Moving to MD & starting a new garden

Brigids_Ember(7)April 25, 2013

Hi there, fellow Mid-Atlantic gardeners! Just wanted to introduce myself after a few weeks of mostly lurking in the forums, and start getting to know my soon-to-be garden neighbors. :-)

My name's Nora, and I'm moving to Hyattsville, MD from the outskirts of Houston, TX at the start of July. I used to live in NJ, so Mid-Atlantic gardening won't be *completely* new, but I still have a lot to learn. My husband and I are moving into a house with 2 other couples that we've been close with for a decade (in one case) or two (in the other), and the place actually has a sizable yard (hooray!). Our friends tell me that it's fairly heavy clay, so we do plan to get the soil tested & see how much help it needs (or whether it's finally time to take up Square Foot Gardening) before we do anything much. I'm afraid I've been planning a little bit obsessively, as spring fever has hit and there's nothing I can do about it here.

It seems weird, but I've been in garden exile here in Texas. I was so excited to live in a climate that allowed for year-round gardening that I spent all of my spare time, energy & money on building a giant raised-bed garden in the back yard when we first moved down here. Unfortunately, this area of TX is completely infested with fire ants who *laughed* at all of the various organic and chemical weapons we deployed. So when I developed a catastrophic fire ant allergy that sent me to the ER, I had to abandon the whole undertaking (right at tomato-staking time, too!). :-( Now I can't wait to get back to the green! It's been maddening having to avoid anything outdoors that isn't solid concrete.

As a first-time Marylander moving in high summer, though, I do have a couple of questions:

1. Aside from a couple of extra frost-free weeks, are there any big differences between gardening in the D.C. area of Maryland and gardening in central New Jersey? (I had a community garden plot in the New Brunswick area when I lived there, so there weren't any of the mountain- or coastal-gardening concerns.)
2. What flowers, veggies or small fruits could be reasonably planted in containers in July-August in MD, just to slake the gardening withdrawal a bit? Anything at all? or should I just put off all planting until the bed setup, soil testing & amendments, etc. are done for a fresh start in spring of 2014?

Thanks -- and nice to (virtually) meet you all!
-- Nora (Brigids_Ember)

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sfmiller(z7 MD)

Hello Nora,

I garden in Hyattsville, too. Can't speak from experience to differences between this area and NJ, but I can say that we have a nice long fall gardening season that you can take advantage of this year. Our first frost is usually around Halloween, and the first hard freeze not until mid-November. I often have tomatoes and zinnias still producing in November, and fall vegetables into December.

So if I were in your position, I'd use July and August to get ready for Sept and October, as well as for next spring. Get a soil test and prepare one bed as a fall garden/nursery bed as soon as you can. The local soil is generally clay-ey and on the acidic side, but makes good garden dirt if amended. A locally made compost called Leaf-Gro is readily available by the truckload and inexpensive. Get a few yards or a whole truckload and start digging.

Meanwhile, start seeds of perennials and fall-growing edibles in pots outdoors or, for cool-season vegetables, under lights indoors. (You can grow a lot of seedlings under a 4-foot 2-bulb fluourescent shoplight in the basement.)

Come September, plant out your veg starts and direct seed fall crops into your new bed. After harvesting the vegetables, move the perennials seedlings into the same bed to winter over.

While this is going on, you can also work on other beds to get them ready for spring. And, if you choose, grow things in containers, too.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 9:33AM
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CEFreeman(DC/MD Burbs 7B)

The advice above is great.
It's not that different from NJ, IMHO, except that the summers are longer and MUCH HOTTER HERE than other places.
You'll do well over there.
I'm outside Bowie.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 12:22PM
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amanda_m(z7 MD)

You could get a fall crop of brassicas for sure. Plant in July for an October - November harvest. Ditto a fall crop of lettuces and other greens.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 2:13PM
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Thanks, everybody!

I'll look into getting grow lights set up for seedlings as soon as I'm done unpacking & having the soil tests done, so they can be germinating while I'm laying out & amending beds. I hope to grow a fall / winter cover crop in most of the garden beds, for turning under in the spring to help amend the soil. Compost is definitely on the list, too; thank for the Leaf-Gro tip and all of the other great advice, Steven!

Amanda, thanks for the brassica suggestion. I'll start some broccoli along with the salad greens & fall peas. (Alas, other household members have vetoed cabbage, despite my promises of really good colcannon.)

CEFreeman, thanks for the vote of confidence! I spent last summer in the general vicinity of Houston, Texas -- where I'll be until the end of June this year, too -- so longer, hotter summers than NJ had may *still* seem like a welcome respite from the 6-month steamer that is May-October in Southeast Texas. *fingers crossed*

Thanks again for your welcome and your tips!

-- Nora

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Hi! I also moved from Central NJ to MD (and was part of a community garden in New Brunswick, now part of one in DC). It doesn't seem terribly different in terms of what you can grow. The major difference is that you can get your spring vegetables in a little earlier and the frost is also later, so you get some time for a fall crop. While it may be subjective, I think there is nothing quite so good as a Jersey tomato.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 4:52PM
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kilngod z6b(Zone 6b)

Hi Nora, Keep this swap in mind for next year.

Geller, Amanda, & Steven -- maybe you'd like to join us this year! We're right up the road from you.

--Tina / kilngod

Here is a link that might be useful: MAG Swap -5/11/13 Burtonsville, MD

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 6:50AM
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