Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Take the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Press Release

National Pollinator Garden Network Launches Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

WASHINGTON, DC (June 3, 2015) In an unprecedented collaboration, dozens of conservation and gardening organizations joined together today to form the National Pollinator Garden Network and launch a new nationwide campaign the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Designed to accelerate growing efforts across America, the Network is launching the Challenge in support of President Barack Obama’s call to action to reverse the decline of pollinating insects, such as honey bees and native bees, as well as monarch butterflies. Representatives of the Network joined First Lady Michelle Obama today at the White House garden, which includes a section dedicated to support pollinators, to formally launch the Challenge.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kohlrabi Apple Slaw

Kohlrabi shows up at markets in spring. Take advantage of
it before it temperatures heat up.
Farmers markets opened in Fairfax County last week, and there are already so many delicious, local veggies just waiting to be plucked. I'm always looking for new and interesting things to try, and it seems the local vendors are keen to introduce new products. We live in a culturally diverse area, and the vendors themselves often represent far-reaching cultures and countries.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Plant Asparagus for Many Happy Returns

Nothing says spring quite like asparagus. Growing your own spears takes a little upfront effort, but the rewards are manifold. Asparagus is considered a "valuable" crop, meaning it's pretty expensive to buy it at the market. It's a hardy perennial, so once established, it returns each year.
First sign of spring.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Visit Shenandoah River State Park

Virginia is for lovers, and with good reason: we have an enormously diverse landscape of people and places, and there's never a lack of adventure around the bend. Without getting too risque, I'll just say that there's nothing more enervating than spending a beautiful weekend in one of our fabulous parks, with those you love. 
Along the River Trail
in Shenandoah State Park.

Most of us Virginians are familiar with Shenandoah National Park; after all, it covers just under 200,000 acres and receives over 1.2 million visitors each year. I could wax poetic about Shenandoah, Oh Shenandoah, I hear you calling.... but today I'm all about the Andy R. Guest Shenandoah River State Park. Perhaps you've passed it on the way to Skyline Drive - it's just off rt. 340, between Luray and Front Royal. Situated on the south fork of the Shenandoah River, the pristine park is host to dry, rocky biomes, as well as vernal pools. These seasonal bogs appear in early spring, when there's abundant rainfall, allowing sensitive species of frogs and salamanders to begin and complete their life cycles. Higher up on the winding trails, shale barrens are host to unusual species of native wildflowers not found in many other areas of the state. 
The Bluebell Trail in full bloom.

The interconnected trail system makes it easy to adjust hiking times, according to energy and ability. The Bluebell Trail and River Trail were the highlight of our weekend. Our timing was just right to catch the flowing swath of pink, purple, and blue hugging the riverbank. A sunset hike along the river gave voice to a chorus of frogs we'd apparently overlooked in the course of staring at all that beauty during daylight hours. And the stars, have you seen them lately? Because stars just aren't the same in the suburbs...

A nest box welcomes a couple of tree swallows.
The campground is the cleanest, most accessible I've ever seen. Eleven tent sites are situated along the southeast side of the park, many of which have views of the river. The level, gravel, well-defined spaces were a welcome site for a out tent. The parking lot is separated from the tent sites, and large wagons are provided for hauling equipment. There are also a few rustic cabins and an RV site. 
Can't beat camp food - S'More's!

We didn't take advantage of any of the ranger programs, nor did we fish or kayak, but I have a feeling there will be many more trips to Shenandoah River State Park in my family's future. I hope to see you there! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sources for Native Plants in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region

Are you interested in starting or expanding a native plant garden, but having trouble location native plants? Native plants are indigenous to a particular region and are often the only source of sustenance for native species living in a particular habitat. Habitat erosion, due to overdevelopment or other human intervention, endangers both native plants and animals. While it is illegal to remove the native plants growing wild in woodlands and parks, there are many local resources for learning about and obtaining wildflowers.

Plant NovaNatives, a northern Virginia campaign to bring attention to the importance of native species, provides a comprehensive, downloadable guide to plants that grow best in our region. They also offer community outreach, speakers, and partnerships with plant retailers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 15

What better way to celebrate tax day than to stroll around the garden and see all of that hard work pay off! It's an overcast day here in Fairfax, VA, perhaps due to the long line at the post office blocking the sun. Nonetheless, today is beautiful, because the multitude of blooms reminds me that brighter days are right around the corner.
The Bluebell Trail at Shenandoah River State Park is absolutely dazzling.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Save Money by Starting Seeds Indoors

I'm excited to share a new opportunity I have with Virginia Gardener, as a featured blogger on the State-by-State website. I'll be posting gardening stories, recipes, and pollinator updates on this website. I'll continue to post information on this blog, as well, often supplementing the Virginia Gardener posts with more in-depth information. Here's a link to my first post, followed by some additional information on seed starting that I hope you'll find useful. Please post comments and let me know what you think, or if you have anything to add! 
Why not grow a pollinator garden this summer?