Archive | Garden

Fresh Veggie Alert — Local CSA Signups Start Soon!

Do you like fresh vegetables? Do you like to support local farmers? Sign up for a local CSA program! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are simple: members pay a set weekly or monthly fee in advance for shares of a local farm’s produce, which is delivered to your door or a nearby pick-up location. It’s basically a more sustainable version of Blue Apron!

Below we’ve listed five local CSAs that serve Fairfax County. You can find additional CSAs using this interactive map of CSA programs in the DC Metro area that Washington Post put together. Note that it was created in 2015 so it may not be completely up-to-date.

4P Foods

Vegetables sourced from various local farms in the DMV. Sign up here.

Star Hollow Farm

Vegetables sourced from farm in Three Springs, PA (100 miles from DMV). Sign up here.

From The Farmer

Vegetables sourced from various local farms in the DMV. Includes easy to use app. Sign up here.

Shallowbrooke Farm

Vegetables sourced from farm in Boyce, VA. Sign up here.

Potomac Vegetable Farms

Vegetables sourced from farms in Vienna and Purcellville, VA. Sign up here.


Food: It’s a Terrible Thing to Waste!

Clean your plate: children in India/Africa are starving! Many of us heard this injunction growing up. Insufficient food is a huge problem in many countries, but even here in Fairfax County 44,000 residents receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because they are unable on their own to get enough food to eat.

Some individuals, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. try to close the loop and donate “extra” food to those in need, but Sustainable America estimates that 40% of food in the United States is wasted.  For more information on eating out without wasting food:

Leftover food that cannot be used by others is an environmental opportunity. This past spring, Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management Program announced its launch of a pilot composting program “to encourage the growth of local companies that collect food waste (also called organic waste) from homes, events, businesses, etc., and turn it into compost. The compost can then be used as a high-quality soil amendment in residential backyards, farms, and landscaping projects.”

What makes this type of large-scale composting appealing is that items that normally would not go in a smaller household composting operation such as bones and meat and paper products can be included.

To date, two composting companies, Compost Crew and Veterans, have registered with the program. The County has reviewed these companies’ equipment and operations, thus providing some assurance to potential customers that they are operating in a safe and sustainable way.

To participate in this pilot program, contact Compost Crew at or Veterans at

Bottom line: Try not to waste food, but if you do have organic scraps, put them to good use!

Prime-time for Farmers Markets: Lots of Fresh Produce and Special Events

July and August are definitely the best months to get to the Farmers Markets in this area. According to the Virginia Harvest Calendar published by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this is when most of the produce is being harvested, so you will find great abundance and variety at the Farmers Markets. Also, August 2-12 there will be special events to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. (see July 26 Facebook post @CleanFairfax)

Go eco-friendly:Bring plenty of reusable tote bags, reusable produce bags, and reusable containers. Clean Fairfax is encouraging Fairfax County residents to join the #plasticfreeproduce movement. Also, consider composting the remains of your fruits and vegetables.

Why support the Farmers Markets?

1. Freshness:

Fruits and vegetables are guaranteed fresh since they are local. You can talk directly to the farmer to find out about the produce you are purchasing.

  1. Protect the Environment:

Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.  (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

  1. Support Family Farmers:

Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.  (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

  1. Promote Humane Treatment of AnimalsAt the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised hormone- and antibiotic-free. Also, they are often openly grazed and cage free rather than forced into cramped feedlots and cages.
  2. Connect with Your Community

Farmers Markets offer a communal gathering place for neighbors.

National Farmers Market Week with cooking demonstrations, games, kids’ activities, raffles for gift baskets and more is running from Wednesday, August 2 to Saturday, August 12, 2017 at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets. Watch the promotional video ( for additional information.

For directions and vendors at each market visit or call Community Horticulture at 703-642-0128.


Keeping our yards weed-free: It’s more than just a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and not have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood. I would argue that most suburban homeowners in our area strive to maintain a beautiful yard because it is a pleasure to come home to a blooming weed-free paradise after a day of inside work. In our moderate climate zone, we are blessed with a fairly long growing season and an ability to cultivate a large variety of plants. With this opportunity, however, comes responsibility.

