Garden Dreams

kingstowne9Are your dreams about your vegetable garden and what you’ll harvest this year coming true? Are thoughts of big juicy tomatoes dancing in your brain becoming reality? Will you be able to can for the winter and feel confident your family is getting good quality? Will you have local garden bragging rights?

You thought you did everything correctly. Although the variety of tomato plants can be overwhelming, you planted the tomato varieties recommended for Virginia. You fantasized about Big Beef in a salad, canning Mountain Spring, and walking through the garden popping Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes in your mouth. Now you’re getting a few tomatoes, but those ugly, gross leaf spots ruined much of the crop and then the leaf wilting began. You’re not getting the tomatoes of your dreams to eat or share with neighbors. Where are the 10 to 15 pounds of fruit the plant was supposed to yield? You wish you had better luck.

But gardening is not all luck.

If you lived next door to a Green Spring Gardens Master Gardener, he or she would tell you that the first thing to do for a successful crop is to get a soil test. The ideal vegetable garden soil is deep, friable, well-drained, and has high organic matter content. Soil test kits are available from the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offices or at Green Spring Gardens. VCE will mail results with recommendations for correcting any deficiencies in your soil. VCE also has a tomato publication that gives guidance on growing tomatoes.

You can get help from Master Gardeners at the Fairfax County farmers markets or at the Green Spring Gardens Help Desk on Saturdays (4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312). You also can call the VCE help line at 703-324-5369, and your question will be answered by a Master Gardener.

If you don’t have your own neighborhood Master Gardener, why not become one? For information contact

Once you grow that perfect tomato, you might enjoy my favorite tomato dish. It’s my grandmother’s Panzanella (Tuscan bread and tomato) Salad.


4-6 large ripened tomatoes cut into large cubes
½ pound Italian bread, cubed (about 7-9 cups)**
1 ½ thinly sliced red onions
Garlic (optional)
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup Italian extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, torn into pieces
Salt/pepper to taste


Combine tomatoes, bread, and onions
Wisk the garlic (optional), vinegar and oil together
Pour the dressing over the bread salad and let it sit for 20 minutes
Add basil, salt and pepper to taste and toss


** Rosa Milano Rinaldo made her own bread for this salad but you can buy a good hearty Italian bread.

Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Gardens Master Gardener Intern

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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