Saturday, May 28, 2011

Herb Gardening Tips

The Public Health Garden had the pleasure of presenting our project at the Prince George's Herb Society meeting at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD and we received great feedback and quite a few herb gardening tips. Here are our favorites:

  • Different herbs have different pH, water, and sun requirements - so do a little Google search as you plan your garden.

  • Mediterranean herbs like it hot and sunny, and do not want to be wet. Use lime in their soil and light mulch - or even sea shells.

  • Add a few drops of pure lavender oil to water in a spray bottle and use to deter pests and bugs (including stick bugs).

  • Don't forget about canning and pesto! Yummy ways to preserve summer all year long.

  • Need to preserve other herbs? Try an ice tray. Throw some fresh herbs in the tray with water, freeze 'em, and use the cubes in the winter.

  • If you're going to plant mint or lemon balm, do so in a pot. Otherwise, they will take over.

  • Medicinals are a must: Echinacea produces those beautiful cone flowers too!

  • A little kitty litter goes a long way in terms of deterring groundhogs and other garden hijackers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Lots of folks have stopped by the garden to see what is going on and mention how much they miss being able to watch the Eco-Goats chow down on all those invasive weeds. Many of our visitors have also asked us how the weed management is going and what on earth we are doing with all those plastic tarps. And the answer is, well, we are trying to prevent a resurgence of weeds!

Solarization means different things in different aspects of gardening. It can be used to warm soil for early planting. It can be a non-chemical technique to control plant pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes and other pests. For our purposes, it is an attempt to prevent regrowth of weed seeds and seedlings.

For the best results, we would need those tarps to create about 140F degrees of heat to suffocate weeds. Last week we were somewhere around 98F degrees. Campus experts have weighed in regarding clear versus dark tarp and commended our efforts but warned us that our success will be limited by our climate and our best bet is to look forward to construction disturbance of weed roots. As always, we remind ourselves, volunteers, supporters and critics that this is a living classroom and we are aiming for progress, not perfection. As long as we can keep up this energy and enthusiasm we trust we can outshine any hurdles in our way: be them Canada Thistle or that pesky (yet very cute) groundhog.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Email Update from the PHG

We sent out this email to our email list this afternoon.  We thought it was worth sharing in case you missed it:

This is our first mass email update since we participated in the Behnke Nurseries' Open House, Maryland Day, and Goats and Gardens. To the newcomers on our email list: welcome and thank you for your interest in the Public Health Garden!  We are so excited to have nearly 200 people on our email list. We are thrilled to continue growing.  Since we are approaching the end of the semester (and finals for most UMD students), we wanted to give a summary of our activities this semester, our schedule and next steps, and ask some questions of you.
First, what we would like to hear from you: 
  • Please email us if you are in the area, available, and interested in volunteering this summer. We would like to put together a sub-list of summer volunteers who are interested in helping us during garden construction, initial planting, and garden-fun this summer. 
  • If so, are you free Monday, May 23 for a lunchtime brown bag (ie bring your lunch) meeting at noon? 
    • We are hoping to get a meeting of garden members and volunteers together to discuss next steps and our approach to the summer.
    • Respond with your interest and I'll post a formal invite to the blog, social media, and calendar if we get enough positive RSVPs.
Now, a re-cap of the semester (I'm sure I'm going to forget plenty of important accomplishments so, please check out the remainder of the blog for a full update):
  • Award of the Sustainability Office's Green Fund
  • Dennis Nola's Landscape Architecture students compete for design of garden
  • Selection of winning design of garden
  • Approval by ADSB of garden design
  • IAA Greenhouse Management class start seeds for the garden in greenhouse
  • Maryland Day kick-off for garden
  • Eco-Goats clear unwanted vegetation from the site
And, most importantly, our next steps:
  • Over the next couple weeks, UMD Facilities Management will fix the sidewalk and steps at the top of the garden site so that we can begin construction.
  • We are scheduling construction of Phase One of the Public Health Garden with UMD Facilities Management, targeting the week of May 23 to break ground on the upper terrace of the garden.
  • We are going to install a utility area for the Public Health Garden with a garden shed and garden tools.
    • If you have anything you would like to donate or are getting rid of from your house this spring, let us know!
    • Note: We have a donor to stock our shed: Beltway Plaza Hardware (check them out here)
  • We hope to install the ADA accessible portion of the site (upper terrace) as well as the major retaining wall and will likely be reaching out for volunteers and support later in May.
    • Let us know if you are interested!
  • We hope to start building raised beds and planting some of our plants from the greenhouse (and seeds) during the first weeks of June.
    • Let us know if you are interested!
  • Once Phase One construction is complete, we will be hosting open volunteer days throughout the remainder of the summer and will reach out to our sub-list of summer volunteers to coordinate!
    • Note: On harvest days, you'll be able to take home food from the garden. Yum.
Please let us know if you are around and would like to be involved over the summer. Also, let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or feedback. Stay tuned for updates on the blog, facebook and twitter!  Please pass along our contact information to anyone you think would be interested in playing in the dirt with us or otherwise be involved in the garden.
Again, thank you for your interest and support.
Ready to build, plant, and enjoy!

