Garden Committee

Small garden plots are available to residents on River Towers’ grounds at the rear of the property. The plots may be used to grow fruit, plants, flowers, and vegetables, but trees may not be planted. (See the garden rules for more information.) Garden tools are available in the garden shed. Hoses are provided as well.

To get an application (new or renewal), stop by the RT Management Office or download a copy of the new gardener application.

A $30 annual fee is payable by check or money order for a garden plot. The Chair of the Garden Committee will review applications and assign plots to residents on an “as available” basis. If you have questions, please contact the Garden Committee Chair through the Management Office.

2019 Garden Timeline

March 4—deadline for renewal applications from returning gardeners

March 15—deadline for new gardener applications

March 20—meeting of all gardeners (new and returning) at 7:30 pm in the Club Room (31 bldg.)

March 23—Spring Cleanup Day, 9 am to noon. Meet in the garden dressed for work. (Rain day fallback: March 30)

May 1—Garden Committee Meeting in the picnic grove at 7pm. (Meet in the Club Room if it rains.) All gardeners are invited.

May 1—the deadline for starting work on individual plots. The garden chair will contact you if your plot shows no sign of having been worked on by that date.

June 5—Garden Committee Meeting in the picnic grove at 7pm. (Meet in the Club Room if it rains.) All gardeners are invited. Our agenda includes problem-solving on  matters such as maintenance of unclaimed plots, missing items, mosquito larvae, and use of crop nets and tarps. Dianne will provide light refreshments. Feel free to bring any drinks and snacks of your own.

September 10—Garden Committee Meeting in the picnic grove at 7pm. (Meet in the Club Room if it rains.) We have a busy agenda that includes, among other things (1) a new effort to tackle the bamboo grass and other invasives in partnership with the National Park Service, (2) update on status of garden plots and the landfill, (3) your concerns and some notable successes, and (4) plans for fall cleanup. Your input is important so please make every effort to attend.

Nov 9—Fall Cleanup

Messages from the Garden Committee Chair

Summary of Garden Committee Meeting, Sept. 10

Attendees (15): Susi Biondo, Kat Brophy, Linda Brown, Carolyn Burnett, Larry Grewell, Meg Jonas, Barbara MacDonald, William Peck, Ken Schantz, Jim Shanahan, Mike Sieracki, Jennifer Smith, Dianne Snyder (chair), Terri Vago, Daniel Williams

Main points addressed:  

  • Inventory of garden plotsAn inventory of all garden plots, performed by Dianne and Susi, established three categories of plots—actively gardened (42), neglected or abandoned (6), and potentially available (16). The third category ranged from plots that needed little to no tilling to those requiring extreme remediation measures to become suitable for planting.  

  • Joint effort with National Park Service to remove bamboo grassFollowing up on a suggestion made at the previous meeting, the Garden Chair set up a meeting with Mireya Stirzaker, an NPS Natural Resources Specialist, to discuss how the Park Service could assist in eradicating invasive bamboo grass growing in RT garden plots and adjacent NPS land. The Park Service protocol calls for a targeted spraying of Roundup on affected plants this fall, followed by inspection in the spring and a second spraying, if needed, of any surviving shoots. This NPS effort is contingent on our following a similar protocol on our side of the fence—or making a massive effort to dig up the bamboo by hand (the roots can go down a foot or more and they send out trailers three or more feet long). Several gardeners who had previously opposed the use of Roundup said they had changed their minds in view of the NPS offer. A vote was taken; the results were 12 for using it, 2 opposed, 1 abstained. The work is expected to be carried out in late October. It was agreed that the spraying on our side of the fence would be done by Craig Rische, who is specially trained in use of herbicides. Prior to spraying, he will weed whack the affected areas, which cover approximately four potentially reclaimable plots along the eastern boundary of the garden.

  • Request to purchase rototiller for gardenGardeners agreed to resubmit a request to the board to approve an offer of $250 to buy Craig’s rototiller for exclusive use in the garden. (The previous request was tabled by the board.)  Craig bought the Troy-bilt tiller new for $400. The funds remaining in this year’s garden budget are sufficient to cover the cost. Larry Grewelle recommended that  the request be submitted in October after installation of the new board members.   

