The Backyard Gardeners
Gardening for Fun!

Garden Talk Handouts

The Backyard Gardeners present a "Garden Talk" once a month. Frequently, speakers provide handouts for the programs. Below are the handouts from the current "Garden Talks".

Garden Talks 2016

July 19
Elizabeth Meska presented "Sensational Summer Salsas" using fresh produce from the farmer's markets and herbs. she demonstrated making the salsas, gave the recipes for some of her favorites and showed how to "ad-lib" with what ingredients you have on hand. Tastes of each salsa she made were shared.

The recipes can be found here.

Garden Talks 2015

January 20
Helen Hamiliton, Willimasburg author and native gardening guru presented a program on the best native plants for Tidewater. Sponsored by The Backyard Gardeners and the Chesapeake Master Gardeners, Helen's newly developed program, “Gardening with Native Plants”, defined and discussed native plants and explained their importance in our gardens as both a food source to birds, butterflies and beneficial insects and as a base for healthy ecosystems and self-sustaining natural habitats. She presented a variety of images of native plants suitable for our locality, identified the wildlife they support, discussed the benefits of each plant and provided a handout with a comprehensive list of native plants appropriate for the Coastal Plain. The list included information on growing seasons, optimal growing conditions, mature growth sizes and more. Helen is a nationally known and sought-after speaker whose experience includes teaching, working as a plant technician for the National Park Service and lecturing on a variety of topics related to gardening for wildlife. Copies of her book, "Wildflowers & Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain" were available for purchase. This educational evening with a native plant expert that opened everyone's eyes to the many benefits of these wonderfully versatile plants.

February 17
Cancelled due to inclement weather. Rescheduled for March 17.

March 17
Rescheduled from February 17.
Les Parks, Curator of Herbaceous Plants, Norfolk Botanical Garden, presented "Tidewater Winter Garden", a "plant-centric" program on the best and brightest plants for beauty, fragrance and sustainability in the Tidewater garden. he gve the cultrual information and suggested the more hearty and reliable cultivars of many types of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Les also provided tips for designing a beautiful, sustainable winter garden. His knowledge is based on practical application in his own gardens and those at the Botanical Garden. The handout with detailed plant lists in each category and winter garden design tips is below.

The Tidewater Garden in Winter

April 21
Gill Gillespie, Norfolk Master Gardener, presented “Spring Vegetable Gardening the Right Way.” Since 1991, Gill has been in charge of every vegetable garden planted at the Virginia Zoo...first the Heirloom Garden, then the Virginia Barnyard Garden and now the African Village Garden. So, Gill knows vegetables very well! In this program, Gill gave a step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare, install and maintain the most successful vegetable garden you’ve ever grown. His “grounds up” approach started with a nutrient balanced soil and covered picking, spacing and installing the right plants or seeds. He offered a garden design, provided a proven timetable for planting spring garden vegetables in our area and discussed the proper methods of watering and fertilizing. Gill is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on vegetable gardening and every level of vegetable gardener from inexperienced beginner to seasoned veteran benefited from this program. His practical and time-tested knowledge is a boon to all.  He provided the handouts listed below.

Fertilizing Vegetable Garden information

Soil sample info

Tidewater Vegetable Planting Schedule

Watering information and sample garden design

May 21
Lynnette Swanson, former Virginia Cooperative Education Extension Agent, gave a presentation and demonstration on making organic solutions to use for home and beauty. Her handout with formulas and tips is below.

Cleaning Ideas and Formulas

June 17
Amanda Lotas and Shiela Williams presented a unique and space-saving means to grown your own food either infdoors or outdoors. The Tower Garden, an aeroponic system, offers a novel way to grow fruits and veggies year round. They also discussed the benefits of a healthy life-style and keeps to keep us all in shape. For more information check the links below.

The Tower Garden 
Videos on how to use the Tower Garden

Restaurant using Tower Garden

July 21
Rogard Ross, Friends of Indian River, presented a program "Urban Forests and Backyard Habitats" disucssing the need for preserving trees in the urban landscape. His program highlighted the need for planting trees, the benefits from such plantings and discussed the best trees to use in our local environment. He also discussed the Inidan River Park in Chesapeake and its trails with over 40 native trees. For more information on the Park and the Friends of Indian River, check their website. A list of labeled and non-labeled trees in the park can be found on the site below.

