Hello old and new readers alike!

Wow! I am amazed by the continued influx of “New Subscriber” e-mails I receive on a daily basis. I haven’t posted in nearly a year and I am quite embarrassed by my lack of posting.

Life is busy with two little people, a husband (who, quite honestly, takes care of himself), work, writing for Virginia Gardener magazine and working at a client’s home on a weekly basis. We are hoping to move to our homestead within the next 7-8 months so there is the never ending “to-do” list to ready our current home for sale. I know…excuses, excuses.

Perhaps some of you would like to shoot me some ideas as to what you would like to see me write about. Do you have a burning gardening question? An insect that just won’t leave your plants alone? A replacement plant that you are looking for? Ideas…I need lots of them! I hope to hear from all of you soon!

Stacey

September 3, 2013Permalink 8 Comments

Oops!

I just want to apologize to my readers for the website being down for the past few days. I let the domain name expire…I kept thinking that I had a few more days before I had to renew. I was wrong!

As a result, I’ve been unable to receive e-mails and I was in the middle of some good chats with some of you about your gardening issues. Please re-send your e-mails…I promise you won’t receive that weird message about “Daemon”—whoever he is. And no, that wasn’t a picture of me with the backpack on. 😉

November 20, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

Guest Post: St. Fiacre, The Gentle Gardener by George Graine

I’m so excited to be able to share today’s post with Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers. Today’s article is about St. Fiacre and it is written by George Graine who is also known in gardening circles as Grainethumb (he’s so witty). George is a Virginia Cooperative Extension master gardener who represents Fairfax County to the Virginia Master Gardener Association. He is a wealth of information and you folks in Fairfax County are lucky to have George on your side when it comes to gardening questions. This article was originally published in the March/April issue of the Virginia Master Gardener newsletter, The Report, Volume 17, Number 2.  Without further ado…

I think most people assume he’s a Saint Francis with a spade.  He’s more of a saint for aficionados.                                                        Peter Cilioz, Campania International

st. fiacre

Photo courtesy of www.kaccents.com

While sales at the yard art section of many garden centers lead you to believe that Saint Francis of Assisi is the most popular statue in home gardens, he is not actually our champion. Perhaps the birds depicted on this statue symbolize freedom and it is suggested that animals should have the ability to roam wherever they please but these concepts are not completely garden worthy. Few people seem to know that our revered champion is Saint Fiacre. Who is this Irish holy man who is also the saint of gardeners? Before the Grainethumb answers this question, let me caution you not to expect this saint to displace the famous swashbuckling Irish Saint Patrick. No parades, no green beer or other forms of revelry will happen to honor Saint Fiacre, at least not in America. Saint Fiacre was born near the end of the sixth century, a good five hundred years before Saint Francis. Make no mistake about it, Saint Fiacre is the true patron saint of gardeners and was recognized as such in Europe since the Middle Ages.

A very brief history of Saint Fiacre is in order before the legend, that is, the miracle leading to Fiacre’s sainthood.  His father was a warrior and as such he was often away from home.  Although Fiacre was devoted to his mother, unfortunately she passed when he was a teenager. This experience must have set him on the path to become a holy man leading a reclusive life of a monk in solitude. Having been raised in a monastery he developed an abiding love of science, the joy of plants including healing herbs as well as an appreciation of nature. Eventually Fiacre left the green of Ireland for France where he established a hermitage in a cave near a spring. When he asked Bishop Faro of Meaux, France for some land in order to grow food crops and herbs for healing the Bishop granted this request.

The deal was struck. Fiacre could have as much land as he could entrench in a single day from sunup to sundown. Praying on this proposition, the next day Fiacre dragged the point of his staff (spade?) across the ground and the earth turned as he went, toppling trees and shrubs, digging up briars and weeds and stones moved to prepare the land for a garden of medicinal herbs, flowers, seeds and other plant material. This is the legend (miracle?)! In time Fiacre built a chapel in honor of the Holy Virgin, a house where he lived and a hospice for the sick and penniless. As word spread, people started to flock to Fiacre for food, healing, wisdom and of course spiritual guidance. A woman considered the feat of Fiacre nothing short of sorcery. (Was this a precursor to Salem witchery?) This accusation resulted in a harsh ruling by Fiacre. Henceforth he barred all women from his monastery on pain of blindness or madness. Actually, this was not unusual because women were routinely excluded from monasteries. Over time, Saint Fiacre became famous for his healing powers. With this gift he was able to cure his flock of followers when he laid hands on the sufferer. His garden became a place of pilgrimage for many centuries especially for those seeking healing.

If you saw the TV series about the mystery-solving Brother Cadfael, he is like a fictional counterpart to Saint Fiacre because both were gardeners and herbalists.  At that time, herbs were an essential part of the healing arts and not used primarily for beauty or culinary enhancement.  Now that you know the story about Saint Fiacre you do not have to be religious to have him as part of your yardscape and he should no longer be ignored.

