Plan a garden in the D.C. area
Planning a garden can be a wonderful endeavor. Researching types of seeds to sow, learning what plants will grow most successfully and when, and reaping an eventual harvest makes the hard work worthwhile.
Thankfully, those new to gardening have plentiful information at their fingertips, from detailed instructions about how to start a vegetable garden from scratch to caring for plants on a year-round basis. Here is some basic information to get the novice gardener started.
Know where you are
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map, a scale used to determine a plant’s ability to survive in different temperatures, Washington, D.C., falls into Zone 7A, which is known for having the best of both warm and cool climates.
However, gardeners must take heed. The zone map leaves out data that can be crucial to growing specific plants and vegetables successfully. More detailed information about climate zones is available in gardening books. Also, a gardening expert from a local nursery or a landscaper can provide you with the expertise to determine the best plan for your lawn, including tips on lawn irrigation, mulching and landscaping.
Have the soil tested
Consumers can purchase soil-testing kits at gardening stores, although many master gardeners don’t put much faith in amateur testing methods. Having the soil tested by a reputable laboratory will reveal problems like high lead or arsenic content, which is especially common in urban areas.
A soil test should reveal adequate levels of necessary nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous. To prevent plant roots from coming in contact with toxic soil, gardeners can grow their plants on raised beds, a construction that can be assembled with the help of a vendor who is proficient in carpentry.
Investigate the land
Take the time to secure a good spot for planting. Those with limited space might consider container gardening. For gardens started outside, a sunny spot is an ideal place for some plants, such as full-sun perennials. Other plants thrive in the shade, like zucchini, lettuce, radishes and spinach.
Clear the desired area of weeds, grass and rocks. Check the yard for areas where you might need professional assistance with debris removal, such as a fallen tree limb. A service provider can also help with time-consuming tasks like rototilling, leaf removal, and fertilizer application, all crucial to the success of your garden.
Once the soil has been tested, move on to improving its content with organic matter like manure, lime or compost. Starting a compost bin at home is pretty simple. For those with space restrictions, vermicomposting is an indoor composting option where worms turn food scraps into compost.
Make sure a water source is nearby, whether it’s a faucet, hose or rain barrel. It may seem simple but that hose currently located on the other side of the house might become a pain to move repeatedly.
Knowing what and when to plant
In Washington, D.C., the last frost, on average, is mid-April. Fall’s first frost is around mid-October. For advice on when to plant, follow the Washington Post’s gardening calendar. The newspaper’s handy month-by-month guide offers advice about what to plant, as well as topics that will aid all gardeners, such as getting rid of plant-eating pests.
When it comes to unwelcome critters, consider enlisting the help of a professional with pest control experience. A survey of your land may reveal a pest problem that will hamper the success of your garden.
A wealth of information about gardening exists both online and in print. Whether the novice gardener is learning how to get the most out of compost or planting according to frost advisory, a wide range of books, websites and gardening blogs exist to help him or her on the way. A green thumb is but a few lessons away.