Summer Gardening 2015: Huge Update


Hello everyone!

This is going to be a long, catch up post to inform everyone on all the happenings at the garden so far. So sit back, grab some tea, and see what’s been going on at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden.

———- Seeds and Goals ———-

This summer I set out with a few growing goals. I really wanted to try growing some plants that I hadn’t seen at the garden, or in person for that matter.


Although a lot of these plants are not native to the area, I wanted to bring in some new plants that all served some sort of purpose. The Buckwheat was recommended to me by Christine Harris, the past president of GOGA (GMU Organic Gardening Association). It’s a nice cover crop that ended up keeping the deer’s attention for a while until they finished eating all of it. Here’s a picture of them after being nibbled on by the deer. Needless to say, they did not last much longer afterwards.


The Dill and Wormwood were to be used as my additions to the herb garden where there was already Cilantro, Mint (lots of Mint), Fennel, Chamomile, and Horseradish. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks after planting the Wormwood that I read, “Wormwood (A. absinthium), one of the biblical bitter herbs, was used to flavor absinthe liqueur. It can be highly toxic and is not recommended for home gardens” (The American Horticultural Society’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening: Herbs and Spices). Despite that quote, there is another section in the same book that lists Wormwood’s uses as: “fragrance, insect repellent, decoration, beverage flavoring.” I may recommend it to be planted near plants with low bearing fruit (i.e. Strawberries) either immediately next to it or in a nearby pot.

The Strawberries had a difficult time this season. When they finally produced fruit, they were immediately hollowed out by the pill bugs hiding in the Creeping Jenny. Immediately afterwards the deer found their leaves and left the Strawberry plants with nothing but stems. These photos were taken shortly after ripening, but on the other side of these Strawberries were holes that showed that they were completely hollowed out and only had the skin left to show how pretty they looked before the pill bugs found them.


The Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers were going to be used for pickling. I thought that using these alongside regular cucumber seeds from the shed would give me a little bit of variety. Unfortunately, I did not realize the Mexican Sour Gherkins were not organic until after I received them in the mail. I ended up just using the Cucumber seeds from the shed. Now, through a mix of not germinating and deer helping themselves to the seedlings, I only have two Cucumber plants (as of 7/11) growing despite planting seeds in three beds.


In these side beds by the Elderberry bushes, I have two rows of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), two rows of Edamame, and a row of Crookneck Squash; each having two beds to themselves. They are doing well, but still have yet to produce any fruit/seeds. There are flowers on a few of the Edamame plants and the squash are showing half-dollar sized bulbs of fruit underneath their flowers. They are coming along nicely and I look forward to slicing and cooking them on the grill.


The Carwile’s Viginia Peanuts were doing really well until the deer decided to give them a try. Some have gone to flower, but with the constant loss of leaves and readjustment in their soil I think it has slowed down their production of peanuts. I made sure to plant them in their own bed a ways away from the other beds in case of peanut allergies.

The Birdhouse Gourd was planted in a line by the Raspberries with hopes of creating (you guessed it) birdhouses for the garden and possibly selling them on campus. Included with the seeds was a guide on how to create a condominium out of the gourds. You guys can see it here.

In a later update I will show how far along the Tomatillos have come. They are doing very well and I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

———- Happenings at the Garden ———-

Soon after the summer started, Dr. Dan and his class stopped by and helped create a spiral bed in the front of the garden. They did a great job and I hope to see them again either later this summer or in the fall.

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New to the garden are the community beds. For a monthly fee, GMU staff and one of our fraternities have been taking care of their own plants alongside all of ours. This is a nice community building system and I hope the system and people stay with us through multiple seasons. It’s been a pleasure getting to know them and see their beds grow.


After letting the Brussels Sprouts, Collards, and Kale go to seed, I collected their pods and have them hanging in the shed to dry. Soon they’ll be ready for breaking open for seed saving.

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With the aid of Professor Wingfield’s students, we were able to create a few new additions to the garden. First of which was a compost tumbler that was made by Michael, Justin, and myself. We have it in a new location so it can have full sun, but nevertheless it looks great and I look forward to having it produce nice soil for the garden.


Also with Justin and Michael’s help, we made a fence the for the Kiwi bush to grow up on instead of the metal railings that it isn’t allowed to attach to.


With the help of Joy and Daniel, we created a new bed for some donated perennials. I’m not sure what species they are, but I look forward to seeing them grown nonetheless.


Created not long afterwards, Daniel and I put up a fence that connects the poles with fishing line. Although the deer could easily jump a fence this tall, the idea is for deer to not see the line and bump into it, confusing and hopefully deterring them…… It did not work for long. Since then, the fishing line fence has been moved to another bed to protect it from deer. Hopefully it has more of an impact there.


There will be weekly updates on the happenings in the garden from now on. They won’t be nearly as long as this one, but they will be much more consistent. I hope everyone is having a great summer and comes to visit the garden sometime (either to help out or just to visit).

Happy Gardening!

Ethan Murdock


About gmugarden

Greetings current or potential vegetable people! This site is devoted to the vegetable garden that exists at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The aim of the site is to keep people like you updated on the garden happenings and to show progress to those who can't participate! Enjoy and happy vegetable eating :)

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