Many people may not be aware of it, but DC does have a state fair. The event has been growing in popularity every year; this year culminating at the Barracks Row Fall Festival on September 22nd. As a novice vegetable gardener, I love the idea. I am spreading the word on this because I am sure Brooklanders with their savvy gardening skills can win in at least a few DC State Fair contests. To check out what contests are open for entries and find the entry forms go here. Be warned, some contests have entry limits or deadlines before the Fair itself in September. For example, the first contest, the Tastiest Tomato Contest, will take place this coming Saturday, August 18, at the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace. Winners get bragging rights for a year, cash, a blue State Fair ribbon, and a 1-year subscription to Washington Gardener magazine. Don’t worry about having any competition from me though, all the tomatoes I’ve grown so far this year that weren’t eaten by squirrels were cracked, sunburned messes!
One of the things that separates Brookland from other DC neighborhoods is the sheer amount of space surrounding the many lovely homes here. Many lots average around 1/5 acre or more, providing lots of space for kids of all ages to run free and enjoy being closer to nature. All that space lends itself to another purpose as well: there are many artists who live around here, using the land as their preferred palette to create amazing gardens full of flowering plants, lush shrubs, and shady trees.
Gardening is a tried and true Brookland pastime. Whether it’s a wild cottage garden cultivated for decades by one of the neighborhood’s senior gardeners, or the perfectly manicured gardens of the Franciscan Monastery, Brookland abounds with natural beauty that is sure to soothe the soul whether you till the soil yourself or simply enjoy the sights.
I’m one of the residents who chooses to till the soil. My partner and I bought a home with a good bit of land in Brookland almost three years ago. We both wanted to develop a shared hobby by learning how to garden from scratch, since neither of us knew practically anything about it. The yard was a wild mess of poison ivy, choking vines, out of control shrubs, and buried garbage. Three years later we’ve cleared away most of the ugliness and finished much of the front garden, but the whole thing will still take years to complete the transformation.
During this time I’ve drawn a huge amount of inspiration just from walking the streets of Brookland and seeing what other talented gardeners are doing. I wanted to get a sense for what grows well and what is native to the area, since we’re trying to plant low maintenance native plants whenever possible. The spring and early summer is an especially good time to take such walks, when the heat is not oppressive and most gardens are at their maximum bloom. The sights are simply incredible, and yet most people in DC and environs have no idea about the lovely gardens hidden in their midst.
As a budding gardener (pardon the pun) I intend to share what I’ve learned about gardening in Brookland from doing it myself and from wandering the neighborhood to see what others have done. I’ll also be sharing Brookland’s lushness through photography, highlighting some of the gorgeous landscapes that dedicated Brooklanders have created around their homes.