Miss Floribunda: Veggies, valentines and vittles
Dear Miss Floribunda,
I read in a recent issue of Washington Gardener that the Department of Agriculture has rezoned us on its plant hardiness map from 7a to 7b. I think we were rezoned from 6b to 7a only 12 years ago. I’ll bet we will be rezoned to 8a in the not too distant future. Frankly, I suspect we may already be there in Hyattsville because a 7b zone gets freezing temperatures as low as 5 to 10 F. I don’t recall temperatures falling so far for years. More important to me is that summer temperatures now sometimes get near or go over 100 F.
To cut to the chase, I’m wondering about how this will affect gardening. While I like the fact that I can now have camellias without worry, it’s been years since I’ve even tried to grow broccoli, spinach or lettuce in spring, for example. The broccoli just produces fairly nice yellow flowers, and the leaves of spinach and lettuce get bitter almost immediately. One recent summer was so hot that I got very few tomatoes!
Can you give tips on ways to adapt to climate change in the vegetable garden? Before COVID-19, the Hyattsville Horticultural Society had a seed sale at the Hyattsville Municipal Center that offered hot-weather vegetable varieties, but that seems to have been discontinued. Maybe you could recommend some, and where to find them.
Baffled on Buchanan Street
I have wonderful news for you. The Hyattsville Horticultural Society (HHS) is resuming its annual seed sale on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Hyattsville Municipal Building — now open again for public events. The sale will take place in the ground floor multipurpose room, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For those of you not in walking distance, there is limited free parking in the adjoining lot. The door leading to the lot will be open for easy access.
In addition to seeds from both the Hart Seed Company and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, you can buy various baked goods, drinks, hot soups and savories to have for lunch or to take home. There will be a valentine-making corner at which you and your families can get creative with paper and supplies provided by the HHS. The horticultural society will be asking kids to make valentines for Hyattsville Aging in Place to distribute to local seniors, as well as valentines to take home themselves.
From what has been ordered from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, you can choose among the quick sprouting Calabrese broccoli, the slow-to-bolt Sweet Valentine, Jericho,Thai Oakleaf and other loose-leaf lettuces, as well as the long-standing Bloomsdale and Verdil varieties of spinach. Also offered are a number of tomato varieties that have been successful in states far to the south of us: Arkansas Traveler, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Persimmon and Black Cherry to name just a few.
In addition, Southern Exposure’s treasures include many varieties of heat-loving squash, beans, corn (including the kind you can pop), cucumbers, carrots, many varieties of peppers both sweet and picante, tomatillos, edamame, okra, eggplant, watermelon and other summer favorites. Snow peas, radishes, pumpkins, collards, kale, chard, and Asian greens and cabbages can be ordered for a fall/early winter garden.
Hart Seeds also offers many reliable vegetable varieties, such as the heat-tolerant broccoli raab — plus a panoply of herbs and flowers. You will find seeds for such native plants as black-eyed Susan (the Maryland state flower), milkweed, cleome, sunflowers, zinnias, and bee balm, as well as many varieties of hot-weather loving pollinator-nurturing nasturtiums, cosmos, larkspur, portulaca and marigolds.
I would particularly recommend their eco-friendly blends: Please Don’t Flutter By to attract butterflies, Beneficial Bug Mix, Bird Lover’s Mix and Bee My Friend. You can choose from cutting-edge hybrids, as well as tried-and-true heritage varieties.
This festive event has traditionally cheered the community at the bleakest season of the year. I hope to see you there.
Miss Floribunda writes about gardening for the Life & Times. You may email her at Floribundav@gmail.com.