Friends of Indian River

August 18
Ed Bradley, Chesapeake Master Gardener, presented "Native Tree Travels in Coastal Zone Eight" a pictorial tour of the best native trees from Virginia to Florida. He hightlighted locations to see trees, the trees that can be found in these areas and the cultural information of each of the trees. His list of locations and trees is found below.
This program was an excellent follow-up to the previous month's "Urban Forests and Backyard Habitats".

Native Trees in Coastal Zone Eight

Garden Talks 2014

January 21
"Edible Gardening" with Wendy Isles cancelled due to inclement weather. Program is rescheduled for July 15.

February 18
Vickie Pepper, Norfolk Botanical Garden, presented a program on getting started with seeds and herbaceous cuttings. She discussed how to pick the appropriate seed for starting indoors and how to plant, maintain and divide them to get a head start on your spring garden. She also talked about the tools of the trade that make the process of seed starting easier. Chop sticks play an important role in transplanting!!! She also discussed taking herbaceous cuttings and starting them for later transplant in gardens or containers. As usual, she wowed the crowd. Her handout is listed below.

Propagation 101

March 18
Doug Spencer, Virginia Beach Master Gardener, presented "The Art of Japanese Maples". He discussed the history, culture and care of the trees and gave the top 6 cultivars for southern gardens. He showed examples of the different leaf types and answered questions regarding propogation, care and types.

Below is a list of handouts and resource information from Doug's program:

    Japanese Maple Varieties (carried by most nurseries)

    Fertilizing Japanese Maples

    Best Fertilizer for Japanese Maples

    Southern Living Magazine Top 6 Japanese Maple Trees

    Pruning Japanese Maples (includes pruning diagrams for upright and laceleaf varieties)

    Virginia Tech Extension Publication-Japanese Maples

April 15
Doug Spencer, Virginia Beach Master Gardener, spoke about the ever popular orchid. His talk focused on the 3 easiest orchids giving their characteristics, potting and repotting, fertilization, light requirement, pruning, how to keep them blooming and troubleshooting common problems.. He presented a powerpoint program with a variety of photos and helpful tips and hints. He also answered questions and discussed "problem plants" that attendees had brought to share.

Below are some helpful websites for more information on orchids and their care:   About Orchids website has a variety of sections on all topics  Information on easy orchids Nice website with valuable info  Commercial website with info, sales and a newsletter Index for a variety of forums on orchids Source for ordering orchids

May 2014
The Pasquotank Master Gardeners presented a wonderful program on vertical gardening. They demonstrated numerous creative ways to "garden up" using salvaged and everyday materials. Everything from gutters to picture frames were used to create one of a kind containers and garden accents. A unique tomato cage and birdhouse with a living roof were highlights of the program. A tiered container garden of herbs showed that planting an herb garden is possible for everyone, even those with small spaces.

June 2014
Winnie Dunn, Virginia Bonsai Society, demonstrated how to simply and easily create bonsai using purchased or gathered plant material. She discussed the basics of the art, the different styles of bonsai, how to pick the correct pot and plant, how to begin styling and how to keep the bonsai happy and healthy. Bonsai is a state of mind and Winnie easily conveyed that it doesn't have to be difficult to be successful and enjoyable. Her relaxed nature and easy demeanor conveyed that this garden art is truly one to be enjoyed.

Information on the Virginia Bonsai Society can be found here.

July 2014
Wendy Isles, Hampton Grows, showed how to incorporate edibles into your landscape effectively. Using photos of her own yard and other installed edible gardens, she demonstrated that anyone can have "their landscape and eat it too!" Her creative use of vegetables, herbs and fruits was inspiring and left everyone hungry to plant something edible! She is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainabilty and responsibility in gardening. It is both practical and attractive to include edibles in your general landscape.

For more information on Hampton Grows and its mission, programs and how to volunteer, click here.

