Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My First Post!

Thanks for reading my blog.  I will be talking about gardening in and around Northern Virginia.  Specifically in the Falls Church-Arlington area, but also in the general region including D.C. and Maryland.  While there are micro-climates everywhere (including in my garden and probably yours too), we can make some generalizations about this area; its soil, weather, and gardening resources. We are in frost zone 7a and our soil tends to be acidic with lots of clay.  There are many resources in this area, including the local cooperative extension offices that provide great help for gardeners and local businesses that provide sources for everything from seed to landscaping expertise. 

I hope you have started ordering seeds for spring planting!  But if you have not, don't worry too much because seed sellers all seem to have websites.  The only reason to order earlier is too make sure popular or limited items are still available.  I really enjoy ordering seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com), where everything is heirloom.  Last year I had great success with all of their seeds, in spite of rotten soil and hot dry conditions.  I believe they have run out of their printed catalog already, but if you have a chance to order it next year it is beautiful and very inspirational.  Of course you will want to buy a small farm after you read it but curb yourself!  Remember you will have to find room for everything and find people to eat the vegetables!  Besides veggies they also sell flower seeds.  This year I have also ordered from Territorial Seed Company (territorialseed.com), which I have heard good things about.  Also ordered from some old standbys such as Park Seeds and Burpees.  I have purchased seed packets from Merriefield Garden Center as well, some from a company in Italy called Franchi.  I am looking forward to seeing how that works out.  This is the first year I have actually planned ahead with a list of what I like, think will grow and amounts that I can handle. Also, this is the first year I am actually using a plan/map of what goes where when.  It gets complicated when you try to incorporate crop rotation, companion planting and planting by the phases of the moon!  I don't sweat it though, last year I had a few things work out and I just dug up (or I should say had my dad dig up) a part of the yard where there wasn't much grass and threw in some lime, compost and manure and hoped for the best. (Okay, maybe I did a bit more than that but not much more!)  Gardening can be approached in a very scientific way, or an artistic way; I am trying for a bit of both. 

Happy gardening!

(well at this time of year, happy dreaming about gardening!)


  1. Dear Ruth,
    How wonderful to see you digging up the soil at Taft! It made me smile to see a real garden there, just as you had hoped. Any chance that you are also gardening on the roof?

    You might be able to get a bunch of free cow manure from Oxon Hill Farms, and prep another plot for next year. I have used thick layers of wet newspaper, covered with 1 to 2 feet of composting materials, such as grass clippings, leaves, and food waste (with 50 percent more brown material than green material in my compost). That way, you don't have to dig up the turf, as the grass dies under the wet newspaper, and the compost on top has time to break down. I found this idea from a book, Lasagna Gardening.

    Have you had any problems with stink bugs? I can't grow pumpkin or other squash plants any more, as I refuse to use pesticides.

    With Aloha,

  2. Hi Jen, I don't live at Taft anymore! I have my own garden. I have also read about the lasagna method and have incorporated that in my garden plans for this year. Last year I moved in to the new house in February so I didn't have time to get that ready but this year I have raised beds and layers of stuff including horse manure and compost. Compost is the best stuff! Also I have a source for alpaca poop! Can't wait to get started on the seed sowing for spring. Starting March 17th I will have a monthly gardening column in the Falls Church News-Press

    I don't use pesticides either, just homemade bug repellent, (garlic and hot pepper mixed with water, I will post recipe later). Last year I had a serious squash bug problem that decimated the cucumbers and some melons and squash. Once they get a hold of the plants they spread disease and that's it for the plants. The best way to keep that from happening I am told is to use Remay plant cover (a cloth sold by the yard at garden centers) and cover the seedlings except for watering and time for pollinators to get in there. Pick squash bugs off the covers or vines and toss into a jar of soapy water. After the vines are established and showing good growth you can get rid of the covers. I am trying that this year. I don't think the squash bugs gave the stink bugs a chance to eat anything in my garden but the stink bugs appeared to move into my house for the winter!

  3. aren't your garden infested by stink bugs? how did you manage it?

  4. Jason, I haven't had a problem with them (yet). I hope I never do. So far my tomatoes are doing okay even though they have something chewing on them and making their stems bumpy. But I am feeding them and making sure they have enough water. One of the best defenses is to keep plants healthy and most of the time they can take an infestation without it killing the plant. As for stink bugs ( and most all beetle like bugs) the best defense is to try and interrupt the life cycle. Look for eggs under the leaves and wipe them off. Spray with safer soap or neem oil which can penetrate the soft body of the eggs and the larval or nymph stages, and pick off adults and drown in soapy water. This year I planted sqaush and cucumber later than usual and so far (knock on wood) I have yet to see any squash bugs or squash beetles. Let's hope I have bypassed their life cycle.

  5. Guess what I saw today! Stink bugs, outside on chain link fence. Odd, I didn't see them on actual plants. Will look into this when (if) it cools down this evening and I can spray safer soap. I will do a better job of checking underneath the leaves for eggs. Durn it!