Saturday, June 8, 2013

Moths and Maggots and Aphids, oh my!

This post will cover four categories of pest and disease prevention and treatment in the garden, including cultural, physical, biological and organic chemical.

I. Cultural

  •             Soil testing and appropriately amending your soil is an easy way to prevent "abiotic diseases", which are caused by deficiencies in micronutrients. UMass is a great place to send your soil (University of Maryland no longer does testing.) UMass will email you back with the results of your test along with very clear instructions on how to correct any nutrient deficiencies you may have. Not all testing sites give the appropriate reference ranges and recommendations. Go to: to get information on how to send in your sample. It takes about 10 minutes, costs $10 and will help you produce better, healthier plants, as well as reduce overuse of fertilizers that will run into the Bay. It is recommended to test every 3-4 years.
  •             Garden diary should include type of plants, when planted, weather, plant date, harvest date, when you had first insect damage. If you have aphids in mid-July, for example, and the weather is similar the following year, you will know when to watch for them.
  •              Plot garden prior to planting taking into account distance needed between plants. (For example, tomato plants should be 3 feet apart to prevent fungal disease). Plan for plants that grow well in our local area- Zone 7. Zone 6 plants may not be able to take our hot summers.
II. Physical 
  •             Fertilize appropriately with organic materials as directed per your soil test. Keep in mind that a vegetable garden has different requirements than blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, so if you are growing berries, do the test specific for them.
  •            Trap plants can be used as decoy plants to attract insects away from the plants you don't want to be eaten. For example, amaranth, pictured above can be used as a trap plant for cucumber beetles as well as making a great cover crop.
III. Biological 
  •            Biodiversity means planting a wide variety of crops which will help attract "good" insects to control "bad" insects. 

  •            Don't bother buying ladybugs unless you have aphids, otherwise ladybugs will have nothing to eat and most likely fly away.
  •            Praying mantises are not necessarily helpful as they eat good insects as well as bad, so do not purchase them. However, if you find them in your garden, it is a sign of a healthy garden.
IV. Organic Chemical
  •           Neem insecticidal spray

  •           Bacillus thuringiensis (BT)- for gypsy moths     
  •           Spinosad
  •           Note- I will talk more about these sprays and their safety in a future post

******This information was adapted from a talk given by Master Gardener, Norman Cohen at the last meeting of the Rodgers Forge Garden Club. He will be available at the Towson Farmers' Market to answer gardening questions from June 13 thru September, 10am-1pm on Allegheny Ave near Fader's. No sessions on Sept 5 and 19 and Aug 8.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Monkton Train Station Gardens to Feature Workshops June 7 and 9

Just wanted to pass along this info if anyone was interested-
 Did you know there are kings, witches, and spiders in Monkton?
 The Gunpowder Garden Club will introduce you to the special characters in its gardens at the Monkton Train Station at 1820 Monkton Road during National Garden Week, June 1 through 8. The club will be offering free workshops and tours of the gardens on the Torrey C. Brown Trail. The brief workshops will show you how to bring character to your own gardens and containers. Children are welcome to attend (the characters are looking forward to meeting them!)
 During the workshops, club members will demonstrate how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by replacing familiar yet common plants with more unusual ones that will dress up the landscape palette.
 Train station workshops will be held on Friday, June 7 at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and on Sunday, June 9 at 2:00 p.m. You will go home with a list of plant material that can help you enhance the colors and textures of your gardens, and plot a course to the extraordinary.
 This workshop is quite timely. A long-time staple of the colorful garden, garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), will be less available this year due to impatiens downy mildew that is affecting this area and may continue to do so for the next seven to ten years.
 After the workshop, gardeners young and old will be treated to a tour of the train station gardens, meeting live costumed characters giving voices to their places in the garden. We will end the tour with a 'Garden Boogie' led by 'Kindersinger', Pam Minor. Please join us young and old for a great time!!
 Gunpowder Garden Club is a member of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, District III and a member of the National Garden Clubs, Inc., Central Region, which provides education, resources, and national networking opportunities for its members as well as promoting the love of gardening and floral design.

