Master Gardeners’ Bookshelf: What Have Plants Ever Done for Us?

What Have Plants Ever Done for Us? Western Civilization in Fifty Plants, by Stephen Harris.

by Nancy Brooks, Extension Master Gardener

Monty Python’s skit, What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? (“All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”) may be the inspiration for both this title as well as the very British author’s humorous and entertaining approach to the plant world. Stephen Harris is a plant scientist and curator of the Oxford University Herbaria, where he contributes to courses in plant conservation biology, plant biodiversity, and field biology. Harris has selected 50 plants, which he argues have been important to global history, and he includes illustrative stories of travel, trade, politics, medicine, and chemistry. Among the provocative questions Harris attempts to answer in this book are: “When did the British government become the world’s largest drugs pusher (opium poppy, page 24)?”; “What tree is frequently used to treat cancer?”(yew, page 65); and “Which everyday condiment is the most widely traded spice on the planet (pepper, page 93)?” Continue reading

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Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia:Japanese Knotweed

By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener

Japanese knotweed.
Photo by K.L. Kyde, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum, syn. Reynoutria japonica (Japanese knotweed) is a particularly aggressive buckwheat family member found throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The plant was introduced to the United States from Japan in the early 1800s as an ornamental and erosion-control plant and has been considered as invasive, especially in riparian areas, since it escaped cultivation in the 1930s. Continue reading

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“Spring Cleaning” in the Garden

By Judy Funderburk, Extension Master Gardener

Spring cleaning is not just for rugs and rooms. Planting beds need attention early in March. Many weed seeds will have already germinated on warm winter days. But, you ask, “is it a weed, or a plant?” Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva et al., and the University of Maryland Extension’s Weed Identification Photos are excellent identification sources. Note that many of these annual weeds have poetic names—chickweed, speedwell, henbit or dead nettle, gill-over-the-ground or ground ivy, mulberry weed, hairy bittercress—but they are not at all poetic when they take over your garden. In fact, they need to be pulled before they set seed. Mulberry weed and hairy bittercress seed prolifically, and are two of the most invasive. Pull them by hand or use a hoe to cut off and discard the tops. Do not worry about leaving the roots because most winter weeds are annuals and will not resprout from the roots (although dandelions are perennials and the tap roots need to be dug up). Diligence in weeding now, when it is cool and there are no mosquitoes, even 15 minutes a day, can save you much effort and frustration later in the season.

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Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia: Canada Thistle

By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener

Flowers are pink and bristly.
Photo: Oregon State University

Cirsium arvense, (Canada thistle), a native of southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean, was brought to North America in early 1700s, probably as a contaminant of crop seed.  By the end of the century is was already recognized as a noxious weed in crops, and it is now recognized as invasive in open natural areas, such as fields, meadows, wet prairies, and even inhospitable sand dunes, through most of the United States. Continue reading

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Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program

Registration is now open for the 12-week Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program.

  • The 12-week (17 modules) course begins March 7 and ends May 30, 2020. Classes will be conducted on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on VSU’s Randolph Farm located at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA.
  • Instruction will consist of morning lectures and afternoon hands-on outdoor and lab activities.
  • Each student must also complete by the end of October, 80 hours of internship work at an approved urban farm in order to successfully graduate from the program with full certification.
  • The registration fee is $250 payable by the February 28th deadline.

To learn more about the program please click the link below

https://www.ext.vsu.edu/urban-agriculture-certificate-program

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Master Gardeners’ Bookshelf: All the Presidents’ Gardens

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell

By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

We who live in the DC-Metro area are fortunate to be surrounded by many wonderful historical gardens, such as Mount Vernon, Hillwood, and Tudor Place. Among these are the gardens at the White House. All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America (All the President’s Gardens) by Marta McDowell is a fascinating history of the White House grounds and gardens and how they evolved over time. Continue reading

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Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia: Japanese Stiltgrass

By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener

Japanese Stiltgrass
Photo 2012 in NJ

One of more damaging invasive species in the Mid-Atlantic region, Microstegium vimineum, (Japanese stiltgrass) threatens wooded areas and is increasingly found on farms and in residential areas where it can invade lawns, landscape beds, and vegetable gardens. This native of China, Japan, and India was first documented in Tennessee in 1919 when it was thought to have been accidentally introduced through its use as packing material in shipments of porcelain. Continue reading

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March 2020 Public Education Events

MGNV LogoThese public education events for are open to all, but space may be limited. To reserve a spot, please register online https://mgnv.org/public-education-events/vce-horticulture-programs-registration/.


Microgreens: What Are They, Why They Are So Fabulous, and How to Grow Them

Tuesday, March 3, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Barrett Branch Library
717 Queen St., Alexandria 22314

microgreensMicrogreens – You’ve likely seen them, but what makes them so good for you? Join us to learn their many benefits, and some simple ways to grow these delicious, nutritious and inexpensive baby plants and sprouts in your own home. Plus, we provide supplies for you to plant your own container. So come prepared to get a bit dirty while you make your own microgreen garden in class!
This event is offered by Extension Master Gardeners.

