As Summer Marches Out, There Are Still Lessons To Be Learned.

There is the good to be seen…

Red-spotted Purple 1 Red-spotted Purple 2

Thank you, Master Gardener Volunteer, Susan Bruns for capturing these stunning photos of a nectaring Red-Spotted Purple in the Teaching Garden this week. Notice how the underwings show off the red spots?

and the BAD to stay away from . . .

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Teaching Garden Supervisor, Leslie Paulson, got a painful surprise when reaching into the garden to pull a weed and got stung by this Saddleback Caterpillar.

and the BAD to look out for . . .

Harlequin Bug Adult Harlequin eggs and nymphs

Found in the Teaching Garden on cleome plant (acting as a “trap plant”) located near the Cook’s Garden, Leslie found an active colony of harlequin bugs. Eggs of the harlequin bug resemble tiny white kegs standing on end in a double row.  The adults are gaudy red-and-black-spotted stink bugs about 9.5 mm long, with flat, shield-shaped bodies. At rest, the front pair of wings overlap and the insect’s back appears to be marked with a distinct X. Hand pick and destroy the eggs, larva and adults.

and in the Cook’s Garden . . .

Slug damage on a sweet potato  Slug damage on a sweet potato. Thank you Amye for your keen photographic eye!

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday weekend. Safe travels!

Happy Gardening,




A weekday morning in late August

Master Gardener Volunteer, Janelle Bryant, let me trail along behind her to see a couple of the highlights from the beds she has been working on. We see a fresh harvest of Cherokee Red tomatoes and Thai Chili peppers (below) that were grown in a single raised bed. Janelle attributes the ongoing harvest and unblemished, pest-free veggies to having used daikon radish and winter rye as cover crops for this bed — NO commercial fertilizer.  In this raised bed, the tomatoes are planted beside the chili peppers and each plant tops 6 feet!

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Janelle also pointed out in the Native’s Bed (above) earlier blooms of the Coral Honeysuckle have been pollinated and are now seeds that turn from green to orange and red. Early fall colors! Thank you, Janelle!

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Both of these plants are Threadleaf Coreopsis, first, is Pink Threadleaf; second, is Coreopsis, Li’l Bang. You can see these in the Mailbox Garden.  

In the Children’s Garden you’ll see this summer-bright combo of bee skep and lantana.


Speaking of children, Jan Rice and Brenda Hallam hosted Caterpillar Clubhouse DSC_0690 DSC_0695

Daycare on a tour of the garden that focused on “good bugs, bad bugs”. These youngsters were just full of great questions and loved their hand magnifiers.

DSC_0685 Found in the herb garden.

Happy gardening, folks!


Saturday in the Garden 8/20/16 featuring Jim Hankins, Executive Director, Fauquier Education Farm

Just in time to help with planning for next year’s vegetable garden, Jim presented “Best Practices for Vegetable Gardens: Cover Crops, Succession Planting and Rotation of Crops.”

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Jim’s top recommendations were Cereal Rye, Crimson Clover, Daikon Radish and Common/Hairy Vetch.

Great for beginners, cereal rye scavenges nutrients and prevents leaching. Plant August through December; it goes semi-dormant in the winter, then grows again in the spring. Cut it in the spring and save for straw. Turn under roots or plant directly into the stubble. Avoid planting too densely as roots can form a thick sod.

Plant crimson clover in August and September, it adds nitrogen to soil. Late planted clover may delay germination until spring; often planted with cereal rye. Can be winter killed some years. It goes to work in May. Produces tall red flower spikes in the spring that bees love!

Daikon radish should be planted in August to maximize root and foliage growth, but can be planted into October if the weather stays mild. It’s used to break up heavy soil and provide week control. It will be winter-killed; the foliage leaves a matt that acts as a weed barrier. Roots decompose in the soil, feeding beneficial microbes and creating pathways for water, air and roots.

Common/Hairy vetch is planted in August and September, often with cereal rye; it adds nitrogen to soil and provides weed control. Planted a bit dense, its vining growth habit can help smother spring weeds. Flowers are popular with pollinators. Cut at ground level in the spring, prior to planting your next crop.

Also, buckwheat is a really good cover crop. It only takes 45 days to mature. You will plant it in early June; when it blooms it attracts a tremendous number of beneficial insects.

Good discussions continued even after Jim’s presentation…

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Happy gardening!


90 Degrees in the Shade

Wow, it’s been brutally hot and humid this week with humiditure readings over 105 most days!

DSC_0616 Dedicated Master Gardeners smiling while melting.

