The three winners out of 16 entries to Rock Spring Garden Club’s 2014″Garden of the Year” were announced last week. The winners, pictured above, mix natural beauty with sustainability in their backyard gardens.
“We are so thrilled to win!” first place gardener Mary Jennings told ARLnow.com. “I love that the garden gets some exposure and might encourage others to think of big ways to transform our Arlington outdoor living spaces to be enjoyable and conservation-minded.”
Jennings, a gardener for 20 years and art teacher at Salamander Resort in Middleburg, has an underground rain water collector in her garden. She said her husband installed the rain garden because it catches overflow from their koi pond and keeps water away from their home with a series of buried downspouts.
Susan Murnane, the second place winner and director of training for the AIG’s environmental division, also re-purposed items to create a greener garden. Murnane said she reused bulbs and stone slabs found in the lot undergoing construction behind her house.
“I remember as a little kid making clover tiaras or crowns and now we live in a world where you can’t step in the grass,” said Murnane, who plans to certify her garden as a monarch waystation.
Although none of the three winners are official Rock Spring Garden Club members, each said they appreciated the recognition and camaraderie.
“I might take one Thursday off a month and go to a meeting for people whose finger nails look like mine,” joked Murnane.
Judy and Raoul Wientzen, the third place winners, utilize rain water in their garden as well. The rain water collects in a re-purposed barrel from when Raoul made his own wine, and they use it to water their plants and vegetables, according to Judy.
“We were delighted to win third place,” Judy Wientzen told ARLnow.com in an email. Wientzen, an interior designer for Bevacqua/Wientzen Associates, said she enjoys the seclusion of her garden created by the mature azaleas and oak trees. But she has more avant-garde plant life in mind for future competitions.
“All the plantings, while pretty, are pretty standard items,” said Wientzen of her garden. “We hope to add in some specimens that are a bit more unusual in the future.”
Earth Day apparently isn’t just for humans. The animals at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (2650 Arlington Mill Drive) in Shirlington will be getting a special treat in recognition of the day.
Girl Scout Troop 1251 from Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church has been helping to construct a “small companion animal garden” at the shelter. Animals at the shelter including rabbits, guinea pigs and birds will soon be able to munch on the fresh, organic produce that will be grown in the garden.
The scouts will put the final touches on the garden on Monday, which is Earth Day. At that time, they will finish planting the produce such as cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, parsley and carrots.
The event was to include “docent led tours, potting stations for your own rose rootings, poetry readings, cookies and lemonade” at the garden, which contains some 2,000 roses. Instead, the event was called off last week because of a midge infestation that decimated most of the rose buds before they had a chance to reveal their fall blooms.
“The reason for lack of bloom was due to an insect (i.e. midge),” Arlington County Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng said in an email. “We found the midge’s work approximately three weeks ago. We sprayed last week to halt the infestation… It has been determined however that most bloom will not recover this season.”
“According to staff that have worked in the rose garden for numerous years, midge infestations have occurred before within the garden,” Wegeng added. He said the rose plants are in good shape and should have a full bloom this coming spring.
“We had a terrific season until this insect started eating the buds,” Wegeng said.
In place of the public event, the Arlington Rose Foundation – which helps support the rose garden — will instead be holding smaller gathering at a private residence in Reston.
The Gangs of Arlington — As of 2011 there were 10 active street gangs in Arlington. According to a speaker at a panel discussion held earlier this week, the gangs often try to recruit youths who have recently immigrated to the country. Arlington, however, has an extensive gang prevention program that limits the influence of gangs within the county. [Washington Examiner]
National Drug Take-Back Day — The Arlington County Police Department will be participating in National Drug Take-Back Day next weekend. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, police will be collecting “expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs” — no questions asked — in an effort to prevent possible abuse and theft. Collection stations will be set up at fire stations 1, 8 and 9. [Arlington County Police]
Earth Day Twitter Chat Today — The Arlington County Department of Environmental Services is hosting a live Twitter chat on the topic of “green gardening” from noon to 1:00 p.m. today. “Join us and get answers to all of your questions related to landscaping and lawn care, native plants, and water conservation,” the county said in an email. One participant who submits a question will be randomly selected to receive a free rain barrel. [Facebook, Twitter]
A variety of volunteer opportunities exist throughout the county, but a few might be considered plain fun instead of work. One of them involves being an actor and another involves gardening. Check out the details below. More information about these opportunities and others can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website.