November 9, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

It’s Been Awhile…

Gosh, it’s been over a month since I’ve posted here on the website. How terrible of me. I began this website with such great intentions…I’ll post 5 days a week, I’ll incorporate a podcast occasionally, I’ll interview people about all of the great things that are going on in the gardening world. And instead, I’ve only posted once in the past month. Sigh.

At my full-time job, I took a personality test and the test results concluded that I was a “poet”. That sounds pretty romantic, huh? But a poet doesn’t really describe my personality…the haiku is the only type of poetry that I remember. Then the meaning of poet was defined in this context: many starts and few finishes. Meh.

My brain is like a flittering butterfly. I love to brainstorm and develop new ideas. I love to plan. My favorite part of college was getting all of my syllabi the first week of the new semester and then entering all of the important dates into my day planner. I’m a nerd, I know. My point in all of this is that I don’t want to be a poet. I want to be a dedicated garden blogger who delivers regular content to this website.

I really want to get back to posting on a regular basis but I need your help. What topics are you interested in? Inspire me by letting me know what you’re curious about. Is it organic gardening, vegetables, ornamental trees and shrubs, perennials, improving your soil…please let me know! I find myself being drawn to homesteading and sustainable agriculture blogs like Chism Heritage Farm and The Urban Farming Guys. Does that type of information interest you? Pray tell!

Shoot me some ideas and I’ll get back to this blogging thing. I have a guest post from George Graine, a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, coming later this week. He has more years of gardening experience than I have years on this planet. I know you’ll enjoy George’s post and I hope to hear from you soon!

November 6, 2012Permalink 4 Comments

Did You Know? It’s Time for Cool Season Turf Maintenance

Well, it’s official. Summer is over. No more pool visits, boat rides or beach trips. For my family anyway. The temperatures are quite chilly in the morning but the sun warms the air quickly. This is the season that cool season grass like fescue enjoys. If you care about your lawn, now is the time to get hopping on your cool season turf maintenance program. Here’s an abbreviated program for the Richmond, VA area.

  1. Aerate – don’t aerate with the spiky type of aerators; they compact the soil. You need a core type aerator that removes plugs of soil.
  2. Overseed – Labor Day is essentially the target date for sowing fescue but you can still get away with it now if you hurry.
  3. Fertilize – if your soil is like the majority of the country’s, it’s depleted. Organic matter is essential to the health of your plants so topdress with 1/4″ of compost. Your soil will still need fertilizer if you want that perfect lawn. Follow the S-O-N program. Fertlize in September, October and November applying no more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

 

Don’t know how to figure out how much actual nitrogen a 50# bag of nitrogen contains? Just divide the first number in the X-X-X ratio in half. For example, 24-6-12 contains 12 pounds of nitrogen per 50# bag. That 50# bag will cover 12000 square feet. Pretty simple huh?

Let me know if you have questions about cool season turf maintenance or any other gardening info for that matter. Shoot me an e-mail or ask in the comments section below. Happy gardening!

September 25, 2012Permalink 7 Comments

I’m Still Here!

Just a quick note to let all of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers know that I’m still here! It’s been way too long since I’ve posted and I apologize! Life is pretty busy right now (I know, I’m the only one) and has been for a few weeks. I’ll get back to posting on a regular basis here soon. I have been answering questions from readers in my absence so if you have a question, send it on over. Happy gardening!

September 5, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

Sorry for the lack of posts…

Just a quick note to let all of the readers know that I have been sick since Monday afternoon and I apologize for not posting this week. I have a sinus infection and bronchitis…quite the nasty combo of illnesses for July. I am thankful for antibiotics and decongestants. I finally feel like a human again today.

I’ll be back up and running with posts every day next week. If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll answer them in posts next week. Thanks for everyone’s concern and e-mails…you guys are awesome!

Friday Free For All: Mid-Atlantic Gardening’s 100th Post

Yesterday was a milestone at Mid-Atlantic Gardening. I published my 100th post! It’s so exciting to think back to November 11 when I published my first post. That post allowed me to introduce myself to you and helped establish the groundwork for the website. I’ve since had many wonderful interactions with Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers and we’ve exchanged ideas on everything from seed starting, protecting your plants from deer to lawn care. I enjoy answering questions that you have and helping you work through various gardening troubles. I also enjoy celebrating your successes because of the hard work that you have put into your garden.

To celebrate the 100th post, I’m going to be giving away another pruning saw. In order to be eligible for the drawing, you have to do two things:

  1. Join our e-mail subscriber list…it’s in the top right corner of the page below the header
  2. Share at least one Mid-Atlantic Gardening post on Facebook on your wall (or Timeline) or retweet one of my posts

 

That’s it…pretty simple huh? I want to thank each and every reader that stops by the website to check out the latest information. I’m honored that out of all the websites in the world, you take the time to read mine. There are readers from every state in the Union, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, China…the list goes on and on. That is humbling to say the least.

