Garden Resolutions

January is a great time to make resolutions for the year, in all aspects of one’s life but definitely including gardening. I find that it’s better to keep goals to a minimum – that way it’s much easier to achieve them, and if you exceed them you can congratulate yourself! So here are some of mine, and I invite all readers to add comments about your own.

  • As a Master Gardener I resolve to keep trying to educate the public about safe, effective, and environmentally positive ways to grow plants, especially the ones that feed us. In particular, I plan to do a better job making educational signs and labels for the Derwood demonstration garden so that all visitors can learn.
  • In my own garden, I resolve to add some more delicious and healthful herbs, and to keep my dehydrator accessible spring through fall so I can dry them while they’re still fresh and flavorful, instead of forgetting about it until fall frost threatens and nothing is at its best. I’ll also grow and dry some more roselle hibiscus.
Use the outer parts of the red “fruits” that form after flowering. Remove the seed pod.
If it’s brown you may be able to use the seeds inside to grow plants next spring.

We had Jamaican sorrel drink from my own plants at Christmas!
  • I resolve, where at all possible, not to waste seeds (it’s so hard not to buy or trade more than you have room for, especially with the seed catalogs spread out before you in wintertime), or food.
  • And I resolve to keep the soil covered, whether with mulch, cover crops, or close planting of food plants and ornamentals.
What are your garden resolutions for 2017?

Directions for Folding a Newspaper Container

Compliments of University of Maryland Extension – Allegany & Garrett Counties


(Any size of newspaper can be used)

Step 1: Cut your newspaper in half

Step 2: Fold the newspaper in half (top to bottom)

Step 3: Fold newspaper in half (left side over the right – like a book)

Step 4: Unfold and use a marker to trace the center line on both sides of the paper (Always keep the folded side of the newspaper towards your stomach.)

Step 5: Fold the bottom right corner up to the center line, then fold the bottom left corner up to the center line.

Step 6: Fold the top of the front side of the newspaper down the top of the part that was folded up in the last step.

Step 7: Fold the front flap down one more time.

Then flip the entire piece of newspaper over. (Keep the point toward your stomach)

Step 8: Fold the right hand side of the newspaper into the center line, then fold the left hand side into the center line. (Similar to shutters on a window)

Step 9: Fold the top of the newspaper to the top of the “shutters”. Then fold it down one more time and tuck it into the “shutters”.

Step 10: Fold the point up to the top of the container and then unfold. This fold line will become the bottom of the container when completed.

The rest of these folds are just to help the container open up easier. Fold them and then unfold.

Step 11: Fold the point up to the left bottom corner. Then unfold.

Step 12: Fold the point up to the right corner, then unfold.

Step 13: Open up the container, fill with growing media, and plant your seeds!

Step 14: Enjoy!

GIEI tutorial at Selborne House’s newly created community container garden

Earlier this year, I was asked by the the property manager at Selborne House in Ellicott City, if I would design a small community garden for residents interested growing their own vegetables.  After viewing the area around the residence, I gave the property manager several options from which she chose to make two large raised container gardens, measuring 10 feet long, two feet wide and a foot deep and three feet off the ground, along with multiple 5 gallon bucket containers.

In May, we filled the containers and I conducted a class with the residents, discussing the vegetables which would grow best in the containers.  I also made the residents aware that the growing media needed to be kept moist and fertilized every two weeks, since the planting media contained no nutrients.

From the looks of the following pictures, the residents are doing well.
They are growing green beans, carrots, onions, lettuce and peppers in double 5 gallon buckets.  In early September, I will be conducting a class on planting fall vegetables (spinach, beets, lettuce, broccoli and other brassicas) as their summer vegetables are harvested.
It’s been an interesting experiment in container gardens and I look forward to talking to the group about fall vegetables and planning for the so called short day factor which adds two weeks to the to days to maturity because there is less daylight in the late summer and early fall.

