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Gardening

But learn their tastes, and they’ll give you flowers

Are your African violets blooming?         If not, read on to learn why and what you can do to bring out the flowers.     African violets’ long-standing popularity grows from lush foliage and their habit of winter flowering. The plants are challenging, but not more than many in-home gardeners can manage. Even propagation is possible with a little knowledge on your part.

Get out and dig to be ready for spring

If you did a good job of building your compost pile last fall, now is a good time to stimulate more microbial activity.     Just before Christmas, temperatures in my compost pile dropped below 100 degrees from a high of 130 degrees measured just three weeks earlier. This falling temperature is due partially to a drop in surrounding ambient air and partially to a lower rate of microbial activity.

Evergreens to welcome home — and those to avoid

As Christmas approaches, it’s time to bring fresh greens, with their piney aromas, into your home. Here in Bay Country, we have an abundance of evergreens to choose from. Many will last through the season, even without water. Others dry up too quickly to come inside.

Gardening tools you can grow with

Fellow gardeners often ask me which gardening tools are my favorites. In case you’re shopping for one of those gardeners, here’s my list. I don’t stint on price because I want quality tools that last.     The Weed Bandit hoe is my favorite because of its long rake handle and stainless steel head with a corrugated blade that stays sharp. I like the small Weed Bandit for hoeing onions and closely spaced plants, and the medium blade Weed Bandit for all other weeding work.

Courthouse Square now looks a lot like Christmas

On December 3, the Parish Hall At Christ’s Church in Port Republic bustles with four dozen Calvert Garden Clubbers preparing to decorate the county courthouse with evergreens harvested a day earlier at four local farms.     “We call it the Greening,” says cochair Mary Berkley.     Wearing monogrammed aprons, they work likes elves trimming magnolia, grapevine and boxwood for wreaths, fragrant sprays and evergreen ropes.

We’re eating well and will be into spring

This year’s fall garden has been better than ever.     The August plantings of Contender and Crocket green beans each provided at least three pickings of the most tender and flavorful green beans we have ever enjoyed.

From asparagus to strawberries to tools, you’ve got a few more tasks

The gardening season is almost over, but there are some loose ends that need your attention.

Here’s your recipe for making them into rich compost

Don’t bag those leaves for the county to collect. Use them in making your own compost. It takes about a bushel of leaves to make a gallon of quality compost, which contains more nutrients and fiber than peat moss and is less acetic.

Pay for quick removal, or do it yourself slowly

Cutting down trees always leaves stumps that must either be removed or endured. The most common method of ridding your lawn of stumps is to grind it well below grade so that several inches of topsoil can be used for growing a lawn or garden.     Grinding a stump leaves wood chips that you can use as mulch on pathways and around deeply rooted trees and shrubs.

The Bay — and your garden — will thank you

Never leave your garden barren. As soon as you have finished harvesting the vegetables or flowers, plant another crop to prevent the soil from eroding or losing nutrients through leaching.     Soil devoid of vegetation is easily washed away and may find its way into the Bay. Plant roots save the soil by binding particles so they will not be washed away. The tops of plants minimize the impact of water droplets that can destroy soil structure and encourage erosion.