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A Summer of Severity!

August 12, 2010 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

This summer has certainly been tough for people in the horticulture field, and plants-alike!  We went from receiving average moisture in the early summer, followed by a drought period for about a month.  For a week or two, we had begun to receive average rainfall again.  And for the last few weeks, we haven’t been getting as much as we did then, going more toward another drought.

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No matter how long the winter, SPRING is sure to follow!

April 15, 2010 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

Spring is definitely here now!  The weather has been somewhat unusual compared to previous years.  We were going through a ‘warm spell’ for awhile.  Many of the plants that flower in the spring are about two weeks ahead of normal flowering time.  Some plants have really been effected by the rapid change in temperature and have not bloomed reliably.

Aside from simply monitoring the weather and it’s effect on flowering, I have been partaking in several major activities that have been invaluable to my experience here in the Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Program.  A few of them include; Implementing our 2010 garden design and beginning to construct our garden in the new Student Exhibition Garden area, Preparing my 825 square feet of garden beds for growing vegetables this year on Red Lion Row (Student housing area), Sowing, growing and transplanting large quantities of vegetables in preparation for supplying the Terrace Restaurant with “low-input”, locally grown food (Restaurant located in Longwood Gardens proper), And work rotations, working in various departments within the garden.


Spring has kicked off the construction process in our section of the garden.  After a cold, snowy winter, we were able to mark our desired path dimensions and hardscape material locations.  This picture was taken on March 11th, with snow still remaining.

Final grade has already been established after the sub-contractors finished their work.  The soil has been amended and worked down to around 24″ deep before the final grading.  The next step in our construction schedule was to excavate our pathway and install steel edging, geotextile (weed) fabric and rice chips (standard pathway gravel).  Below is a picture of the garden space in early April with the path excavated, and later, the edging and stone installed.

Our pathway was meant to be 3′ wide.  The garden is temporary (only about a 6 month display), we simply excavated about 5″ deep (and beyond the 3′ width), and installed our steeling edging at that depth, since the steel edging was about 5″ deep.  We chose not to add compacted base stone below the path.  We were able to measure and cut the 16′ long steel edging sections into the dimensions that we needed.  We started on one end and side of the pathway and went from there.  Where there was a corner, we measured that dimension, cut the bottom portion of the edging about 3/4 of the way through the piece, and were then able to bend the edging at a 90 degree angle for our corners.  One the cuts and connections were made, geotextile fabric was laying down below and our gravel was placed on top.

Next, we plan do roto-till our bed areas once more before planting.  A majority of our plant materials have come in, some tender and some perennial.  After our beds are tilled, we plan to place our custom designed and built wooden container boxes.  We are currently working on priming and painting the boxes.  Pictures will be coming soon!

Our opening day for the Student Exhibition Gardens should be around June 1st.  All plant materials are planned to be installed by mid-May.

Aside from our new Student Exhibition Gardens, I have been caring for my personal garden space on Red Lion Row, where I am living on site.  I had planted garlic this past fall, which is doing well in my garden, currently.  I was unable to cover crop my garden this fall and it had become over-run with henbit (a winter annual weed).  I pulled most of the henbit from my garden in early March and continued to cultivate the surface of the soil to reduce any new, emerging weed seedlings.  I roto-tilled my garden space earlier this month (April) and amended it with some compost.  I plan to amend it with another yard or so of compost and till it once more before planting.  When I first started last spring, half of my garden space was a compacted turf area.  I want to be sure that I till thoroughly and amend the soil with compost so that I have good porosity, lower bulk density, better cation exchange capacity (CEC) and better water holding, all ideal conditions for successfully growing vegetables.

Here are some pictures of my vegetable garden from this spring.

Below you can see my garlic plants.  This past fall I simply used about two bulbs of garlic and separated the cloves from the sides (with shoots emerging) and planted them about 4″ deep.  You can also see my seedlings of beets, lettuces and radishes.

Here are two rows of peas that I planted.  Pisum sativum ‘Sugar Snap’.  I plan to train them upward with twine, later supported by my fence.  Another row of peas is reflected on the reverse side of my garden.

