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Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 | 1 comment

Scenes from the 2016 Del Ray Urban Farm Tour

Scenes from the 2016 Del Ray Urban Farm Tour

This past Saturday, we held our second Del Ray Urban Farm Tour, traveling by bike to seven backyard gardens and one community garden in the Del Ray neighborhood. We met some pretty amazing gardeners, all who grow a sizable amount of food in their own yards. Here’s how the day went: The tour started at 9 a.m. at the top of Mt Ida where neighbors Catherine and Lauren (whom we featured last year) showed us what’s growing in their shared garden space — it gets bigger and better each year. They had a pepper tasting, gave away extra canned goods and answered questions about the enormous amount of vegetables they grow. Next, the crew road down Russell Road to Alex’s terraced front yard garden, proving yes, even if you live on a sloped yard, you can have a successful vegetable garden. Alex’s garden spreads around the side and back of her yard as well, with perennial flowers, fruit trees and an intricate watering system. Our third stop was Kay’s...

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Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 | 2 comments

Learning to Draw Ferns and Moss at Huntley Meadows Park

Learning to Draw Ferns and Moss at Huntley Meadows Park

Naturalist Margaret Wohler’s nature sketching classes are always excellent. Margaret’s exuberance, love for the natural world – Huntley Meadows Park in particular – and love of art is contagious. I started with a class on creating a nature journal and then took one on drawing dragonflies. And this time, I showed up to learn about ancient plants, the bryophytes, or mosses and ferns – to add to my nature journaling repertoire. Margaret begins every class with a brief biology lesson on the subject at hand using her own hand-drawn illustrations. In this case, we learned about where ferns and moss fit into the history of the planet; they emerged just before reptiles and flying insects, and predate seed plants, flowering plants, and even dinosaurs. We also learned about the reproductive cycles of the ferns and moss and why they’re unique and have managed to survive some 470 million years. She transitions to a discussion of the tradition of nature drawing, sharing several examples from the Victorian era to the present, as...

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 | 0 comments

Landscaping a Steeply Sloped Yard

Landscaping a Steeply Sloped Yard

When we moved into our house earlier this year, there was pretty much zero curb appeal. The yard was a mess of weeds mixed with patches of mulch and irregularly placed sod. It was weird, really, because the inside of the house was updated, so it seemed like the previous owner forgot about the outside. The worst part of the yard had to be the steeply sloped sides, two narrow patches of dirt, rocks and weeds eroding with every rainfall. One side received sun and was somewhat evenly sloped. The other side was mostly shade and had a flatter top and then a steep drop (plus an eyesore of a drainage tube!). We called a few landscapers to get their opinions. Everyone seemed to come to the same conclusion: sod the sunny side and hardscape the shady side. We liked the idea of steps on one side to make it easier to get to the back of the house without going inside. Though seed would have been significantly less...

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Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 | 2 comments

Progress Report: Raised Bed Gardening

Progress Report: Raised Bed Gardening

Back in April I purchased some cedar raised beds for my backyard garden. I’m pretty pleased with the beds and I wanted to share a quick update on how my garden is doing. Here were the two 3×8 beds when I assembled them in April: And here’s the same shot today: Unfortunately, from my original seed planting (arugula, kale, lettuce and broccoli rabe), only the arugula survived. The rest of the seedlings were washed away during the May monsoon season. I got about a month’s worth of enjoyment from the arugula before it bolted last week and had to be pulled up. However, after originally going MIA, the red leaf lettuce recently came back to life and is holding steady even after being picked for dinner a few times. (This is about a bite’s worth of lettuce, but it’s something!) Despite my seedling fails, I’ve had success with other vegetables. In this bed, zucchini, basil, tomatoes and cucumber are thriving. My second bed has herbs and jalapeno peppers (not...

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Posted by on May 5, 2016 | 2 comments

Irises Everywhere

Irises Everywhere

When I moved into my house, the garden was covered in ivy. As I began to remove the ivy, I found treasures underneath, beautiful irises. They look white from a distance, but when you take a closer look they are a lovely shade of light purple. Irises grow quite well in this area. I inherited these purple irises from a neighbor. They were taking over her yard, so she pulled out a bunch and gave them to me! Irises tend to multiply, you can either separate them and place them in other locations in your garden or give the extras to a gardener friend. Irises are quite beautiful this time of year. Walking around Del Ray there are so many types to feast your eyes upon. They come in a variety of colors. They also smell delicious! They bloom around mother’s day (hint, hint) and make a nice...

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