On morning runs through the neighborhood I began noticing a unique home garden. It encompassed a large part of the backyard and it seemed like a new bed or structure was always popping up. I wanted a closer look. I had planned to ring the doorbell to meet the gardeners and learn more about this intriguing garden. Instead, I had the good luck to meet Sy Ahmad while he was in his garden and I was jogging by. I made two subsequent visits and left awe-struck each time by the lovely and thoughtful integration of spaces for gardening, cooking, eating, and relaxing.
This captivating garden is always changing and wherever you look there is some interesting feature to capture your eye and fire your imagination. I am amazed that the garden is only four years in the making and that Sy and his family are not seasoned gardeners or builders. They learned much of what they’ve created from web content, especially videos. Sy kindly agreed to this interview to share his family’s experience and inspiring garden!
Q: Why and when did you start your garden? What did you envision?
We started about 4 years ago in 2014, and we always wanted to build something big on our own; our own creation.
Q: Is it a family endeavor?
It actually started as a father and son project then turned into a 3 generation father, son, and grandson project.
Q: Your garden is visible from a major road and is striking in its size and appearance. What responses have you had from community members?
Some friends actually thought we were building a chicken coop when we started. Our neighbors do admire it and come by often to pick up veggies, but others driving by don’t normally stop by.
Q: What advice do you have for gardeners who are just starting out?
Start small of course, and put up a fence that will keep out deer and last for the long term. Then grow and add on as time goes by.
Q: What type of growing media do you fill your raised beds with?
We use a mixture of materials which consist of 1 part compost, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part vermiculite.
Q: Tell us about some of the crops you especially like to grow and think other gardeners should know about.
We grow many herbs, which can be quite useful in the kitchen, such as, mint, cilantro, basil, rosemary, parsley and more. Vegetables such as butternut squash, various types of tomatoes, Swiss chard, and even flowers such as zinnia.
By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist
Searching for a pumpkin for the Halloween season? Watch this video from NC State Extension about picking and storing pumpkins.
This season the Home and Garden Information Center has received a tremendous number of questions on rapid browning and death of many of our oak trees in urban landscapes and forest situations. Even though it would be convenient to point to a single reason for this dieback it is most likely a combination of weather, disease, and insect factors.
A logical starting place to look for an explanation would be the often-overlooked gradual health decline of our trees due to old age, restricted root zones, soil compaction in work zones, old trunk wounds, storm damage, poor pruning, urban stress such as reflected heat and drought, and opportunistic diseases and insects. These decline factors can extend over many years, leaving trees to try and cope with less than ideal growing conditions.
Last season these conditions were further worsened by the excessive rainfall that continued into this spring which resulted in standing water at many locations that had low spots, compacted soil, or water collection points. Flooded soils and saturated root zones further weakened trees by allowing root pathogens such as Phytophthora a chance to reduce the overall number of healthy roots.
In general, red, black, chestnut and white oaks don’t tolerate poorly drained soils. Trees can tolerate some reduction in root health, as long as temperatures remain cool, water demands aren’t high, and adequate time is allowed for root regeneration. As a root system loses the ability to support the tree’s water needs, dieback will occur especially in the upper branches.
When the high summer temperatures began this season in mid-July and the low rainfall extended into this fall these conditions accelerated the loss of tree vigor and resulted in sudden browning of tree leaves and canopy dieback. Compromised tree health often allows pathogens such Armillaria and Hypoxylon to invade, which further accelerates dieback and death. In addition, opportunistic insects such as Ambrosia Beetles and Two-lined Chestnut Borer, will attack tree trunks and continue tree demise.
There are a few positive steps that may alleviate some tree stress. It is very difficult to reverse decline in stressed oaks so select trees that still have green foliage and irrigate near their bases during this period of high drought stress. Even minimal amounts of water can help recovery and prevent drought stress before winter dormancy. Practices that open up compacted soils to increase drainage and raise soil oxygen levels (e.g., vertical mulching) will often help as well.
As we continue to receive information about dying oaks across the state, we still have many unanswered questions. We will continue to collect data on tree species, age, and pest occurrence, in coordination with other agencies across Maryland.
By Dr. David L. Clement, Principal Agent, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center and Dr. Karen Rane, Director, University of Maryland Plant Diagnostic Laboratory