Archive for August 2010

DC State Fair Today!

It's the big day. I'm pretty sure we have everything prepared. It's all just going to happen, now! (Gosh, I'm tired. Need more coffee.)

If you live in DC, feel free to pop by and enter your veggies into our contests. If you don't, pop on by and say hi!

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Trees In The City

Not quite as fun a title as it would have been with what my Ornithogalum caudatum was doing with my beard trimmer, but I still find it funny. (At least one person does!)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that I'm somehow involved in DC State Fair--most of my tweets have been about it for the past month! This post is, in part, my way of saying "I'm busy because I'm organizing DC's first-ever State Fair." I think Amelia (another organizer) said it best in her post that could have been titled "Why I’m Not Posting To This Blog Very Often These Days." Jenna (the final member of our organizing triad) has actually been posting quite regularly on her blog, which is an amazing feat with the amount of work we're putting into this endeavour!

My regular readers may have picked up that I'm overly involved in a variety of activities here in DC; I have my thumb in a whole lotta pies. But it isn't until one starts organizing something like DC State Fair that s/he truly becomes aware of the wealth of businesses, organizations, and people in the area who have so much to offer to the community. Casey Trees was one such organization that I knew about but hadn't really explored until organizing DC State Fair hooked me up with them.

I contacted Casey Trees (among many, many other organizations and businesses) to see whether they would be interested in being involved in DC State Fair somehow. DC State Fair isn't about agriculture only--we hope for it to be a showcase of all DC talent, in arts, crafts, gardening, baking, brewing, all those skills one needs to survive in the post-apocalyptic future. Part of that survival will be building and strengthening community, which is a huge goal of DC State Fair--and one of Casey Trees', through its community outreach, volunteering, and education programs (y'know, beyond their ultimate goal of planting an ever-greater number of trees to increase the urban tree canopy, which will reduce heat-island effect, improve water and air quality, and reduce energy use--and just make things prettier).

Although I have known of the nonprofit for years, I only recently had my first real experience with Casey Trees--I attended a maple tree identification course at the National Arboretum a few weeks ago. I have always been a fan of maples, and learning how to identify trees has been on my list of things to do for a while (albeit close to the bottom), so I thought "Hey, why not finally actually learn something?" In just two hours walking around the Arboretum with Casey Trees' volunteer coordinator Carol Herwig, I learned an amazing amount about maples and how they came to the DC area, where they grow best, and what specific concerns there are for maples in general and certain species in particular (in terms of care, pest problems, and the like). I really enjoyed learning about the seemingly endless species and varieties of maples. My favourite overall was Acer palmatum, Japanese maple, for the sheer variety of colour and fun shapes of its leaves. But my favourite specimen shown to us was an Acer platanoides "Crimson King," to the right. I just have a thing for purple foliage. And now that it was pointed out to me, I am noticing it all around town--it seems to be a popular variety to plant in the shade-tree game.

So after having such a good experience learning about maples, imagine my pleasure when Casey Trees agreed to be a Table Sponsor for DC State Fair (on my birthday, no less, while I was on my lunch break). They'll be discussing urban tree care and their programs at the DC State Fair canopy on 28 August at Columbia Heights Day, which is hosting us. So if you have tree questions or are interested in their programs or volunteering with them, y'all should fly down here (or metro, if you live nearby) and come to the Fair!

I did e-mail Casey Trees to get more information from them for this post, and whoa, do they have an amazing wealth of information about taking care of urban trees! Their website is loaded with awesome facts, programs, event listings, and interactive tree maps. Some of the information provided to me via e-mail was good information for any person caring for any tree, and some bits were more DC-area specific. For a general-care example, when tending to a tree in need, hire a certified arborist! (You can find one here.) While in Master Gardener training, I learned how to prune properly, but even having been trained in basic tree care, I wouldn't feel up to the job of ensuring future prettiness and health of a tree (let's just say I have a proven record of being better at killing plants than keeping them alive). I'd hate if what I did to a tree killed it or made it less pretty or less vigorous--and those without training can do a whole lot of damage to a perfectly healthy tree!

Casey Trees offers an amazing amount of information on its website (for example, a nice list of trees that do well in DC, with a shout out to trees native to the area [such as serviceberry, the only edible one on the list {I mean, there's hackberry, too, I guess}]), but their true wealth, I think, lies in their educational and volunteer opportunities. The organization does a lot of training and outreach (example: DC State Fair!) and plants a whole ton of trees every year with the help of volunteers. They also have other programs by which homeowners can request a tree planting or do it on their own with some advice from Casey Trees.