Rain Gutter Grow System Update

Back at the beginning of the month, I posted about a new growing method that I am using. I thought I would give you an update on how things are growing.

I couldn’t be more pleased with this setup. I had two harvests of the biggest, most beautiful collards I have grown in the ten years I have been growing food. Here’s a little video of one of my harvests:

I was really impressed that I got this harvest because we have had such extreme heat rather early in the season. The collards have now been replaced with corn and so far they are doing really well. Here are some pictures of how the garden looks now.
The row where the orange bucket has tomatoes and carrots. I actually had to cut back the cherry tomato plant because it was really getting crowded. Since air circulation with tomato plants is really important, and my garden space is limited, I had to sacrifice a few branches. The blue buckets used to be the collards. It will be interesting to see how the corn does now. So far it has grown quite a bit and they have only been planted for about a week or so.
Here are my tomatoes and cucumbers. You may remember that they looked like this initially:
Well, now it looks like this:
You may notice that the tomato plants are not in the middle rain gutter anymore. That’s part of the beauty of this setup that I really love. The cucumbers and the tomatoes were really getting quite bushy and crowding each other. So I took the peppers and the one carrot plant that were on the right and switched them to the middle gutters and put the tomatoes to the far right. Now everyone has enough space. If the plants were in the ground, I would not have been able to do that.
Here are some more garden pictures for you. This was my first harvest of cucumbers. I plan on making some relish with this batch and maybe a few dill pickles if I have enough left over after I make the relish.
I finally see some red on my cherry tomatoes:
I think peppers are my favorite thing to grow. I love catching pictures of them in their different stages of plant life. This is a Chinese Bullnose variety, which is a sweet pepper.
These are Mexican Gherkin cucumbers. They look like tiny watermelons. I will probably pickle these as well. They are only about an inch or so long right now. I had to try one before they were ready and I have to say they taste pretty good. They taste like a cucumber with a bit of a lemony flavor added on.
I have been regularly picking blackberries in small handfuls and they are SO delicious.
I finally noticed one lone zucchini on my huge zucchini plant.
My apple tree is FULL of apples despite the little brown spots all over them. I haven’t been able to find out what is affecting the apples, but I still plan to eat them…I will just cut them open first to be sure I don’t get a mouth full of worm!
So, that’s it for now! Everything is doing really well and I really couldn’t be happier with my rain gutter grow system. Now if my tomatoes would just hurry up and grow and ripen, I would really be one happy garden gal!
See you next time….

Uneven Spring Growth? Could be the MGM

Manufactured Growing Medium (MGM) is the stuff urban gardeners and farmers often use when soils are degraded, compacted, infertile, or missing in action. Leafy greens can be produced in 100% compost or leaf mould (as long as they are watered and fertilized as needed) but most other crops grow best in a blend (MGM) of two or more ingredients such as compost, soilless “potting mix,” and topsoil. MGMs vary based on the type and amount of individual ingredients.

I visited a small urban grower this week who was seeing some growth variation in leaf crops grown in a compost-topsoil blend. The transplants were uniform in size and appearance, and grown in a commercial greenhouse. Weeks later the grower noticed that all plants had good color but some were smaller in size and these seemed to occur randomly. Soil pH was 7.0- no problem there. Drainage was ok and there were no signs of root or stem diseases, or insect feeding.

The MGM contains small pieces of bark and wood, along with pebbles, clumps of clay, and partially decomposed organic matter. The physical, chemical, and biological properties of the MGM may vary enough to cause growth differences depending on the location of the plant and its root system in the beds. This problem will probably smooth out over the next year with cultivation, freeze/thaw cycles, addition of fertilizers, and further breakdown of the organic components.

Same site. These three 1/2 barrels were filled with MGM from the same large pile. Kale plants in the container on the right are much smaller than kale plants on the left.  A non-uniform MGM could cause uneven growth!
MGMs are going to become more important as urban food production expands. Before making a purchase ask for test results and  examine the product closely.