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Chinquapin Organic Gardens Fall 2010 Newsletter

In this issue:

• Time for clean-up: Nov. 30 is the end of the gardening season 
• Thanks for another great year of gardening at Chinquapin Park
• 12th annual picnic attracts a hungry gardening crowd
• Grow your knowledge — and free seeds too! Seminar a success
• Become a master gardener! Register for next training class
• Organic tomato grafting: Process pays off for gardeners
My Lentil and Kale Soup


Time for clean-up: Nov. 30 is the end of the gardening season 

It’s the end of another gardening season at Chinquapin Park. As we gear up for cooler weather, don't forget to prepare your garden for winter as well. All gardeners are required to clean up their plots by Nov. 30, the official end of the gardening season at Chinquapin.

peppersAs noted in the Chinquapin Organic Gardens Regulations, all dead plants and debris must be removed. Gardeners who have not tidied up their plots will be notified and may be ineligible to register for a garden plot at Chinquapin next season.

All stakes, tomato cages, fences and other supports must be taken down, and gardeners are encouraged to take them home. Any cages that are left must be neatly stacked and secured. Be sure to store materials away from the edges of your plot to ensure the safety of all path users.

Please be sure to dispose of all spent plants and produce, as brush and rotting vegetation can attract rodents. Registration for the 2011 gardening season will begin in a few weeks, so be on the lookout for your renewal e-mail or letter from the City of Alexandria.

With your help, we'll be ready to start another great gardening season next year!

Thanks for another great year of gardening at Chinquapin Park

First of all, we would like to thank you for making the garden season a wonderful experience. While we know we all experienced another difficult year, we observed that there was a lot of success in growing produce and flowers. We have to boast most about the 12th Annual Chinquapin Organic Gardens Potluck Picnic, which was a great success and attended by over 40 gardeners back ingarden view August. What awesome dishes were prepared from produce from our organic gardens! Our recognition of special gardens was also a success. If you received recognition (see later in the newsletter for the list of winners) but did not get your certificate, please contact us. Of course, our tomato judging contest enjoyed great participation. The Chinquapin Gardens Advisory Board has agreed to plan for the 13th Annual Picnic next year.

We ask you to take special care as we wind down the season to make certain your garden plots are not overrun by weeds and left unattended. We will do monitoring through the remainder of the garden season through self monitoring by individual gardeners rather than the monitoring teams. We recognize that there are quite a few plots that were not maintained throughout much of the garden season. We will be working with the City of Alexandria to insure that those gardeners are not going to be able to rent their plots next year. We continue to try to accommodate the more than 100 potential new gardeners who are still on the waiting list. The gardens will benefit from gardeners who really care and want a chance to get their little piece of nature.

Don’t forget that if your plot size is more than you can handle, we welcome doubling up with some of those on the waiting list. Contact John Walsh  with the City of Alexandria to let him know of your interest. Partnering can be a good thing, as gardening is not an easy task and it is time consuming. Yet the fresh air and working with the land is often as rewarding as the fruits of our labors.

We look forward to a new relationship with the city, as we understand that the administration is being revamped. We will keep you posted as we become aware of the specifics.

okraThe Chinquapin Organic Gardens Regulations will be reviewed at the next Nov. 16 advisory board meeting and the revisions will be circulated as you rent your plot again next year. The regulations are currently on the website and the revisions will also be posted.

Please review the website and volunteer to write articles for the site and newsletter. If you have recipes you would like to share (especially from the picnic) send them to Michele Late, newsletter editor, so she can post them on the website.

Representatives from the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia  are going to continue to provide seminars on topics of interest to our gardeners (see related article). If you are interested and would like to suggest topics, please contact us.

Project Discovery, the gardening program that involves T.C. Williams High School students with gardening at Chinquapin, continues to do well and expand. If you can lend a hand, please stop by the project’s plot at the top of the gardens and offer to help.

I also trust that you will be willing to attend our advisory board meetings to give input, and even hopefully become a part of the board. We meet for an hour once a month, generally on the third Tuesday, at T.C. Williams High School. Check the “about” page of the website for upcoming meeting dates.

On behalf of the Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board, thank you!

— Marlin G. Lord, chair, 703-836-2724,; and Kathryn A. Brown, vice chair, Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board

12th annual picnic attracts a hungry gardening crowd

The 12th Annual Chinquapin Organic Gardens Potluck Picnic on Aug. 7 was a huge success, withtomato great weather, happy gardeners and award-winning gardens. As usual, the delicious homemade food was a big draw. (Send us your recipes so we can post them on the website!)

