Saturday, April 27, 2013

"A Year in the Garden" video

A fun new video has popped up on YouTube. "A Year in the Garden" is a time-lapse video that shows one family of three's raised-bed gardening efforts in a the Los Angeles area. It's more artfully done than usual, with nice touches like the little cast of insect characters that the videographer captures going about their business.

I love the disclaimer:

Last weekend for tulips at Burnside Farms

We headed out to Burnside Farms on Monday and made a nice afternoon of it. This weekend is your last chance to check this small, family-run tulip farm out:
4905 James Madison Hwy 
Haymarket, VA 20169

Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Archwood Green Barns opens up for this season on Sunday (10 a.m. - 3 p.m.) I'm excited to check out the new vendors as well as old standbys like the to-die-for BBQ. 

Archwood is a "producer only" farmer's market, which means each vendor raises, grows, and/or makes what they sell. (At a lot of other local farmer's markets, I've seen vendors reselling stuff they bought wholesale at places like Amish country up north of us.) Last year around this time there were plants, honey, eggs, meats, salsas and guacamole, jellies and jams, and crafts. There will likely be early spring vegetables, but I wouldn't expect much besides greens (arugula, spinach, and salad) this early in the growing season.  

Archwood Green Barns is located at the intersection of Rt. 245 and I-66; if you're using your GPS, plug in 4557 Old Tavern Road, The Plains, Virginia.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Avoiding Artillery Fungus and Plant Starvation by Using Compost as Mulch

Mike McGrath, the Garden Editor that you hear locally on WTOP FM, is also the host of the "You Bet Your Garden" public radio show. I came across a Q & A that he did a while back about using mulch, and I was really surprised by his take on it.

Having grown up in suburbia, I thought that a topdressing of wood mulch was just The Thing To Do every spring. But Mike argues against using wood mulch for two reasons: 1) mulch can "breed ‘shotgun’ or ‘artillery’ fungi that shoot tar-like spores as far as 30 feet towards light colored objects, like the side of your house or car," and 2) "wood mulches can also slow the growth of established plants—and yes, just plain starve new ones to death—by ‘tying up’ the available food in your soil, a process known as 'Nitrogen immobilization.'"

 Image of artillery fungus from

I found out about these fungi firsthand last year, when alien life forms that looked like hundreds of thumbtack-sized birds' nests appeared in my mulch, each "nest" laden with three or four tiny, hard, grey spores. Soon afterwards, a good fifteen feet or so of the privacy fence in my backyard was covered with these spores, which were just impossible to clean off.

  Image of spores on siding from

If you are attacked by shotgun or artillery fungi, Mike suggests dousing them with soapy water as soon as you notice the problem, then giving the whole area a good scrubbing to see if they'll pop off. Unfortunately, by the time you realize that you have a problem, the spores are usually well adhered, making them like the Gorilla glue of the fungal world.

So wood mulch kinda sucks, but you still need some sort of mulch if you want good weed control and moisture retention, coupled with the addition of delicious organic matter that your plants are craving for dinner. What are your choices?  Some of Mike's recommendations are straw and shredded fall leaves, but his top recommendation is ... drumroll please ... compost.

Image from

McGrath points to a study at Ohio State that showed that compost cut weeding time by 1/20th, the same result that researchers got with wood mulch. And in talking to one of the OSU researchers, a Dr. Herms, McGrath learned that "compost will also greatly limit disease and insect problems in the plants it mulches and improve their overall vigor and root growth; wood mulches ... often have the opposite effect." Bonus points: you don't have to apply additional fertilizer during the growing season if you've mulched with compost.    

