Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Video Wednesday: Create a New Garden Bed Without Digging

Here is another video from our "classics" vault:

In this video, Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, demonstrates how to winterize a vegetable garden including how to create a new garden bed without digging.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus): Grow Your Own Spice Cabinet

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Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) is the source of saffron that makes Indian curry and Spanish paella so special. You understand why this spice is so expensive when you see how tiny the red-orange stigma (female organs) of the flower are and that it takes dozens of these little threads to make enough to be used for one dish.

This bulb is reliably hardy here in the Mid-Atlantic region (USDA Zone 6-8) and just needs good, well-draining soil and a full sun location. It is best to plant them in a bed that is not irrigated so they do not rot over the summer when they are dormant.

Whether your bring them home from a local garden center or buy them via mial-order, the corms (bulbs) should be planted immediately upon arrival. As you can see in the photo above, the bulbs I received from were already sprouting and ready to go.

This crocus blooms in the fall season and they are often lumped in with the autumn-blooming colchicums. However, colchicums are in the lily family and saffron crocus is related it iris, along with freesia and crocosmia.

Even though the emphasis is on their culinary use, I think these bulbs hold their own just for their ornamental value. The blooms are a translucent purple with darker veining and a deep-purple center that make them a striking addition to any garden.

Colchicums are members of the lily family whereas crocus belong to the iris group - See more at:
Colchicums are members of the lily family whereas crocus belong to the iris group - See more at:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fenton Friday: Sweet Potato Plot

This week at my plot in the Fenton Community Garden, we had another round of torrential rains (almost 3 inches dumped at once) along with tornado warnings and fierce winds. I did not get much time out in the garden, but did manage to dig up the one sweet potato I planted. It was almost 3 pounds worth from one tiny slip so I'm happy with that. It is now curing in my sunroom.

I did notice that my brussel sprouts are taking off rapidly and I have high hopes of being able to harvest some for Thanksgiving!

How is your edible garden growing?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Washington Gardener Magazine October 2014 ~ Winterthur: Last of the Wild Gardens

Washington Gardener is the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the Mid-Atlantic region.   
The October 2014 issue is now published and being sent as a PDF attachment to all current subscribers.

This issue includes:
~ Winterthur: Last of the Wild Gardens
~ Ramps: Wild Leeks of Appalachia
~ October Garden Tasks
~ Local Events List
~ 5 Flower Bulbs You Should Grow
~ Meet Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping
~ Don’t Move Firewood Warning
 ~ Before-After of a Garden for an Orange House
~ New Elderberry Introduction
~ Rhododendrons Disturb Soil Nitrogren Cycle
and much more...

Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly publication sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Video Wednesday: Virginia Pumpkins

The Mid-Atlantic is a big pumpkin-growing region. Here is a clip from the Virginia Farm Bureau on the big business of pumpkin growing.

Instagram sharing on Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

On this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, I thought I'd alert my blog readers that every morning on my Instagram account ( I share a photo of the day. Most often that is a flower photo and about half the time the plant photos come from my own home garden or my community garden plot. Here is a recent share:

Muhly grass against my back fence #gardendc #gardening #pink #picoftheday #nofilter #grass #muhlenbergia #native #plants #plantsagram #plantsomething #smile

You don't need to be on Instagram to visit the page and view the photos, but I believe you do need an account to "heart" and comment on them.

Do you share your garden blooms on Instagram? If so, share your account link in the comments page below.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Reader Contest: Win Passes to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show

 For our October 2014 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away three sets of passes to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show (Retail value: $18.)

   To enter to win a pair of passes, send an email to: by 5:00pm on October 16 10am on October 17 with “MD Holiday Show” in the subject line and in the body of the email, please also include your full name and mailing address. Tell us: “What is your favorite thing about gardening in Autumn?” The pass winners will be announced and notified by email by October 18th.
Maryland Home & Holiday Show
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 18, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, October 19, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Redecorate the halls this holiday season with cheerful and inventive ideas from the Maryland Home & Holiday Show. This three-day event gives homeowners the opportunity to meet with hundreds of contractors, shop the latest home improvement trends and purchase seasonal gifts for friends and family. Highlights of the show will include:

More than 300 Exhibitors: Hundreds of knowledgeable contractors, landscapers, designers and house product gurus who will be showing off the latest trends in home improvement and answering questions about how to get started with, continue or add the finishing touch to home projects of any size.

