Tag Archives: Master Gardeners

Free Gardening Resource in Northern Virginia: Plant Clinics

One of the great, free resources available to gardeners in Northern Virginia are the plant clinics sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE). If you have a gardening problem or question, you can visit the plant clinics at select farmers markets, public libraries, and special events to get answers to your questions and solutions to your dilemmas.  All are staffed by volunteer Master Gardeners who have received training from the VCE to answer general gardening questions; questions about pests, diseases, or weeds; and identify plants.

plant clinic

Fairfax County Master Gardeners providing free advice at the American Horticultural Society’s Plant Sale

In addition to the free plant clinics, there are two other places to go for your gardening challenges if you live in Fairfax or Arlington County or the City of Alexandria. There is an Arlington VCE office at the Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, and a Fairfax VCE office at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 1050 of the Pennino Building. Call the Fairlington help desk at (703) 228-6414, between 9 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday, year round, or visit in person, or e-mail mgarlalex@gmail.com. Or call the Fairfax help desk at (703) 324-8556, between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday, April through October, or visit in person, or e-mail at mgfairfax@vt.edu (hours are Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 am to 12:30 pm November through March). Other Virginia counties have similar resources, this link provides the contact information for each county’s VCE office http://www.ext.vt.edu/offices/index.html.

Additional resources, including recommended books, are on the “Plant Problems” page on my website at http://www.pegplant.com.

2016 Schedule of VCE Plant Clinics

  Location Address Day/Time Date
Annandale Farmers Market Mason District Park
6621 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
Thursday
9:00 am – 12 noon
May – September
Arlington Farmers Market N. 14th St. and N. Courthouse Rd Saturday

8:00 am – 11:00 am

April – September

 

 

Arlington Central Library 1015 N. Quincy Street

Arlington, VA

Wednesday

6:45 to 8:45 pm

March – October
Burke Farmers Market 5671 Roberts Parkway
Burke, VA
Saturday
8:00 am – 11:00 am
May – September
Chantilly Library 4000 Stringfellow Rd
Chantilly, VA 20151
Saturday
10:30 am – 1:30 pm
May – September
Del Ray Farmers Market E. Oxford & Mt. Vernon Ave. Saturday

8:30 am to 11:00 am

May – September
Fairfax City Regional Library 10360 North Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
Saturday
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
May – September
Falls Church Farmers Market City Hall Parking Lot
300 Park Ave
Falls Church, VA 22046
Saturday
9:00 am – 12 noon
May – September
Government Center Farmers Market 12000 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035
Thursday
3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
May – September
Herndon Farmers Market 777 Lynn Street
Herndon, VA 20170
Thursday
9:00 am – 12 noon
May – September
Kings Park Farmers Market 9000 Burke Lake Rd.
Burke, VA 22015
Saturday
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
May – September
Kingstowne Farmers Market Kingstowne Town Center
Alexandria, VA 22314
Friday
4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
May – September
Lorton Farmers Market 8990 Lorton Station Boulevard
Lorton, VA 22079
Sunday
9:00 am – 12:00 noon
May – September
McLean Farmers Market 1659 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, VA 22101
Friday
9:00 am – 12:00 noon
May – September
Mt. Vernon Farmers Market Sherwood Library
2501 Sherwood Hall Lane
Alexandria, VA 22306
Wednesday
9:00 am – 12 noon
May – September
Oakton Library 10304 Lynnhaven Place
Oakton, VA 22124
Saturday
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
May – September
Old Town Alexandria

