Friday, May 20, 2016

Keeping Bees Fed after September

All types of bees (honey, Mason, bumble, etc.) need nectar & pollen for food. However, most flowers in gardens begin fading in September.  But bees are active to December (weather permitting), and they'll start foraging again in January (weather permitting). So the best plants for your garden (if you want to help bees) are late bloomers.  Using the site www.Wildflower.org, here's a list of late-blooming wildflowers that are native to the mid-Atlantic, especially Virginia.  Plant some of these and keep our pollinators fed!  Our honeybees say, "Thanks!" 
Credit

Asters

Bee Balm (Bergamot)

Blue Mistflower

Cardinal Flower

Carolina Phlox

Coneflowers

Great Blue Lobelia

Appalachian Bugbane

Wild Geraniums

Witch Hazel

Friday, May 6, 2016

Get Ready for the Cicadas!

It's that time again when the cicadas descend upon the Mid-Atlantic region. Technically, they will ascend, crawling out of the soil next month for what is expected to be their 17-year mating cycle. Get ready for the cacophony in the trees as these bugs try to impress their mates and the crunching underfoot (yes, it can be unnerving). But don't be turned off by cicadas. They won't decimate our veggies like locust.


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Cicadas are fascinating little creatures, and not well understood. Yet they have a lot of meanings and symbolize immortality, rebirth, love, and good luck. You can even eat them, like in East Africa, where cicadas are considered a delicacy.

Since we will all see them in the coming weeks, whether in the garden or underfoot, here are some FAQs about cicadas and the 17-year cycle in the Northern Virginia area:
  • Cicadas can’t chew so they don’t devour our plants and trees. They suck sap, but generally not enough to do any long-term damage to mature vegetation. 
  • A single generation of cicadas can reach a density of 1.5 million cicadas an acre in some areas. 
  • The adults live above ground for four to six weeks focused solely on mating and laying eggs (that won't hatch for 17 years!). 
  • The sound you hear when the cicadas emerge is the mating cry sung by males, as they try to find females. 
  • Cicadas begin to emerge when the soil 8" beneath the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Cicadas are not really related to the locusts that we tend to compare them to. They are more closely related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs. 
  • Twelve of the 15 known cicada broods emerge from the ground after 17 years. The other three emerge after 13 years. The two types will only emerge together once every 221 years. 


Sources:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/its-prime-time-for-cicadas-natures-numerical-nerds-1462535749

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/04/15/billions-of-cicadas-will-descend-upon-the-northeastern-united-states-as-another-17-year-cycle-conclude/?hpid=hp_no-name_morning-mix-story-h%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

http://www.insidenova.com/news/local/northernva/fascinating-facts-about-cicadas/article_f9a8fda6-bdda-11e2-96d8-001a4bcf887a.html

http://www.gardensalive.com/product/the-cicadas-are-coming-the-cicadas-are-coming/you_bet_your_garden

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spring means Beans (and Wood Chips)! Guest post by Aidia

This last Sunday in April couldn’t have been more perfect! The DC area has a funny way of moving quickly from winter right into the summer. But not today… the sun was shining and the temp was right around 70 degrees: An ideal day to work in the garden. 

The first thing I noticed as I arrived at the school were the garden men hard at work! We received a huge pile of woodchips this past Friday to spread around the garden space. Their shovels were digging and the wheelbarrows were moving.  That pile of woodchips didn’t stand a chance! 

As the men and children transported the woodchips to the walkways, several different projects were simultaneously being undertaken.  I’m accustomed to community gardens that are more like rental gardens in the community, without much collaboration besides a spring clean-up and a fall clean-up. Even then, gardeners are ready to scurry back into their respective plots to tend to their own business. You do get the occasional passerby who wants to share his/her war stories with cucumber beetles, but for the most part you are on your own. 

This Sunday I saw gardeners working together and sharing knowledge; not just about plants and flowers, but world travels, delicious wines and how to brew your own liqueur for cocktails, just to name a few things overheard. There are so many cool and interesting things you can learn from your neighbor. That is what a community garden should be about, right? Gardening is hard work! Why not have fun at the same time? 