 For more information, contact
> Elyssa Baxter,

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grass Clippings: A Free Mulch

Grass clippings around tomatoes and peppers
The suburbs, green as they are, produce a huge amount of plant waste in the form of tree trimmings, uprooted shrubs, autumn leaves, and so on. But the most plentiful and sometimes problematic green waste -- grass clippings -- can actually be put to use in the garden as a weed-suppressing, moisture-retaining mulch.

It's simple. If you mow the lawn and gather the clippings in the bag, just spread those clippings in a two-inch layer around established plants like tomatoes, onions, peppers, and so on. The clippings will eventually dry out to a straw color with a crusty surface. This will provide two advantages: First, the crusty top will keep weeds down; those that are able to poke through will be an easy-to-see green against the yellow grass, and they will be shallow-rooted and easy to pull. Second, in the height of summer, when the sun is really beating down, the yellow grass will shade the dirt and help retain moisture. Eventually, the grass clippings will rot down into the soil, providing valuable organic material to the dirt.
Grass clippings around onion plants.

Now before you start spreading clippings on your garden, there are some potential problems to consider:
  • If you douse your grass with lawn fertilizers, you might not want to put the clippings on your garden. Many fertilizers contain herbicides and chemicals like 2,4-D, which could not only harm your veggies but also harm you. 
  • If you have a dog that poops in the grass, it might not be a good idea to spread this on plants you're going to eat. Same goes for grass that might have lead-paint flecks in it. 
  • If dandelions and other weedy plants are producing seeds in your grass, you might not want to spread that on your garden. You might be making weeding work for yourself in the future. 
I often "steal" my neighbors' bagged grass, but the concerns above still apply -- I don't use it if I think that it might be contaminated in any way. However, with bagged grass, you should be aware of another concern: Bagged grass sometimes starts to ferment in the bag -- it gets hot and smells like vinegar. That's good in the sense that weed seeds are often killed under those conditions; but you should try to air out and/or rinse the clippings before applying them to your garden. Veggies tend not to like vinegar on their roots.

Otherwise, I've found this to be a great way to cut down on weeding and to provide a more pleasant look to my garden. For more information, consult some of the sources linked here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


This ain't your momma's farmers market! Starting friday nights in June and running through the summer, Woodberry Kitchen & Five Seeds Farm bring you UnionGraze. Local purveyors, local beer from UCB & live music, all at Union Mill, behind Artifact Coffee (not at the brewery.) We are excited to be a part of this. SUPPORT LOCAL!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Marigolds, Why are you Tomatoes best friend?

As I was planting my tomatoes last week I went through the motions as usual to plant a marigold close by to "help" the tomatoes grow better when it occurred to me....."I really have no idea why marigolds are good for tomatoes".  After some long hard research (I googled it) I found some conflicting data but came up with basically this.

  Marigolds are plant allies that you can pair with eggplants, potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes and squash plants to provide the benefits of protection or improved growth. Marigolds deter Mexican bean beetles from damaging beans, discourage Japanese beetles from harming corn and deter beetles from causing harm to cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squashes and potatoes. Marigolds help prevent nematodes from affecting eggplants and tomatoes. Pot marigolds deter beetles from visiting asparagus plants and tomato worms and general pests from bothering tomatoes.

 I have also heard that this is all a wives tale and that there is no solid evidence that this flower can do any of its claim to fame. At any rate, they are pretty, there are so many kids of them, and why not...right? I enjoy seeing them and believe that, if anything, they are a friend to my garden and tomato plants.

And now for updates on my garden. I was out front Saturday looking at the sad dried up azalea bushes out front that were once mind blowing fuchsia when I took a look closer I saw that there were HUNDREDS of newly hatched Praying Mantis or is it Manti? Anyhow they were so cute and I was happy because they are super awesome garden savers!

