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The Bees, Creigh Deeds, and the DMV

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | No Comments

By Tom Sherman

Samantha Gallagher with the finished plate she designed.  Photo by Claire Harper.

Samantha Gallagher with the finished plate she designed. Photo by Claire Harper.

Long before she designed a license plate commemorating native pollinators, Alexandria resident Sam Gallagher always liked bees. Even in grade school, when her primordial instincts should have been acutely aware of their evolutionary danger. Read more

Get your Soil Right–Use Lobsters Even!

Posted on | April 11, 2015 | No Comments

by Ray Greenstreet

In the Dirt--Bumper CropSpring fever is sweeping our area. Warmer days have us dreaming of gardens lush with abundant growth and vibrant color. What does it take to be a success in the garden? What secret does your neighbor know that you don’t? The answer may surprise you.

It’s all about the roots……It’s all about your soil. A customer can buy the best plant, one we have grown right here on our farm, but if the customer’s soil(s) is poor, lacking aeration, poor porosity, poor ion exchange capacity (nutrient holding capacity), nutrient deficiencies and it is hard as a rock, they will not be a success. They will have to work twice as hard to have half of the results. The best investment a gardener can make to become a success, is to put “money in the ground.” Invest in the root zone of your plants; this one step will make a poor gardener an overnight star. It not only will reduce a lot of frustration and worry, but will save money, produce heathier plants, reduce disease, increase drought tolerance and utilize fertilizer and water more efficiently.

Most soil in Alexandria is either clay or concrete – neither of which is hospitable to growing much. Properly preparing the planting bed or container is the first step to success. It is an easy step, after cleaning off any dead plant material, old leaves, weeds or trash that may have blown in over the winter. Then work in a soil amendment. Added to existing soil, a good organic amendment will help correct soil deficiencies, soil structure, and nutrient deficiencies. It improves physical and biological characteristics of the soil, improves porosity, aeration, water holding capacity. It will increase organic content, to improve and better utilize fertilizer. The bottom line… a soil amendment is great gardening insurance.

Over the years successful gardeners used to add homemade compost, manure, egg shells, coffee grinds and all short of items to improve the garden soil. These all work just fine, and anything you do to improve your soil will help improve your garden.

After many years of gardening, and watching my parents prepare our family garden and flower beds when I was growing up, I have found a complete soil amendment I love and highly recommend. I normally don’t talk about one product over another in this column; however this is one I have to talk about to make our gardeners more successful.

Bumper Crop Organic Soil Amendment, produced by the Coast of Maine, is my favorite garden product; my favorite key success in the garden. Bumper Crop is seafood based and super charged with worm castings (adds great biology), composted shell fish, (lobster shells), composted cow manure, kelp meal, dehydrated poultry manure, and mycorrhizae. Nearly all plants rely on mycorrhizal fungi for nutrients and moisture. The plant performs photosynthesis and other above-ground functions, and the fungi handle underground nutrition-gathering and protect the roots. Soils are greatly improved by the fungi sending millions of tiny root-threads far out from the plant roots. These root-threads separate clay platelets to allow essential air and water into the root zone, or will bind together sandy soil to form a moisture-holding biomass. Marginal, salty, and damaged soils can often be made productive with the introduction of mycorrhizal fungi.

Soil amendments should be added in a 70/30 mix (70% existing soil to 30% amendment). If your soil is exceptionally heavy with clay, go a little heavier with the amendment. Till it into the ground at least a foot; the deeper, the better. When planting a tree, perennial or shrub add it to the hole you dig and work it in around the new planted root ball.

In the Dirt--LobsterOver the years we spend a great deal of time looking for products that make sense, ones that improve our gardener’s chance of success. Products that have been perhaps something else or are a bi-product that we can use in the garden, that we can repurposed instead of ending up in a landfill. Lobster compost is just one of those products. What in the world do they do with all those Maine lobsters shells? Dump them in the ocean? Put them in the land fill? No! Compost them for our gardeners. One of the other challengers that face vegetable gardeners is blossom end rot on that beautiful tomato you have been watching ripen, only to rot on the end just before you harvest. Blossom end rot is a lack of moisture and calcium to the tomato fruit; calcium is the number one nutrient plants need. Lobster compost is body or shells of a lobster after the meat has been removed. The shell has nitrogen in it, calcium from the shell is release as the shell compost, it rich in chitin which feed the microorganisms that feed on it and excrete waste which is food for the plants. It is rich in humic acid great for growing roots, it a sweet organic amendment that works fantastic in your vegetable gardens, also for roses, and lilacs.

