Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bringing herbs in for the winter

There was an ugly frost this week here in zone 7, after some very mild temperatures. The annuals that were still hanging on, like the zinnia, batchelor's buttons and marigold, were toast. I was keeping the zinnia and marigolds in the ground waiting for the flower heads to dry so I could gather some seeds. But they are all dead now and I pulled them all out today. Even the mums got zapped!

The herbs survived though, like parsley and oregano, so today I dug them up and brought them inside for the winter. Here is oregano hanging in the west-facing kitchen window. Now I will have fresh oregano, parsley and rosemary over the winter.

Oregano in the window.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Clearing the decks for fall crop

Was I overly optimistic when I declared "There is Still a lot of Summer Left"? It bothers me when the stores and media start rushing fall in August. Halloween candy in the isles at Safeway, the start of meteorological fall, my friends in northern New England reporting a tinge of color in the leaves. Makes me crazy.

Fall Plot Prep
Alas, yesterday I cleared out the beans, pulled the rest of the carrots, picked some kale (my spring plants are still going strong). The Brandywine tomatoes are still really green. Actually all of the tomatoes are still really green. I am now going to remove any flowers that form on the tomato plants in order to direct all of the energy to ripening. And I started the plant list for the fall crop:
  • Spinach
  • Carrotts
  • Radish
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Onions
  • Garlic
When Are Carrots Ready for Picking
I ask myself this question every time I go in and pull them out. I have been relying on the size of the leaves. Yesterday when I picked all of the carrots that remained in the ground, I discovered that the size of the leaves do not correlate to the size of the carrot. I had one PERFECT beautiful carrot (pictured on the right) and the leaves were quite small. I have other kind of smallish carrots with very large leaves (pictured on the left). Good experiment!

On the left, skinny carrot, dense leaves. On the right "Perfection." Large carrot, no splitting, evenly tapered, straight. Very skinny leaves.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trimming Flowers on Coleus

Many of the coleus plants I have around the yard are growing flower spikes. Not so attractive, but this bee was hanging out the other day.

Do you trim back the flowers? I guessed that the flowers created the leaves, but I think I am wrong. According to this short piece in SF Gate:
Cut or pinch flower spikes back to a leaf node as they appear. Coleus flowers are light purple or blue and develop at the ends of shoots. Pinching off flowers before they bloom and go to seed saves the plant energy and encourages vegetative growth.
I won't be saving seeds from these plants so I am going to cut them off.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Lots of bees in the yard today. This is celosia, in the amaranth family.

Today is #WorldPhotoDay. Check out the website for more info.

Monday, August 14, 2017

There is Still a lot of Summer Left

Finally some tomatoes are developing on the Brandywine plants. It was all blossom-drop-all-of-the-time in July. According the to the University of Maryland Extension, it can be caused by heat which
we had a lot of in July here in D.C. The cherry tomato plant is slow this year, not flowering as much as previous years. There is still a lot of summer left in the mid-Atlantic and I am hopeful to get a good crop of tomatoes this year.

The green beans, and hopefully some wax beans, are starting to come in now. I should have enough for dinner later in the week!

Sadly the Cinderella pumpkin, or whatever that plant is, has not survived. I think it was the dreaded squash vine borer that killed it. A few weeks ago I bravely dug one of the buggers out and was so proud of myself. The plant perked up again and I thought all was well. But then the leaves started yellowing again, and I got busy at work, getting home after dark, and did not dig around for more worms. Plus, if I did get a fruit now, in mid-August would it even have time to ripen? I give up!

I was away last week so I was excited to get home and see how everything had grown. The zinnias do not disappoint again this year. They have filled in beautifully in their bed and I will have cut flowers for another two months. This is mix of Parks and Thumbelina.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Garden Progress in Mid-July