Have a look:

Maybe even more curious than those bugs was the CUCUMBER that I planted outside WAY TOO EARLY! See:
Peas are coming along nicely and are a miracle in their own right as I transplanted them from inside and from what I hear you must never transplant peas...
The chives are flowering:
As is the Clematis:
Lastly, I finally put in the herb garden. I bought two types of Rosemary (Hill Hardy and Arp), two types of Basil (Sweet and Greek Columnar) and Cilantro. The Hot and Spicy Oregano actually came back along with the parsley. Who knew they were so hardy? Looking at these herbs is enough inspiration to get cooking!
Hope you and your garden are on your way to a bountiful season!

Monday, May 13, 2013

13 Medicinal Plants Worth Planting

13 Medicinal Plants Worth Planting

  • Aloe Vera

The aloe vera grows only under the sun with well drained dry or moist soil. Although the plant tastes like yucky, it’s still edible. The sap from aloe vera is extremely useful to speed up the healing and reducing the risk of infections for :
  • wounds
  • cuts
  • burns
  • eczema
  • reducing inflammation
Apart from its external use on the skin, aloe vera is also taken internally in the treatment of :
  • ulcerative colitis (drinking aloe vera juice)
  • chronic constipation
  • poor appetite
  • digestive problems
  • Marsh Mallow

The plant of which marshmallows are made of. The root is taken internally to treat :
  • inflammations and irritations of the urinary and respiratory mucus membranes
  • counter excess stomach acid
  • peptic ulceration
  • gastritis
Externally, the root is applied to :
  • bruises
  • sprains
  • aching muscles
  • insect bites
  • skin inflammations
  • splinters
The leaves are very edible, unlike the aloe vera. They can be added to salads, boiled, or fried. It is known to help out in the area of cystitis and frequent urination.
  • Great Burdock

It requires moist soil and can grow shadeless. The great burdock is the pretty famous in the area of detoxification in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. The root is is used to treat ‘toxic overload’ that result in throat infections and skin diseases like :
  • boils
  • rashes
  • burns
  • bruises
  • herpes
  • eczema
  • acne
  • impetigo
  • ringworm
  • bites
The leaves and seeds can be crushed to poultice it to bruises, burns, ulcers and sores.
  • Pot Marigold

It grows in almost any type of soil condition. It has no problem with nutritionally poor, very acidic or very alkaline soils, just as long as it’s moist. Well known as a remedy for skin problems, the deep-orange flowered pot marigold variety is applied externally to :
Internally it is used to treat fevers and chronic infections.
The tea of the petals tones up circulation and, taken regularly, eases varicose veins.
Applying the crushed stems of the pot marigold to corns and warts will soon have them easily removable.
  • Gotu Kola

The gotu kola acts on various phases of connective tissue development and stimulates healing of :
  • ulcers
  • skin injuries
  • decreasing capillary fragility
  • stimulation of the lipids and protein necessary for healthy skin
Leaves are thought to maintain youthfulness. Crushed leaves are poulticed to treat open sores. The gotu kola can also be used to :
  • treat leprosy
  • revitalize the brain and nervous system
  • increase attention span and concentration
  • treat venous insufficiency
  • Camomile

With a sweet, crisp, fruity and herbaceous fragrance, has long been used medicinally as a remedy for problems regarding the digestive system. It has a soothing and calming effect in the area of aromatherapy, used to end stress and aid in sleep. The entire herb is used to treat common aches like toothache, earache, shoulder pain and neuralgia.
  • Globe Artichoke

A bitter tasting plant that requires a lot of sun, the cardoon has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarin. The cardoon leaves, best harvested before flowering, helps to :
  • improve liver and gall bladder function
  • stimulate the secretion of digestive juices
  • lower blood cholesterol levels
  • treat chronic liver and gall bladder diseases
  • jaundice
  • hepatitis
  • asteriosclerosis
  • early stages of late-onset diabetes
  • Chinese Yam