Here is a view of my ornamental garden.  I have decided that this year I will convert a majority of this 15′ x 15′ section into an ornamental vegetable garden.  This will help me practice applying vegetables and edible plants in a setting that could be similar to one near a house in an urban landscape.  (Although we are very fortunate to be provided with healthy, well-amended garden soil beforehand.  Some of the emerging perennials pictured will later be removed and replaced with vegetables following a unique design.

I had to take another picture of my Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ this year.  This was one of the first shrubs to leaf out in our area, I noticed.  It was like a golden beacon on a hill!  The above picture was actually taken about a week later, but it shows you how bright this plant can be immediately after leafing out!  I have already added this plant to my plant pallet for when I am designing gardens.  A few other plants I am becoming more fond of that are great to use in the landscape are Hydrangea quercifolia, Viburnum sp. (my favorite), Physocarpus (P. ‘Diablo’, P. ‘Summer Wine’, P. ‘Dart’s Gold’), Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, and Sambucus sp.

My class (PG Class of December, 2010) has agreed to grow produce for the Terrace Restaurant earlier this year.  The restaurant had formulated a list of fruits and vegetables in which they would like us to grow for them.  We selected productive, well-known cultivars from two different suppliers (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Seed Saver’s Exchange).  Some transplants were started around mid-late February.  Below is a picture of some of the transplants we have started including different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, swiss chard, tomatillo and various herbs.

More photos, information and updated to come!  Thanks for reading my posts!! 🙂

Remember September

September 30, 2009 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

September has been a great month here.  We have seemed to have a steady amount of moisture so far.  We had a pretty decent cold front come through the last few weeks.  It warmed up a bit at the end of last week, but another front is coming in and we are now feeling the chill again.


Most of the plants in my herbaceous section are still flowering and are healthy.  I have had a few losses, mostly due to overcrowded plants.  Next year I will definitely have to thin out my plot, move a few things around, and possibly plant less annuals.  I was pleased with my Verbena bonariensis, but things such as gomphrena are ones I may skip next year.  So far I have learned that annuals can be very important in providing constant year-long color and depending on their vigor or aggressiveness, can be very effective in filling up empty spaces in a short amount of time (which seems to be typical of most annuals).

Becoming one of my top smaller shrubs.  Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’


My banana plants have grown a lot this year, Sometime soon I will probably need to remove them and store them in the basement for the winter.


I have planted some fall annuals into my fall container, but still need to finish it off with more plants for Monday’s grade on our ‘fall container’.  I have added a pink chrysanthemum and a Pennisetum (millet) into the container so far.  I would like to remove my bachelor’s button and place some kind of large annual, or maybe an ornamental cabbage of some-type as a plant that likes cooler weather.  We will also be preparing a winter container in the next month or two, so I am also brainstorming ideas for that.

Other than having to deadhead, cut back dead/ugly growth and occasional watering to my container, no other significant changes have been made to my herbaceous plot in my garden.

Helianthus ‘First Light’- This is finally blooming.  I couldn’t wait for fall to see this bloom.  Here it isn’t even at it’s peak.. To the left you can see a raspberry plant I have staked up after letting it growing outwards all summer.  Some of the stems were around 6 feet long!


My vegetables have been slowly fading, and I have removed most of them after they have reached their peak.  I have removed all of my beans and corn which took up a majority of my garden.  I used the corn stalks and a few extra dried ears of corn, bundled them up and tied them to the ends of my fence posts.  Once I removed many of the spent veggies from my plot, I weeded and then mulched the entire area.