My first task was weeding. The most dreaded task of them all! But I like to concentrate on each little weed and try to pull up every bit of the root without it snapping. Usually this takes me FOREVER! Luckily I got some help from Amber who also showed me where the Asparagus plants are, that we hope comes back to life. I soooo hope they come back! Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies to prepare because they are so simple and hearty. 

After weeding Amber and I planted nasturtium seeds. These plants are easy to grow and both the leaves and flowers are edible. Traditionally, the blooms range from bright yellow to orange and have a sweet and peppery taste. Not only can they be used as a yummy garnish, but they can be used in salads, sandwiches, vinaigrettes or whatever dish you want to spice up. Can’t wait to try these! 
My next task was transplanting Pink Tip Greasy Beans and Robert Hazelwood Beans (both are Appalachian heritage beans, available online at Sustainable Mountain Agriculture.  I’ve never been an artist or been able to draw straight lines, so I’m sure the plants are not in a perfect row. But, I’m pretty sure that won’t affect their growth. Again, I’m all about the roots, so I made sure to handle each seedling so that the roots stayed intact. Fingers crossed they make it through the transition. 

The last task of the day was constructing trellises for the varieties of beans to climb. This was truly a collaborative effort. We used old sections of wired fences, old bamboo sticks and twine to hold the structure together. With the many hands on deck, the innovative engineering and sound decision making, the beans will have something to hike up. 

Next work session, Sunday May 1st, 1:00-4:00pm will be the first garden potluck of the season! After some socializing, we will plant more veggie plants as well as regular maintenance tasks. Looking forward to seeing everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's supposed to be SPRING, right!?!



Last Sunday's work session followed several nights of late-season frosts and even a freeze. We were pleasantly surprised that not only was the weather warmer than predicted during our work, but also the transplants from last week seemed fine with the cold snap and the soil warm enough for more seeds. Yay for more spring planting!

Throughout the beds many varieties were planted: a spicy greens mix and a sweet greens mix; parsley and cilantro (in a part-shade section of the garden to help ward off bolting too early as temperatures rise); rainbow chard; and a mix of edible flowers in the asparagus patch.


There was a good bit of "maintenance weeding" in all the beds. A couple folks undertook cleaning out and organizing the garden shed. Thanks to Dee for putting up plot markers!





The lettuce and arugula planted a couple weeks ago have sprouted!! There is life with the sugar snap peas, and the strawberries have started to set early blooms for their sweet, sweet fruit: strawberry shortcake, here we come!!



Next work session, Sunday April, 17th, 2-4pm will involve  more weeding and, if it's WARM enough (come on spring!!), herbs will be planted. The big summer planting will need to wait until May 1st, 2-4 (which is also our next COMMUNITY DAY), because the weather has been so unpredictable.






Lastly, we have a "call for materials." We are going to construct raised beds along the entry side walk, and we need anything that could help: stakes to hold up the walls, extra wood, plastic, or metal boards or planks: if you have something laying around that you think, but are not sure, if it would be useful, just ask!

                                              Great work everyone!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring may be slow to warm, but our garden is well under way!





Sunday, April 2nd was our second all-hands work session and we got so much accomplished! The weather was warmer and less windy than predicted and several folks stayed past 4pm to start laying cardboard in the paths and water the last of the plantings. 

Backing up two hours, I (among many others) was met on the street with hot apple cider and name tags. We started with the big weeding projects of the day: clearing the mostly-wire-grass weeds from the asparagus patch, the pollinator garden spot, the hole that was last year's attempt to catch heavy rain fall from the school roof, and any visible weeds in the other veggie beds.







A team also worked on filling that ex-water-hole with dirt and getting it ready to be planted over.







Then there was all the SPRING PLANTING! A variety of potatoes (including PURPLE ones!) were put in, as well as plenty of different types of carrots, radishes, and peas in various spots around the garden. The kale transplants looked good, and only a few of last session's sugar snap peas had sprouted, so those rows got reseeded.




























