Four months ago Charles and I moved to a new house, one that has a large (by Capitol Hill standards), south-facing garden. The garden has a mature holly, an overgrown forsythia, odd plantings of ornamental grasses, a small Japanese maple, and a poorly installed brick patio. The lack of a coherent plan and the fact that the ground slopes towards the house (causing rain to drain directly into the foundation) means that the yard is ripe for re-landscaping. As a result, I have spent countless hours looking through books and gardening magazines for inspiration and research.
One thing I know I wanted to do is to have a productive vegetable garden complete with neat and tidy raised beds. I prioritized what I would grow based on what is hard to transport to market, what is most expensive at the store and what we don't usually get from our Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) farm share each week. So in addition to vegetables I'm also planning to plant a tart cherry tree (or two), and some blackcurrent bushes.
With Spring just around the corner, I realized I had to start turning my ideas into reality. Yesterday I went to the garden center and went a little crazy in the seed department (to the tune of $175 in supplies). Inspired by a talk I heard by Shepherd Ogden at the Capitol Hill Garden Club, I bought a variety of seeds and seed-starting equipment. He outlined many ways to make the most out of a small urban garden so that productivity is high, organic principles are adhered too, and that maintenance (e.g., weeding, mulching, post-season clean-up) is minimized. One of his gems of wisdom is to plant from transplants when one can, and not from seed. This will save time (waiting for plants to mature), weeding and energy to thin the plants, and will give the plants a stronger, more predictable start.
When you decide to plant using transplants you have to get them started a few weeks early so that once the ground has warmed up and the weather is nicer, they'll be ready to plant in the ground. With just 8 weeks to go before the predicted last frost date for Washington, DC (April 29 to be exact), it is time to start my seeds growing. I'll be starting off with leeks and kohlrabi, then in two weeks chives, basil, then in four weeks I'll start the fennel, broccoli raab and and lettuces. In addition to vegetables I'm also planning to start lavender, silver dollar plant, and nasturium. I've never attempted anything like this and hope I have inherited some of my mother's green thumb!