Serious Gardening in Virginia – The Virginia Planting Guide 2020
Serious gardening in Virginia dates back to colonial times. In those days, the poorer folk grew heirloom herbs and vegetables for survival. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful built grand estates along the James River, incorporating elaborate gardens. They read the latest garden treatises and imported plants from England. The wish lists of these early plantation owners sound remarkably similar to those of my friends and I today! It’s no surprise that so many plants are adapted to the Virginian climate.
Despite the climate and soil conditions, kale can be grown in Virginia with some effort. It can withstand temperatures as low as twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. But kale is not as hardy as other vegetables, including tomatoes, which need a cool climate and should be grown in a shady spot. Aphids will destroy the foliage of your kale plant, making it impossible to harvest. It also cannot tolerate high heat; a garden in 90-degree Fahrenheit can lead to it flowering. The flowers will become inedible when it receives direct sunlight.
If you want to grow vegetables, you can do so in Virginia. The state is largely in Hardiness Zone 7, but some lower-level areas are in Zone 8. Cabbage grows well in the mild spring and fall weather, so it’s a good choice for gardens. Peas don’t require much space, and they grow nicely in raised beds. Be aware, however, that peas are often favored by deer, rabbits, and squirrels.
In the summer months, eggplants thrive in Virginia’s high heat and humidity. It’s easy to overfertilize them and they are not hardy. You can choose different types for your area, depending on how much shade you want your plants to get. Whether you have a sunny or shady yard, eggplants can grow in the heat of the summer. Just remember that they do best in the fall and winter.
Early gardeners in Virginia participated in an active seed trade. John Custis sent cuttings of his plants to London, and seedsmen advertised a wide variety of plants. Various books for this hobby were written and published. A growing number of gardens in the colonial era were supervised by the government and tended by the founders of the country. George Washington experimented with the production of plants, and both Jefferson and Thomas Hamilton were known for their meticulous gardens.
The colonial era was an important time for gardening in Virginia. In the early 1900s, wealthy people began building country houses that included elaborate gardens. Their estates were reminiscent of early plantations. In the colonial era, the first landscape designers were men of color. They included hedges, paths, benches, and box-edged beds. Unlike their English counterparts, they were influenced by different cultures and climates.