I noted in a previous blog (Invasives=Plant Litter March 20, 2017) the importance of planting non-invasives, and, whenever possible, removing invasives. However, what to do about weeds is another aspect of suburban gardening that requires careful decision-making to reduce negative environmental impact.

According to the Plant Natural Research Center, “While most modern herbicides are designed to kill only plants and have little or no toxicity to humans, many still have extreme consequences in the environment, changing habitats in ways that affect insects and wildlife. These consequences extend to water courses where they may kill beneficial aquatic plants and fish.”

In addition, a Purdue University study of dogs from treated and untreated yards found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards, and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue found that certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer.

And there is some evidence that toxins in herbicides CAN affect humans. A case-controlled study published in March 1999 by Swedish scientists Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson showed that non-hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is linked to exposure to a range of pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup often used to control poison ivy in this area. Relatively unknown prior to the 1940’s—about the time pesticides and herbicides came into more widespread use— NHL is now one of the most common types of cancer.

Fortunately, Earth 911 offers some excellent all-natural ideas on how to take care of weeds:

You may also decide that that “weed” in your garden is really quite beautiful and worth leaving alone. Make environmentally sustainable choices in your garden this year!

(Native Joe Pye Weed is popular with both bees and butterflies—and is technically not a weed : -)

The Case for Organics and Farmers Markets: Trump’s Chlorpyrifos Approval


President Trump has signed an order denying the petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) to ban chlorpyrifos (Lorsban), a pesticide that some say causes neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below EPA’s existing regulatory standard. The EPA claims that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.” The next reevaluation of the safety of this product is not scheduled until 2022.

Not willing to take the risk?  According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, when it comes to local produce, this will allow peanut growers in our area to continue to use this insecticide. The Environmental Working Group suggests that if you want to avoid feeding your family produce that may contain chlorpyrifos residue even after it has been thoroughly washed, choose organic versions for these fruits and vegetables:

  • Imported peaches from Chile (20 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported nectarines from Chile (13 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported bell peppers from Mexico (22 percent of samples tested positive)
  • Imported hot peppers from Mexico (15 percent samples tested positive)
  • Domestic and imported cilantro (27 percent of samples tested positive)

Unfortunately, chloropyrifos is not the only potentially toxic pesticide in use. There are a number of organophosphates, chemicals that are specifically designed to damage an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase, that are responsible for 70% of pesticide use in the United States, according to PANNA.

The argument for consuming organic produce is compelling. Consider buying organics and seeking out fresh LOCAL produce at area Farmers Markets.  You can just ask the farmer what is used to manage pests and make an informed consumer choice.

For more information about Fairfax County Farmers Markets and organic produce check out   A listing of all area Farmers Markets can be found at — Programs.

Invasives = Plant “Litter”

Happy Spring! Start planning your non-invasive plantings now….

Like litter, invasive plants negatively impact the environment. Invasive plants, particularly ground cover like ivy and clematis, often have very little root structure and therefore when they cover large areas, fail to prevent erosion. Sediment then gets into our streams and creates poor water quality which impacts wildlife

Also, as their name suggests, invasive plants tend to “take over” areas. Invasive plants cause declines in native plants, including trees. They also can reduce both food and shelter for native animals, contributing to a decline in biodiversity. In fact, invasive plants are cited as a factor in Endangered Species Act listings!


Consider joining a local effort to remove invasive plants through Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program:
Convinced that natives are the way to go? Here are some upcoming native plant sales in the Northern Virginia area:

Spring into Composting

As we head towards Spring, this is an excellent time to consider composting: The warmer weather tends to break down organic materials more quickly, and you don’t need to brave the cold to get to an outdoor bin.  Also, if you start now, you should end up with some excellent quality soil for your summer garden!


Why bother? Composting reduces the amount of garbage you create and therefore the amount of landfill space filled, or in the case of Fairfax County, the amount of ash waste produced by incineration. By not purchasing compost or fertilizer for your garden, composting not only saves you money, but it also saves fossil fuels since many commercial methods of producing compost and fertilizer use machinery that runs on oil/gas. Composting also saves your garbage disposal from overworking. And you are creating rich soil to add back to the earth!

