Teaching Garden’s Season Comes to an End

wpid-wp-1446218591715.jpgLeslie, Master Gardener Volunteer, in charge of the Teaching Garden at the grounds of the St. Benedict Monastery on Linton Hall Road in Bristow, Virginia, has declared the season’s end for 2015.  There are a few more tasks to be done (is tidying up ever done?) but essentially, the garden is at rest.

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Grateful for our abundant harvest.

This is Thanksgiving week and is an appropriate time to give “thanks” to those who were so “giving.”

  • Thanks to the St. Benedict Monastery for providing this outdoor educational site.
  • Thanks to Leslie Paulson in charge of the Teaching Garden for doing an exceptional job coordinating the necessary tasks and helping out with all aspects of the garden – flowers, vegetables, compost, lawn, etc. Your untiring efforts are very much appreciated.
  • Thanks to the volunteers who are in charge of the various beds (flower beds and the Cooks’ Garden) for their careful watch, care and maintenance. You embodied the principals of the Teaching Garden using low maintenance gardening techniques and using plants that grow well locally.
  • Thanks to the many volunteers who came out in all types of weather to help. This garden couldn’t have thrived without you.
  • Thanks to those who gave “Saturday in the Garden” talks which helped people learn better gardening practices to incorporate into their own home gardens.
  • Thanks to the staff of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Prince William County Office, Nancy, Thomas, Paige and Jennifer, who coordinate this volunteer program, did “Saturday in the Garden” talks and gave their help and advice.

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This blog captured weekly the activities and growth of the garden.  It was amazing to see it awaken in the spring, at peak during the summer and the colors it provided in the fall.  It took many people to make it happen – what a wonderful, collective effort.  There are many appreciative people, animals, birds and insects who benefited.  I am grateful for this opportunity to see and write about it.

Have a good winter’s rest dreaming and planning for next year’s growing season!
    Bev V., Master Gardener Volunteer

The Teaching Garden ready to rest

Fall clean-up continues unhampered by weather.  It is hard to believe it is mid-November with the above average temperatures.  Brenda and Allan worked as a team to paint the picnic table.
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More compost from the county landfill was brought in preparation for spring.  The Teaching Garden composts all their materials but since the garden is so large, they need to supplement their piles.  Mulch was spread around the various beds, tucking in the plants to overwinter.

The huge pumpkin was smashed and left on the garden bed. Harriett said it was left there for critters so they can share in the garden’s bounty.
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Before and After

The lettuce in the Cooks’ Garden is doing well.  Amye says it had a jump start because the seeds were not sown directly in the ground but in pots in a person’s greenhouse.  With no killing frost, the lettuce is thriving as is the chard.
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It is easy to spot the praying mantis egg case in the Sweet Pepperbush.  Insects were on the few remaining flowers, gathering whatever nectar they could find.
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With most of the leaves down from the trees, the wind blows through the garden and the multiple wind-chimes can be heard, giving people in the garden a calming sense that the garden is ready to rest.

Come out this weekend to see the garden for yourself and while you’re at it, help support the Monastery and attend their Holiday Sale this weekend:
Friday, November 20,    2:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, November 21,    10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, November 22,   10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This is a great way to show your support and say “thank you” to the Benedictine Sisters who let the Master Gardeners use their land for our gardens.

There will be handcrafted items made by the Benedictine Sisters, Oblates and Friends. Monastery munchies, jams, jellies, pickles, relish, bread and cookies. Advent wreaths, candles, unique items to decorate your home and many one-of-a-kind gifts will be on sale.

Lessons in Wine with Kelly Goff (Complimentary Wine Tasting) on Saturday 12-3  p.m.

Their address:
9535 Linton Hall Road
Bristow, VA   20136

Hope to see you there!

Planning Ahead

The Teaching Garden started in 2000 as a Plant a Row vegetable garden to feed the hungry.  Around 2007 the public was invited to come out for events at the garden such as “Spring Fling” and “Saturday in the Garden” programs.   So the basic garden that began as a vegetable garden now has seventeen distinct theme beds and eight vegetable beds designed to teach the public how to grow all kinds of different plants. The garden keep evolving.  The Master Gardener Volunteers who are in charge of the various garden beds are looking ahead to improve/renovate their gardens for next year.  Some exciting thoughts and plans are in the works.

One of the plans, suggested by Allan, is to have a raised bed that will be 3-4 feet high that will be handicap accessible.  This will allow people who are in wheelchairs the pleasure of gardening.  What a wonderful idea!  This bed is planned to be near the Memorial Garden.
This space may become the handicap accessible bed.