- Arlington’s Medical Reserve Corps seeks volunteers to be actors in an emergency response drill on Saturday, April 28. The drill will test the current point of dispensing plans for oral antibiotics given to the public in case of an aerosolized anthrax attack. No experience is necessary. Volunteers will receive an hour of training, then participate in the drill as actors for one hour. Contact Grelia Soliz at (703) 228-0711.
- Clarendon Presbyterian Church is looking for volunteers to be gardeners for its Plot Against Hunger program. Two plant beds are being built along the Jackson St side of the building to grow vegetables, which will be donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Help is needed for a variety of responsibilities that include set up, gardening and delivery of the food to AFAC. Volunteers will complete a short training session. Contact Gillian Burgess at (646) 284-8894.
- The USO of Metropolitan Washington seeks helpers at Ft. Myer. Volunteers will assist military service members, military dependents, military reservists, National Guard and military retirees who use the USO Lounge at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Volunteers will provide courteous service to guests while answering questions, managing DVD and video game check out, keeping the lounge neat, brewing coffee and replenishing snacks. Occasionally, volunteers will help with USO events in the Lounge. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and have a valid U.S. identification. Access to a computer is preferred. Volunteers are required to attend an orientation. Contact Emily Urban at (703) 696-0958.
Linden Resources (formerly SOC Enterprises) is looking for a few good gardeners.
The non-profit, located at 750 S. 23rd Street near Crystal City, is seeking volunteers who enjoy gardening to help jump start the Linden Gardening Program.
“Volunteers will help to plant and cultivate plants using our greenhouse, plan and plant our outdoor vegetable gardens, provide weekly maintenance and weeding throughout the Summer months, and provide staff and the people with disabilities that we serve with gardening instruction and guidance,” the group said in an email. “If you are interested, please contact Amanda Chenkin at 703-521-4441 or achenkin@Linden.org.”
Founded in 1959, Linden provides jobs, job placement and vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities.
Warmer than normal temperatures have many people experiencing spring fever in our area. While the trails and parks are swarming with revelers trying to soak up the sun, it may not be time to get out the gardening gear just yet.
The sporadic 50 and 60 degree days have some bulbs sprouting early and have even prompted a pollen update today. The Capital Weather Gang reports that January broke our string of three colder than average winters. The average temperature of 40.8 was only 4.8 degrees warmer than the normal of 36, but brought us the 17th warmest January on record since 1871.
So with the early sprouting and continued mild weather, is it OK to start gardening yet? Not so fast. According to Manager Carey Fortnoff at Bill’s True Value Garden Center (4756 Lee Hwy), it all depends on what you’re going to plant. Small ground plants could still die if another cold snap occurs. Frost would harm the roots and kill the entire plant. Fortnoff says it’s best to wait until mid-March when the threat of frost has passed.
If you can’t wait that long and want to take advantage of the mild conditions, soil can be tilled and fortified with peat and lime right now. Some larger trees and bushes also may be able to withstand another chill if put in the ground soon. Pansies are also a popular choice for planting immediately due to hardiness. Another popular option is to germinate seeds in starter pots indoors, then move the small plants outside in March.
Fortnoff said although most of the spring planting supplies are already in or on their way, the rush of gardeners hasn’t hit yet.
“February is our graveyard month,” Fortnoff said. “But if you have something in mind you know you want to do, like seeding grass, come in and browse.”
If you do want to get some yard work in, now is the time. This may be the last dry 60 degree day we experience for a while. It’s also a good time to buy gardening supplies while items are well stocked.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is asking local gardeners and farmers to donate extra produce to bolster AFAC’s food pantry.
“Each week, over 1,300 client families visit AFAC to pick up supplemental groceries,” the organization said in a statement. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are in high demand among AFAC clients, especially as fuel prices drive up food prices.”
Produce donations can be made at the following locations:
- AFAC (2708 S. Nelson Street) — Monday though Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Master Gardeners Help Desk at the Courthouse Farmers Market (N. Courthouse Road & 14th Street N.) — Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon
- Rock Spring United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) — Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon
For more information on donating, and to learn about other ways to help, contact Puwen.Lee[at]afac.org or call 703-845-8486. The produce donation drive is part of AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger program.