Free. Advance registration requested at mgnv.org.
Questions? Telephone 703-228-6414 or email mgarlalex@gmail.com. Continue reading

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Rosemary & Lavender: Hardy Herbs that Often Survive our Winters – and Spice Up or Calm Down the Gardener or Cook

By Judy Funderburk, Extension Master Gardener

Note: This is one of a series of short articles featuring herbs grown in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Glencarlyn Branch Library in Arlington County, Virginia.

Lavender in bloom

Lavender in bloom
Image by Huntley Photography

Here in the midst of winter we invite you to learn more about rosemary and lavender – their backgrounds, growth habits, and needs; their culinary, fragrance, and medicinal uses. Both herbs are ingredients for food or drink served as “tastes” at our annual AutumnFest celebration in mid-September. Rosemary Herbed Pecans and Lavender Poundcake taste-tested recipes are included below.

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Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia: Multiflora Rose

By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener

Multiflora rose flowers.
Photo © University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences

Another “top ten” invasive plant in Arlington County is multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), a perennial shrub introduced to the United States from Asia in the 1860s as rootstock for ornamental roses. It was subsequently recommended by state conservation departments to provide erosion control, provide cover for wildlife, serve as an economical “living fence” to confine livestock, and provide a buffer for highway medians. It has since escaped from these plantings and now poses a serious problem throughout the eastern half of the United States. Continue reading

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Master Gardener Bookshelf: Gardening Under Lights

Gardening Under Lights—The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers, by Leslie F. Halleck
By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

Understanding light (how much, how little, or what kind) is critical to growing plants indoors successfully, whether seedlings, house plants, vegetables, herbs, or succulents. You can learn about light and how to build simple do-it-yourself (DIY) grow lights for seed starting by attending the MGNV class “How to Build Inexpensive and Efficient Grow Lights” on February 3 at Westover Library (Arlington) or February 13 at Burke Library (Alexandria). For additional information, you might also consult Gardening Under Lights – The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers by Leslie F. Halleck. Continue reading

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Invasive Plants in Northern Virginia: Ground Ivy

By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener

Leaves and flowers of ground ivy.
Photo © Bill Johnson, National Park Service.

Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy), also known as creeping Charlie and gill-over-the-ground, is listed as invasive in both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria and has been reported in national parks in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D. C., West Virginia, and Tennessee. A European native plant, this herbaceous perennial was brought to North America by early settlers as a medicinal plant for skin and internal ailments.

Ground ivy is member of the mint family with square stems, two-lipped bluish-purple flowers, and pairs of leaves at each node. Its leaves are rounded to kidney-shaped with scalloped margins and have a distinct minty odor when crushed. The plant creeps over the soil surface by means of stolons, forming a thick mat and crowding out native plants when it invades roadsides, pastures, orchards, and open woods. It is considered especially troublesome as a weed in lawns. Continue reading

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Watering New Plantings in Winter

Written by Master Gardener Joyce Hylton and edited by Extension Agent Kirsten Conrad

Garden Hose

Photo © Junior Libby

As we go into the colder temperatures of the year, a very important concern continues to be soil moisture content. Our recent rains notwithstanding, this area has received very little rain in the last 6 months. This fall, all of our plants are a bit ‘thirsty’ as they enter their dormant season.

Young or newly planted trees that have not spread their feeder roots into the surrounding soils will require more attention and regular irrigation because of limited abilities in obtaining water in their growing environment. All newly planted trees should have 1 inches of water per week- even in the winter- for two years. Continue reading

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February 2020 Public Education Events

MGNV LogoThese public education events for are open to all, but space may be limited. To reserve a spot, please register online https://mgnv.org/public-education-events/vce-horticulture-programs-registration/.


Monday, February 3,
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Westover Branch Library
1644 N. McKinley Road, Arlington 22205
OR Thursday, February 13,
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Burke Branch Library

4701 Seminary Rd., Alexandria 22304

How to Build Inexpensive and Effective Grow Lights

Give your plants a healthy start with grow lights to ensure your seedlings get great light indoors, even when it’s freezing outside. Grow unusual and hard-to-find varieties of vegetables not offered at local garden centers, or farm nutritious microgreens indoors. Learn the pros and cons of light systems and options for creating your own. Instructions and material lists provided are to help you jumpstart your garden. This class is offered by Extension Master Gardeners.

Free. Advance registration requested at mgnv.org.
Questions? Telephone 703-228-6414 or email mgarlalex@gmail.com.
Continue reading

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SHRUB: Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

2020 Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

MGNV - Native Plants LogoHolly species thrive in Mid-Atlantic gardens, and the Inkberry is one with lustrous, evergreen foliage all year. This native holly of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains displays lustrous evergreen foliage, which, along with its adaptability to varying light and moisture conditions, makes it a desirable alternative to finicky boxwoods. Wildlife favor its fruit and honey bees its nectar.
More . . .

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