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Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 | 0 comments

Saving Seeds for Next Year’s Garden

Saving Seeds for Next Year’s Garden

Dried or “spent” flowers in the garden, in spite of having lost their bloom, are actually treasure troves, many of them jam packed with seeds. In our seed saving demo over the weekend, Justine Hudec showed us how to harvest seeds from flowers and vegetables and to make seed saving a part of your gardening routine. We lucked out with gorgeous fall afternoon, so we held the demo outdoors, near the butterfly, senses, native, and vegetable gardens at Mount Vernon Community School, where Justine is a teacher and head of the student green team. That’s her in the baseball cap. Justine showed everyone the way she gathers seeds from her various plantings throughout the growing season, simply tossing them into plastic pots as she tends the garden. She moves the pots under cover outside so the seeds can dry out. Then, she transfers the seeds into envelopes and slides them into photo albums, alongside seed packets she purchased. In this pot, she says she tossed various flower seeds, making a...

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Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 | 4 comments

Aphids vs. Ladybugs: An Experiment in Eco Pest Control

Aphids vs. Ladybugs: An Experiment in Eco Pest Control

Eileen has a beautiful flower garden in the courtyard behind her row house. As soon as you walk out, you’re enveloped in a leafy oasis. A landscape designer, she takes the utmost care of her plantings, so she noticed a problem with her Heliopsis flower petals right away. And the culprit became readily apparent as well: aphids. You can see the red critters encircling the stem just below the flower. I wouldn’t have known what they were, but an experienced gardener sure would. The Heliopsis should look like this – full, rich in color, with leaves intact. But the aphids, little by little, have been decimating the flowers. Instead of using pesticides, Eileen chose to call in a natural predator of aphids: Ladybugs. And not just a few. Eileen wasn’t fooling around – she ordered by mail a packet of 1,500 live ladybugs. She was told to release about 50-75 at a time, in the late day and early morning hours. I went outside with her the other night...

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Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 | 0 comments

Vinegar and Baking Soda Unite: DIY Eco-Friendly Cleaning

Vinegar and Baking Soda Unite: DIY Eco-Friendly Cleaning

Just in time for spring cleaning, we were thrilled to host a demo on eco-friendly cleaning products. Our presenters, Jen Wills and Mellenie Runion, showed us how to avoid household chemicals by making your own cleaning products and embracing environmentally conscious lifestyles. Jen Wills is a Del Ray parent and environmentalist who has done extensive research on household chemicals. Jen started out by describing some of the common chemicals in our homes, saying “you name it, they’re there.” U.S. law allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish. If they make a claim like “kills bacteria,” though, they have to list the pesticides in the product. For example, this Soft Scrub product says “it kills 99.9 % of germs,” and therefore, also lists an active ingredient. Some labels sound rather innocuous like “BabyGanics: The Sparkle Maker Glass Surface Cleaner—Fragrance Free.” Well, that one contains this crazy-sounding chemical combination: HEXAHYDRO-1,3,5-TRIS (2-HYDROXYETHYL)-S-TRIAZINE. If you’re curious about what a specific ingredient is, like the one in the BabyGanics...

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 | 3 comments

Beautiful Bounty: Evening Star’s Rooftop Garden

Beautiful Bounty: Evening Star’s Rooftop Garden

What do you do when you don’t have enough space for a garden? If you’re like the Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray, you head up to the roof, taking advantage of wide open sun and space. Since late last year, the Evening Star has operated a full-sized rooftop garden, growing unique varieties of herbs and vegetables to serve in the restaurant down below. I met with Evening Star’s chef Jim Jeffords and chief carpenter/gardener Jonathan Stark to learn more about this bountiful endeavor. When the Evening Star remodeled their interior at the end of 2011, all the restaurant staff were paid to help with the project. Jonathan had been working as a server and during the remodel, his talent as a carpenter and gardener shone. He’s now their full-time handyman and is the force behind the 400-square-foot rooftop garden as well as the raised beds and trellis at the Front Porch, the casual summertime alfresco dinner spot on the restaurant’s adjoining patio. Construction on the garden happened in August...

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Winterizing our Community Garden

Winterizing our Community Garden

We had a fall work session over the weekend at the G.W. community garden where I’m one of about 25 neighborhood members. We had three main tasks to do to get the garden ready for winter – besides the never-ending weeding job, each was a new experience for a novice farmer like me and each one is also applicable to a home garden: Pulling up vines, spent growth, and weeds Turning the soil and planting a cover crop Planting winter starts and seeds, and harvesting anything you can still find under the soil (rogue potatoes!) or above (lettuce). Weed the pathways and clean up the beds. We did the unglamorous job of weeding switchgrass in the pathways between the beds and then cleared eggplant and potato beds of the remaining vines. Then, we turned the soil along the potato bed – carefully so we wouldn’t cut any remaining potatoes in two. Much to our surprise, we discovered that the sweet potatoes did sprout after all. We had thought they...

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