There are eight community gardens around Arlington, and each has a wait list. At the South Four Mile Run garden, however, one gardener is wondering why the county is allowing the high-demand plots to fall into a state of disrepair.
“I am a co-gardener of a garden plot in the Fort Barnard Community Gardens, [and] if my garden plot looked the way that many of the plots on South Four Mile Run do, my plot would be considered abandoned and the privileges to the plot would be revoked,” the man wrote in an email to a county official. He asked that his name not be used in this article.
“Nearly all of the plots are in violation of one or more of the County Community Garden Rules,” the gardener wrote. “I waited for 2 years to get a garden plot. To see residents [who] have garden plots neglect them and not use them to their full potential is frustrating.”
The man called the Four Mile Run garden an “eyesore” and said sent photos along to prove it. He said the photos show:
- “Many of the plots were never cut back and cleared for the winter. Vines and weeds have overtaken many of the plots and fences. In some cases the vines have grown beyond the boundaries of garden plots.”
- “Many of the gardeners have erected 6-8 ft wooden structures that are crudely constructed to grow vines on. Many of the structures have collapsed, are broken, or leaning.”
- “Trash such as empty buckets, jugs, milk crates, tarps, propped up carpets that are used for weed barriers, wheelbarrows, shoes, lumbar, broken chairs, bed frames, and PVC pipes are some of the items that litter the garden plots.”
- “The fences that create the boundaries for the community garden are in disrepair. Many of the rails are broken and laying on the ground. In one garden plot the fence has been pulled down because of the weight of the weedy vines growing on it.”
The county’s 200+ community garden plots are in high demand among apartment and condo dwellers who have a green thumb but no land to call their own. But Jamie Bartalon, the landscape and forestry supervisor for the county’s parks department, says that regulations only require the gardens to be cleaned up in time for the summer growing season.
The Arlington Central Library in Ballston has a thriving new organic vegetable garden that’s providing food to people in need via the Arlington Food Assistance Center. And now, the project’s early success has attracted the attention of community gardening advocate Christie Vilsack, wife of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack will tour the garden tomorrow morning with county board member Walter Tejada and library director Diane Kresh. During the tour of the garden’s crops, volunteers from the USDA Research Service will release spotted pink lady beetles into the garden to help control pests.
The tour will take place from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Afterward, Mrs. Vilsack and Mr. Tejada will visit a children’s storytime in the library.
Veggie Garden at Central Library Feeding Those in Need — Did you know that Arlington Central Library now has its own vegetable garden? The garden’s first crop of leafy greens was harvested yesterday. All produce grown in the garden is being donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. UPDATE: We hear that Christie Vilsack, wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, may visit the garden later this month.
Gov. McDonnell Wants a Say at Metro — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is making a heavy-handed push for the state to get two seats on the Metro Board of Directors. If he’s successful the seats may be taken away from Arlington and other Northern Virginia locales. More from the Washington Post.
Arlington MS-13 Member Sentenced – A member of the notorious street gang MS-13 has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to extort money from a prostitution ring, the Arlington Connection reports. Prosecutors say the defendant, 23-year-old Alcides Umana of Arlington, is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.
Is your garden or yard losing its luster? No need to worry, help is on the way. Coming up on Saturday, April 10, at the Arlington Home Show and Expo, two garden-specific classes will be presented by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.
Starting at 10:15 a.m. there will be a class called “Garden Soil Testing! How and Why” that will include a free test kit for all participants. Later in the day, at 3:00 p.m., a class titled “How to Catch a Squirrel: Solutions to Common Garden Problems” promises valuable tips for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
There’s a ton to learn about gardening — proper mulching, watering, fertilizing, etc. — but these free classes should be a good start for any green thumb looking to keep their yard pristine and make their garden yield better results.
Other classes offered at the home show will pay special attention to eco-friendly home building and remodeling. Among the classes being offered are “No Cost and Low Cost Ways to Reduce Energy Usage” and “Green Your Home From Soup to Nuts.”
Arlington County representatives will also be attending the Expo to answer questions about permits, zoning and inspections.
The Expo is being held at the Walter Reed Community Center at 2909 16th Street South.