Friday, October 2, 2020

Harvesting Herbs by Guest Blogger and Herb Department Manager Jen Kostick

Fall is by far my favorite time of year. The crisp cool air after the heat of summer, apples, spices, pumpkins, and the changing colors of the leaves. My only regret is that another gardening season is ending and it’s time to clean up and cut back.

With the falling temperatures, it is time for the final harvest. It is a bittersweet moment, cutting down the last of the fresh basil, but use this time to preserve your bounty and let your hard work grace your table until you can plant again.

Here are a few tips for harvesting your herbs and putting the garden to bed for the winter:

·         Think about how you will use your herbs over the winter. This makes a big difference. For example, while I’ve made and frozen pesto already this year, I’m much more likely to toss some dried basil in the pot while I’m cooking dinner. 


      Most of my basil will be dried this year so that I have it available for just that. Herbs can be frozen, dried, and even turned into herb butter, oil, and vinegar. With the coming holiday season, these make simple but thoughtful gifts!

           What did you wish you grew? What didn’t survive the week-long trip to the beach you finally got to take? There’s still time to plant perennial herbs! Chives, lavender, oregano, sage, and thyme will overwinter beautifully in this area. If you have a dedicated area for mint you can plant that as well, but it can be quite aggressive so be careful where you plant it.


·         While I only have a little luck bringing my herbs in for the winter, there are many varieties that will do well inside in a sunny area. They may not look as lush as they did over the summer, but they survive well inside with minimal care and it’s a great way to get a jump start on the season. Scented geraniums, bay, myrtle, rosemary, and even lemongrass survive for me in a southern window. Just remember that while they don’t like the soil to be soaking wet all the time, you do have to water occasionally. Whoops!


·         Harvest! Get out there and harvest! Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Offer fresh herbs to friends and co-workers, try adding a new herb to that dinner you’re cooking, or look up new recipes. This year I Googled recipes with lemon verbena. I’ve grown it for years and rarely used it. I’m super excited to try spaghetti with lemon verbena grilled chicken! And remember you can preserve herbs by drying, freezing, and making butters, oils, and vinegars – even in crafts! I make catnip mice for my cats, as well as shoe sachets out of old socks.


·         Finally, after a hard frost, remember to get out there and clean up. Cut back the perennial herbs to encourage new, tender growth in the spring. Take out annual herbs and, if they are disease and pest free, add them to the compost pile. Cover the area with straw so that weeds don’t spring up. Cleaning the area now means that come Spring, all you’ll have to do is plant and not deal with last year’s mess. I think we can all agree, we don’t want any part of 2020 in 2021!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Sunday Gardener

 The Sunday Gardener returned to the airwaves on WBAL TV 11 two weeks ago. What a pleasure it is working with the people of WBAL, with the professionalism, dedication, and experience their people bring to the people of Maryland every day. Tommy, our photographer for the next several segments, is celebrating his 33rd anniversary at the station. My former colleague, of over 25 years, John Collins, has been with them even longer. Here he is with Susie Creamer, the director of The Patterson Park Audubon Center. 

Ava Marie and Tony Pann are both veterans at the station. Tony was there in 1993 when I first began answering plant and garden questions at the station. Both bring unique perspectives to the Sunday Gardener as they take turns to bring timely tips to our viewers.

Tony is wowed by the scope of subjects and new terms he learns as we shoot the episodes.

Ava is genuinely interested as we take on environmental lessons from gardening, like composting, and pollination. I am constantly amazed at how all of our gardening lessons are impacted by the weather, both globally, and in the micro-climates of our yards.  

We look forward to bringing some fun and knowledge to our gardening friends, both through TV and through our facebook pages, Valley View Farms Nursery and Garden Center, and, The Sunday Gardener on WBAL TV

Thank you to Jess, Tim, Dan, and Don at WBAL and to everyone else that helps us out at both the station and here at Valley View Farms. We appreciate your support.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Kay Foard

Kay on a visit to Longwood Gardens
The Foard family lost their matriarch earlier this week. And many of us at Valley View Farms feel that Kay was the matriarch of the Valley View Farms' family as well. Kay had style; she would stop in to see what might be new in our patio and pottery departments or choose some flowering perennials for her patio border.
Billy and Kay hosted our plant department party for years

She and Billy had container gardens all around their home. Not a big houseplant fan, Kay did grow some herbs in her home. I was in charge of watering one year while they vacationed. I never saw the rosemary in the front window. It didn't make it. I lost all credibility as a plant 'expert' that year.
Kay and Billy

Kay always had a smile. She'd ask about our families and had kind words for everyone around her. My friends and family became her friends, as she was open to new people and adventures in her life every day.
Kay, Julie, Jan, Mary, Susie, and Janet making wreaths 
Kay and Susie assembling wreaths

