If you're dreaming of spring, here are some great ways to get a jump on the DMV growing season.
Most of us are in Growing Zone 7a which puts our last estimated frost date at April 6. With the first estimated frost at November 1, we have a growing season of just over 200 days (which isn't that long). This means you don't want to put anything out in the ground before April 6, no matter how warm the days may be. That gives us just about a month to get our gardens ready!
Browse and Buy
This is the perfect time to look for seeds. Forget clothes or jewelry—I can spend ages agonizing over websites, looking for the ultimate cherry tomato. Take a look at what you use on a regular basis and plan accordingly. As cute as mini cucumbers may be, standards might be best for you if you use them on a regular basis.
My all-time favorite seed catalog and website is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They speciaize in heirloom and hard-to-find varieties, and each item comes with a back story. The growing notes and customer reviews on all of their seeds are extremely helpful as well. Other well-known companies include Burpee and Park.
Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
If container gardening is your thing, take stock of what you have and give everything a thorough cleaning so you're ready to go. Punch holes in big tomato cans (most are specially lined) to make little planters for herbs. Troll your local dollar store for plastic pots and window boxes before spending a fortune at a hardware store.
Plan, plan, plan
Think about the methods you'll be using before splurging on expensive garden boxes. With square foot gardening, you can get a good idea of how much space each type of vegetable needs. A family of four will not likely need more than two zucchini plants unless you like being overrun with squash.
Courtesy of Lowe's
If this is your first year gardening, you can easily establish an in-ground plot by layering. Get some black and white newspaper (no glossy ads) and lay it out in the yard where you want your garden. Add about five layers of paper, and then weigh it all down with plastic bags of topsoil. In a month, you will have smothered the grass and weeds enough to till them up easily. Remove the big clumps, and layer again with newspaper. Edge with timber, stones, or plastic, and fill with about 4-6" of a mixture of topsoil and garden soil with fertilizer. Voila!
Start some seeds
The gorgeous seedlings you get at hardware stores have been produced under ideal circumstances. If you have a sunroom or a very sunny area close to the house, you can get a good start on some plants in a seed-starting tray. Start them indoors until leaves appear, and then move them outside.
Sunlight is a must for growing good seedlings. If you don't get enough sun, you'll know because your plants will be too leggy and fall over. Never fear, that's why you get hundreds of seeds in a pack.
Are you planning a garden this year? What methods are you using? Tell us about it in the comments below!