Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iris Division

Divide To Conquer

If you love bearded iris like I do, you know that, after a few years, they produce fewer and fewer blooms, and may stop blooming altogether. When this happens, it means that the iris has formed a large clump of rhizomes and they need to be divided. Dividing the rhizomes “freshens” the plant, so that it will produce flowers next year and give you several more years of lovely blooms. Digging up the rhizomes also gives you a chance to inspect the rhizomes, removing any that are rotting, diseased or infested with bugs.

Dividing bearded iris is fairly easy. I use a digging fork and push the times of the fork down and a bit toward the rhizome clump (you might need to do this from one to three different angles or sides of the rhizome clump). If you have your irises planted correctly, the rhizomes basically lay atop the soil and are held in place by roots growing from the rhizome. Once you have the clump dug up, inspect it and remove any diseased, rotted or infested sections and with a sharp knife. Then, cut the rhizome clump up into several sections- you will see when you look at the clump where the cuts make the most sense (at the “necks” or thinner parts where the newer rhizomes join the old rhizome). Some people dip the cut rhizome into a 10% bleach solution, claiming it reduces fungal rot, but I never do.

Cut back the foliage to about 2 inches (this is to prevent the plant from toppling over when you replant it and to stop the natural die off of the leaf, which is unsightly). Take each section and plant as you did when you got your first rhizome, with the rhizome atop the soil, roots under the soil. I often take some 1 to 2 foot sticks outside with me when I do this task to help prop the plants upright until the new roots get to grow and anchor the plant into the soil. Water in, check to make sure the soil still covers the roots, but not the rhizomes, and water sparingly over the next few weeks.

One unrelated note: I recently started a full time job that I love and one that is intellectually stimulating, even though it has nothing to do with gardening! I am committed to continuing my gardening (though my fall garden looks a little sad right now, with less attention and this current drought) and to continuing this garden blog, one of the great pleasures of my life!

Happy gardening!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Yesterday the 23rd was the Autumnal Equinox! Happy fall! (and let's hope we get some true fall temperatures and rain soon!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another Local Garden Blog

Diggin' In is a local garden blog written by Kathy Van Mullekom who gardens on an acre in York County, VA. Check out her most recent (and timely, at least for my husband who recently got over his rash!) blog entry on poison ivy (and the rest of her blog) at


Happy gardening!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

For your consideration


Now that we are at the end of summer, and entering the fall tree-planting season, I want to present a tree for your consideration. Before I do that, I want to 'fess up to a deficit in my botanical knowledge, and that is trees. I do not know much about many trees, though I recently realized that the ones I do know about are ones that have conspicuous or very fragrant flowers (magnolia, flowering dogwood, red bud, tulip tree, crape myrtle). I discovered the linden several years ago in new Jersey. I was going for a walk and there was this lovely fragrance wafting down the street (as opposed to some ideas we might have about New Jersey aromas, but I shouldn't diss my home state with a cheap joke). I finally realized it was coming from this great tree, which I later discovered was a linden.

Linden is one of three names for the tree genus Tilia (commonly known as lime and basswood). Several of the common names for species within the Tilia genus have linden in their names. They include: American linden, a common name for Tilia americana, little-leaf linden, a common name for T. cordata and silver linden, a common name for T. tomentosa.

The linden is a lovely tree. It is a great landscaping tree, or specimen tree, forms a pleasing shape and is highly attractive to pollinators (bees and butterflies)(remember, we need to help our pollinators as much as we can, for, without them, we would have precious little food to eat!). And then there is the scent- very intoxicating, like a cross between honeysuckle or magnolia, and the fragrance fills the air around the tree when in bloom. It is a great shade tree and the T. americana, native to North America, can grow pretty tall, 60 to 100 feet. Japanese beetles and some caterpillars will attack it, but I have never seen this to be much of a problem in Virginia (you might want to check with your ag extension agent on this). The flowers were traditionally used in cough syrups (though I am NOT recommending this, just passing on the info) and are considered edible when young.

So, consider the linden!

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We are again in a near-drought and many communities in Central VA and the region are asking for voluntary water restrictions, and perhaps some are mandatory. The best defense against drought (other than rain!) is good soil, one that is high in organic matter, and mulch. The best mulch is compost, and that is also the best organic matter to mix into your soil. You can also mulch with aged grass clippings (too new and they might burn your plants as they break down), pine straw or shredded leaves. Water at the root zone, either using a soaker hose or watering spike (the kind you stick in the ground with an attached a soda bottle that has its end cut off ). Also, hold off fertilizing- that causes plants to grow and growing plants need more water. And remember to do your rain dance!
Happy gardening...I hope!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lewis Ginter Fall Plant Sale 2010

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond is having their fall plant sale this coming weekend:

(No admission required for Plant Sale; regular admission to enter the Garden)

"The Fall Plant Sale features vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics. Bring your carts and wagons! Presented by Garden volunteers."
  • Friday, September 17, 2010, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 18, 2010, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

For more information, go to:
Happy gardening!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

5th Annual GoGreen VA Festival: 9//11/2010

GO GREEN Virginia!

