Garden Journal

A family's discovery of sustainable gardening, native plants, local food and other treasures in their mid Atlantic backyard.

Come Visit the Abundant Backyard booth and Go green with your holiday shopping this year!  Join us at this FREE green craft fair this Saturday, November 10 from 10am-4pm at Watkins Nature Center, located in Watkins Regional Park.  Explore environmentally-friendly, hand-crafted products from local artists.  Items for sale include jewelry, wood carvings, knitwear, gardening décor, and much more.

The Abundant Backyard will featured rescued wood garden benches, birdhouses, Forest to Field Holiday Centerpieces, and Gift Baskets filled with quality items made locally and sustainably in Maryland’s Abundant Backyard.

 Purchase a raffle ticket, and have a chance to win great prizes like a MOM’s grocery store gift card, hand painted rain barrels, golf and fitness passes, performance tickets, and more!·

Hands-on activities and crafts for the kids all with a sustainable focus, as well as environmental non-profit groups with educational displays.

Book Exchange —  Bring your unwanted books and trade them in for “new” ones!  All leftover books will be donated to local libraries in Prince George’s county.

Learn about natural dying and create your own indigo dye cloth with the kids.

Purchase art and craft supplies, and make a creative reuse craft with your child at the SCRAP action booth.  For information about SCRAP store, programs they offer, or where to donate materials, visit

Event is FREE to all ages, and mostly indoors (held rain or shine!)

We hope to see you on Saturday, November 10th, and appreciate you supporting the nature center.  To get a preview of our vendors this year and check out their items for sale ahead of time, visit   



Green, Sustainable Features: 

Reusable, repurposed container.  Long lasting – living houseplant or perennial container plant included in the design.  90% of all fresh cuttings sourced in season and locally.

Price range- start at $50.00  and higher- depending on size ordered.  (Can be picked up in Silver Spring or delivered within 10 mile radius for $10.00 delivery fee.)

Orders of 5 or more arrangements for events – delivery fees are waived.  Order now for Thanksgiving and the Holidays by emailing

Thanks to the Cub Scouts, the Jenkins family and Ms Tunis for delivering native tree nuts to the Potomac Conservancy’s drop off bin at the Abundant Backyard tent. These nuts are grown into native hardwood seedlings to support expanding reforestation and restoration efforts in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Click on the logo above for information on how you can volunteer to replenish the seeds and ensure diversity by collecting acorns, walnuts, flowering dogwood, pawpaw and many other hardwood and shrub seeds. You can still collect nuts through October 31!

We will be participating in the inaugural Green Living Showcase this Saturday, October 20th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, One Veterans’ Place, in downtown Silver Spring. Silver Spring Green and Fenton Street Market are teaming up on the Showcase, which will highlight local businesses and environmental organizations that contribute to Silver Spring’s green economy, the environment, and a healthier, more vibrant community. A combination of 31 businesses and non-profit organizations will be on hand selling green products and services and providing educational information to help individuals and institutions reduce their ecological footprint.

There will also be full day of eco-demonstrations (composting, recycling, gardening, repurposing and more), kids’ activities and musical performances featuring Kathy Westra and George Stephens, who will be singing and playing nature-inspired folk songs.

The Abundant Backyard is offering benches, birdhouses made of reclaimed local wood from storm damaged trees, gift boxes of local beeswax candles, honey, wine tour and tasting, eco notecards and more. Fall is time to plant collections of native grasses and ferns!


Join individuals, families, schools, and scout troops September 22 through October 31, in collecting nuts of native trees to generate seedlings for stream land restoration! Trees are important for their cool canopies, oxygen production, and root systems that reduce soil erosion of river banks, and absorb pollutants from getting in rivers and streams. Native trees, like native plants, are particularly adapted to local soil, rainfall, and temperature conditions. Overtime, they have survived with natural defenses against insects and diseases. As a result, they are low maintenance and essential to natural habitat preservation as local wildlife depend on them.

The Potomac Conservancy started the Growing Native program in 2001 based on increased demand for native hardwood seedlings to support expanding reforestation and restoration efforts in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Click on the logo above for information on how you can volunteer to replenish the seeds and ensure diversity by collecting acorns, walnuts, flowering dogwood, pawpaw and many other hardwood and shrub seeds. You can even begin in your own backyard!

July 28th, 2012

Butterfly Garden Success!

Was so excited to find six (clearly visible) Monarch Catepillars in school native plant pollinator garden! The blue circles highlight 3 of the caterpillars. They were on the orange butterfly milkweed and swamp milkweed. Can’t wait to share with teachers and use as an outdoor lab with students on butterfly life cycle. Will probably need to net plants so birds don’t eat caterpillars.