Farmers market

301 King Street, Alexandria Saturday

7:30 to 9:45 am

May – September
Reston Farmers Market Lake Anne Village Center
1609 Washington Plaza N
Reston, VA 20190
Saturday
9:00 am – 12:00 noon
May – September
Richard Byrd Library 7250 Commerce Street
Springfield, VA 22150
Tuesday
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
May – September
Vienna Farmers Market Faith Baptist Church
301 Center St. S.
Vienna, VA 22180
Saturday
9:00 am – 12:00 noon
May – September
Wakefield Farmers Market 8100 Braddock Road
Annandale, VA 22003
Wednesday
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
May – September
Special Event:
Spring Garden Market
American Horticultural Society
7931 E Boulevard Dr
Alexandria, VA 22308
10:00 am – 4:00 pm April 8-9
Special Event:
Earth Day
US Geological Society
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr
Reston, VA 20192
10:30 am – 2:00 pm April 21
Special Event:
Springfest
Lorton Workhouse Center
9601 Ox Rd
Lorton, VA 22079
to be determined April 23
Special Event:
Spring Fling
Walker Nature Center
11450 State Rte 4721
Reston, VA 20191
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm May 7
Special Event:
Southgate Community Day
Southgate Community Center
12125 Pinecrest Rd
Reston, VA 20191
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm May 7
Special Event:
4H Fair
Frying Pan Park
2709 West Ox Rd
Herndon, VA 20171
10:00 am – 4:00 pm August 6-7
Special Event:
Vale Days
11528 Vale Road
Oakton, VA 22124
to be determined October 15

 

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

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 mgarlalex@gmail.com to register in advance. http://www.mgnv.org

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

Virginia
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 mgarlalex@gmail.com; http://mgnv.org

  •  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. http://www.mgpw.org

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

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

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; http://www.caseytrees.org

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; http://www.usbg.gov

Maryland

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; http://washingtongardener.blogspot.com

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; http://behnkes.com

Showing off Benefits of Gardening at Health Fair

This past Wednesday, we had a health fair at work where local, health related organizations came for the day to drum up business and distribute information to staff. Like an open house, staff came down to the conference rooms and visited the vendors at their tables anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. As facilitator of our office Garden Club, I was asked if we wanted to participate for the first time. Our Garden Club meets every other week during lunch and in the past we have hosted speakers and “field trips” to colleagues’ gardens.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 071

We had a lot of fun; about 200 staff attended including the people from the 32 outside vendors. My colleagues and I had prepared in advance by planting seeds and starting cuttings. We distributed about 80 seedlings of tomatoes, zinnias, and basil plus about 30 cuttings of spider plants, Christmas cactus, and a lady of the night epiphyllum. I had gone through my seed packets and divided them into smaller bags so we had about 50 bags of seeds with copies of the seed packages stapled to the bags. PlantersPlace sent me a box of 30 trial packages of Osmocote fertilizer which everyone loved. I received brochures of the Behnke Nurseries’ Garden Club and special coupons for staff to use at their stores (thank you, Stephanie). The University of Maryland extension specialist sent me business cards with the Grow It Eat It & the Home and Garden Information Center (HGCI) contact information and Master Gardeners brochures (thank you, Jon). I downloaded information from the HGCI site, including the latest HGIC newsletter. I also had a copy of the Washington Gardener and a copy of the Brookside Gardens Xperience catalog of spring and summer classes. Because most of the employees live in Montgomery County, I focused on very local resources but I did create a handout on nurseries and one on public gardens in the Washington DC metropolitan area, which I also posted here on my blog (see tabs).healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 072

Because this was a health fair, I wanted to communicate the mental and physical benefits of gardening. I copied the American Horticultural Therapy Association’s bibliography on benefits of gardening and I created a read-only copy of The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing. This 45-page booklet was just published in April by Sustain, a London-based alliance of national public interest organizations that among other things advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals. The findings are applicable to this country and would be a great resource for anyone trying to demonstrate the importance of gardening in a social setting, like a school or community.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 075

At our table, we had a sign-up sheet so staff could add their names to my Garden Club e-mail distribution list (about 17 staff signed the sheet). Afterwards, my friends told me our table was the most popular but then who wouldn’t want free tomatoes? Other vendors were giving away pens, candy, and granola bars. I did observe that for the most part, there was a fundamental interest in gardening or having plants across the ages. People my age and older (presumably with houses) wanted the tomatoes and basil. Younger folks who did not have the land still wanted to have a spider plant for their desks. It was just a matter of matching up the plant to the person’s stage in life. Next year, we will offer a wider variety of plants such as houseplants and herbs and I may even reach out to more local resources to encourage gardening for all ages.