The newest addition to the plot is garlic cloves (underground-now sprouting) and some leaf lettuce.  I still have some carrots left that are continuing to mature.  I have harvested my early crop of carrots a few weeks ago, they turned out nice!  One thing I would recommend to anyone who wants to grow carrots-which is a very fun crop to grow by the way (if you know how to grow them properly).. Sow carrot seeds directly into loose, well drained (even-sandy) soil.  I planted mine in my raised beds which improved the drainage and pore space, which allowed for easier penetration for the root and a larger/well-formed carrot.  Some people have trouble getting the seeds to germinate consistently.  One thing you can do to compensate for this is wait until they are larger and easy to transplant, thin them out and move excess plants to areas that are more sparse.  If you want to be a naturalist about it, just sow it and grow it. 🙂


My lettuce crops are all growing at about 6″ currently.  This time, I decided to harvest more frequently, taking less at a time.  This past spring I let them get too large and had to cut excessive amounts at a time.  I did not have a problem with bitter leaves, but just simply too much lettuce!  The deer seem to enjoy walking through my rows/patterns rather then nibble on them.


My sorghum is becoming very large-at about 6 feet high!  I’m almost certain that they will not form seed heads before it gets too cold and there is not as much daylight, but I wanted to grow them mostly for the foliage and corn-like form. (see above pictures)

This coming spring I plant to utilize as much area in my 15’x35′ vegetable section and try to grow plants that I can ‘survive’ from.  I want to produce a majority of the food that I consume and see how I can consistently provide produce for myself throughout the season.  It would be similar to a CSA organization, but in a very small scale and for a ‘test run’.  I want to try and grow plants that are indeterminate producers (produce steadily throughout a long period of time -tomatoes..).  I also want to use the greenhouse space available to grow transplants ahead-of-time so that I can get a head start on producing vegetables.  We will see how this works out.. I will still need to make a crop-schedule so that I am properly prepared to harvest when I need to, and I will also know exactly when I should sow  the seeds indoors or outdoors and when to transplant into the garden.

There’s much more happening here than I could write in a few paragraphs.  I at least wanted to give you all an idea of what I do in my ‘spare time’ here at Longwood.  Well, I guess you can call it spare time :p

Oh, and I now have a groundhog living in one of my raised beds.  I’m not sure if I’m simply going to charge him rent, or send him off to find a new home. We’ll see..


August 18, 2009 Tags: , , , , , Blog No comments

August is flying by very fast.  We have finally been getting some warm weather.  After all of the rain we’ve gotten this spring/early summer, things are finally taking off with the heat!  My Ensete is really growing fast.  When I first planted it about two months ago, it was only a foot and a half tall!  I applied a good amount of Oscmocote when I planted them and I believe that is really kicking in now.  I have only fed the banana plants twice with liquid feed, all other waterings were with straight H2O.  Everything else is really filling out as well.  Early this fall I will definitely be re-arranging some plants due to crowding and different heights.  I have made a few recent additions of some small, common perennials to fill in some empty spaces and to create rhythm, but they are still very small.  My Cleome, Agastache, Canna and Verbena bonariensis are still blooming strong!  I have a purple ornamental kale plant towards the north end of my herbaceous section that is about 3 1/2 feet tall and really neat!  My Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ has really put on some new growth and excellent chartreuse color.  My Cotinus has also pushed some nice, new, purple growth this year.

One plant that has showed significant decline this month was my campanula.  It is similar looking to Lobelia erinus, but spreads more and has different flowers.  I am not certain of the cause of death, but this will definitely be added to my ‘not to grow’ list for Joyce’s evaluations.  The last thing a client would want is a plant that does not fair well without constant attention and care (unless they are willing to pay us to do it).





For my vegetable section..Things are winding down.  My first harvest of beans and onions have come to an end.  My second crop of beans should be coming in soon after flowering.  I have yellow wax and purple wax beans.  As for my tomatoes, I had to kiss them goodbye.  Most all of the tomatoes in our growing area got blight this year.  We decided to remove all plants to reduce the disease spores for next year.  Once thing that definately contributed to the blight problems was the excessive rain we had early in the season.

Since I have ripped out my over-mature lettuces (left in for ornamental purposes) and some of my other crops, I have begun to fill in with near crops.  I have planted sorghum where my tomato plant were previously.  This sorghum (broom corn) will be used for a fall harvest sale along with other small pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.  I am also soon going to be ready to plant my fall lettuce, spinach and peas.

