Washington, D.C. is fortunate enough to have an extended growing climate with mild springs and falls and a hot, humid summer. One of the biggest hurdles to gardening in the D.C. area is space. Many Washingtonians do not have access to land for growing, so container gardening is very popular. Try vegetables that grow well in D.C. both in a garden or on a balcony.
Cucumbers grow as a vine, so it’s important to provide them with a wire cage or trellis to allow them to climb. This will maximize their growing potential and keep the cucumbers off the ground. The growing season for cucumbers is as soon as the temperatures move past freezing. They require full sun and lots of compost and water. Try pickling them to keep them longer.
A Washington favorite in dry summers, tomato plants grow huge and flourish in the D.C. climate. They will need to be caged, as the vines spread everywhere. Cherry tomatoes are best for salads, but the heirloom variety are truly a delight. Varieties that are delicious and easy to grow include Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Green Zebra. When planting tomatoes, the temperatures need to be warm, so late April into early May is the right time to plant. They enjoy worm castings compost thrown in with their roots when planting, full sun and lots of water.
3. Swiss Chard
Derived from the beets family, this colorful leafy green is easy to grow and one plant will yield continuous harvest all season. The trick is to clip the larger outside leaves first, ensuring that you don’t kill the plant. Four plants will provide enough chard for a family to enjoy a harvest about once a week. Once cut, it will wilt quickly if not refrigerated. If this happens, plunge the vegetables in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes and they will rejuvenate.
As a cool-weather crop, lettuce is best grown in the spring and fall in D.C. Once temperatures are over 80 degrees, lettuce will bolt and start to have a bitter taste. Setting the leaves next to a larger plant will provide some shade for an extended growing life. Or try bringing lettuce indoors and setting it on a windowsill.
Herbs grow very well in D.C. with little to no care. Plant basil next to your tomatoes to help improve growth and repel inspects. In the mid-summer when basil starts becoming more than you can eat, make a pesto sauce for all those juicy tomatoes.
Sage is another herb. If planting sage in the ground, be aware that it is a perennial plant that will return year after year. Sage is best used in dishes that highlight white meats, like chicken, fish or pork. Other popular herbs that don’t require much care are rosemary, thyme and dill.
The first step to a fool-proof garden is to purchase plants as opposed to growing plants from seeds. This is because the plant has already established a root system and will thrive without too much care. Places to buy fresh plants around D.C. are:
Johnson’s Washington, DC
4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
Hours: Mon to Sat – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun – 10 am to 5 pm
5258 River Road
Bethesda, MD 20816
Hours: Daily – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Merrifield Garden Center
8132 Lee Highway
Merrifield, VA 22116
Hours: Mon to Sat – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture
Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DCs
off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isnt enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamies traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.