August 2014
Lynnette Swanson presented a talk and demonstration on creating organic non-toxic cleaners and personal and garden products. She discussed the reasons for using natural products including the ability to control the ingredients, healthier for pets and family, loser costs overall, use of items from your garden and benefit to the environment. Her handout with formulas and hints is attached below.

Natural Cleaning Formulas and Hints

September 2014
"Bulbs as Companion Plants" presented by The Backyard Gardeners discussed the natural pairing of spring blooming bulbs and perennials. Providing more garden interest, getting more bang for your buck, extending the color in your garden, offering greater design options, filling in empty areas and disguising dying bulb foliage are reasons for planting bulbs and perennials together. Examples of successful pairings as determined by Cornell Unversity research were shown with other local favorites. Taking into consideration design elements like color, shape and texture of plants can also create more effective plantings.

For program handout, "Bulbs and Perennials...Hand in Hand", listing why to pair bulbs and perennials and the best combinations, click here.

October 2014
Frank Walker, Master Naturalist and Tidewater Beekeeper, spoke on the relationship between the home gardener and the local water sources. He presented information on how the decisions made by "backyard gardeners" effect the health of the bay and consesquently the health of many species of plants and animals. Frank gave information including surprising statistics on the Chesapeake Bay and its watersheds and how to help maintain them. He discussed Chesapeake Bay Foundation initiatives to help save and clean the Bay providing a cleaner and safer waterway for both humans and wildlife. He highlighted several programs including the Oyster Restoration Project. For more information on programs and resources provided by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, click on the link below.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation 
Tabs for About the Bay and How We Save the Bay offer a wealth of information.

November 2014
Jason Heizer, Bartlett Tree Experts, presented a program on the types of winter damage that can effect your landscape plants including trees, shrubs and perennials, how to recognize the cause and how to repair the damage. He also gave suggestions on preventing a variety of injuries that can occur in winter and gave lists of plants that are less susceptible to the ravages of winter dropping temperatures, freesing precipatation and drying winds. He showed a variety of photos of each type of damage to help attendees determine the culprit and thus be able to effectively remediate the problem. He also answered questions from individual homeowners.

Bartlett's website offers a variety of informational publishings on a variety of topics on their website here.

For a complete list of research based resources available on the website, click here. Specific information can be found under each Residential Service topic including information on Winter DryingWinter Injury on Landscape Plants and Mulch Application.

To be added to the Bartlett Tree Experts mailing list to receive hardcopies of the Tree Tips newsletter or other mailings or email information, send a request to or to

December 2014

The Backyard Gardeners presented their annual Holiday Reception and a workshop on "Growing Oyster Mushrooms". A brief program was given on how to grow the edible mushrooms at home in easily gathered materials and all attendees received a kit containing mushroom spawn, sawdust, coffee grounds and instructions on how to plant, grow and harvest oyster mushrooms. For this project, the sawdust and coffee grounds are the growing medium or substrate for the mushrooms. Information was also given on additional materials to use as substrates. (A link for growing the mushrooms in a toliet paper roll is given in the instructions...very cool!!!) Links for recipes using the mushrooms were also included in the instructions. The instruction sheet and additional resources on growing your own spawn are also listed below.

Growing Oyster Mushroom Instructions

One of the easiest ways to start mushroom is to grown your own spawn from mushrooms you bought or grew. Take any parts of the mushrooms that you are going to discard (stems or damaged mushroom caps), cut or tear them into small pieces, wrap them in a few moistened paper towels and put them in a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the paper bag and then place it inside a plastic bag. Do not tie the plastic bag closed. Set it in your refirigerator and wait! Check the bag after about 3 or 4 weeks to see if any mycelia (white fuzzy growth) has started to attach to the paper towels. If not, put back in the refrigerator and wait a few more weeks. Once growth has become consistent, you can take sections of the paper towel that are well colonized or innoculated with the mycelia and plant them in your mushroom growing substrate. The mycelia is the beginning of the growth of the mushrooms that will later fruit and grow into the edible caps.

How to make spawn from grown or store bought mushrooms:

Mushroom spawn on cardboard

Growing Oyster Mycleium

 "Garden Talk" handouts from previous years can be found under Archived Info tab.
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