Food in the Garden Series

The National Museum of American History is holding tastes, tours, and talks in its new Victory Garden throughout the summer! Here are the details:

Food in the Garden

Thursdays 6-8 PM
July 18, 25, August 1, 8, 15, 2013

Join us this summer for tastes, tours, and talks outside in the new Victory Garden on the east side of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History! The Museum’s American Food History Project and Smithsonian Gardens are bringing together local growers, practitioners, educators, and researchers to explore and experience where our food comes from and how we grow it. Enjoy evenings of locally produced food, drinks, and dynamic conversation in a relaxed garden atmosphere.

Heirlooms: Old, New, Local, Global
July 18, 2013, 6-8 p.m.
Taste history while preserving it

Foraging: Finding Food at Your Feet
July 25, 2013, 6-8 p.m.
Food is all around us! Discover where to find food in your own backyard… and what to do with it.

Grow Now: Local Growers Spill the Beans
August 1, 2013, 6-8 p.m.
Can gardening change the world? Join a conversation about gardening as an educational act of change in our local communities and across the country.

Pay Dirt
August 8, 2013, 6-8 p.m.
Your soil is more than just dirt. How does the soil make a difference in the food you eat?

Celebrate Julia Child’s 101st Birthday!
August 15, 2013, 6-8 p.m.
Celebrate the 101st birthday of an American culinary icon with a film screening of Julie & Julia courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

$20 tickets include two cocktails featuring Green Hat Gin and WildCraft Soda, with food from local farms.

Growing Tomatoes

Sungold cherry tomatoesThe tomato is Ohio State University Extension’s Plant of the Week, and the profile below was sent to me via Sandy Farber of the University of the District of Columbia’s Cooperative Extension Service. This is good background info about growing tomatoes–if you want to dig deeper, the University of Maryland Extension office has more growing details, including videos. Keep your tomatoes happy so you can enter them in this year’s Tastiest Tomato Contest!

The tomato is probably the most widely grown vegetable by the home gardener because it is usually easy to grow and a few plants provide an abundant harvest for most families. Tomatoes are a warm-season crop that should be planted only after danger of frost has passed. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive to low night temperatures and extremely high temperatures. Blossom drop can occur in early spring when daytime temperatures are warm, but night temperatures fall below 55F. This phenomenon will also occur during the summer when daytime temperatures are above 90F and night temperatures are above 75F.

There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes that are available for home gardeners. They range widely in size, shape, color, plant type, disease resistance and maturity. Tomato plants fall into one of two types that affect ultimate plant height and cultural requirements. Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain height and then stop. They also flower and set all their fruits within a relatively short period of time. Indeterminate tomato plants grow, flower, and set fruit over the entire growing season. Some of the indeterminate cultivars can easily grow to 8′ tall.

Tomatoes can be grown in many different soil types, but a deep, loamy, well-drained soil supplied with organic matter and nutrients is most suitable. If you have heavy clay soil in your garden, one option is to add organic matter, such as peat moss or compost, to improve soil structure and drainage. Tomato plants require full sun, at least 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Starting seeds indoors early or buying transplants gets tomatoes off to a good start in the garden when warm weather arrives and it will save several weeks in growing time. Proper spacing and plant support are essential for plant health and good fruit production.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and respond well to fertilizer applications. Having your soil tested is the best way to know exactly how much and what type of fertilizers you need to apply. Either too little or too much fertilizer is not good for tomato plants. Applying a starter fertilizer when transplanting will help tomato plants grow faster and flower sooner. Tomato plants need about 1-1.5″ of water per week. Water plants in the morning for the best success. An even moisture supply is important, especially once tomato fruits begin to develop. Once the tomato plants are established, apply an organic mulch (weed free straw or bark chips) to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.

Join the Fair’s team!

DC State Fair is looking for a few wonderful volunteers to take on specific leadership roles by running committees to make this year’s Fair better than ever. There’s something for everyone to dig into with committees such as:

  • Contests
  • Community Engagement
  • Communications
  • Events
  • Volunteer

Read more about the committees, what could be involved in volunteering for one, and other details in the committee description document. And if you have any questions, would like more details, or would like to offer other volunteer skills, please feel free to e-mail us!

What Are Judges Looking For?

Tonight, you can get the inside scoop on what judges are thinking when looking at your Fair competition entries.

The Silver Spring Garden Club is having a talk, “Growing Gorgeous Vegetables and Showing Them,” with Miriam Mahowald, who teaches horticulture and has an integrated pest management consulting business. She’ll be giving the dish on what judges are looking for in vegetable contests, from beans to tomatoes to zucchini, plus gardening basics and tips on where to plant what, preparing soil, and more!

Tastiest Tomato Contest
What are the judges looking for from your entry?

The event is free and open to the public; it’s at 8 PM this evening (doors at 7:30) at Brookside Gardens, just a 10-15 minute walk from Glenmont metro.

You can find more info here.

Weekend Plans

Don’t know what to do with yourself on the beautiful weekends we’re having? Here are a few options for you to consider around town this month! Have other ideas for things to do on a gorgeous weekend? Please leave a comment and share!