Garden Tools and New Collaboration: Beltway Plaza Hardware

We are thrilled to let you know about a new collaboration for the Public Health Garden. Beltway Plaza Hardware will be supplying the Public Health Garden with tools for our garden shed. We went into the Beltway Plaza Mall in Greenbelt, MD to speak with Barry Blechman this afternoon at Beltway Plaza Hardware. We are so excited to work together!

Thanks Barry and Beltway Plaza Hardware!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garden Community at UMD

Thank you Diamondback for sharing the story about the growing gardening community at UMD (sorry, can't help the garden puns, they are too easy).  Please check out the story here.  We at the Public Health Garden are so proud to be a part of a campus that is coming together to support such wonderful programs and activities. The end of the semester is a great time to congratulate and celebrate all the campus gardens for their amazing successes this year! And, we'd like to give another BIG thank-you to the UMD community and the Diamondback for your support.

Please check out the links to the other UMD campus gardens on the left side of the blog!

Happy studying and finaling UMD!

Sigh, missing the goats! :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Goat Power

 After Day 1:
Photos from Eco-Goats on Facebook.

Thank you UMD!

We at the Public Health Garden wanted to say THANK YOU! to everyone who stopped by to visit with us on Maryland Day (Sat) and Goats and Gardens (Sun-Tues).  It was an amazing adventure!  We are thrilled that we were able to share with all of you our vision for the Public Health Garden and talk to you about gardening, food, agriculture, goats, and our community. 

Special thank you's need to go out to:
  • IAA: For supporting our vision of using goats to clear the vegetation and helping get all our plants grown in the greenhouse
  • IACUC: For approving our use of goats on campus (especially Amanda Underwood, the IACUC Manager, and Doug Powell, UMD's Attending Vet)
  • UMD Department of Public Safety: For watching the goats in the middle of the night
  • GSG and Office of Sustainability: For funding the goats and pizza party
  • Eco-Goats: Brian Knox and our 31 new friends did an amazing job getting our site ready for planting
  • The Diamondback: For covering our story (see it here)

The list can go on and on, but we'll stop there for now.  Most importantly, we just want to thank everyone for stopping by and taking an interest in our project and the goats!  It was wonderful to see our community coming together to rally around such a fun, productive, and eco-friendly activity.  Now, it is time to get planting.

Check out more photos on the facebook page here.  If you took photos, please post them to the facebook page or email them to us at  We will be posting more photos and video over the next week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

About Our Giveaways

If you are one of our many new friends and potential volunteers, we are so glad you stopped by to see us and can't thank you enough for your support. We also can't respond to each of your enthusiastic emails individually until we send our favorite herd of goats home and start implementing Phase II of weed management, but we do want to respond to the inquiries about plant care and the seed giveaways so...

If you have a little jar of various seeds: They could be a mixture of flowers including but not limited to sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, baby's breath and cosmos. These seeds can be scattered/sown directly into a patch of soil this week or next. If you don't have a spot of land, a pot or container will do but be sure and thin them out as they pop up as to keep a fair amount of soil available for their growing roots. Whether in the ground or on your windowsill, be sure they have access to plenty of sunshine and water. They could also be a mixture of herbs. You may recognize the larger round seed that is tan in color because it is coriander and, once planted and nurtured, will become cilantro. The smaller seeds are a mixture of chives, basil, parsley, mint, dill and thyme. Follow the same instructions as above.

If you have a plant:
Most likely, you have small biodegradable pot with a basil or tomato plant growing vigorously. The basil will probably outgrow that little pot soon and the tomato definitely will. Biodegradable pots can go directly into the ground if you have the space or into a larger pot (along with additional soil) if you are working with a container garden or windowsill. Unfortunately we lost track of which tomato plant will produce cherry tomatoes and which will produce Roma tomatoes and so on, so... make sure you stake 'em, give 'em sunshine and water, and enjoy the element of surprise as they begin to flower in a few short weeks.

If you aren't sure what to do about soil: Stop by your local nursery or garden center and grab a bag of potting soil. Native soil, soil from say... your front yard, is not suited for potting and will not provide the nutrients, pore space and water retention that these plants require.

No matter how your new plant(s) or seeds do, remember that gardening is like yoga: You can't expect to do a headstand in your first class. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and the what really matters is that you are interested in learning and trying.

Sunday, May 1, 2011