No need to go out of the neighborhood now that spring is here and you are ready to garden. After Frank Asher closed Old City Green on 9th Street NW at the end of 2012, the neighborhood has lacked a nursery and garden center.
Come out, enjoy the weather and get your gardening supplies from 9 am to 5 pm. There will be snacks, music, fun and educational activities for the kids.
Borderstan’s garden center, OLD CITY green, is preparing for its upcoming move. The store’s current lease at 9th and N Street NW ends on December 31, and the store is moving to a new location at 925 Rhode Island Avenue NW (the front courtyard location at Shaw Junior High School).
As of now, OLD CITY green is out of Christmas trees and is closed for the winter. The Borderstan business will re-open at the new location in March. OLD CITY green is looking for volunteers to help with the transition. Those interesting in helping should email Frank Asher at oldcitygreen[AT]gmail.com.
Stay tuned for updates on the new GREEN location!
OLD City green at 9th and N Streets NW was Think Local First DC‘s (TLFDC) beneficiary of National Cash Mob Day, occurring on Saturday, March 24. The organization announced last week that it would pick a TLF DC member and announce the beneficiary on Saturday morning.
Borderstan reported last week that OLD City green will be open for another season at its current location.
What’s a cash mob, you ask? It’s sort of like a flash mob, but participants spend rather than dance. Cash mobs are organized through social media and bring groups of people together to stimulate local businesses, which have been undercut by deal sites like Groupon and Living Social.
TLFDC’s board nominated member-businesses based on their contributions to the community, among other factors, according to Executive Director Stacey Price. “The business also had to have affordable merchandise, in the $20 price range, and offer something for both men and women,” said Price.
From Luis Gomez and Matty Rhoades
Good news for local gardeners. OLD CITY green will be open another season. Located at 9th and N Streets NW, owner Frank Asher learned last week that he will be in the space through this fall, with an exact closing date to be set. Asher has been at the space since late 2008/early 2009. He told Borderstan Sunday that he will be in the space until the fall, with an exact closing date not yet set.
The small locally owned nursery was open for business this past weekend with regular hours (weekdays and weekends) to resume this Saturday, March 24. With the demise of 14th Street’s Garden District at the end of 2010, OLD CITY green is the only independently owned nursery and garden space in the neighborhood.
Douglas Development owns the lot and Asher knew the day would come when he would have to close or move because the lot would be developed. After OLD CITY green is gone, the lot will become a mixed-use development, including ground-floor retail and 50-plus residential units. Recently, Renew Shaw recently had the artist renderings of the CAS Riegler plans for 9th and N Streets NW.
Asher, who also runs a landscaping business told Borderstan last October that he is able to compete with larger chain competitors by focusing on urban gardening that is suited for the neighborhood, as well as community-focused events.
“OLD CITY green employs two master gardeners and a gardening teacher as part of our service. We are also a drop off site for the Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) where organic, locally grown food is delivered at the nursery once a week to people who have ordered them from farms,” said Asher in October. “We also host events in our space. It can be really lovely here in the evening with our tiki torches and lights.”
What then for Asher and OLD CITY green? “I am already looking for another lot, probably a smaller space.”
A little over three years ago, Alex Padro from the Shaw Main Streets program asked Frank Asher, an artist and “guerrilla gardener,” if he wanted to do some sort of green space at the corner of 9th and N Streets NW. Asher jumped at the chance. The first enterprise of what was to become OLD CITY green was a Christmas tree lot in 2008.
Asher then opened the nursery in the spring of 2009 and he has been in business at the corner ever since; he closes after Christmas and re-opens in mid-March. With the demise of 14th Street’s Garden District at the end of 2010, OLD CITY green is the only independently owned nursery and garden space in the neighborhood.
The focus of the store is urban gardening and community building. “I try to bring nature to the urban landscape. I offer support and consultation for inside gardens, rooftops, decks or small plots that need to have the right plants to enhance the living space.” OLD CITY green has two master gardeners and a gardening teacher.
How does Asher compete with the big businesses, such as Home Depot on Rhode Island Avenue and Whole Foods (which carries seasonal items at its Logan Circle store). “They buy in huge quantities [giving them a huge price advantage], so I compete with them on service, expertise and ambiance,” said Asher.
“OLD CITY green employs two master gardeners and a gardening teacher as part of our service. We are also a drop off site for the Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) where organic, locally grown food is delivered at the nursery once a week to people who have ordered them from farms,” said Asher. “We also host events in our space. It can be really lovely here in the evening with our tiki torches and lights.”
When Asher started Fairies’ Crossing, he became known as a “guerrilla gardener.” He would take his cart with tools and supplies around the neighborhood, beautifying tree boxes, the Connecticut Avenue median north of Dupont Circle and public spaces — mostly traveling by Metro.
Asher said the obvious focus of his store is urban gardening and community building. “I try to bring nature to the urban landscape. I offer support and consultation for inside gardens, rooftops, decks or small plots that need to have the right plants to enhance the living space. Gardens have to be friendly to animals, bees, bugs, butterflies as well as people, said Asher. Our motto: “Where people and plants come together.”
Asher has lived in the city since 1994, when he came to DC from Los Angeles. “I came here representing my church, which was a reconciling congregation with the United Methodist Church,” said Asher. “I immediately felt drawn to move here.” He lived in the Dupont and Eastern Market area before moving to Shaw in 2003, and now lives near his business.