A type of yam that can be eaten raw, the chinese yam can be easily grown, succeeding in fertile, well drained soil in a sunny position. It is sweet and soothing to the stomach, spleen and has a tonic effect on the lungs and kidneys. It is used internally to treat :
  • tiredness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • poor digestion
  • chronic diarrhea
  • asthma
  • dry coughs
  • uncontrollable urination
  • diabetes
  • emotional instability
Externally, it is applied to :
The leaf, on the other hand, is used to treat snakebites and scorpion stings.
  • Echinacea

One of the world’s most important medicinal herbs, the echinacea has the capacity to raise the body’s resistance to bacterial and viral infections by stimulating the immune system. It also has antibiotic properties that helps relieve allergies. Basically, the roots are beneficial in the treatment of sores, wounds and burns. It was once used by the red indians as an application for insect bites, stings and snakebites. The echinacea grows on any well drained soil, as long as it gets sunlight.
  • Siberian Ginseng

The siberian ginseng has a wide range of health benefits, mostly as a powerful tonic herb that maintains good health. It’s medicinal properties are used for :
  • menopausal problems
  • geriatric debility
  • physical and mental stress
  • treat bone marrow suppression caused by chemotherapy or radiation
  • angina
  • hypercholesterolemia and neurasthenia with headache
  • insomnia
  • poor appetite
  • increasing endurance
  • memory improvement
  • anti-inflammatory purposes
  • immunogenic purposes
  • chemoprotective purposes
  • radiological protection
  • Great Yellow Gentian

The great yellow gentian root is a bitter herb used to treat digestive disorders and states of exhaustion from chronic diseases. It stimulates the liver, gal bladder and digestive system, strengthening the overall human body. Internally, it is taken to treat :
  • liver complaints
  • indigestion
  • gastric infections
  • aneroxia
  • Sea Buckthorn

The sea-buckthorn has been used throughout the centuries in China to relieve cough, aid digestion, invigorate blood circulation and alleviate pain. The branches and leaves are used in Mongolia to treat gastrointestinal distress in humans and animals.
The bark and leaves are used for treating diarrhea, gastrointestinal, dermatological disorders and topical compressions for rheumatoid arthritis. Even the flowers are used as skin softeners.
The berries on the other hand are used together with other medications for pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood and metabolic disorders. Fresh sea buckthorn berry juice is known to be taken in the event of :
  • colds
  • fever
  • exhaustion
  • stomach ulcers
  • cancer
  • metabolic disorders
  • liver diseases
  • inflammation
  • peptic ulcer
  • gastritis
  • eczema
  • canker sores
  • general ulcerative disorders
  • karatitis
  • trachoma
  • Tea Tree

Even the aborigines have been using the tea tree leaves for medicinal purposes, like chewing on young leaves to relieve headaches. The paperbark itself is extremely useful to them as it serves to line coolamons when used as cradles, as a bandage, as a sleeping mat, as material for building humpies, as an aluminum foil, as a disposable rain coat and for tamping holes in canoes.
The leaves and twigs, eventaully made into tea tree oil, is anti fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and deserves a place in every household medicine box. Tea tree oil can be used to treat :

Friday, May 10, 2013

Check this out! Introduction to Herbalism Class at Real Food Farm

Class 1: May 14th – 6:30–8 pm
Easy-to-grow herbs and their medicinal properties
Part plant walk and part classroom style, this class will focus on hearty perennial herbs that have vast medicinal qualities.  A good last minute opportunity to learn about what easy to grow medicinals you may want to add to your plot or how to use what's already be there. 
Class 2: May 28th – 6:30–8 pm
Weeds as medicine
Identifying, harvesting, and storing medicinal weeds. Bring in weeds from your own garden/farm for identification and learn how they may be useful as food and medicine. 
Class 3: June 4th – 6:30–8 pm
The basics of making homemade teas, tinctures, and topical preparations using herbs from the previous classes.

