Last Day of Summer – Hooray!!!

It is with relief that tomorrow (Thursday) is the first day of Autumn which we thought would never get here. The summer has been hard on Master Gardener volunteers working at the Teaching Garden battling the heat, humidity and drought not to mention also hard on the plants.

Regardless, yesterday at the usual Tuesday morning “work day” at the garden, the Master Gardener volunteers showed up in force. There is much work to be done now that the growing season is winding down.

Volunteers with large pickups drove to the county’s Balls Ford Landfill and picked up mulch. The contractor running the yard donates free mulch to The Teaching Garden – 20 yards worth – but we have to pick it up with several truck runs.

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Who knew that ground hogs have a sweet tooth? It was discovered that one had burrowed underneath the sweet potato bed and was munching on them thus the sweet potatoes were harvested so they could be enjoyed by humans instead. A cover crop of rye and crimson clover was spread on top to give back nutrients and hold the soil from wind and rain.

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Ellen working in the vegetable garden was using a wood board to tap down the cover crop seeds (rye and daikon). You never want to step on your beds so the board is used to assure the seeds are in contact with the soil and increase their chances of germination.  Veggies are still being harvested!

Master Gardener Kathy was cutting down the tall Rudbeckia maxima (giant coneflowers) and discovered new growth coming up.

The Tall Garden Phlox in the Native Bed is still in color and a treat for the eyes!

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The volunteers get excited seeing insects. The praying mantis and caterpillar are pictured but unfortunately the monarch butterfly was too quick for the camera.

The Plant Sale last Saturday was successful. Good news – there are still plants leftover. They can be purchased on Tuesday mornings when Master Gardener volunteers are there. Just bring your checkbook and take them home. This is a good time to plant and get them established before winter.  Smart gardeners plan ahead!

Excellent Class on Plant Propagation


At this month’s  “Saturday in the Garden” Nancy Hanrahan, Virginia Cooperative Extension Prince William County Master Gardener Volunteer told the crowd steps to propagate many types of plants.  It was enjoyable to attend this session because Nancy had examples of each method of propagation with a wide variety of plants and spoke of her experiences with each type.  She recommended two of her favorite books on the subject “From Seed to Bloom” and “Plant Propagation” by the American Horticultural Society.  You can also use the internet typing in the plant name with the word “propagation” to see what is recommended.  It was advised you use an internet site with an .edu extension so it is information that comes from a reliable educational institution.

Sexual propagation (seed germination) involves the use of floral parts to create a new plant from two parents.   New plants from this method contain genetic material from both parents, preserves genetic diversity and is an inexpensive way to get a lot of plants with large variety of seeds available.  How you can tell if the seeds you collected are still viable?   Put them in water.  If they float, chances are they are no good.  You can do “winter sowing” inside generally around Super Bowl time to the beginning of February.  If you sow inside, you’ll know what you planted.  Many times when we sow outdoors, we get new plants confused with weeds that are coming up at the same time.  A new method Nancy just tried was using a heating mat for plants and had good success with her propagation.   The Virginia Cooperative Extension  Publication 426-001 explains more in detail (click on Publication number).

Asexual propagation (this can involve division of crown mass, runners, bulbs, corms, tubers, etc., cuttings or layering – rooted section remains attached to parent plant until roots are established) involves the vegetative parts to create a new plant using one parent. New plants will have exact genetic makeup of parent.  In nature, these methods allow plants to colonize quickly and in conditions not favorable for seeds. This is a quick way of getting more of a favorite plant.   Be sure to use healthy plants.  Water the plants the day before you divide.  Be sure your tools are clean and sterile.  Nancy uses disinfectant wipes or you can use a mixture of bleach and water between each cut.  Some plants such as roses and asters need a rooting hormone powder to encourage root growth.  It was advised that you wear gloves and avoid inhaling the powder when handling.  It was demonstrated on various plants, where the best places to cut.  You should cut the tips off so you redirect energy to the bottom of the plants to the roots.  Great advice was to cut the top of the plant on a diagonal and the bottom of the stem, right below the root node, horizontal.  After you remove most of the leaves it is sometimes hard to tell where the bottom (roots) of the stem is and by seeing the horizontal cut, you will always know.  Chrysanthemums and sedums don’t need hormone powder to propagate; they are easy to do from tip cuttings.  Nancy recommends using commercial potting soil with time release otherwise the fertilizer may burn the new cutting.  Also the soil should also offer moisture control.  Persons attending the session got the handout from The Virginia Cooperative Extension  Publication 426-002 “Propagation by Cuttings, Layering and Division” also available at their website (click on Publication number).

A bonus for attending the class was the opportunity to take the various demonstration plants home.  Here’s my two rooted plants.

As Nancy says, go ahead and try to propagate your plants (or your friends or neighbors).  You don’t  have much to lose and could gain many beautiful new plants!  Give it a try!  Need more help or advice on the various methods, please contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 703-792-7747 or email

Happy rooting!

Drama and a Dinner Party

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dsc_0857  This week’s workday started out blessed with beautiful fall-like  weather with a large gathering of dedicated Master Gardeners, ready to make the gardens look their best for this Saturday’s (9/17) Saturday in the Garden/Plant Sale.

The dinner bell must have been rung, because then drama was found in the Celebration Garden!

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English wasps, Fritillary and Red-Spotted Purple butterflies and large ants met up on the fringe tree to establish their territory over the tasty sap. The wasps seem to have won mostly because they out-numbered the other visitors.

And traffic jams of caterpillars were found queuing up at their favorite restaurants.

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fall-row-cover-for-broccoli-and-cabbage fall-sweet-potato-harvest-1 fall-sweet-potato-harvest-2  Amy Foelsch is so kind with sharing her pics from the Cooks Garden. This large group of dedicated Master Gardeners extended the growing season for newly planted broccoli and cabbage by adding more fabric cover. Look at those sweet potatoes that were just harvested yesterday. Wowzer!

Lovely blooms seen while walking the garden.

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Don’t miss this Saturday’s Plant Sale and Saturday In The Garden, “Plant Propagation”. Do you wish you had more plants, but your budget won’t allow you to purchase everything you want? 9:00 – noon.

Happy gardening!


After a few brief chilly mornings, summer returns!

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A nice  turnout of Master Gardeners at the Teaching Garden this morning. The common task was to water all the beds since we haven’t had a good rain in awhile.

dsc_0806 dsc_0807 A flat of broccoli was donated to the Cooks’ Garden by the Fauquier Teaching Farm as a gift for all the help the Prince William Master Gardeners donated to the Farm.

dsc_0813  This Monarch Butterfly cat is probably one of the 4th generation that will leave Virginia and travel to Mexico. This cat was found in the Native’s Garden on the same butterfly weed as several others were found.

dsc_0812 dsc_0800 A trio of cabbage moths feeding on damp soil. A buckeye seen on a dill plant.

dsc_0799  Look closely! It’s a praying mantis nicely camouflaged.

Lovely color found walking around.

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Happy gardening!