Central Virginia Organic Gardener

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Philadelphia Flower Show 2014

The Philadelphia Flower Show starts this weekend, March 1-9, at the Convention Center in that fair city.  Stay tuned for a field trip report, with photos, coming soon!  This year's theme is ARTiculture!  For more information, go to:  http://theflowershow.com
Spring is coming!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

This week, the week of Feb. 23, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week:  http://www.nisaw.org/index.html
This event was developed and is promoted by The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.  For gardeners, be aware of what you plant!  Remove invasives like English Ivy!  What else to do?

"Eight Ways You Can Help
  1. Learn about invasive species, especially those found in your region. Your county extension office (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html) and the National Invasive Species Information Center (http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/index.shtml) are both trusted resources.
  2. Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location.
  3. Avoid dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways.
  4. Use forage, hay, mulch and soil that are certified as "weed free."
  5. Plant only non-invasive plants in your garden, and remove any known invaders.
  6. Report new or expanded invasive species outbreaks to authorities. (Seehttp://www.invasive.org/report.cfm for a state-by-state list of contacts.)
  7. Volunteer to help remove invasive species from public lands and natural areas.
  8. Ask your political representatives at the state, local and national level to support invasive species control efforts."

Harsh Winter: Costs...and Benefits?

     We have had a cold and snowy winter (for Virginia).  Each growing zone represents a transition from the adjacent zones to the north and south.  The plants in any particular zone may be hardy in that zone to varying degrees.  For example, our early-blooming magnolias sometimes bloom beautifully, but sometimes get frost blasted, though they are less likely damaged in zones south. Eucalyptus is hardy here...for about 4 to 6 years, when we have a cold snap that does them in. Figs are great survivors, once well rooted, but can get blasted back in very cold weather.  The cold and stormy winter did some damage that is visible in my neighborhood:

Winter-damaged holly, bleached leaves:

An idea of the extent of the damage:

 Damaged, likely dead, eucalyptus:  this is my third planting in 12 years:

Bleached, or winter-burned, leaves of a southern magnolia:

Typical English Ivy damage in winter:

So harsh winter conditions have damaging effects:  winter-burned leaves on evergreen plants, split bark, downed limbs from ice and wind ... not to mention split pottery planters left outdoors!  But can a cold winter have a positive effect?  Yes.  Cold winters can kill overwintering insect pests and their eggs.  For example, there was hopeful news recently that the extreme cold in parts of the country may kill off many emerald ash borers, that threatened trees across states mostly east of the Mississippi (but spreading beyond it).  Other pests and pathogens, including some  weeds and their near-surface seeds may also be killed.  So, this cold may serve a useful purpose!

As I write this it is:
25 days, 1 hour and 2 minutes until spring!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Baked Squash

Look at my beautiful Waltham butternut squash!  I had great luck this past season, getting 5-7 squash per vine. I harvested and cured them in the sun for a couple of weeks and they have stored beautifully! I decided to grow this type of squash as it has a hard stem/vine that resists the squash vine borer that usually destroys my vines before they can produce much fruit. 

I decided to roast the squash with an olive oil and spice mix, with a small amount of brown sugar.  I used chili powder, paprika and some garlic salt too, mixed with a few tablespoons of olive oil. I roasted it in a 350 oven for about an hour  The result: YUM!

Here is the beautiful squash before removing the seed.
 I scored the squash, cutting out a little flesh along the score lines,before adding the oil and spice mix.
 Properly "dressed" squash!
 Just about to come out of the oven, beautifully glazed.
Happy eating what you grow!  Oh, and HAPPY GROUNDHOG'S DAY!