What can be composted in a residential setting? Just about any non-meat food scraps or organic yard waste. Here are some exceptions from Eartheasy, Solutions for Sustainable Living: perennial weeds (they can be spread with the compost) or diseased plants; pet manures if you will use the compost on food crops; banana peels, peach peels and orange rinds since these may contain pesticide residue; and, black walnut leaves (leaves create a chemical toxic to many plants called juglone, and though it breaks down fairly quickly in compost, may not be work the risk).


How do you get the materials to compost? If you have an outdoor area available to you, there are several options. You can purchase a composting tumbler or a bin. Purchased composters will be accompanied by directions. If you build your own bin, or fence an area to be your compost pile, or just start a pile, you will need to stir it up periodically and keep it moist.


Rodale’s Organic Life suggests the following for starting a compost pile more scientifically:

Start by spreading a layer that is several inches thick of coarse, dry brown stuff, like straw or cornstalks or leaves, where you want to build the pile. 2. Top that with several inches of green stuff. Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. For more info, go to


What is the apartment-dweller with no access to outdoor space to do? Fortunately, there are some excellent technologies that make composting possible even for people living in apartments.


Early March is a great time to “get back to the earth”—literally!




From Generation to Generation: Forte Grants Encourage Environmental Stewardship in Children

It starts by getting kids to recognize the challenges we face as stewards of our environment, and then supporting them in devising solutions. Problems like the environmental degradation caused by litter and chemical pollutants, the vast amounts of food and other resources wasted in school settings, and the lack of affordable fresh produce for low income families are all
abstract ideas until children get a chance to monitor the situation in their own communities and then engage in a hands-on project. Towards this end, Clean Fairfax just distributed $2,275 to fund six different green projects in Fairfax County schools as part of its Johnie Forte, Jr. Memorial Environment Education Grants program.

Belvedere Elementary School will be augmenting the efforts of their 5th grade Waste Watchers (litter clean up) Group with new more efficient and sanitary trash grabbers. They will also track what they are picking up (2x monthly) and share that information with us.

Lanier Middle School will create an all-natural, safe-for-the-environment laundry detergent, using STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) techniques to work on the right formulation. They will then give presentations to all the 7th grade classes to educate students and families about the impact of laundry detergent on the watershed. This project will also qualify them for the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America State Leadership Competition.

Pine Spring Elementary School will supplement their School Composting Program, started two years ago, with four more compost tumblers in order to take food waste from the cafeteria, turn
it into black gold, and use it on their school garden. They will also order a shipment of worms to practice vermiculture, the use of worms to decompose organic food waste more quickly.

Riverside Elementary School ‘s Eco-Action Club will be getting some heavy duty recycling cans and art supplies for informational posters to supplement their recycling program in the cafeteria. Students, teachers and custodians will help everyone learn the process of separating out everything that can be recycled from the trash.

Colvin Run Elementary School‘s 4th grade will add another large composter to their composting system, working on recycling as their service learning project. CRES donates uneaten fruits, snacks and drinks to Cornerstones of Reston. 4th graders pack up the supplies for the volunteers who pick them up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The composter will
help them divert food waste from the trash, and they plan to use the completed compost in their school garden.

Holmes Middle School Gardening Club will create a community garden that would provide fresh produce to their students and families. The Gardening Club would tend the garden during lunchtime and after school, and they have teachers, students, and parents who live nearby tend to the garden over the summer months.

It is this involvement that cultivates a new generation of environmentalists committed to stewardship of our earth. These children, quite literally, are our future.

For more information about the Johnie Forte, Jr. Memorial Environment Education Grants go to the “Programs” tab at .

Also check out Fairfax County Public Schools’ Get2Green initiative designed for “school district sustainability and engaging students in environmental action.”


Alex Laughing Alone With Salad

Women Laughing Alone With Salad.

Fall Vegetable Salad


  • 2 cups red oakleaf lettuce – Fresh2o, Stevensburg, VA
  • 1 medium fall carrot – Van Dessel Farms, Accomack, VA (Honey herb butter roasted, recipe to follow)
  • 1 small apple (CrimsonCrisp, maybe?), chopped – Rock Hill Orchard, Mt. Airy, MD
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Rosemary Chickpeatos (Or any kind of crunchy, nut-like thing, I just happened to have these in my cabinet)
  • ¼ cup cooked Quinoa


  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt
  • (Try: 1 teaspoon of honey or sugar, or perhaps brown sugar? Note to follow.)

