The Urban Way By Frank Asher in Mid City DC Magazine

The Urban Way

By Frank Asher

Featured in the April edition of the  Mid City DC magazine

To all urban gardeners:

To those of you who have small balconies, or tiny enclosed spaces outside with very little or no soil, yet you bring in containers and pots of all shapes and sizes to hold your plants, I say, “Thank you”!

To you folks who create a little green space on your windowsill with a few herbs, or you put a potted plant in the dark corner of your bedroom, I salute you!

All of you are a unique breed. If you are anything like me, you just have to have some green living things in your environment.  I am grateful there are people who like to tend to plants. With all that is being torn apart, it is nice to remember there are people who nurture life.

Container Collage

The great thing about container gardening for the beginner is there are only a handful of easy rules to consider for successful plantings.

1)      Know your sun requirements.

2)      Know your watering requirements.

3)      Be consistent in tending to your plant’s needs. ( It’s sort of like having a pet.)

4)      If you don’t know about your plant’s ideal environment, ask a gardener.

There are no rules when it comes to your pots, containers and planters, as long as there is proper drainage and thickness especially if your pots are holding plants outdoors all year round. Containers can match in themes, color, shape, size, or they can be random and eclectic. No holds barred here. This is a chance to just float your boat!!

Simple, traditional terra cotta pots work fine. They are inexpensive and can be easily replaced.

There are some fine planters out there that are lightweight and yet very durable for D.C. winters. Some of these are made from fiberglass and cement. Yes, I said fiberglass and cement. These planters are weather hardy and lightweight compared to full on cement pots. Most are in very modern shapes and very angular. They work well for close corners.

There are also some beautiful glazed pots large and small in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors. I say just play here.  Some are frost resistant , which is good. Others may last a few years while some glazed pots are unscathed by our cold snaps and can handle normal wear and tear for years.

Plants Please

For those of you with rooftops with full sun who want to create outdoors spaces, you might want to choose plants that are tolerant of our hot summers.

Trees:  Crepe Myrtle, Fig, Hollywood Juniper.

Woody Shrubs:  Rosemary, Lavender, Service Berry.

Perennials:  Iris, Lily, Spirea, Cone Flower.

Annuals:  Marigolds, Petunias, Celosia.

Vines:  Moon Vine Flowers are wonderful because of their evening fragrance.

Many tropical plants do well in the summer sun:  Hibiscus, Banana and Mandevilla Vine.

Aloe vera does great in full sun. It can be nice to see on any sunny place. And because aloe vera is medicinal, it offers a sense of comfort to your outdoor grillers. (Good for sunburn, too)

Outdoor patios with partial shade can hold a variety of perennials and blooming shrubs.

Azaleas love part sun/part shade. So do many ground covers if you simply want to add various shades of green to an isolated spot.

Summer annuals like Begonias and Impatiens do well when mixed with Hostas and Ajuga.

One thing to remember: If your enclosed space is surrounded by a fence or a wall connected to your neighbor, you are in another “sub culture.“  Your space’s temperatures will be different and most likely warmer or cooler than predicted weather.

Outdoors Overnight

What’s amazing about time and the seasons is that once the warmer weather begins, folks are more than ready to take advantage of it. Wearing flip flops and shorts, and enjoying MOJITOS and BBQs, people spend “chilaxin” time in their outdoor spaces. Speaking of mojitos, why not create your own herb garden for the mixologist or outdoor cook in the family.  Mint can be added to many drinks.  Rosemary, parsley, sage, and thyme are perfect on skewered vegetables with a little extra virgin olive oil or on chicken that needs a bit of “fresh” added.

Let us not forget vegetables! There is nothing like pulling off a tomato or a few peppers fresh off the plant to put in your salad. I don’t know about you, but when I have tended to my tomato plant or pepper plants for months and then pick one to taste, POW! It tastes better than anything I have ever bought in the grocery store. I personally think we need more urban farmers.  (Do you know your farmer?)  Check out Lancaster Farms! OLD CITY green is a host for their weekly CSA delivery of fresh organic vegetables and produce. Tell them OLD CITY green sent you!

Spring Begins with a Step

If you have never potted a plant or had the space outside to play in the dirt, don’t worry. It is simple to exercise your thumb to make it a green one. It may take a few mistakes and a few dead plants to get the flow, but it is easy if you talk to other gardeners and plant lovers.

OLD CITY green has a few of its own gardeners on staff that can answer your questions and give feedback.

Stop in and see what kind of mood you want to create in your outdoor space this season.

Happy Planting and remember: Think Local.

Frank Asher

Owner and Founder of OLD CITY green

Where people and plants come together.

9th and N Street NW

Fairies’ Crossing:  A landscape and Gardening Co. Est. 2000

To Inspire your Dreamer!