The annual Tomato Taste-Off was very popular, with many entries. After much deliberation, the judges (Jim Torretti, Jordan Wright and Aimee McLaughlin) named the winners: Bob of plot RS4 won first place for best tasting, followed by the T.C. Williams Discovery Garden and its Juanne Flamme tomato, and then Tyson Sackett in third place. Smallest tomato was also won by the T.C. Williams Discovery Garden and weirdest was won by Bob of plot RS4. Amber Dewey's gorgeous 1.4 pound Vincent Watts tomato took home titles for both biggest and most appealing.

Alexandria City Councilwoman Del Pepper was on hand and helped award out certificates for this year’s best gardens. The Grand Prize for Best Overall Garden was awarded to Lux Sitthidejphachon, of plot NO8.

This year’s other garden award winners were: dish
Best Garden, flowers: KL2 (Mary Fox)
First Runner-up, flowers: GH3 (M. Junior Bridge)
Second Runner-Up, flowers: TU1 (Lori Hartmann)

Best Garden, vegetables: JK7 (Sue Noisaguan)
First Runner-up, vegetables: QR7 (Ronald Carmichael/Valerie Hogue Forni)
Second Runner-up, vegetables: GH5 (Ana B. Gonzalez)

Best Garden, combination: DE5 (Nora Lauterbach)
First Runner-up, combination: TU7 (Elizabeth Springer)
Second Runner-up, combination: OP7 (Maxine Sorenson)

Best Garden, design: DE4 (Darcy Martinez)
Best Garden, maintenance: QR3 (Louis Tremante)
Best Garden, variety: KL6 (John Usrey)

Special honorable mention awards were also presented to gardeners whose plots showcased their special skills. Amber Kim Dewey, of plot TU6, received the Most Innovative Gardener Award for her grafted tomato plants and their contribution to disease resistance. The Discovery Student Garden was given a Special Recognition Award for its “wonderful welcome for visitors.” KL5, maintained by Jean McKean, received the Environmentally Conscious Gardening Award; IJ1, maintained by Catherine Hillard, received the Most Inviting Garden to Sit a Spell Award; and IJ8, maintained by John Schilling, received the Hardscrabble Award.

Two garden plots were recognized for their extremely tall produce this season: Berm 2, maintained by Santos Rivera, received the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk Award for Tallest Corn, while RS7, maintained Leigh DeHaven, received the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk Award for Tallest Sunflower.

Special recognition was give to longtime Chinquapin gardener Dale May, who spends many hours improving the overall gardens and helping other gardeners make the most of their plots. For his work, May received the Significant and Enduring Contribution to Chinquapin Gardens Award.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the picnic, and especially to the Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board and the Picnic Committee.

Browse the full gallery of photos from the picnic on the garden website!

— Michele Late

Grow your knowledge — and free seeds too! Seminar a success

On Sept. 11, 2010, a dozen Chinquapin gardeners learned something about fall garden care and maintenance, had a little fun and got free seeds to boot!

Kirsten Buhls and Michele McLellan held a free seminar, “Fall Gardening: Dos and Don’ts” for Chinquapin gardeners. Kirsten is with the Arlington/Alexandria office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and Michele is a master gardener in Alexandria. This same dynamic duo evaluated plots for recognition awards this year.

corn hairParticipants learned how to extend the summer growing/harvesting season and how to select and when to plant fall crops in our area. Kirsten showed us how to create cold frames, hot beds and hoop houses (without an engineering degree) to allow later gardening in the fall and to get a head start in the spring.

Michele discussed how to get a jump-start on preparing the soil for next year, highlighting the use of cover crops suitable for our gardens and the benefits of each. (Did you know that legumes add nitrogen to the soil?) She also taught us everything the average gardener needs to know about composting.

Both experts discussed fall pest and disease control, stressing the increased threat of pest and disease infestation from overgrown plots.

There were handouts on most topics covered and soil test kits, all of which are available at the extension office at 3308 S. Stafford Street in Arlington. The Virginia Cooperative Extension office is a great, often untapped resource available to Alexandria residents. Please feel free to call them at 703-228-6400 or drop by!

Kirsten and Michele are putting together a seminar series for next season and would like your input. Please e-mail gardener Jim Torretti with your suggestions for topics.

— Jim Torretti

Become a master gardener! Register for next training class

Ever wanted to become an expert gardener and give back to your community at the same time? Now is your chance!

The Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia will be holding an open house at the Fairlington Community Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for gardeners in Arlington and Alexandria interested in the master gardener training class.

Offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Arlington County Office in cooperation with the City of Alexandria, the master gardener program trains participants in gardening and landscaping techniques that preserve, protect and beautify the environment. The next training class will be held Jan. 11 to April 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Fairlington Community Center, which is located at 3308 S. Stafford Street in Arlington. After 70 hours of classroom training, master gardener candidates complete a 60-hour internship focusing on community service.

More details and application packets for the class are available on the group’s website. Call 703-228-6414 for more information.