A native of Fresno and Merced, CA, Asher brings a wealth of lifetime experience to his nursery. “What haven’t I done?” laughed Asher, when asked about his previous careers. He listed “actor, singer, dancer, bartender, caterer, janitor, banker and teacher.” Asher created his own landscape gardening business, “Fairies’ Crossing,” which he has been running for 12 years and is based out of OLD CITY green.
It was during this time that he became known as a “guerrilla gardener.” Asher would take his cart with tools and supplies around the neighborhood, beautifying tree boxes, the Connecticut Avenue median north of Dupont Circle and public spaces — mostly traveling by Metro.
Asher is still active with community organizations. Last fall he helped students from Ross Elementary School plant spring bulbs in the renovated tree boxes on 17th Street NW. He is working with Shaw Main Streets and local businesses in cosponsoring the 3rd Annual Tulip Bulb Planting on 9th Street NW this Sunday, October 30th 10am-2pm. Asher added:” We need volunteers. Come play in the dirt with us”.
From Ashley Lusk and Matty Rhoades
Are you an urban gardener with a tiny plot of land attached to your rowhouse? Or maybe you’re an apartment dweller who schleps your houseplants out to the balcony and front steps of your building every spring?
Either way, it’s mid-October and it’s time to get your indoor and outdoor flora ready for the fall and winter — and that includes planting spring bulbs.
We talked to Kirk Wilbur of Urban Sustainable and Frank Asher of OLD CITY green for some tips on fall garden prep and more: Bring Indoor Plants Back Inside… Care for Fall Plants and Flowers… Shut Down Your Outdoor Garden… Container Gardens… and Planting Spring Bulbs.
Bring Indoor Plants Back Inside
Asher has some simple rules and tips for your household plants that have been summering outside.
- Some indoor plants can stay outside a while longer… just make sure they are inside well before the fall’s first frost.
- Tropical plants, however, need to come inside long before a first frost. “Anything tropical, such as a ficus tree, needs to be inside by October 15” in the DC area.
- Before bringing your houseplants and indoor trees back into the house, Asher recommends a “compost boost” on top of the soil. He explains that when you water the plants they will absorb nutrients from the compost. You can purchase bags of compost at OLD City green or other garden centers.
- If you have some shrubs and plants that do fine in outdoor containers during DC winters, Asher says to make sure that the rootball of each plant has 6 to 8 inches of soil around it. Keep these container plants/shrubs well mulched and place near the house for extra warmth.
Caring for Fall Plants and Flowers
- Mums can last up to six weeks when you purchase them at the budding stage — and if you keep them well watered.
- Ornamental kale and cabbage should be mulched and kept watered. They continue to grow throughout DC’s relatively mild winters and will produce some glorious flowering blooms in the spring.
- The same applies for pansies. They need to be kept mulched and watered, and while they will die down in the winter, they come back in the spring and bloom all over again.
Shut Down Your Outdoor Garden
Wilbur recommends a few simple steps to make your garden ready to be dormant.
- Start by cutting back the remaining vegetable and flower waste, dead plants and stems. If you choose, you can use this as compost that can later be spread over your garden to add rich nutrients back to the soil. (Horse manure can also be spread on top of the soil bed and left to decompose over the winter; the active ingredients in manure will help reactivate the dirt.)
- If you have raised beds and you are planning to lay down a layer of fertilizer, hay or mulch, you may also wish to invest in a tarp or plastic liner to cover the dirt and encourage a heated decomposition process.
- Finally, as the autumn leaves start to fall, make sure to keep your sidewalks swept — leaves that compact under the snow can prove to be a slippery situation in the middle of a winter freeze.
Some tips from Wilbur on container gardens, plants and vegetables in large plants or containers:
- A fall garden can still be an enviable pursuit when leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and mustard reach their peak.
- “Until the frost comes, you can still grow a variety of herbs, lettuces [and] leafy greens in containers. However, when the frost comes it generally signals the end of your season, with the exception of a few things like broccoli, which actually tends to get sweeten with a frost,” said Wilbur.
- Lettuce, on the other hand, usually becomes bitter at the time of the first frost, so it should be harvested when it begins its stage of rapid growth — called bolting.
- If you have been growing herbs such as rosemary, basil, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, English thyme, parsley or chives, the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends that you bring them inside in September and let them adjust to the temperature in your home. (So bring them in now!)
- You can always purchase fall produce at the 14th and U Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings) and the Dupont Farmers’ Market (Sunday mornings).
Plant Spring Bulbs
If you’re from a colder climate than DC, you are probably used to planting spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils right now. In DC, however, you have more time. Here’s what Asher and Wilbur recommend.
- Asher says “never plant bulbs in DC before October 1.” He says he plants from October through mid-November. Plant too early and you run the risk of spring flowers popping up in the middle of winter.
- Fertilzer with each bulb? Asher says he has great results with a little bit of compost with his bulbs.
- Squirrel problems? Yes, squirrels are the bane of any gardener’s existence — carefully planted bulbs are dug up and eaten. Asher recommends throwing in some Bond’s Medicated Foot Powder with spring bulbs — squirrels hate the smell and will leave the bulbs alone.
- Wilbur says that the truly ambitious (and those with plenty of indoor room to spare) can plant bulbs inside for transfer in the spring to outdoor gardens and pots.