As a greenhouse grower, I don’t look at all the pretty flowers on our benches. I look at the roots; it’s all about the world many of us never think about. As I walk our greenhouses I’m constantly looking at the roots & knocking plants out of the pots. It amazes me you don’t hear more about the soils and roots. It really is the key to success in the greenhouse, in your vegetable garden or in your pots. A whole world of bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae, and protozoa, plant roots, mycorrhizal fungi, chemical reactions are just below the soil surface. The good news is you don’t need to be a soil scientist to be a great gardener. Just a little common sense, thinking about soil, add a good amendment and/or compost and let Mother Nature do the rest.

One final important ingredient: Seek advice. My garden center staff loves to talk about plants, and they’ll help you make well-informed choices. Because “Success Grows Here” at Greenstreet Gardens.

8th Annual Meet the Legends Reception

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | No Comments

First row, left-right, Nina Tisara, Mayor Bill Euille, Joyce Rawlings, Councilwoman Del Pepper; second row, Kathleen Baker, Kate Campbell Stevenson representing Marga Fripp, Fred Parker, Alice P. Morgan, Councilman John Chapman and Gayle Reuter. Photo by Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography.

First row, left-right, Nina Tisara, Mayor Bill Euille, Joyce Rawlings, Councilwoman Del Pepper; second row, Kathleen Baker, Kate Campbell Stevenson representing Marga Fripp, Fred Parker, Alice P. Morgan, Councilman John Chapman and Gayle Reuter. Photo by Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography.

Over 200 people gathered for the 8th Annual Meet the Legends reception on March 19 at the Patent & Trademark Office Madison Building. Guests included the 2015 Living Legends of Alexandria: Kathleen Baker, Kate Campbell Stevenson representing Marga Fripp who was out of the country, Alice P. Morgan, Fred Parker, Joyce Rawlings, Gayle Reuter and Nina Tisara. Though city council had a budget workshop scheduled that evening, Mayor Bill Euille was able to stop by to congratulate the Legends as were Councilwoman Del Pepper and Councilman John Chapman.
Also in the audience were staff, teachers, students and parents from Commonwealth Academy (C/A). By way of background, last April, Living Legends founder Nina Tisara saw a quilt produced by students at C/A for the Holocaust Memorial program at Market Square. She was so impressed with the student’s work that she contacted the school to ask about possibilities for collaboration. The outcome was the production of digital portraits, ceramic clocks with working mechanisms, unique silkscreen designs–all gifts for the Legends–and an outstanding Tribute video . The video which received a standing ovation illustrates the value of the Living Legends Project. It not only weaves together and chronicles the stories of the Legends but it inspires people…like the young people who made the video. Living Legends continues to explore ways to be a resource to the community and especially its young people.

On Watch March Madness

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | No Comments

By Marcus Fisk
“…to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and… to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest…”
Preamble to the Charter of the United Nation’s
June 26, 1945

By the time you read this, basketball’s ‘March Madness’ will be over and the [Airline] Crash News Network (CNN) and the Forever Obnoxious X-tremist (FOX) News will shift its focus again to the real March Madness – the further adventures of ISIS.
“What? ISIS, again?” But like an elephant in the room – it’s a tough thing to ignore.
While we were all enjoying the annual NCAA ‘Hoop-o-rama,’ following the latest titillating details of a deranged German airline pilot, or voting for our favorite on American Idol’s ‘Hollywood Final 164′ – ISIS and Boko Haram have continued their rage against humanity adding more notches on their guns and further honed their marketing efforts to attract young people to the Middle East and Africa to join in on the all fun and excitement of killing, destruction, and mayhem – and all in the name of God. Read more

Northern Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair Yields Many Local Winners

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | No Comments

From left to right: Daniel Alcazar-Roman (Science Curriculum Developer), Anne Booth (Program Manager for Curriculum Design and Services), Dr. John Brown (Executive Director of Curriculum Design and Services), Ana Humphrey, Ava Benbow, Shawn Lowe (T.C. Williams Science Teacher), and Dr. Terri Mozingo (Chief Academic Officer). Photo courtesy of ACPS.

From left to right: Daniel Alcazar-Roman (Science Curriculum Developer), Anne Booth (Program Manager for Curriculum Design and Services), Dr. John Brown (Executive Director of Curriculum Design and Services), Ana Humphrey, Ava Benbow, Shawn Lowe (T.C. Williams Science Teacher), and Dr. Terri Mozingo (Chief Academic Officer). Photo courtesy of ACPS.

Ana Humphrey, an eighth grader at George Washington, received the Best of Fair award for middle school students for her project, The Digital Identification of Bacteria Colony Forming Units Through MATLab.

Special recognition also goes to Isabella Lovain, a junior at T.C. Williams. She received a nomination to compete at the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair, which held at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA on March 27-28, 2015.

Additionally, Ana Humphrey, Ava Benbow, Emmett Cocke and Townson
Cocke received nominations for the 2015 Broadcom Masters (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars). This competition is the premier middle school science and engineering fair competition. Read more

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