  • Impending resignation of garden committee chairThe Garden Chair announced her resignation, effective at the end of this year. She will be happy to discuss the details of the job with anyone interested in taking over. [Postscript: Sidney Brown, a former garden chair has volunteered. If no other applicants declare themselves, the position is hers for the taking, pending submission of her Letter of Interest and board approval.]

Additional matters discussed:

  1. Equipment: Community weed whacker—Gardeners who have used the whacker, or considered using it, complained about the inconvenience of having the battery stored in the office, which was often closed at weekend hours when gardeners wanted to weed whack. Community rototiller—The rototiller, if purchased, could be stored in the garden since it is fuel-powered. Gardeners agreed that training should be required for all gardeners using RT equipment.

  2. Landfill: It may be time to retire the current landfill and designate another plot for filling. Two task for fall cleanup would be to add soil/mulch to hasten the degradation of the contents and to select a plot in need of restoration to serve as the new landfill.  

  3. Garden cloth/plastic sheeting—Several gardeners reported tripping over stakes used to fasten garden cloth/sheeting to the ground. The cloth/sheeting should be secured with metal clamps (shaped like staples) pushed in flush to the ground. If stakes are used, they should be marked with clearly visible bright colors.

  4. Possible purchases: A decision was made, at Mike’s suggestion, to purchase a boot brush and install it by the shed. The particulars (model, cost, source of funds, etc.) will be worked out by Mike and Susi. Jim will look into the possibility of our acquiring solar panels as an energy source to light the shed and power the weed whacker. 

  5. Garden successesWorth a Brass Ring: (1) the transformation of Nina’s former plot to a place of beauty and contemplation by new owners Sidney and Mary Jo; (2)  William’s veggies, especially that elephant-eye-high corn; (3) Susi’s colorful makeover of the Pearson’s former plot, especially the Mexican sunflowers, for which Sidney shared the seeds from her own plot and Susi spread the goodies by gifting seed packets to the rest of us (look for a forest of giant sunflowers next summer!) ; and (4) the quiet behind-the-scenes work of Ken, Daniel, and Jim, on behalf of us all, to clear unclaimed plots, tend the community berry patch, and even out the landfill. Many thanks for your work!    

Looking ahead

Fall cleanup—To be held Saturday, Nov. 9. Linda offered to assist Dianne with preparations, including drawing up a task sheet.

New Garden Committee Chair—Meet with retiring chair to take over “the books” and review tasks typically done over the winter to prepare for next season.

Garden News

Please email your submissions (text and photos) to Dianne.

Places to Purchase Plants

Greenstreet Gardens

Holly, Woods, and Vines

Home Depot in Mt. Vernon Plaza

Lowes in Beacon Center

Nature By Design

Old Town Ace Hardware

Whole Foods

Local Plant Sales

American Horticultural Society Spring Garden Market at River Farm, April 12 & 13

Mt. Vernon Historic Plant and Garden Sale, April 27 to May 27

Farmers Markets--Old Town (Saturday mornings), Sherwood Hall Library parking lot (Wednesday mornings). Some vendors sell plants and herbs.

Old Town Farmers Market (a few vendors often have plants)

Seed Catalogs

Park Seed

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (located in central Virginia)

Territorial Seed Company

Bulb Catalogs

Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Schreiner's Iris Gardens


Free Mulch

Fairfax County operates a brush grinding operation which produces double-shredded wood mulch for residents. You can pick it up at multiple locations.

If you have a friend who lives in Alexandria, you can ask them to go with you to pick up free mulch at 4215 Eisenhower Avenue.

        * Note that you'll need to bring your own shovel and bucket.


Fairfax County Master Gardeners

Fairfax County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension and their Vegetable Planting Guide and Recommended Planting Dates

Green Spring Garden

Master Gardener help line at Virginia Cooperative Extension: 703-228-6414

Virginia Native Plant Society

Don't forget about your fellow gardeners. Many of the experienced gardeners are generous with their advice and tips.