The strawberries in particular looked strong and notably larger than a mere two weeks ago.  I can't wait to see what has sprouted come the next work session, this Sunday, April 10th, 2-4pm

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Has Arrived!

What better way to welcome Spring than to begin working on the GW Community Garden! Despite the "non-Spring" weather, the team made great headway during our first gardening session of the year. The rain and cool air didn't deter us - warm apple cider and cookies certainly helped!  All hands were on deck to weed plots, turn the soil, and make sure that stubborn wire grass was completely removed from the beds. We loaded many large bags filled to the brim with weeds. And with the fresh plots, we were able to plant peas and lettuce seeds. It was a very satisfying and productive day!  




Besides cleaning up our garden and setting ourselves up for the next session (which is April 3rd, by the way!), this was a great opportunity for new members to meet returning folks and to get to know one another. 

We are very fortunate to have such a diverse group! Some have been playing around in the dirt for many years while others are new to gardening and working to turn that thumb green. But no matter the level of experience, everyone is very excited and looking forward to a fantastic and fruitful season that lays ahead!      - Julie Y.

Next gardening session is April 3rd.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Zinnias to be the First Life on Mars? and All Invited to Info Session!

Starting off the gardening year with a reference to Bowie, RIP! But how would you grow crops on deep-space missions (Mars, for instance)? Think about it: seeds are a lot easier to carry than food, and if you can figure out the water reclamation part, you're golden. 

Of course they're wondering about that at NASA, and trying things out on the International Space Station.  Here's a recent post, Flowers Harvested on the Ground & in Space.  

A little closer to home, you're invited to an info session for all interested in the GW Community Garden. It will be at Stomping Ground, 2309 Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 7pm.  Stomping Ground is one of our community partners, and are opening up especially for our meeting.  Get there early to buy & try out their excellent selection of coffee & pastries.  

We have exciting plans for this year's garden and look forward to sharing our ideas and reconnecting with you all at the information session.  Find out what your commitment is, what the cost to join is, and what we hope to achieve as a community garden.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Space Veggies!

My brain is totally post-apocalyptic these days, so besides being addicted to Walking Dead, I'm also reading Seveneves. I spend a lot of time wondering how I'd deal with one of these situations.  I expect I'd be really useful if cowering & screaming are required.  

Anyway, NASA and the International Space Station have taken care of one important issue, which has come up in Seveneves: how to grow veggies in space?!  (The Martian also deals with this important issue.) Read more about the plant pillow here. Keep eating those veggies & have a great end-of-summer long weekend.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

West Nile Virus - Another Reason to Go Native!

Brief post here to remind you that if you're working on fixing up your yard, it's best for the local birds & bees if you go native (native plants, I mean).  But now there's another reason: new research showing that non-natives seem to make it easier for nasties like West Nile Virus mosquitoes to thrive!  Which makes sense, right?  If you give them the plants they are used to, they'll feel right at home.  I'm fairly hospitable, but I do draw the line at evil disease-spreading non-native insects. 

So, the paper, Asymmetric effects of native and exotic invasive shrubs on ecology of the West Nile Virus vector Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae), is a slog if you're not a biologist, so I just read the abstract. 

If you're not sure what/how to find natives for your area, the Lady Bird Johnson Center for Wildflowers (www.wildflower.org) is an excellent starting place.  
Credit

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beekeeping Update

Honey on the comb!  Yep, that's what it looks like.  You can see that most of it has been "capped," meaning covered with beeswax, but there are a few cells uncapped, and we tasted it and it's definitely honey.  At this point it's made from sugar water we were feeding them when they first arrived, so it's not really tasty.  We care, but the bees don't; it's food that they can store for the winter.  We'll be looking for the honey they're making in the next few months, which will be from the nectar & pollen they're collecting now.  It will be a richer color & flavor (we hope)! 


Here's the Roommate, showing off a frame that is full of comb, with lots of busy bees working on it. Some are caring for newly hatched bees, some are making and storing honey, some are storing pollen, etc. Click on the photos to see them full-sized (and you can zoom in quite a bit, if you want details).  

I'll be sure and keep you updated as our first beekeeping season progresses...