She had several loves in her life, husband, Billy, children Lisa and her partner Lisa, Andy, and Stuart and his wife Debra, and her four grandchildren, Kaylin, Will, Jackson, and Mason. Kay also loved her horses. She rode daily for many years. Of course, she adored her dogs. At one point, four labs rested on the Foard's front porch in Phoenix, MD. Kay was such a giver too. She would walk my large German Shepherd on weekends in the spring when she knew I would be getting home late from work. Tucker loved her.
Kay and Andy at the O's game!
Berta, Nancy, Kay, and daughter Lisa 
Kay and her grandsons Mason and Jackson (a few years ago)

Kay loved to spend time with friends and took many day trips, attended book club meetings, and shared many a bottle of wine and conversation with them. The two of us shared books and talked about topics far removed from the garden center business. Kay was intelligent and very well-read, keeping up with world events and local happenings in her country town.

Jan and Kay at Winterthur Garden Festival

Thinking of Kay makes me think of Billy too. How I miss them. Checking in on Billy's garden, and having a beer on the front porch viewing their beautiful property is a memory to be ever-cherished. Thank you, and everyone in the Foard family for your love of people and love of life. It is a beautiful legacy that has been passed by your remarkable parents. May they rest in peace.
View of the property from the pond
Pre-renovation Foard farmhouse

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Gardening Has Not Been Canceled

Gardening here in Maryland has taken on new life. I've been lucky enough to work through this pandemic, but have spent much more time at home in late afternoons and evenings. Plants are flourishing; tomatoes are too abundant to use immediately after harvest.  Luckily, they're plum tomatoes, so I'll freeze them for use later. 

Two weeks before the harvest

 Summertime, as usual here in Maryland, flips between drought and tropical storm-induced heavy rains. A friend who lives in Southern Maryland has had 11 inches or more of rain this past week! Her fruit trees have floated up into her pasture, roots and all. Still, with all of its challenges, gardening gives us a nice break from the news of the day and allows us to nurture nature on our own terms. 

Walking through the garden center today, I've made plans for more planting. The vegetable garden gets a restart. I consider this season 3 in the garden. The first round in March-April was for peas, cole crops, and lettuce. Season 2---tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and zucchini. Season 3 will include broccoli, lettuce, and beets in my own garden, planted in pots around the patio. 

Spinach, Swiss Chard and Lettuces

Great time to plant herbs too!

Coneflowers, hardy hibiscus, sedum, ornamental grasses, asters, and mums are a few things that can be planted and give the garden color for another couple of months. Rudbeckia, heliopsis, the aforementioned coneflowers, and coreopsis all feature daisy-shaped flowers with seed centers that birds will love long after the plants finish blooming. 

Hardy hibiscus blooms are dinner plate size
Ornamental grasses

Sedum a few weeks before color


Captivating coneflowers

Black-eyed Susans


Pond plants are blooming too. Lotus, waterlilies, and cannas add color to the water garden. The Koi bring delight to everyone. Watching kids feed the koi with enthusiasm is a highlight at the big pond daily at 12:30. 

David topping off the ponds

Water gardens

During storms and times that it is just too hot outside, we move inside with houseplants. Decorating with plants is fun; choosing the right pot to go with our plant and inside spaces brings a bit of nature inside. 

The dracaena is on its way to a new home

Gardening was not canceled this year. We've met many new gardeners. Please use our resources, including signage, handouts, and knowledgeable people, many who are passionate gardeners themselves. 

Keep calm and garden on!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Father's Day

Father's Day is the day we switch gears from spring to summer in many departments in the store. Many of our key people, including our managers, work on weekends most of the year, including holidays. They all manage to find that all-important time to bond with their families. Here are some of the dads with their kids. Happy Father's Day to all of you!

Brian and Matt take a break during our filming of commercials last winter
Brian and son Matthew

Tim poses with sons Nick and Timothy

Joe with his wife, Raina, and daughter Stella, will be at the State Fairgrounds this weekend with their pig. 

John with daughters Madelyn and Meredith

John with Brittany, Tyler, and Ashley

Carter with his dad, Don

Don with daughter Nicole

Matt with Leah and Aiden

Mike with Thomas and Michele

Matt with daughter Evelyn and wife Audrey

Andy with sons Jackson and Mason

Enjoy your Father's Day! We all love and appreciate everything our dads do for us every day. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Our Phones are Open for Orders of Vegetable Plants, Herbs, Fruit Trees, Berries and Gardening and Pond Supplies

What a strange spring it has been for all of us. We were experiencing our busiest March ever, when on March 21, we decided to close to traffic to reset our store for better social distancing. Then the Governor called with a stay at home order.
Andy, boss and decision maker, running the command center
We took our time, opening the day after Easter for phone call orders that could be picked up the next day.  Offering contact-less pickup has been a great way to allow gardeners to keep going, especially with vegetable gardens.
Tim showing the way for parking lot pickup
Joe and Doug ready to gather orders together

Shopping carts and wagons ready for pickup
Our website,, has the instructions and procedures for phone sales. We have lists of our vegetable and herb transplants online; fruit trees and berries are listed too. Ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals are not offered for sale right now.