World-Famous Frisbee Dogs: The Disc-Connected K9s—four world champion, acrobatic dogs—will be making an appearance at the show. Spectators will watch world-class dogs jump, flip and catch Frisbees in a pawstively-perfect performance. Pet products will also be available for visitors to browse and buy in-between the Disc-Connected K9s’ shows.

Holiday Crafts and Gifts: An array of unique, handmade products from juried craftspeople will provide shoppers with endless gift-giving options for everyone on their holiday lists—an awesome alternative to mass-produced gifts offered on Amazon.

Landscaped Gardens: Visitors will walk through beautifully-landscaped seasonal settings that incorporate hardscaping, native trees and shrubs, and fall flowers into breathtaking garden displays.

Tiny House by Sustainafest: The Annapolis nonprofit, Sustainafest, will be debuting its 210 square foot, student-built “Tiny House” model that demonstrates sustainable living practices for the home. Visitors can stop by the house to learn more about living sustainably, improving the environment and supporting the local economy.

Designer Sport Caves: For those looking for inspiration in displaying their Baltimore sports pride at home, the show will feature three, model “sports caves” decked out in Ravens and Orioles colors and memorabilia. Attendees can learn how to transform their own small space into a Baltimore sports cave with ideas from professional interior designers.

A Visit from Santa: Santa will be leaving the North Pole a little early this year to meet and greet children and read holiday stories on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Wine Tastings: Guests can sample some of Maryland’s best wine from Boordy Vineyards, Far Eastern Shore Winery and The Winery at Olney while perusing vendor booths.

Tickets to the Maryland Home & Holiday Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 6-12, and free for children under 6 years old. Free admission is also available for active military, police and fire employees with ID.
The Maryland Home & Holiday Show is sponsored by M&T Bank.For more information on the show, visit or call (410) 863-1180.

UPDATE: Because of the short notice on this event - we are extending the entry deadline to 10:00am on October 17. 

UPDATE 2: The pass winners are:   
- Annie Shaw of Greenbelt, MD
- Teresa Liao of Arlington, VA
- Jan Baweja of Olney, MD
Congratulations to all!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fenton Friday: Cool Enough for Kohlrabi

At my plot at the Fenton Community Garden, I lifted up my cover cloth to find a few surprises today. One, is that ONE Kohlrabi plant is shaping up nicely. The others fizzled out, but I think this one was shaded by nearby cosmos flowers so had some protection from last week's harsh sun. I also caught a spotted cucumber beetle climbing on it, I grabbed him real quick! He better not have told his friends.

Arugula aka Rocket
 Also under the cloth, my Arugula re-seeded. Hurray! Don't you just love free garden volunteers?

The radish and carrot seedlings are also popping up finally as well. I will have to thin them soon as, of course, the ones that germinate are all the ones clumped together rather than those more well-spaced out.

So, how is your edible garden growing this week?

carrot seedlings

radish seedling

Native Spotlight: Small-flower White Aster

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw
“That’s really pretty,” the woman passing by called out from the sidewalk. “Baby’s Breath, isn’t it?”

“Uh, no,” I said, “It’s a native, but I’m not sure of the name.” Embarrassing, as just a couple of weeks previously I asked a friend what the plant was. I had transplanted some from the backyard to the front to fill in some bare spots, knowing there would be lots of late summer tiny white blooms when other plants were starting to fade. My friend gave me the genus name, Symphyotrichum, saying my plants were one of two species, she didn’t remember which.

That was the information I had to fall back on when I decided to feature the plant for this post. When I looked up the genus I saw that it included a gazillion asters (only a slight exaggeration), including the White Wood Aster which grows modestly in a shady corner of my yard, as well as the New England Aster, often recommended as a native planting for fall color. Double embarrassment! If I’d had my wits about me I could have at least told the passerby that it was a native aster! But this plant, one of several that have planted themselves in my yard over the years, was registered in my mind simply as the late-blooming, fulsome plant with many tiny white flowers.  

Having done my research, I think what I have is Symphyotrichum racemosum. (Though I’m happy to be corrected.) I base the ID on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center description: “white rays surrounding a yellowish to pinkish central disk; heads mostly clustered along one side of widely diverging branches on a smooth, slender, purple-tinged stem.”  Common names are Small-flower White Aster or Smooth White Oldfield Aster.

The plants in my yard are 2-4 feet tall and, it practically goes without saying, loved by bees. They do seed in, but are easy to pull out if you start to get more than you want. Although some of the flowers are starting to fade, there are plenty of buds on the stems. Altogether a satisfying plant when the season is starting to wind down.

What fall natives are blooming in your yard or nearby?

About the Author 
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, Maryland. She blogs at