Visit the Real Food Farm for more info:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Natural Pest Control with Ladybugs and other Non Evasive Biological Techniques.

As we are getting closer to planting more vegetables and sowing more seeds this Spring I am looking toward organic and chemical free ways to ward off garden pests that ultimately eat and damage plants and their fruits.

Beneficial garden ladybugs for controlling pests in your garden are the most popular and widely used beneficial insects for commercial and home use. Ladybugs are capable of consuming up to 50 to 60 aphids per day but will also eat a variety of other insects and larvae. 


You can read more about the benefits of ladybugs and other safe biological pest control HERE.
This site was fascinating to me because  it introduces ways of controlling many types of pests including white grubs, ants, fleas, mosquitoes, gnats, grasshoppers, crickets, and many other garden pests with organic compounds such as Beneficial Nematodes. Beneficial Nematodes are live microscopic organisms (non-segmented round worms) that occur naturally in soil throughout the world. They are parasitic to insect pests that typically have a developing (larval or pupal) stage of life in the soil; however, they have been known to also parasitize above ground stages of adults, nymphs and larvae.

How Do Nematodes Work?
After application, the nematodes immediately get to work. Upon finding a pest, they enter it through various body openings or directly through the body wall. Once inside, the nematode releases a toxic bacterium which kills the host larva within 24 - 48 hours. The bacteria creates a food source and a hospitable environment for the nematodes to reproduce. As the food resources within the dead pest become scarce, the nematodes exit and immediately begin searching for a new host. 

Beneficial Nematodes are available at Valley View Farms, or online .

How are your gardens coming along? Lettuces, Peas, Kale, Asparagus, and other Spring vegetables should be available for harvest now if you have planted them. How do you like to fend off insects?

Just a few shots of my garden. 

 My garden coming along.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Got the Blues? Get in the Dirt!

The Amazing Science of How Dirt Can Make You Happy

Bacteria are lurking everywhere...  doorknobs, handshakes, your kid's runny nose, grandma's kisses. Those little buggers are just waiting to pounce and destroy, causing everything from ear infections to food poisoning, boils to meningitis and everything in between. There's only one thing to do: destroy them before they destroy you.

But wait, is it possible that in our quest to be germ free, we've gone too far? Are all bacteria created equal? Even if it were possible, do we really want to avoid all of them?

For starters, there are 100 trillion (that's 3 pounds!) of microorganisms in your gut. And there's an ever growing body of research demonstrating just how important these little critters are to our health. Imbalances in the "gut microbiome" has been linked to the rise in allergies, digestive disorders, asthma, depression, auto-immune disease and autism just to name a few. Though the causes of these diseases are complex and multi-factorial, there is overwhelming evidence that what's living in your intestines has an enormous impact on your health. As a side note, please talk to your doctor to see if those antibiotics are really necessary, or if there are other options that don't include killing off your gut's good bacteria. If you do need them, consider taking a probiotic and some good quality yogurt, kefir or fermented foods to help restore the healthy gut flora. 

So where does the dirt come in?

Dr. Mary O'Brien, an oncologist in London injected a certain killed strand of bacteria into patients with lung cancer. The bacteria was called Mycobacterium vaccae (pronounced "vah-kay", not to be confused with, "I can't wait to go on vay-kay"). Anyway, she found that the patients had fewer symptoms related to lung cancer. She also found that their mood and cognition improved, and not as a result of a better outlook due to improved physical symptoms. 

Still not seeing the dirt connection? Lo and behold, M. vaccae is a common, harmless bacteria found in... you guessed it, the dirt!