Our large parking lot is perfect for garden pickups
Our garden shop is offering mulches, soils, fertilizers, vegetable seeds and other gardening essentials.

Got seeds?
Our pond department has fish food, and items necessary for good pond health. We are offering bird feed too.
Matt is ready to take your order for garden fertilizers, mulch and more
Larger orders of mulch, soils and the fruit trees may also be delivered to the surrounding area. Call us for details.
Marian taking your phone orders.

Our in-store staff has been limited to our managers and other salaried employees.
We miss our co-workers beyond measure. What a job they do for us! We can't wait to call them back whenever our store is able to open again for foot traffic. Their safety (and yours) was our reason for closing and reevaluating our space. When we do reopen, rest assured that all social distancing and other protocols will be in place.
John, donning his PPE, gets orders ready for pickup
We miss our customers too. It has been nice to pickup a call and recognize many of your voices. Thank you all so much for your continued support during this challenging time. We all recognize the huge benefits of gardening. This year, more than ever, we're looking to grow our own food by planting Victory Gardens for our time.
Let us choose your vegetable plants for you once they've been ordered from our lists
Many of you have called to grow more herbs...we are assuming we have several people who are expanding their culinary skills.
Scott is taking orders for budding fruit growers
And, our nursery manager, Scott, had taken many fruit tree order so we may see more small orchards popping up in our neighborhoods.
We wish everyone well and hope we can open soon to offer the service and selection that we are used to providing.
Be well and garden on!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Spring Excitement, Houseplant Happening!

Spring is now days away, beginning March 19. Our customers are ready for it. Our store, greenhouse, nursery lot, statuary area, perennials, and pottery area are filling up fast.St. Patrick's Day is an important date for vegetable gardeners; it means its time to plant potatoes, onion sets and peas. What a great time of year, filled with anticipation and excitement for planting! Our friend, Martin Gottlieb, from Smart Pots, will be hosting a class on Vegetable Gardening at 10:30 Saturday. Marty has proven to be one of our most popular presenters.

In the meantime, houseplant interest has gone through the roof! Our Houseplant Extravaganza event on Saturday hopes to address the current houseplant craze. People have learned that all plants have healthy side effects for we humans. Plants help us mentally and physiologically in ways that we learn more about each and every day. To that end, our event hopes to give attendees the means to care for houseplants, including them in wellness strategies in their homes and workplaces.

On March 14, we will host a Houseplant Extravaganza! From 9 am until 4 pm, our greenhouse will be bustling with activities highlighting various seminars and events. Here is our schedule for the day.

7 am Doors open, allowing browsers and those interested to mingle among the plants at their leisure

9 am Jen leads a class that will mount Staghorn Ferns on plaques for display on a wall in their homes

10 am Cynthia's seminar will identify the Top 10 Easy Plants for the Beginner
Cynthia loves the White Bird of Paradise

11 am The days' highlight, our annual Hip Houseplant Revue takes place. Our own stylist, Cindi, will pair plants and pottery together to take the center runway in our greenhouse. Valley View Farms' staff, and our guests, will showcase various plants while Eric waxes poetic about each plant, describing its assets and care. Houseplant stylist and influencer Hilton Carter joins us as well and will be available after the show, along with our staff, to answer questions.  This event has been lots of fun for us and for our guests.


Eric goes over care and feeding of plants

Special transport vehicles available

Our customers walk the runway too

Cindi and Andrew about to walk the runway

Where's the red carpet?

12 pm We'll gather to continue to converse about the availability of houseplants, talk to guests about the spring season, soon-to-arrive tropicals, annuals, perennials and much more. Guest Hilton Carter, as well as our own plant influencers on staff, will all be on hand to answer questions.

1 pm Make a Fishbowl Terrarium with some guidance from us. Choose 3 plants; layer stone, charcoal and, soil, then put it all together in a fishbowl. The terrarium project starts at $25.

2 pm Epiphytes include many orchids, ferns, and bromeliads. Our class today hopes to engage more interest in this fascinating group of plants.

3 pm Houseplant Q & A rounds-up the day's activities, providing a forum for everyone to share information about houseplants (and other plants).

All Day
 Adopt a Plant: Choose a plant, container and help us in repotting. Take care instructions home, allow us to take your photo together and have a record of your new plant companion.

Plant Clinic: Have some challenges with your current houseplants? Bring them in for a diagnosis and care plan. Our experts will be here to help.

Please review our Revue by taking a moment to reach out to us on facebook, our website or in-person to help us plan additional fun events centered around plants and gardening. We look forward to seeing you this weekend.

Thank you to  Fox Farm, Dramm, Espoma, Al and Sandy Hammer, Ellyn Feldman and all of the people who helped us put the event together.