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Getting Your Garden To Grow... In A Basement Apartment

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Kenneth Moore, 27, shows off his indoor garden at his apartment in Columbia Heights.
Emily Berman
Kenneth Moore, 27, shows off his indoor garden at his apartment in Columbia Heights.

Meet Kenneth Moore, who blogs as D.C.'s "Indoor Gardener." He comes by that title honestly. His first apartment in the District was a studio in Mount Pleasant, chosen for it's nearly floor to ceiling windows — perfect for a garden.

"I had 9-foot-tall tomato plants," Moore recalls. In his raised beds, he cultivated lettuce, beans, and even corn, which was not actually such a great idea. "I would come home, and my furniture would be covered in yellow corn pollen."

His curtains where overrun by sweet potato vines, and his composting bin had no place to go but right next to his bed. Moore had hundreds of plants growing, and out of all of it he says he yielded enough tomatoes and peppers to make tomato sauce... twice.

This was just the most recent incident in a long line of underperforming gardens. When he was 4 years old, his father built a garden box out of 2x4s on their back deck. Moore, the toddler, chose the vegetables he'd plant and was in charge of all the gardening. He'd picked up the idea from a book called, "Every Seed is a promise."

Now, 20-something years later, he works in communications, and gardens on the side. In his apartment in Columbia Heights, he no longer has a full on garden plot, but he does manage a 6-foot-tall bookshelf with grow lights, misters and plants.

There's even a 20-gallon fish tank full of 45 orchids. In the spring and summer, he works a plot of land at his local community garden. Last year, he planted 120 varieties, which he admits is far too many. But, Moore says, it's all just an experiment.

"It's something to figure out how to do," he says. "Figuring out how to do it for myself, and how all those things that I use in the day-to-day world are made."

The Indoor Gardener's Picks:

  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange — A local-ish seed company in Virginia that offers many heirloom seeds that grow well in the mid-Atlantic. This is where I buy my cotton, sorghum, and many other seeds, as well as garlic.
  • Kitazawa Seed Company — A California-based seed company with a comprehensive collection of Asian vegetable seeds. Seeds originate from Japan and China to India and the Middle East. Many of the seeds offered are for plants you can't easily find grown fresh in this area, such as molokhia, a Middle Eastern/North African green that does extremely well in the heat.

 

Other seed sources:

 

Great places to buy seed/seedlings in the D.C. area:

 

Great source of gardening information for D.C. area:


[Music: "Younger Than Springtime" by Art Farmer from Art/ Perception]

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