Searching for Native Fossils at Dinosaur Park

June’s issue of Washington Parent Magazine features my lastest article on a unique opportunity for connecting kids to nature and their past. Dinosaur Park provides information on the fossil rich “Dinosaur Alley” of Maryland and the Washington DC area and opportunities for kids to discover evidence of our earliest native plants and animals. The Dinosaur Park preserves part of a geologic formation called the Muirkirk Deposit of sediments and clays that occur south of Washington D.C. to north of Baltimore. Significant finds of dinosaur bones and early plant life have been found in this area for over 150 years, making it one of the most important dinosaur sites east of the Mississippi River. Families are invited to assist paleontologists searching for fossils on the first and third Saturdays each month from 12 noon until 4 pm. The highlight of the park is an intact portion of the Muirkirk Deposit surrounded by a fence. Access to this fossil area is allowed only during the bi-monthly open house days or by appointment for group tours and school programs. Dr. Peter Krantz and his team provide a tour of the park’s interpretive garden that brings the prehistoric past to the present via plants, trees, and ferns that are similar to those of dinosaur times.

This Sunday June 10, The Abundant Backyard will be selling its popular native plant sampler kits for Butterfly or Shade Gardens. Customers from last year’s markets sent photos of their purchased gardens in bloom by late July. (see below) Each kit includes- 6 native plants, companion seed packets, 2 bags of worm compost and wood plant markers. Kit is enough for a garden in an 8X10 space.

This mission of the Abundant Backyard© came about to help homeowners and community groups affordably and conveniently garden in ways that protect our watershed and increase local pollination of our food chain. While the Mid-Atlantic region is rich in natural resources, much natural habitat has been destroyed and polluted. Gardening just outside your door is an enjoyable way to understand what it takes to sustain even a small plot of land in a healthy, natural way. Sustainable gardening builds awareness of water and land use through a “hands on” connection from your yard to nearby creeks that can lead to a greater stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Mid-Atlantic region as a whole.

Sharon's ox eye sunflower

May 30th, 2012

A Gardening Heritage

My son. in his early years, continuing the heritage

My early gardening experience is based on the learning I was fortunate to acquire from a first generation Hungarian grandfather who grew the most amazing tomatoes, beans, and corn out of a cinderblock 8 foot by 12 foot area between his garage and retaining wall of his lush flowering self landscaped suburban yard in Euclid Ohio. A favorite memory is standing barefoot on the warm concrete blocks leaning over to grab and eat a luscious tomato, juice dripping down my chin. He often kept a salt shaker in the garage for his own midday burst of vitamin C. He did not use pesticides and composted all his yard and kitchen waste- vegetable peelings primarily- of which there were many, as my first generation Irish grandmother and he made many soups and stews together.

My mother, their daughter took up the gardening bug and I grew up with a annual half acre of beans, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, swiss chard and many other vegetables in our rural backyard. My grandparents often came and worked the garden with my mother and us kids. I loved helping with the just picked beans, sitting with Grandma, snapping the ends, in anticipation of their being steamed bright green and served with a touch of country butter!

I better understand my need to share gardening remembering that my mother also helped start our township garden club which landscaped the town welcome signs and had beautiful yard of self-landscaped shrubs, old fashioned flowers and grasses. I aslo recall an earlier memory of my father and mother organizing our neighbors to create a split rail fence and landscaped entrance to the drive we lived on near Lake Erie when I was in first grade.

On my father’s side, my grandfather also loved gardening. He grew beautiful sweet smelling roses and snapdragons and focused on a dandelion free postage stamp sized suburban lawn (where sadly pesticides and herbicides were used routinely). I loved the beauty of his flowers but hated the chemical smells and the constant ‘shooing” from his garden shed and commands to get off the grass with fear the grandchildren would get into the chemicals. In contrast, my other grandparents’ backyard was a delight where my cousins and I had “hideouts” beneath trees and shrubs and would enjoy picnic lunches under the lilacs.

May has been a busy month for our elementary students to explore and learn in the school’s native plant pollinator garden. First graders pretended they were bees in a hive and did the waggle dance to let other bees know the direction of flower food source. They then “flew” to the flower they planted as kindergarteners last year- the white beard tongue(Penstemon digitalis). Click on the honeybee image to get to a video explaining the science behind the dance. The activity introduced concepts like distance and direction and that bees can communicate with each other. A large hive outline was drawn on the ground with chalk and a volunteer stood in line with the sun. Then we drew a diagram of the “dance” that each student “waggled” through and flew to the nectar source.

3rd grade also explored the garden to hunt for examples of their vocabulary from their Language Arts Story Animal Homes. They searched for examples of animal architects by locating bird’s nests, spider webs and bee hives.

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