I went to the 5th annual GoGreen Virginia festival today. Though it was a small festival, it will hopefully grow to fill the space behind the Science Museum of Virginia on Broad Street in Richmond http://www.smv.org/mapanddirections.html As you may know the SMV is in the former train station and the train platforms are still behind the museum- this is where the festival was held. The site offered a nice flat concrete surface for tables and displays and overhead awnings for shade- very nice.
One of the pleasures of going to a festival like this is meeting people who are enthusiastic about a specific area of interest. I had conversations about LEED (green) building certification, fire blight in pears, the difficulties posed by this hot and dry season for gardeners, herbs and something new to me: the Virginia Certified Master Naturalist Program (www.virginiamasternaturalist.org). The latter certifies interested individuals to be "volunteer educators, citizen scientists and stewards" of Virginia lands. Set up like the Master Gardener program, it requires 48 hours in the classroom and 40 hours of volunteer service. The website lists chapters that are forming in Virginia.
Another favorite discovery was the "How to Kill a Tree" poster from the arborists' association.
I had to laugh aloud at it- it is so true! Mulching up the sides of the tree, planting too near the house, topping the tree, failing to remove support wires until they cut and girdle the tree, using herbicides too near the tree, mower cuts on the bark...all are typical, and harmful, practices that I see all too often. If you have a tree, learn about the proper care to have years of shade and beauty! (I feel another blog entry coming on!)

The festival also had nurseries, garden design firms, plant vendors and other types of vendors you find at plant sales- garden hats, recycled garden tools and the like. Organizers thoughtfully included kids' activities (paint a flower pot, planting seeds and extracting DNA from a strawberry) and several booths where you could ask garden questions (like the extension service booth).

As I wrote at the start, the festival was small, but I hope it grows.

Happy gardening! And GoGreen Virginia...and the east coast...and the US!

Friday, September 10, 2010

No-till Gardening: The Use of News

The New York Times has an excellent article called "Fending off Weeds with Newsprint" at:


I have written on this topic too (see index for "bed" or "no till"- the entry is called "EASY garden bed preparation"). There are lots of benefits to not tilling or tilling only minimally....

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Excellent Blog

There is an excellent blog, Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog, and the most recent entry is on a rain barrel workshop (timely, considering we are inching toward drought again) in Richmond, this coming Monday. It is described, at:


I get so much local, Richmond-area info from this blog, the author covers important topics and gives great sources and ideas.

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5th Annual GoGreen VA Festival: 9//11/2010

Photo credit: S. Vrana

The 5th Annual GoGreen Virginia Garden Festival is this Saturday!
I know what I am going to be doing...

GoGreen Festival
Science Museum of Virginia
2500 W, Broad St
Richmond VA
Directions at http://www.smv.org/mapanddirections.html
Saturday, Sept. 11, 9AM to 4PM
Admission: $3
From the event brochure at http://www.virginiagardening.com/Garden%20Festival/2010%20Festival/vgicgf10poster.pdf

• Choice shrubs, perennials, house plants & fall color for sale
• Green Living education, exhibits and tours
• Garden design, gardening products, and landscape services
• Live radio broadcast ‘In the Garden’ with Andre Viette 9-11 a.m.
• ‘Ask the Experts’ your fall lawn and garden questions
• Kids ‘Go Green’ activities, Food, Music, Crafts, and Fun all day !

Stop by if you are in the area! See you there! Look for a report on this blog...
Happy gardening!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Meyer Lemon

I purchased a Meyer lemon plant about a year ago (and A Kaffir lime last fall, both from Edible Landscaping in Afton, VA) and it did well outside all summer. In the fall, I brought it inside and put it in my heated attic under regular florescent lights and it bloomed beautifully. I wanted fruit, and, knowing there were no pollinators in the house (I hope!) I hand pollinated it (basically take a flower, strip off the petals and brush the pollen-bearing anthers against all the other flowers' pistils). The above fruits are the result!

So far the Meyer lemon has been fairly easy to care for. It needs winter protection indoors, of course, and I fertilized with with citrus tabs. The plant needs regular watering, but not too much, and some artificial light. The only pest I have had is whiteflies, easily taken care of with Safer's insecticidal soap. The plant rewarded me with fragrant blossoms in winter, when nothing else (save forced amaryllis and narcissus) is blooming.

So far, I recommend this outdoor/indoor plant. Happy gardening!