My zucchini plants have been producing well and I have kept up with picking them at the appropriate sizes lately.  Both crops -yellow courgette and black beauty slowed down in production about two weeks ago, but are both picking up again.  One problem I have had with my spaghetti squash is that they have mildew problems, as well as bacterial wilt.  My fruits were all close to the mature size, and have mostly ripened.  Because most of us are growing our plants the ‘natural way’, some of my zucchini have gotten the squash vine borer and will soon come to an end.  I would have to guess that I have harvested somewhere around 160 pounds of zucchni from my black beauty alone.

Aside from needing weeded, and a bit of mulch, my veg. section is doing fine. 🙂



June bugs

June 30, 2009 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

Well.. It’s been awhile since I have blogged and there is alot to catch up on!  And no, I don’t seem to have problems with June bugs, but I thought it was a catchy title for this month.  As for my veg. plot; my cabbages are huge and are ready to harvest!  The corn is really growing and so are the beans and squash.  I am beginning to train my summer squash up my fence posts.  The potatoes and tomatoes are both growing a lot also.  The deer have decided to make their first noticeable visit to my garden and took my Swiss Chard with them.  I also lost some of my beets and my two Heuchera plants in my herbaceous plot.  I actually removed the larger leaves of the Chard to let the younger ones grow and take over, but the deer managed to stop by the night after that and eat them too!  Oh well, you snooze you lose I guess.  I have harvested the largest of my beets and I am getting ready to sow more of them.  There are other ‘holes’ in my garden now that the cabbages, beets and a few other things are ready to be harvested.  I will be planting more beans, carrots, bunching onions and other crops that have a short DTH.  Probably around 60 days.


Here is a better view of the cabbages that I was assigned to grow for my market crop by Harold Taylor


This is the way I am training my Squash to grow up on my fence post.  Once the fruits begin maturing, I will then use hanging nets to hang them from the structure.


As for my herbaceous section in my garden, things are really growing well.  I have added a few things to fill in the open spaces.  Some of the newer things I have planted include Musa accuminata, Ensete ventricosum ‘Marielii’, Verbena bonariensis, Cleome, Pentas and Tagetes. My Asclepias has been eaten by some Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  The plant wasn’t totally defoliated, but it seems they eat more everyday.  I have added Osmocote fertilizer to some of my plants that may need more nutrients than others and also to give them a slow-release supply of it.  I have fertilized my ‘bananas’, Canna, and the plants in my summer container.


Here is a picture of my summer container.  Including Millet, Lobelia, Verbena, a Cayenne pepper plant, Bachelor’s Button and a newly added orange Marigold (not in picture).


End of May…

May 25, 2009 Tags: , , Blog No comments

A picture of my vegetables again.  You can see the beans (Yellow wax) are coming up (next to the cabbages).  Under the fencing, I have summer squash, zuchinni ‘black beauty’, and some cantaloupe.  I’m going to try and hang my fruits from the fence, like some sort of art I guess.  We’ll see how it works out.


Most of my herbaceous plot is filling up.  I still have some room for some other perennials though.  Considering that I’m only here for two years, I can probably get away with planting some things closer that normal.  In the back I have some taller plants, such as Canna and Rudbeckia.  I tried to layer the garden so that the further front (closer to the viewer) it is, the shorter the plant.  Some of the woody plants that I have won’t grow too fast, so I’m able to fit a few in.  Those include; Viburnum trilobum, Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’, Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’, and Cotinus coggygria.


Some of the perennials I have are Boltonia asteroides, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Amsonia hubrictii, Lychnis chalendonica, Gaura ‘Crimson Butterflies’, Salvia lyrata ‘Purple Knockout’, Helianthus ‘First Light’, Dahlia ‘Weston Spanish Dancer’, Iris ‘Versicolor’, Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’ and a bunch more/more to come.  Most of these are plants I haven’t grown.  I have grown different types of Salvia, Iris, Helianthus and other ones, but not necessarily these species or cultivars.

I’m trying to keep my colors in different schemes, somewhat.  The front left of my garden is more cool colors/blooms.  The back right of the garden seems to be more warm colors.  I also had to figure in the heights of the plants, so things got switched around a bit.  Now, probably the most important thing I need to do is label my garden with my name.!