But I know the burning question in your mind: what fruit trees do well in DC?! As mentioned above, the locally native serviceberry is one Casey Trees plants regularly and has seen success with. And although their mission is less about food and more about urban reforestation with shade trees, I was told that homeowners have reported positive results with cherry, peach, pear, apple, fig, and pawpaw (a fun fruit, and also native to this region!). Citrus, on the other hand, not so good. (My dwarf lime in the window is sending out a lot of branches lately, however, so I'm hopeful that it's doing well.) Although it wasn't included in the list Casey Trees gave me of fruit trees that have reportedly done well in DC, mulberry is an obvious one--Amelia posted about it last year, and I see them everywhere in DC, now.

For those of us without outdoor space (or even a balcony), we can go out and get our hands dirty volunteering to plant (or myriad other opportunities) with Casey Trees. Who ever said one needed to own land to care about it and the community it supports?

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Shooting Blanks, Mostly

Although I tried to get Ornithogalum caudatum to fertilize itself last time it flowered, it never took.

This time barely took, either, but I used my beard trimmer instead of a Q-tip or paintbrush. The vibratory method worked with my lemon basil and my Renee's Garden "Super Bush" tomato this year, too. That beard trimmer really gets around. I'm starting to get jealous of it. It leaves its little stubbly hairs all over my plants, evidence of its lack of shame at makin' babies with each and every one of them.

So, although O. caudatum makes babies (hence the name "Pregnant onion") asexually, there's just something about starting a plant from seed that really gets me. Not enough to forgive my beard trimmer for its sexcapades, but almost enough.


New Succulents

I attended the National Capital Cactus & Succulent Society Show & Sale at Brookside Gardens today. I picked up some plants for myself, and despite browsing for almost an hour, only found one plant for sale on the list of plants that Mr. Subjunctive desired for a trade we're doing. For him, I picked up a white-variegated Agave americana (not pictured).

For myself, I bought a yellow-variegated Agave americana, Agave victoriae-reginae, an unlabeled Agave (although it looked similar to another one, but I did not get a picture of the label), Aloe "Firebird," Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri, and Aloe aristata.

New plants always make me happy. Plant therapy, my horticulturalist friend calls it. It does work wonders!


Seed GROW Project #5: Fun Nasturtium Recipes!

So, although my outdoor "Spitfire" nasturtiums decided they didn't like 100-degree-Fahrenheit weather for weeks on end with no rain and my indoor nasturtium is kind of just sitting there, dropping leaves as soon as it throws them out (in other words, my Seed GROW Project update is nothing new from last month), I am still posting about nasturtium.

I decided to start browsing for creative ways to use nasturtium. I can't, of course, just use them like a normal person in a salad, soup, stir fry, or sandwich; no, I have to be creative. (That's one of the reasons my cooking adventures turn out alright but never as amazing as they could be--I should figure out how to do the standard dishes before making up new ones!)

So, for this month, I thought a nice selection of recipes I'm looking forward to trying is in order! Nasturtium leaves and blooms aren't too difficult to come by here in DC, but I wish I could use my own-grown ones.

First and foremost, I'd want to try making Maangchi's hwajeon (nasturtium blossom rice pancakes) again. I don't think I made them right the first time--they tasted dry and floury, not sweet or good at all.

Another thing I would want to try, if I made real cheese (say, a yummy chevre), would be to roast nasturtium leaves slowly into ash and coat the cheese with it for a sharp and delicious compliment to the soft aged cow/goat/sheep-derived goodness. Just an idea. People do similar with kale, and it's awesome!

In my Google search for ways to use nasturtium, I came across a nice list of nasturtium uses by Lisa at Get In The Garden. She is a fellow Seed GROW Project participant and awesome tweeter. My favourite suggestion from her list was the nasturtium-infused butter. If I ate meat, it seems like it would be wonderful on fish! (I found a recipe elsewhere for nasturtium-blossom mayonnaise, but I have this weird aversion to mayonnaise in all its forms, so I'd much rather spotlight Lisa's idea of nasturtium butter.) I am also interested in making nasturtium tabbouleh, but I think I should test out the boy's mother's recipe first, before I ruin it with my tinkering.

Stuffed nasturtium leaves was one of the most common recipes I came across (my Google search had "-salad" as one of the search terms to try to reduce the number of hits I'd never want to check anyway). This recipe seems fine enough, but I'm spotlighting it not for the ingredients but for the photograph of those huge leaves! The only other evidence I've seen of such leafy girth is by Seed GROW Project participant Erin at The 6x8 Garden. My leaves sure as heck don't get that large indoors on my windowsill!

Of course, Martha Stewart says "Hey, make nasturtium pesto. It's a good thing!" Sounds like!

I've recently become a fan of risotto--creating a dish with nasturtium flowers in it? Heck yeah!

But I think I saved my most looked-forward-to stumbled-upon recipe for last: Apple Mint Nasturtium Jelly. You know, it sounds ridiculously good enough that one could eat it on just toast instead of on roasted leg of lamb (although I can imagine it'd taste pretty awesome that way!).

Anyone else have any fun(ky) way they (would like to) use nasturtium?

I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds.


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