The Mailbox bed will be redesigned by Lynne, the new coordinator for this area.  She was already hard at work removing irises and other plants that she knew she did not want there anymore.  Those plants will overwinter and be sold at the spring Plant Sale.
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Also to be renovated is the Four Seasons garden where two trees will be removed, a Red Twig Dogwood and a Witch Hazel.  New stepping stones are planned for this area.  Care keepers of the other beds will thin and prune back plants and add new plants they would think would be fun in their gardens and add to the diversity of plants which will invite more pollinators.

Unfortunately the Children’s Garden has been battling soil disease.  More pots will be used on raised stands to give the soil a chance to recover.

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The Fairy Garden, always magical, will add new annuals and spring bulbs.  The Drought Tolerant Garden had a problem with mites in their coneflowers.  These affected plants were cut, placed in bags and trashed.  You never want to compost diseased materials.  The Mock Orange tree had a rejuvenation pruning, removing 1/3rd, leaving 2/3rds.  This winter another third will be removed.  The plan is to rejuvenate each year and to keep it more youthful.  The Herb Garden has a new coordinator, Cheryl.  One thing on their to-do list is to rebuild the rock wall next fall.


The wall is a focal point with various herbs growing out of the nooks and crannies.  The Shrub Bed did well but the coordinators are thinking of removing the Buckthorn because the Japanese beetles loved it and were a problem this summer.  The Native Bed, under the care of Jannell and Karen, reported a bumper crop of monarchs this year.

wpid-wp-1442330411307.jpg  Monarch butterfly enjoying the butterfly bush.

The Joe Pye weed did not do well and may need to be rejuvenated – dug and divided and they plan to rework the old mint bed.  The Red, White and Blue garden is having a hard time coordinating plants to bloom so there is color in the bed at all times.  Winter is the time to plan on getting the right plants to do the job and have those splashes of color.  The Woodland Garden plans on adding more ferns which is the right plant for a shady garden.  The White Garden did well this year especially with the dahlias Nancy planted.  She’s already planning to add a light green coleus to the garden next year.

The Cooks’ Garden is planning a Global Garden with different, unusual species of herbs than the typical ones we’re used to.  How exciting!  Strawberries will be moved to a raised bed.  Harriet reported the pumpkins were a BIG hit and more different kinds will be planted as well as more assorted sunflowers.

Plant signs lasted two years in the elements and will be replaced.

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Signage is helpful especially if you see what you like and wish to have the same plant in your own garden.  Knowing what the botanical and common name of a plant helps when shopping at a nursery or through a catalog. Looking through various garden catalogs during the winter is a popular hobby of gardeners!  You can look back at the various Teaching Garden blog pages and see pictures of the plants used in the garden along with their picture.  Start dreaming and planning!

Busy Gardeners on a Gorgeous Fall Day

It is hard to believe it is November with temperatures hovering near 70 degrees and the warm sun making it a joy to be out in the garden.  Many Master Gardener Volunteers came out to continue working in the garden getting it ready for winter.  No need for long-sleeve shirts in the warm morning!

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It is obvious that the deer have been in the garden.   Leslie saw 4-6 deer near the garden when she arrived in the morning and their hoof-prints obvious in the beds.  The new trees along the roadside, planted by the Boy Scouts, show signs of being nibbled.

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Mulch from the county landfill was trucked in by volunteers.  The Teaching Garden creates its own compost but cannot make enough mulch needed for the various gardens.  Leslie said this mulch will be used in the spring and is hauled in now because when it is needed in the spring, the ground is too wet to drive a truck on the lawn.
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The Teaching Garden practices what it preaches.  The garden paths and lawn were aerated which will allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots and allow for a healthier lawn.  Coring aerifiers are the best.  For more information about Aerating Your Lawn, here is the link to a Virginia Cooperative Extension publication co-authored by a Prince William County Extension Agent.

Fall colors abound seen with the spectacular golden color of Amsonia ‘Blue Star’ which is in the Deer Resistant Garden and the red leaves of blueberry bushes, still covered with netting to protect them from birds and deer.
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Other flowers making a show:
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Gaillardia ‘Blanket flower’, Verbena hybrid ‘Superbena Burgundy’ and ‘Summer Phlox’, which obviously isn’t living up to its name.

Even the Cooks’ Garden is doing great!  Lettuces are growing and the cover crop  of daikon radishes are of enormous size.
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Enjoy these sunny warm days in your own garden!