I hope that as we continue down this road of gardening, we’ll continue to share our successes and failures. Please let me know if there are particular topics that you would like to see covered. Let me know if you think that the website should be structured differently…do you like the post types being different each day? Would you be interested in listening to a podcast? I need to know what you like and dislike and what improvements you would like to see made. I am here to help you and in order to do that, I need your honest opinions. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

March 30, 2012Permalink 2 Comments

Reader Question: Powdery Mildew on Lilac

Today’s Reader Question comes from Tommy in Halifax County, Virginia:

I live in an older home and there are lilacs growing on the property. Last year, their leaves turned almost white with some type of disease. Can you tell me what this was and if there is anything I can do to prevent it?

powdery mildew on lilac

Photo courtesy of ag.utah.gov

Tommy, it sounds like your lilacs (Syringa spp.) have a classic case of powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a type of fungus that infects the leaves of many plants including dogwood, Monarda (bee balm), garden phlox and lilacs. It’s interesting to note that the parasitic fungi that infects one genus of plant will not necessarily infect other genera. Conditions that are favorable for powdery mildew growth include high humidity at night, low humidity during the day and temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees. That describes most springs in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region.

So what can you do to discourage powdery mildew on lilac?

  1. If you have the luxury of planting a lilac, pick a mildew resistant variety. ‘Miss Kim’ comes to mind immediately but I’m sure that there are other cultivars available.
  2. If you are going to be planting lilac, be sure to site them in an area with plenty of air circulation. If you have an area that always seems to be windy, this would be an ideal location for a new lilac.
  3. Lilacs will benefit from a sunny location to help the foliage dry before evening.
  4. In your case Tommy, one of the best things that you can do to prevent powdery mildew is thin the plant. By doing this, you’ll be helping the foliage to dry if you receive rainfall late in the evening or overnight.
  5. Speaking of rainfall and watering, don’t water in the evening. This watering rule pretty much applies to all plants, but it’s especially important with lilacs.

 

The last resort is to spray a fungicide. I don’t like chemicals in general so I don’t recommend going this route. Powdery mildew will rarely cause severe damage or kill the plant. Do everything that you can to promote healthy growth: add compost and mulch the plant to establish a deep root system. Enjoy the wonderfully fragrant blooms of the lilac and don’t worry so much about the powdery mildew. If you plant them in a mixed border, you’ll have other things blooming to distract your eye from the mildew.

If you like what we’re doing here at Mid-Atlantic Gardening, please subscribe to the website to receive updates to the latest posts as well as to be eligible for our subscriber giveaways. You can subscribe by joining our e-mail list on the top right of this page. Thank you for your support! If you have experience with powdery mildew on lilac, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

 

March 29, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Plant Profile: Bradford Pears

 

Normally, Bradford Pears bloom at this time of the year but with the winter that we’ve had this year, the Bradford Pears have bloomed and already have their leaves. But I thought that we would still take a look at them. My hope is that I can discourage you from planting them. There aren’t many plants that I would tell you NOT to plant…gardening is a very personal experience and if you like a particular plant, my theory is to go for it. But I hope that you’ll pass the Bradford Pears by when you head to the garden center next time.

Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ is a fast growing tree that has been planted ad nauseum in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region. In fact, it’s been planted everywhere across the country and it has become a monoculture. What happens with monocultures? Often times, a pest or disease moves in and decimates the population. One of the many downfalls of Bradford Pears is that they end up with fireblight. If your tree looks like someone set fire to the new growth in the spring, it has fireblight.

Fireblight is really the least of the problems that Bradford Pears experience. The worst problem with them is that they break apart. The crotch angles are very close, and while this isn’t really a problem when the tree is young, as the tree ages it leads to included bark. Included bark basically describes bark that is encapsulated in the tree instead of being pushed out as it grows. Here is a picture that more accurately describes it then I can.

bradford pears

If you notice the dark V-shaped area at the bottom, that is the included bark. When there is enough wind or weight placed on the branch, it gives way and you end up with this:

bradford pears

That is a very large wound that the tree will have a hard time recovering from. Besides, you wanted a tree that was beautiful, not one with large gaping holes in the canopy.

You may be wondering about other options that will still provide beautiful blooms in the spring but be less susceptible to breaking apart. Here are some options:

  1. Real pear trees – you know, the ones that actually produce fruit that you can eat. If you’re worried about having to clean up the fruit that falls, make plans for it ahead of time. You can make preserves, pies or donate it to a food bank. The obsession that this country has with planting trees that intentionally don’t produce food bewilders me.
  2. Apple trees – the blooms are just as beautiful as Bradford Pears and again, you get fruit as an added bonus. Read yesterday’s post about Cedar Apple Rust so that you can identify it if your trees come down with a case.
  3. Cherry trees – again, these have gorgeous blooms and you get a crop of cherries that will satisfy your needs as well as the needs of many other people you know.

 

I hope that I’ve given you enough ammunition to discourage you from planting Bradford pears. If you like what we’re doing here at Mid-Atlantic Gardening, please subscribe to the website to receive updates to the latest posts as well as to be eligible for our subscriber giveaways. You can subscribe by joining our e-mail list on the top right of this page. Thank you for your support! If you have experience with Bradford Pears, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!