location, effective on or before January 14, 2018. They have a letter about this on their website. Their other stores in Olney and Kensington will remain open. Of course they are putting the DC inventory on sale, so you may get good deals. The interesting piece of news is that they are offering a 20 percent discount on items in the Olney and Kensington stores from January 15 through December 31, 2018. You are eligible for the discount if you live in DC and in particular zip codes in Maryland and Virginia (you have to bring identification to prove this). For a list of the zip codes, see their letter on their website but basically they are the zip codes that are located in the Washington DC metro area.

I updated my list of local garden centers to reflect this. I also added two new plant shops in DC and deleted Cravens Nursery in Virginia and Garden World of Virginia, which are not in business anymore.

On the first day of Christmas gardeners love to get…..

On the first day of Christmas gardeners love to get . . .

tickets to the Virginia Historic Garden Week in April 2018!


New Plants From the GWA Conference

laidback gardener, aka Larry Hodgson, is able to give us a sneak peak at new 2018 plant introductions. I particularly like the Candy Cane red pepper, heart-shaped Sweet Valentine tomato, purple pod Sugar Magnolia snap pea, and the ornamental oregano, Bellissimo. Great new edibles to try next year!


Merry Christmas!

Heliconia angusta

Dozen Items to Consider Before Gardening at Your New Home

English ivy

Invasive English Ivy

Recently, a friend of mine and his wife purchased their first home in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Although he is not a gardener, his wife enjoys cooking and could not wait to have a home so she could have the space for a culinary garden. Because it is winter, my housewarming gift was a promise to deliver a dozen herbs and vegetables next year when the weather warms up. I like to grow them from seed and always have enough to share. The other part of my housewarming gift was this: a dozen items to consider before digging up the lawn and installing garden beds.

Sunlight: Throughout the year, watch the sun move across the sky; know what parts of the garden are in full sun, or receive morning sun and afternoon shade, or receive winter sun under a deciduous tree.

Drainage: Watch the way the water runs (or not) on your property when it rains. Find the outside spigots and the main water shut off valve. Get a hose that is long enough to reach the garden beds and get a sprinkler, a watering wand, and watering can. In the winter, look at how fast the snow melts, possible salt damage patterns, and if the neighborhood kids sled in your backyard.

Existing Plants: Identify the plants/shrubs/trees that currently exist on the property and learn if they are annuals, perennials, conifers, or deciduous shrubs and trees. Likewise, know the difference between a weed and a great perennial that is coming up in the spring. Know whether you have invasive English ivy or poison ivy.

“Know whether you have invasive English ivy or poison ivy.”

Wind Patterns: Find out if you have shelter from winds or how storms may affect your property. Look for dry air from the dryer vent and increased air circulation from the AC unit.

Soil: Get a soil test of the area where you intend to plant by contacting the local extension office for bags and laboratories. Typically, soil in this area has a high level of clay and soil around a house may be compacted. For more information, check out the “Soil Tests” tab/page at

Family Needs: Determine the style & color of the house and the style of garden you want. List needs such as a place to entertain adults, a place for kids to play, and/or a vegetable garden. Watch the foot traffic that your family favors. Sometimes the developer does not do this justice and you need to re-align the paths and sidewalk. Also, look for ways to soften the lines, it is best to create curves and soften the developer’s harsh angles.

Resources: Visit the public gardens and nurseries during the four seasons. Find out the best prices and sources for plants, mulch, tools, etc. Find out if there is a local gardening club to join, check out the local gardening books from the library, read the gardening columnist in the newspaper, and/or subscribe to the local gardening magazine. Identify the local extension agent and, if interested, find out about the Master Gardener program. All of this can be found at under the tabs/pages.

“Visit the public gardens and nurseries during the four seasons.”

Existing Animals: Watch your property at different times of the day to see if there are deer, foxes, rabbits, dogs, cats, etc. Deer and rabbits present challenges for gardeners but sometimes dogs and cats are helpful in scaring away the deer and rabbits. Determine if existing fencing is yours or neighbors and if tall enough to keep out animals such as deer. If fencing is needed, contact the local extension agent for suggestions on recommended heights.

Lawn: Identify the type of grass you have, some are dormant in the winter. Find out if the previous owners used a service and what type of chemicals/fertilizer they applied to the grass. Decide if you will be cutting the grass or hiring a service because if it is a service, the staff may not be able to distinguish a weed from a great perennial plant. Determine how much lawn you want to keep and how much to dig up and create beds for gardens/vegetables. Determine if there are exposed tree roots to trip up little kids or slopes that can be filled to level out the land.

Records: Keep records of what you buy and where you buy it so you know where you can get the best deals. Take photos throughout the year. Know your homeowner association rules. If you plant, keep records of what you plant; if you fertilize, keep records of what you fertilized, with what type of fertilizer and when. Measure the property, create a map, make copies and overlay water flow, sunlight, plants, etc.

“From now you, you will be watching the weather!”

Tools: Make an inventory of tools that either came with the house or that will have to be purchased, including the tool shed to house them. Determine if the hose is long enough to water the plants, if there is a trowel, shovel, sprinkler, etc. Sometimes it is best to spend the first year searching for the best deal on tools, accessories, and containers while getting to know the layout of your yard before planting in the ground.

Weather: Learn your USDA Plant Hardiness zone, which would be zone 6 or 7 in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Learn last and first average frost dates, which are usually Mother’s Day and Halloween. Download a weather app on your phone or buy an outside thermometer. From now you, you will be watching the weather!