Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Native of the month: Sugar Maple

Sugar maple, a native plant for the Maryland garden
This month, I wanted to pick a native that has amazing fall color. Although there are a number of native trees that provide great color, including birch and hickory, in my mind, nothing compares to the sugar maple (acer saccharum). These trees have incredible leaves that vary from orange, to red, to scarlet.

In addition to their beautiful fall color, they make a wonderful shade tree and have high wildlife value. A number of songbird varieties nest in sugar maples. The only bad thing about these trees is that they can get BIG - up to 75 feet tall. So you need a lot of room for one of these guys. Also, they are not very tolerant of urban conditions - they need lots of room for their roots, and don't tolerate salt.

Sugar maples are native to the northeastern and north-central part of the U.S. and extend up in to Canada. The sugar maple is so important in Canada, they put it on the flag!

If you have room in your yard, you should consider this tree. It is beautiful year round, but especially in the fall.

By the way - fall is a great time to plant trees. If you decide to plant, consider planting a native, like the sugar maple or other native trees in your area.

You might also like:

September Native of the Month: Blueberry
August Native of the Month: Joe Pye Weed

Photo credit:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Growing Garlic

Growing garlic in Maryland garden - Two Green Acres
Garlic in the grocery store has become more and more disappointing. Apparently, at least part of the reason for this is because there is very little commercial production of garlic in the US any more. Most garlic we eat in the US is produced in China. As a result, by the time it reaches our stores, it is often old and starting to rot or sprout.

I decide to look into growing my own garlic. It is supposed to be pretty easy to grow, as long as you have well draining soil.

Garlic can be grown from garlic cloves. However, since most garlic in the grocery store is treated with an anti-sprouting agent, you might not be successful using garlic from the store. For my garden, I bought organic garlic at the farmers market in Vermont.

When to plant seems a little confusing - some sites say that garlic is traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year. However, most suggest planting garlic after the first major frost, which for my Maryland garden will probably be some time in late October.

Have you planted garlic? If so, I would appreciated any tips!

Photo credit: Muffet

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This Year's Vegetable Garden: What didn't work

Tiny carrots from the 2 Green Acres vegetable garden
Despite our success with a number of vegetables, we still had some that didn't produce. It is often hard to know why this happened. Was it the weather? The soil? Old seed?

Last week I wrote about my vegetable garden success stories. Now, here are the disappointments of our growing season:
  1. Carrots – these were the biggest (littlest?) disappointment. It was my first year growing carrots and I am not sure what I did wrong, but as you can see, I only got tiny little carrots. One thing I will do different next year is plant them a bit earlier. I got them in a bit late this year and that might have been the problem.

  2. Cucumbers – we got some, but not nearly as many as last year. Perhaps it was not hot enough for them? Unlike the carrots, I might have started these too early. Right after I but the plants in the ground, we had a late, light frost. It did not kill them, but they took a long time to recover and that may have impacted their yield.

  3. Fall spinach – our spring spinach was great, but I could not get fall spinach growing. I have blogged previously about my lack of luck with fall gardening. I thought I finally got some established, but then I went on vacation. When I came back, there was no trace of the little plants - victims of insufficient watering. Perhaps I should give up on the fall gardening.

Overall, it was a pretty good year. Although I want everything to flourish, part of the fun is experimenting with new things. I will definitely try the carrots again, but unless I plan to be around to water it, I will probably skip the Fall crops.

What were the disappointments in your garden?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and the Home Garden

Today is Blog Action Day. Once a year, bloggers around the world write about a single topic. This year, the issue is climate change.

I can hear it now - "don't lecture us about climate change - we just want to talk about gardening." But here's the thing - our gardens are impacted by climate change, and we can impact climate change with our gardens.

For example, climate change can impact what plants will thrive in your area. The USDA plant hardiness zones are slowly creeping north. Check out this great map from the Arbor Day Foundation that illustrates this point. New weather patterns are forcing some trees, such as sugar maples north out of the U.S. This has severe impacts to the maple sugar industry, but it also impacts our beloved trees in our backyards.

Climate change also has an impact on birds - causing many species to move north and some to disappear. The Audubon website cleary demonstrates the impact of climate change on our native bird populations.

Finally, there is concern among scientists that global warming will make many plants, especially food crops, more suseptible to pests and disease.

So what can we, as home gardeners do?

Several things:

1. Plant a tree (or two, or three, or....): Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the most prevelant greenhouse gas. So the more trees you have in your yard, the better for the environment. No room for more trees? Donate trees to organizaitons like the Arbor Day Foundation to be planted on public sites.

2. Grow your own food: Food that travels fewer miles from farm to plate is better for the environment. No room for a garden? Visit your local farmer's market on a regular basis.

3. Ban all chemical fertilizers in your garden: Many fertilizers are made from petroleum products, which directly contribute to global warming. Start a compost pile and break the fertilizer habit.

3. Go meatless one day a week: The production of meat creates more carbon dioxide emissions than all the cars in the world. And, as living standards around the world rise, meat consumption is increasing dramatically. Use the bounty from your garden to eat meatless at least one day a week.

Climate change is a big problem, and there is no single solution. But if we all do our part, with efforts large and small, we can prevent the worst impacts from becoming a reality.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Year's Vegetable Garden - What worked

The growing season is not quite over, but it is certainly winding down (at least in my garden). So this is a good time to talk about what worked and what didn't in the vegetable garden. I will start with what worked:
  1. Swiss Chard – this year, with cool temps and lots of rain, was great for the Swiss chard. We had tons.

  2. Tomatoes – fortunately, we did not get the late blight until late, and our tomato plans were prolific. We have 4 plants and have harvested more than 190 tomatoes – a lot for 2 people.

  3. Bok Choy – this was a bit of a gamble for us, but it really paid off – grew great and was delicious.

  4. Pumpkins – we did not plant them, but let a volunteer seed run wild and got 10 baby pumpkins.

  5. Green beans – after I planted them, my husband told me that he did not really like green beans. That was a problem, since we had tons of green beans.
Chard from the 2 Green Acres vegetable gardenTomatoes from the 2 Green Acres vegetable garden Pumpkins from the 2 Green Acres vegetable garden

How about you? What worked in your garden?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I've been hit! Late blight on the tomatoes.

tomato plant with late blight - from the vegtable garden of 2 Green AcresOf course, it happens when you start to feel smug....so sure you are immune. After all, my tomatoes had been doing so well - the best year ever.

Then one day I walk into the garden and things aren't looking too good. The next day, it is a massacre. Today I tried to harvest what I could, but it was not much.

In the meantime, the tomatoes that I picked earlier in the week were fast deteriorating on the counter.

Roasted tomatoes from the vegetable garden of 2 Green Acres
I did the only thing I could think of - roasted all the tomatoes I had left, and then threw them in the freezer.

I consider myself fortunate. I was able to harvest about 190 tomatoes from 4 plants before the late blight hit. However, last year, I was harvesting tomatoes through mid-November.

After you get late blight, the common advice is to plant your tomatoes in a different spot next year. That can be hard to do with a Square Foot Garden. Oh well, I have until spring to figure it out.