Saturday, June 1

Tour de Fat

Tour de Fat is like a big carnival, with a bike parade, games, beer, entertainment, and more! It’s being held at The Yards Park, the awesome 2012 DC State Fair sponsor. You might get some ideas for bike accessories to enter into this year’s contest, as well. For more details, head over to this blog post from BicycleSPACE (another awesome 2012 sponsor!).

Saturday, June 8

World Wide Knit In Public Day

Grab your knitting needles (or crochet hooks!) and head out to get your fiber arts on in public! More details here.

Neighborhood Farm Initiative Spring Open House

Join the Neighborhood Farm Initiative for a day of digging, workshops, and food! 9 AM to 2 PM.

Sunday, June 9

DC School Garden Tour

Tour DC’s amazing school gardens–by bike!

Saturday, June 15

Washington Gardener Plant Swap

The last-chance plant swap of the season–bring your ornamentals and edibles to share with local gardeners to the H Street Farmers’ Market.

Friday, June 21

Kid Power’s Taste of the Garden Fundraiser

On the first day of summer, join our friends over at Kid Power (a 2013 DC State Fair sponsor!) to celebrate their work on the VeggieTime program, which helps youth build educational and life skills through participating in urban agriculture, providing them and their families access to fresh, local produce. At the fundraiser, there will be dinner, drinks, entertainment, and raffle prizes!

World Wide Knit In Public Day

Ever wanted to expand your crafty skills or share them in public? The upcoming World Wide Knit In Public Day celebrates “outing” knitters and bringing them together. So grab your needles and some yarn, and head out to knit on Saturday, June 8! It’s great practice for the DC State Fair contests, and you might get some ideas for your entries from other crafters.

If you’d like to join a group, your local yarn store is probably having a gathering (check out Looped Yarn Works in Dupont Circle or Knitting Loft in Eastern Market). The Textile Museum near Dupont Circle is hosting a knitting group, too: check out the details below!

Textile Museum

Quarterly Knitting Circle: Knit in Public Day
Saturday, June 8, 2–4 PM
Bring your needles and knitting or crochet projects to The Textile Museum! Find new inspiration in our galleries and work on your latest yarn creation while meeting other local fiber enthusiasts. Show you support for the international knitting community by participating in Knit in Public Day. All levels welcome. Free; no reservations required. Knitting Circles are organized in part by afghans for Afghans.

Seedling Swap Preview

What are people bringing to the Seedling Swap on Sunday?

Seedling Donations

Well, some seedlings are ready to go, donated by Neighborhood Farm Initiative, the DC community-focused urban agriculture organization, and Old City Farm & Guild, the new incarnation of one of DC’s best local garden centers.

For your chance at the peanut, lemongrass, Japanese eggplant, strawberries, cucumbers, and so much more, get to the DC State Fair Seedling Swap at 2 PM sharp on Sunday! You can bring seedlings you started yourself; seedlings you bought at Old City Farm & Guild, at Neighborhood Farm Initiative’s seedling sales, or at your local farmers’ market; or no seedlings at all–we’ll have plenty for both new and experienced gardeners to walk home with!

We’re happy to have our sponsors Healthy Affordable Food for All (HAFA) and Whole Foods Market P Street with the Swap as well!

There will be demonstrations, seedlings for sale (for those things you didn’t grab during the swap), and more.

Get more details about the swap and directions to the event by clicking here

See you on Sunday!

Announcing DCSF’s Third Annual Seedling Swap

What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than by joining DC State Fair at our third annual seedling swap!

We’ll be out at the Center for Green Urbanism from 2 to 4 PM on Sunday, May 5, with dozens of DC-area gardeners to share seedlings, gardening tips, demonstrations, and more to kick off the summer planting season.

2012 DC State Fair Seedling Swap
Swappers check the seedlings on offer at the 2012 Seedling Swap.

Be sure to show up on time to get your chance to walk home with the seedlings you want, and plan on spending the afternoon learning about gardening in DC.

[UPDATE:]Many thanks to our partner and sponsor: Healthy & Affordable Food for All and Whole Foods P Street! Continue reading “Announcing DCSF’s Third Annual Seedling Swap”

Starting Seeds

Many gardeners started their summer crops back in February–tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, and more can be started indoors early to get a head start on the season.

If you have some seeds but didn’t have time this winter to start them, there are still things you can start to share with swappers at our Third Annual Seedling Swap on Sunday, May 5!


You can probably start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants to share for May 5–they’ll be small, but other gardeners might just love to have what you are growing!

If you have toilet paper or paper towel rolls, or even newspaper, you can turn these into little pots to start your beans, corn, cucumbers, watermelons, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, zucchini, and more! These seeds germinate and grow quickly but don’t like their roots disturbed (like when transplanting). But if you make pots out of paper towel rolls or newspaper, fill them with seed-starting mix, and plant your favorite pumpkin seed to share at the swap, you will have nice seedlings to share in May and the pots can be planted whole directly in the ground!

Remember to give your seedlings plenty of light, warmth, and water. Visit the University of Maryland Extension Office’s Home and Garden Information Center for mid-Atlantic gardening tips, including seed starting and transplanting.

The gardening fellows at Hudson Valley Seed Library have a six-part seed-starting and -transplanting series (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)–these posts are a great educational resource for both new and experienced gardeners.