Saturday’s workday showed just a few die-hard gardeners in the Teaching Garden which allowed this photographer to track and photograph a few flying critters. But first, let’s check in at the Cook’s Garden.

Don and grandson in CG  Don Peschka and his grandson, Trevor, were hard at work planting potatoes, an interesting process, while Dawn Barr was keeping up with watering the garden.   DSC_0613


CG Harvest August 13 Today’s abundant harvest!

DSC_0625 DSC_0624  Click on all the photos to enlarge them. Here is a busy Digger Wasp busy collecting nectar.

DSC_0644 A lovely Pipevine Swallowtail!

DSC_0640 Right in the center is a Hummingbird Clearwing found in the Celebration Garden.

Coming up: Saturday in the Garden on August 20th, 9:00 to noon. Cover Crops, Succession Plant, Rotation in the Vegetable Garden. Call the VCE office to register.

Stay cool! Happy gardening!

Jan Gubrud


Summer is waning

DSC_0601 DSC_0600 DSC_0599  A bit of an unusual overcast mid-morning today. You could catch pathway conversations; there is always an interesting topic to discuss and learn from when a couple of Master Gardeners gather.

DSC_0602  Oh no! Deer have browsed the blooms of the yarrow, while leaving the dill on the other side of the path completely alone. So sad!

DSC_0605 Two different crape myrtle in full splendor.

DSC_0603  We almost lost a Master Gardener Volunteer to the vegetables. Quick! Catch her!

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To insect lovers, the Tussock Moth caterpillars (here, above is a White Marked Tussock Caterpillar) are known for their striking tufts of hair, or tussocks. Many species exhibit four characteristic clumps of bristles on their backs, giving them the appearance of a toothbrush. Tussock Moth Adults are often dull brown or white. Females are usually flightless and neither males nor females feed as adults; they focus on mating and laying eggs, dying within days.

Found in the Cooks Garden today.

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Above, right, are lemon cucumbers. According to Thomas Bolles, VCE Environmental Educator, they can be eaten like apples, right off the vine. They tend to be very prolific producers.

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Above, left, on the large leaf are tiny squash bugs. Just brush them off into the bad bug swimming pool.


mating tiger swallowtails Thank you, Ellen King, for sharing your photo of mating Tiger Swallowtails! What a rare catch and such a clear photo!

Coming up…don’t miss it!

Saturday In The Garden – August 20 – 9:00 to noon – Cover Crops, Succession Planting, Rotation in the Vegetable Garden.

After harvesting vegetables, learn which cover crops or succession/double cropping rotation techniques will work best in your cooks’ garden. Director of the Fauquier Education Farm, Jim Hankins and the Cooks’ Garden Team will share their expertise. The Fauquier Education Farm supplies fresh produce to local food pantries.

Free, but please register so we have enough handouts for all, at the Extension Horticulture Help Desk @ 703-792-7747 or

Happy gardening!



The Dog Days of Summer

Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer when the heat and humidity are often just too much for a gardener to work outside. Our multi-legged gardeners are very much at work, though!

DSC_0542 DSC_0545 DSC_0544  In the Four Seasons Garden, the lovely yellow-twig dogwood showed symptoms of problems caused by pests…possibly Japanese Beetles eating the leaves (above left) and deer rubbing on the strongest branch (above right). The rubbing caused the branch to turn brown and slightly shrivel. Bed Leader, Jean, along with Master Gardener Volunteers, Janelle and Brenda decided that the best step to limit the possibility of pathogens to move in and cause disease and further damage was to cut out that branch. To make sure of a proper cut, a clean, sharp pruner was used.

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In the same garden, Clethera Sweet Pepperbush (above left and right) is blooming and lightly scented and attracting many pollinators. Nearby, Echinecea Sombrero Salsa Red is still blooming.

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Late summer leaf interest was spied on the Eastern Redbud (left) and the Patio Peach (right).

DSC_0558 Master Gardener Volunteer, Ruth Johnson, pointed out that studies show Eryngium Yuccafolium Rattlesnake Master attracts the most pollinators of any other plant. Wonderful information you can learn by just strolling the gardens and really looking at the specimens.

What a surprise to catch Virginia’s state insect the Tiger Swallowtail. Female because of the prominent, more numerous blue markings on the tail. Males have only 3 smaller blue spots. Below, right is the larvae.

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DSC_0582Ailanthus Webworm

Above, left, on a leaf, is the Ailanthus webworm moth; best viewed by double-clicking the photo to enlarge it. On the right is its larva.

Our favorite type of gardener can be easily seen in the garden, keeping it trim and at its prime.

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Take a walk along the paths for ever-changing views.

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Happy gardening!