— Michele Late

Organic tomato grafting: Process pays off for gardeners

Grafting is an ancient process that involves attaching the fruiting parts of one plant (called a scion) to the rootstock of another. Scions grafted to hardy, disease-resistant rootstock tend to produce more and for a longer period of time without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In heirloom tomatoes, this is because diseases such as blight and wilt travel from the roots up to the leaves. Disease-resistant stock can slow this natural process.

Grafting is therefore a relatively inexpensive and low-tech option for patient, adventurous organic gardeners. On the other hand, grafting is a multistep process. It requires seed for both rootstock and fruit, and equipment: seed trays and four-inch pots, potting soil, a scalpel or razor blade, grafting clips and space for grafts to heal.

tomatoes on vineThis past spring, we grafted three heirloom tomato varieties to Maxifort F1 hybrid rootstock: Cherokee Purple, Large Red and Vinson Watts. We experienced the most success with the Vinson Watts, which produced large quantities of one-pound tomatoes, including one that took home the biggest and most appealing awards at this year’s Chinquapin picnic Tomato Taste-Off.

There are several different ways to make grafts. We tried straight and V-shaped cuts. Both seemed equally successful, but a more important factor seemed to be whether we used plastic grafting clips or tape. Grafts sealed with clips had a greater success rate than tape.

We also learned that the Maxifort rootstock grew slower than the heirlooms. Since we started both sets of plants together, this made it difficult to match stem sizes for grafting. Next year we will start the rootstock two weeks sooner than the scions, as recommended in some publications. We will also only use plastic grafting clips, since the plants joined with tape seemed to have weak grafts or dried out.

Although it began with promise, 2010 was not the best year for tomatoes here in Virginia. Despite the heat, drought and wind, we did noticed that our grafted plants seemed to do slightly better than their non-grafted siblings. And the three test varieties (grafted and not) definitely did better than our Brandywine and Pink Brimmer varieties, which wilted in the heat.

We obtained our seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds, but they are not the only supplier. Similarly, while Maxifort F1 is a common hybrid rootstock, other varieties are available. Maxifort did well at Chinquapin. In fact as an experiment we planted one Maxifort tomato in the T.C. Williams High School Discovery Garden. It produced a heavy foliage and lots of little (sterile) yellow blossoms. Compared to the other plants the Maxifort remained deep green with virtually no signs of disease — no stem blackening or yellowing, even in October.

Although we did not observe much difference between grafted and non-grafted plants, this was our first attempt at grafting, and 2010 was a challenging year for heirloom tomatoes. We plan to continue the experiment in 2011, including tomato succession plantings.

Suggested tomato grafting resources include: Grafting for Disease Resistance in Heirloom Tomatoes (North Carolina State University, 2006); Garden Time: Grafted Tomato (2010); and Grafting Greenhouse Tomatoes (University of Vermont Cooperative Extension, 2006)

— Louis Tremante

My Lentil and Kale Soup

From Jordan Wright of

• 4-6 ounces of cubed pancetta (you can substitute chopped leftover ham, thick cut bacon, smoked kielbasa or Spanish chorizo)
• 1 onion (small dice)soup art
• 2 carrots (small dice)
• 2 cloves fresh garlic (minced)
• 1 cleaned leek, white and pale green parts only (stalks sliced in half lengthwise then sliced thin)
• 1 bay leaf (I prefer fresh)
• Several branches of fresh thyme
• As much washed and chopped kale as you like (I use several huge handfuls. I just love it!)
• 2 cans of Eden brand cooked lentils rinsed and drained. (If you use white beans, the Goya brand of small white “habichuelas” also rinsed and drained, is preferable.)
• 1½ boxes of high quality boxed beef or chicken broth
• Half a lemon

Sauté the pancetta* in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Add the onion, carrots, leeks, garlic and bay leaf and sauté, stirring frequently until soft, about seven minutes. Add salt and pepper to your preference. Add the broth, beans or lentils, kale and thyme and simmer for about 15 minutes and adjust seasoning. Remove the thyme branches after stripping the leaves into the soup. Squeeze in the lemon. Serve and enjoy. The next day will be even better as the flavors marry.

Note: You can use dried lentils if you prefer. The larger size brown lentils take about 35 to 40 minutes to cook, the smaller green French du Puy lentils, about 25 to 30 minutes. Adjust cooking times to suit your choice and taste toward the end of cooking time to ensure they do not get too soft.

*If you are using raw chorizo or bacon, make sure it is cooked just past the pink stage.

Visit me on  for more.

— Jordan Wright


Volunteer to write an article for this newsletter!

This newsletter is produced and written by volunteers who garden at Chinquapin Organic Gardens. New writers are welcome! If you’d like to contribute an article to the newsletter, e-mail Michele Late, newsletter editor.

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