Mulching with compost can be just as aesthetically pleasing as mulching with wood, as the above image (drool drool drool) from Bear Path Farm shows. So with this new knowledge in my toolkit, I began mulching my combo veg-and-flower beds with compost last week, setting aside the wood mulch I had already purchased to use as the base in my dogs' pen. (Hopefully they won't mind a ducking a few flying spores while they go about their business.) So tell me, have you ever heard about or encountered any problems with wood mulch? What do you use to dress up your garden beds?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Things to Do in Fauquier County

Tammy from Casa Mariposa gave a shout-out to a few of my favorite places around Fauquier in her post about finding the soil amendment ground alfalfa on the cheap at the Culpeper Farm Co-op (CFC for short). I am all about Fauquier County. It is like the Pawnee, Indiana to my Leslie Knope. I go on and on about how it is seriously. the. prettiest. like it's one of my kids and it's at its first beauty pageant. Did I mention I heart Fauquier?

You may heart Fauquier, too, after visiting some of my favorite spots:

Red Truck Bakery (22 Waterloo Street, Warrenton)
Parade Magazine voted its granola “one of the two best in the country.” Red Truck offers locally-sourced lunch fare, plus amazing sweets like double-chocolate moonshine cake, cranberry orange walnut muffins, and seasonal goodies like chocolate and Guinness stout Irish cake in the spring and Shenandoah apple cake in the fall. 

Hollin Farms (11324 Pearlstone Lane, Delaplane)
Pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. Natural beef. Heritage pork. Unbeatable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Crooked Run valley. This family –owned farm, which has been up and running since the 1950s, is a little slice of heaven on earth.

Buckland Farm Market (4484 Lee Highway, Warrenton)
Located just north of Warrenton on Route 29, Buckland Farm Market sells plants, regionally-grown organic produce, baked goods, locally-raised beef and poultry, and bulk foods. There’s a play area for kids out back, along with chickens, rabbits, and sometimes donkeys. In the fall, Buckland holds a month-long fall festival with a corn maze. 

Archwood Green Barns Farmers and Gardeners Market (4557 Old Tavern Rd, The Plains)
The highlights here are fresh, locally-grown produce, plants, farm crafts, and food vendors like Magic Mike’s BBQ and Karri’s Addiction Cheesecakes. This is arguably the best farmers market in the area, and it’s open Sundays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m beginning April 28th.

Schoolhouse #18 (7592 John Marshall Highway, Marshall)
This small wooden one-room schoolhouse was built in 1887 and is the last of its kind in the county. The gardens on the grounds are maintained by the Fauquier Master Gardeners and are open from dawn to dusk year round. Tours of the schoolhouse are conducted the last Saturday of every month from 1-3 p.m.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tulips, Anyone?

If you're local and looking for something to do this weekend or next, there's a Certifikid deal for $15 admission to the Organic Tulip Festival down in Aroda, which is southwest of Culpeper, near  Shenandoah National Park. You also get a free organic coffee, Stroopwafels (a kind of "waffles meets-cookies" creation from the Dutch), and fifteen tulips. It looks like the $15 covers a carload of people.

Photo of the Organic Tulip Festival from Certifikid

Another, more local tulip farm, Burnside in Haymarket, will be hosting their tulip festival starting this weekend. (Inside NoVa did a good newspaper article about them a few weeks ago.) Burnside Farms will be open from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. on the weekends, and they expect for peak bloom to be about the 22nd of April. Their Facebook page is; I like that they take the time to respond to people's posts on their wall.

Photo of Burnside Farms from Inside NoVa

I'm not making any money from recommending these places, btw - just thought I'd share some cool finds. Happy tulip hunting!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Universe Does Not Want Me to Grade These Papers

I sat down to email my straggler-students that they still had a little time to turn in their drama essays, which I am looking forward to grading ever so much, when lo! I found I had a comment alert in my inbox from none other than Terry at, who wanted to let me know about this new development: 

I think that Terry's impeccable timing is a sign from the universe (or something). I'm just going to put F's on all the essays and call it a day. I mean COME ON, look at how fuzzy and Easterific these chicks are!

Terry, I need this chick right here. It is the cutest thing ever. I've already named him. He's Rufus (unless he's actually a hen, in which case I'll go with Rufusina). Hurry up and put a stamp on Rufus and stick him in the nearest mail slot before my husband sees this post.