Honey Herb Butter Roasted Carrots:

  • 2 medium fall carrots – Van Dessel Farms, Accomack, VA
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley

You’ll want to roast your carrots a while ahead of time (I roasted mine the night before). Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, toss together your melted butter, carrots, honey, and herbs. Place your well-rubbed carrots (and any surplus butter/herb mixture) on a baking sheet and roast until tender. I cooked mine for about 40 minutes (they were very robust carrots; short but quite thick in the middle), and they were still a little crunchy, which is how I like them. Additionally, in the interest of full disclosure, phrasing the recipe in this way makes it sound like much more of an exact process than it truly was. In reality I used this recipe from a blog called RasaMalaysia for inspiration; threw an indiscriminate amount of butter, herbs, and honey in a tinfoil pocket with a couple of meaty carrots; and cooked them until the end of the episode of The Great British Baking Show. Fortunately, the carrots are of amazing quality, and you really can’t go wrong with rosemary, honey, and butter. Anyway, the next morning I sliced up one of the carrots and tossed it into my salad with great results.

In terms of the aforementioned salad, for this you’ll also want to cook the quinoa ahead of time, according to the package’s directions. While your quinoa is cooking, mix the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar/honey (if you want it) together in a small bowl. Whisk with a fork to combine. Once your quinoa is cooked and your dressing is mixed, toss it all together and drizzle with dressing. Voila! Salad!

Note: The original dressing recipe I used didn’t include honey or sugar (and was meant for 8 cups of salad…). However, I found that the dressing was a little too sharp with the mustard and the vinegar, so I think adding some honey might work well to soften it a little bit. But since I didn’t actually try that, I can’t speak to how well it will work (yet).

Alone with Salad

(Also check out that neat double-decker lunchbox.)

Now, as I noted before about the carrot situation, using actual measurements and directions for this recipe is massively overstating the amount of thought I put into it. I based the idea on this recipe from Food & Friends, a local nonprofit that provides meals and nutrition services to DC-area individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses. (They also do an awesome thing at Thanksgiving called Slice of Life where they sell pies and the proceeds go to their organization and to help provide healthy Thanksgiving meals to their clients. If you aren’t local or will be away, you can donate a pie to one of those Thanksgiving meals! So regardless, the organization gets money and SOMEONE gets a pie! You can even choose an individual salesperson/organization and often in-kind donations will be made to that organization. But this has all been one big sidebar. Piedbar.)

So I saw that recipe and thought “Hey, I have some fall vegetables!” And I’ve been looking for ways to use the huge amount of lettuce I got in last week’s bag from Fresh2o in Stevensburg, VA. You should definitely read that grower profile, because they say better than I ever could how awesome the lettuce was. You can also learn some neat things about the farmers and the packaging, which was totally awesome and keeps the lettuce so fresh (so fresh that it’s actually still growing) that I don’t have to worry about eating nothing but salad for a week because I have to work through an entire head of lettuce. Also, apparently, that makes it healthier for you! Long story short, it’s amazing and deserves much better than my higgledy-piggeldy salad concoction. As, incidentally, do those carrots…

The carrots are from Van Dessel Farms in Accomack, VA, just like my beets and potatoes from the Hash-Slinging Slasher. And man, are they awesome. Despite my slapdash approach to roasting, they held together beautifully and the flavor is incredible. A huge and distinctive difference from any random carrot you might pick up at the store. These carrots had character. Carroter, if you will. Plus, I feel alright about my roasting choice – there’s still some nice browned butter, honey, and rosemary flavor (really I just added the parsley because it was in the recipe and I have a couple of plants on my windowsill, I have no idea if it adds anything). The rosemary was also of my windowsill garden, lovingly grown all the way from teeny seeds to a slightly less-teeny plant. I tend to use it a bit sparingly, since it’s still so small it doesn’t quite have its feet under it yet, but I do love fresh rosemary.

That rosemary also meshed well with my crunchy ingredient, Rosemary Chickpeatos. I have no idea where she found them, but my loving mother sent me back with them after visiting her at Thanksgiving. Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes. How could bagged chick peas match freshly roasted chick peas? I thought about the awful things I’ve heard about packaged kale chips and cringed. But boy was I wrong. They’re really quite awesome, THANKS MOM! The rosemary flavor matched up well but wasn’t overpowering, and they make a perfectly crunchy and protein-packed addition to my lunch. In lieu of such an unexpected surprise ingredient, you could just as easily use some kind of nut; however, I recommend you try to find some of these bad boys because they make a great salad crunch or even just everyday snack.

