An incorrect telephone number appeared in weekend for public garden plots available in Arlington. The correct number is 558-2475.
IT'S TIME to think spring. The seed catalogues that insanely arrived with the Christmas presents suddenly take on an aura of urgency, become Serious Literature.
Despite appearances, spring, like love, is just around the corner, and the farmer deep in our genes stands up. It's tilling time.
A back-to-the-soil mood is sweeping the country, we're told, but in an area where growing things are mostly high rises and townhouses, where to find the soil?
Well, it's around. And you'd be astonished how little you need, since horticulturists in recent years have blossomed forth with ways to produce cornucopias on postage stamps of dirt.
A lady I know who never realized she had a green thumb produced a quarterton of tomatoes last year on her 11th-floor balcony overlooking Shirley Highway.
Another turned the roof of a garage on a Capitol Hill alley into an Eden with assorted vegetables, herbs, flowers, plants and a controlled substance.
This year, Park Seeds devotes page 113 of its catalogue to "midget vegetables," including Tom Thumb lettuce - "tennis-ball size . . . ideal for window box" - and Tiny Tim tomatoes - "raise it as a colorful pot plant in the window" - and Tiny Sweet carrots - "three-inch golden orange roots."
If windowboxes aren't enough for you, and you're willing to travel beyond your back yard, you can grow full-size produce on some of the reasonably inexpensive public land that virtually every nearby jurisdiction makes available.
But you'll have to move quickly, because lots of the plots are gone long before spring officially arrives. Here's where the land lies and some suggestions on what you can grow on it.
THE EXPERTS say the best approach to a soil shortage is to think vertical. The science of vegetables has come full cycle. For years, horticulturists labored to develop "bush" varieties of beans and peas and tomatoes to eliminate the chore of supporting the vines with poles and trellises. Now good old Kentucky Wonder pole beans and Alderman peas are back in vogue and the hottest new tomato is Floramerica, a hybrid bred to grow five or six feet tall, supported by stakes or fencing or wire cages.
It's ironic that the only vegetable not adaptable to limited-space gardening is the one that best rewards the time and toil of home gardening - corn. With corn, every second between picking and cooking is crucial to flavor and tenderness as the sugars turn to starch. But alas, you can't crowd corn and you've got to plant a lot for cross-pollination. The minumum planting of corn would be three rows about 20 feet long, three feet apart, which would shoot nearly half of the standard rental garden plot here abouts, which are 20' x 30'.
If you do have that kind of space and are after that fantastic taste treat of corn cooked immediately after picking, avoid all the recently developed varieties. Their virtues are for the commercial grower and packer or the large-scale home gardener who cans or freezes quantities - all developed at the expense of the essence of fresh corn. Stick to Golden Cross Bantam (yellow) or Stowell's Evergreen (white).
The seed and plant industry in this country, due to decades of governmental reglation and oversight, is of such uniformly high quality that there's little point in brand-name shopping.One company's Better Boy tomatoes will be the same as another's, and so forth. Packets of seeds from the supermarket or dime store are just as good as those from the farm supply co-op. Just make sure they're dated for this year.
WHAT MAY WARRANT a trip to the farm supplier or nurseryman is a search for varieties, particularly the new ones especially developed for limited-space gardening. Or there's still time to go the catalogue route. You get a selection that may overwhelm you from Burpee Seed Co., Warminster, Pa. 18991 or Park Seed Co. Inc., P.O. Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29647.
Some suggested vegetables for limited-space gardens; all can be grown readily in large pots for gardening in patio or on balcony.
MANY GARDENING favorites such as the squashes and melons don't lend themselves to limited-space gardening in the usual ways. They spread and don't train to grow up a trellis.But they can be grown, with a fair investment in equipment and care. You let them spread down!
All varieties demand such nourishment, so you need a platform or haning arrangment strong enough to support a heavy container or rich earth. Then a strong lattice structure or stepped shelves must be placed for the vines to descend. The fruit must be supported as it develops - net bags do fine.
A few words about soil. Unless you garden to the east or southeast of the District, your soil could use lightening. Humus, vermiculite, sawdust, even sand.
On the other hand, unless you soil has been heavily gardened, heavy fertilizing is not necessary. Liming is. It's very hard to find soil around here that's not on the acid side. Use liberal doses of gound limestone or dolomite (not hydrated lime).
The best place to ask for garding advice is from your county agent. It's bound to be sound and it's free, as is lots of helpful literature.