It has been very hot and humid in the Washington, D.C. area lately, and there has been wonderful rain over the past few days.  Everybody is happy in the garden because they aren't parched-at least for a few days.
Clockwise: Parks Mix zinnia are super cut flowers; funky fresh carrots taste so good; pumpkin; stuttgarter onions are getting picked as the leaves dry out, really great flavor.
S.L.O.W. Tomatoes
A few weeks ago I noticed that my tomato plants were growing very slowly. Fish fertilizer was recommended so I gave it try. Here are after and before photos and the Brandywine has grown a lot with the fertilizer, probably doubled in size. The other tomatoes have grown, too, but not as much as this one. It has started flowering, too, so I am still hopeful that this guy will produce.
Left: Taken July 23 after using fish fertilizer. Right: Taken July 3 before using fish fertilizer.
Are these plants really pumpkins?
I have been documenting my experiment this year to grow pumpkins for the first time. I was able to get two types of seeds at a seed swap this winter-Jacky's and Cinderella. Two Cinderella plants and one Jacky's plant were transplanted early this spring. The Cinderella plants took off (pictured top), growing like mad with long, winding vines, while Jacky's (pictured below) is healthy but much more contained and no vines.
Then Cinderella produced some little fruits that have since all died. I read that it could be that they were pollinated sufficiently. And looking at some photos again, the little pumpkins were not round but kind of flat in the bottom-see the photos below. So I am thinking that the Cinderella plants are not pumpkins after all because of how differently they are growing as compared to Jacky's and the way the fruits looked on the vine. Anybody have any ideas about this?

Are these really little pumpkins or some kind of squash?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hot July #Bloomsday

It has been very hot in the D.C. area, as it is in the middle of the summer. The flowers and vegetables seem behind where I think they should be this year.
  • As I posted earlier, the tomatoes are growing really slowly. Fish fertilizer was recommended and it seemed to work on one of the heirlooms, but the others did not react. But, all of the plants have flowers and fruits so I am going to fertilize one more time and just leave them alone. 
  • The pumpkins have squash vine borer, no surprise. Leaves were wilting and turning yellow and the vines had the tell-tale mushiness (looks like sawdust). One plant died, but I was able to dig out the worm in another plant. I covered the area with dirt and now I am hoping for the best. The third plant looks fine for now.
  • My other quandry with the pumpkins is that I am not sure I am even growing pumpkins! More on that at another time.

The containers are filling in

Left: Full-sun area with hydrangea and black-eyed susan. Top right: Mostly shade area with coleus, sweet potato vine, mint, creeping jenny and torenia. Bottom right: Mostly sunny area with mix of croton and zinnia and hibiscus and petunia.
Flower beds going strong, too
My favorite black-eyed Susans. So easy to grow and they bloom all summer.
Parks Mix Zinnia have beautiful color and make beautiful cut bouquets.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Find a Listserv of Local People for Gardening Advice and Community

Who do you turn to online when you have a garden problem or question? There are so many resources out there, but how do you know how knowledgeable the site is?

Find a Local Listserv
I like listservs because there are a lot of voices to offer advice.

I had a question this past week about my tomato plants that seem to be growing really slowly this year. This has never happened to me before! The plants look healthy and they have started flowering but they seem to be only about 1/3 the size they should be for late June/early July.

Left Brandywine heirloom, right Jet Set.

My trusty resource is a Yahoo group I belong to, the Washington Gardner. It is described as a “Free, open discussion list for Washington DC area gardeners -- DC, MD, VA, WV, PA, and DE -- to share gardening information specific to our region. Hosted by Washington Gardener magazine.” The group is so helpful and knowledgeable. Even when I don’t have a specific question, I learn so much from reading the posts.

Here’s my question (cumberland68 is me) – and you are never alone when you are having a gardening problem!

Every day Kathy Jentz, the group manager and edit of Washington Gardener magazine posts here “Gardening Tip of the Day.” So she answered my question with her tip yesterday.


This is trusted advice, off to Home Depot I go today. I will report back on how the fish fertilizer did.

I also am a member of the SilverSpringGardenClub and takomahort listservs that serve the Mid-Atlantic. Take a look at Yahoo Groups, there is probably a gardening listserv in your area.

Social Media
I really enjoy looking at pictures of gardens from around the world. Social media makes it so easy to share your garden pics right from your smartphone or tablet. Download the app from your app store to your phone, create your account and you are ready to go. I really like using the Hootsuite app to follow Twitter (@advncingtheplot) and I just started posting to Instagram (advncingtheplot). For ideas and inspiration I use Pinterest. It is a good medium for flipping through photos and archiving my garden’s progress.  

Hashtags make finding certain types of posts easy. I like to follow #gardendc, #gardenchat and #growyourown. Make sure you add hashtags to your posts, too.

What are your go-to social media resources for garden advice and inspiration?