Since I’m going through pretty much every ingredient, I might as well tell you about the apple. Now, this didn’t come in my produce bag (I swear I’m going to make those morning glory muffins, and I won’t use the golden delicious apples I got until then). However, it is locally grown! A few weeks ago I went apple/pumpkin/flower picking at Rock Hill Orchards in Mt. Airy, MD. It was handily the best pick-your-own experience and probably one of the best overall experiences I’ve had. The farm had an apple orchard, vegetable patches, an herb garden, basically a whole field of pick-your-own flowers, a pumpkin patch, other pick-your-own fruits in the summer, AND a dairy farm (with their own ice cream and BABY COWS JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO LOVE THEM). In fact, I loved those baby cows so much that I don’t think I’ve eaten any beef since, and I’ve only eaten chicken twice! That’s how cute they were! Anyway, aside from the adorable conversion experience, they had a great little general store, cold and hot cider, the usual tchotchkes, and the greatest combination of things since coffee-Oreo ice cream: an apple cider donut sundae with pumpkin ice cream (you could’ve gotten any kind of ice cream, but why get something that isn’t pumpkin?). After an overwhelmingly wonderful day of picking produce and crooning over calves and inhaling ice cream, I returned with some pumpkins, wildflowers, and (obviously) apples! Only one had yet gone unused, and I believe it was a CrimsonCrisp. A nice, sweet, small apple who’s finally met her purpose in a friendly fall salad.

I have nothing special to say about the cranberries… I got them at the local Giant? Does that count? Same story with the quinoa, although this was my first experience with the grain so I have no standards by which to judge it. I made it in a rice cooker, which is a fun and easy way to take care of something I have no idea how to work with.

No meltdowns or smoke to report this time around. In fact, this salad (like most salads, I suppose), was so easy I threw it together (with the carrots and quinoa prepared the night before) in the morning before work! While making coffee and oatmeal! And then I ate it while writing this post!

Now visualize a picture of me, laughing alone with this salad.


Environmental News Roundup – October 21, 2015

HRN Image (1)

Mom’s Organic Market Herndon Grand Reopening

Join us for the Grand Re-Opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, featuring local tastings, henna art and more.

Clean Fairfax is pleased to be in attendance at the grand re-opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, VA. There will be a Naked Lunch – an all organic eatery featuring soups, bowls and raw juices! Come by and do some grocery shopping, try the local tastings, henna art, and much more. 5% of Grand Re-Opening sales will be donated to Clean Fairfax.

If you would like to volunteer, please send an email to We could use a few extra pair of hands, and we have fun things planned throughout the day.

Friday October 23 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday Oct 24 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sunday October 25 12 p.m.-3 p.m.

Molly's Sketchbook: Back to School Lunch Bag

As Schools Buy More Local Food, Kids Throw Less Food In The Trash

As hungry children stand in line each day for lunch, many school districts across the country are making an effort to serve food that was grown locally. When there was an increase of local food being served, the children ate more healthy meals and threw less food in the trash. Washington, D.C. school districts has been promoting this effort. Other schools across the U.S. are also following this route as well.

Obligatory Selfie Avec Camera

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) Photography Competition

Do you love taking pictures, the environment, and wildlife? NVCT is holding a Second Annual Nearby Nature Photography Competition. Up to five photos can be submitted. The deadline is on midnight November 2, 2015. The winners will be announced in mid-November, and prizes will be from local businesses and organizations. Additionally, the winning photos will be included in the next edition of the Stewardship Connection, NVCT’s website, Facebook page, and other NVCT publications. More information can be found here.

Solar-Powered Glowing Bicycle Path In Netherlands Inspired By Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist and designer has created a stunning glowing bike bath. At night, it is illuminated by glowing pebbles and LEDs, which resembles Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night painting.

The path was created using glow-in-the-dark technology and solar-powered LEDs. The glowing path assists bicyclists stay on track when they ride on night. Similar beautiful environmental glowing paths are also in some parts of the U.K. This might be a new trend that catches on other parts of the world.