Dr. Chris Lowry, a scientist at Bristol University, decided to further investigate the reason for the increase in mood related to the inoculations, so he injected M. vaccae into some mice. He found that the injections triggered a specific type of immune response that led to the brain producing more serotonin. That's like the benefits of Prozac without the side effects. The increase in serotonin led to mice that were less stressed and performed better on a swim test as compared to mice not given the injection. (I'm not saying they mastered the back stroke, but still impressive). Dr. Lowry states more research is needed to see if this bacteria could be used clinically, but ponders if humans need to spend more time in the dirt.

So, is it possible that after tens of thousands of years of humans being in constant close contact with the earth and its many microorganisms, we have evolved to live more optimally when we maintain that connection? Does our modern lifestyle remove us a little too far from mother nature? Have we developed an unhealthy obsession with "clean" and infiltrated our culture with a fear of dirt? Even the word "dirty" has a negative connotation, as do numerous idioms in the English language, such as: "common as dirt" (low class), "dig some dirt up on someone" (found out something bad about someone), "dish the dirt" (gossip), "do something dirty" (to do something dishonest), "throw dirt enough and some will stick" (if you say enough bad things about someone, it will eventually be believed) and "you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die" (everyone must endure some hardships in life). Should we change our cultural paradigm of how we view and interact with dirt? Perhaps we should all be eating a few pecks of dirt.

Is her Serotonin level rising? 

Further reading:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rainy Day and Cool makes Spring Flowers Happy!

Just thought I would share some of the non-edible vegetation flourishing here on the home front.The first picture is of my bleeding heart bush I was SURE died last year. This was taken yesterday.

The next two are some Pansies and Geraniums that I purchased from Radebaugh's Florist . I love that place. You can get a 10% discount for paying cash! (I believe it is 10%, but a discount none the less). As a kid I would love to go into their walk in fridge and create my own bouquet to give my mother.

I LOVE Tulips and their endless color combinations. I hear right now is the time to go to Sherwood Gardens to see their famous display of tulips. Don't forget a camera as this is Christmas Card worthy.

 Lastly, a gorgeous Purple Iris and the simple but beloved Hosta

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Garden Taking Off

Hi there,

Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Elaine and I live on Murdock Rd. I am a stay at home mother of my 7 month old daughter and 5 and 7 year old boys who attend Rodgers Forge Elementary during the day. My husband and I have lived in the Forge for almost 1 1/2 years and I am always looking for ways to cut back, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Trying to become more sustainable at home it was an obvious move to grow my own food. In addition to joining One Straw Farm CSA, I am blessed with beautiful southern exposure sun making plants and veggies thrive. As you all know space can be limited in our yards (or sun exposure) so I am also experimenting with container gardening.

This year, for the first time, I have started my plants indoors from seeds. I found an incredible see company that has a FREE catalog you can order seeds from all year long called Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They sell every kind of vegetable, herb you can think of including flowers and cotton. My seed experiment ended up being extremely successful! Maybe too successful (and me being overzealous to get into Spring) because I was left with too many seedlings and vegetables growing too quickly that they probably could not be transplanted just yet outside due to the night time dropping temperatures.I started romaine lettuce, pickling and slicing cucumbers, 3 varieties of tomatoes (Purple Ball, Tropic, and Mortgage Lifter) and lastly shelling peas. All of these sprouted between 3 and 7 days!

One of the more successful and fast growing plant in the window was the pickling cucumbers and the Ashley slicing cucumber (a variety of cucumber that is said to do well in our region) that eventually started to flower inside. I thought they would either die on the sill or die outside trying. I decided to harden them off best I could and give them to the world fingers crossed.

So far I am lucky! They took well and the super warm days we have been having has helped tremendously. Nights are not to bad and if they are colder, I could cover them up (although I am always too lazy to do that..ha! )

Anyhow I am posting a few pictures of what we have going on so far and I will blog more about little projects in the garden as well as a few DIY stuff I find incredibly useful and time saving (not to mention $$$$ saving!!)  Wish me luck and I have never ever written for a blog before so I hope I can make it interesting, somewhat funny, and enjoyable!