About a year ago, we had modest plans to complete our already pretty well established garden with a few shrubs, but one thing led to another and we ended up replanting most of it. We had been looking for peonies and maybe some hydrangeas to fill in a few holes but could never find what we wanted in the quantities we needed. (more…)
When people call me for help in their backyard, they often ask if they have enough sun to grow a lawn, tomatoes or a plum tree, and where would be the best placement for a grill, patio or ping pong table. Each person has his or her own list, often borne out of a desire to re-create a particularly fond memory of a garden or a lovely smell, taste or feeling. I must disagree with Tolstoy, who famously wrote that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It is exactly the reverse in Brooklyn backyards. Happiness is linked to unique, personal memories; unhappiness is all about the mosquitoes.
If you feel the mosquitoes have gotten worse, faster and more clever, you are right. The old native house mosquitoes (dark, slow, loud) have been supplanted by zebra mosquitoes (also called tiger, Asian or forest mosquitoes.) These newcomers are stealthier and much harder to control. The city still calls on everyone not to leave standing water, and while that is excellent advice for swamp mosquitoes, it doesn’t really slow down zebra mosquito reproduction, as the females lay eggs in any damp environment, such as as shady, moist underbrush, not just in standing water.
Another notable difference is that female zebra mosquitoes don’t try to make one blood meal before laying eggs; instead, they make multiple small snacks. So you may have six bites from one mosquito; worse, that mosquito might have taken blood from a bird, your dog, your neighbor’s cat and then you in short order, which explains why they are excellent vectors for contagious diseases for humans and animals. Finally, zebra mosquitoes are active during the day. They detect mammals through their breath and scent.
I am not telling you all this to ruin your 4th of July plans, but because knowing your enemy, you can attempt to defeat it.
1. Controlling standing water is not nearly enough. You also must clear any permanent damp spot; any area that will remain moist for three days or more can support mosquito breeding.
2. I am of two minds about the CO2 traps. (more…)
If you’re involved with a community garden or happen to have a sizable backyard, you might want to learn how to build a hoophouse, a simple, low-cost type of greenhouse. Citizens Committee for New York City is hosting a hands-on workshop next weekend in East New York that will lead participants through the basics of building one.
Hoophouses can be made of wood, metal or plastic and will help extend the growing season of plants by protecting them year round. The workshop takes place Saturday, June 28, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm at an as-yet-undisclosed location in East New York. To RSVP and find out more, head over to Citizens Committee and download the flyer.
So pretty, but this weed should come with its own scary music intro.
First, let me preface that “weeds” is a bit of a rude word. What differentiates a common weed from a native plant? Only the eye of the beholder. In my garden, I let the asclepias (aka the humble milkweed) grow, because it is the only food source of the Monarch butterfly larva, and I love butterflies. I reserve the moniker of weed for invasive species that don’t play well with others, or are hard to eradicate. But feel free to let the weeds grow if you love them. Apart from the asclepias, I have a soft spot for the common mallow’s pink flowers and the wild violets. All this to say, this is a completely unscientific approach. This weed business is all about how subjectively pretty, how invasive, and how difficult they are to remove.
From best to worst:
- Milkweed, wild campion, clover, wild violets: As I mentioned in my preface, milkweed is the sole food source of the Monarch butterfly larva, so if you want a great butterfly garden, to your butterfly bush, coneflowers or brown-eyed Susans, you must add a few asclepias. Wild campions are a great reminder you need to mow your lawn, and clover is very good at fixing nitrogen into the soil, while lawns are great at consuming it. Sometimes, it’s better to let partnerships happen, rather than fight nature tooth and nail. Wild violets spread if left unchecked, so it’s not a bad idea to remove most of them past blooming season, unless you want a full carpet the following year. (more…)
Arts in the Gardens will put on music, poetry, dance, film and performances at four community gardens in Bed Stuy and Gowanus this summer. The gardens were created or upgraded with funds from the New York Restoration Project, which is one of the partners in the series, along with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Bronx Museum of Science, said a story in The New York Times.
Architectural Digest has before and after photos of eight of the New York Restoration Project gardens, including four in Bed Stuy, Carroll Gardens, Bushwick and East New York. Pictured above is the Cooper Street Community Garden in Bushwick, which was spruced up about a year or two ago with new hardscaping, benches and plantings.
There will be a day of jazz and blues in the Jane Bailey Memorial Garden at 327-329 Greene Avenue in Bed Stuy on June 14. On July 7, the same garden will host a hip hop dance event. For the complete calendar of events, check out NYRP’s website.
Winter has finally packed its bags, and it’s a perfect time to plant all manner of trees, perennials and annuals. It is also a great time to weed and reseed your lawn, before the weather gets so warm Bermuda grass takes over. Warmer days and frequent rains give everything a good start.
In preparation for the trip to the nursery, I figured this was the perfect time to talk about four beginner’s mistakes most people make when starting a garden.
1. The one of a kind syndrome.
Do you remember your high school class photo? Each of you with your own style, height, color, clothes, looking awkward? This is what happens when you plant one of each; every lovely plant looking awkward and lonely, with that slightly out-of-place, desperate look of a school photo. Everyone does better with a few friends, so try to find some strength in numbers. Say you plan on buying 24 plants total: Better to buy in threes, fours or sixes than 24 different plants.
2. Pushing plants out of their comfort zone.
Even plants that are adaptable do better when they are planted in the right spot (anyone who tried growing a lawn in the shade knows this). This means that in the long run, they will be stronger, look better and handle benign neglect with fortitude. If you go to a local nursery, they will sell plants that are adapted to the Brooklyn climate, and can inform you as to their needs for sun, shade and the kind of soil and drainage they require. If you order online, make sure to check that they are adapted to our zone (7b), and place them where they will be happy. (more…)
Please welcome The Dirt, a new gardening column by Brownstoner commenter and Brooklyn garden designer Marie-Helene Attwood of Edible Petals. The monthly column will explore gardening in Brooklyn by season as well as other topics relevant to Brooklyn such as design in narrow city plots and gardening in the shade. Each month, she will answer any questions about Brooklyn gardening over the following weekend.
The first task after this long and cold winter is a simple assessment and clean-up. Are any pots broken? Trees or shrubs or branches bent or dead? If you are like me, you left the seed pods of your echinacea and hyssop and your grasses long for winter interest. Now is the time to cut all of these plants short, to make room for the new growth to come.
It’s also a good time to cut your roses and raspberry canes, and in general remove all dead stalks. If you see any early weeds, remove them now before they grow and spread.
The next step is to feed the soil. You can add some compost and/or worm castings near the root of your plants, and specific fertilizer for your acid-loving shrubs. Rhododendrons and azaleas do best with regular feedings, to replicate their native humus-rich forests. If you have a kitchen garden, adding some blood- and bonemeal now to the soil will help you grow tasty fruits and vegetables this summer.
Now that temperatures are finally rising, you will be able to start sowing greens: Kale, beets, radishes, arugula, mesclun mix, dill and Swiss chard. On the flower side: echinacea, hyssop, sweet peas, cosmos, coreopsis and zinnias. All are very easy to grow from seeds sown directly in the ground — no need to start seedlings indoors first. I am also partial to the large seed packets that are premixed by soil type and sun exposure, to start a flower meadow with a theme.
Don’t worry if it is still cold at night. In fact, all the seeds I mentioned do very well if sown with the last rain of the winter, when overnight temperatures are still in the 30s.
The photo above shows part of my garden at the end of April last year. Click through to the jump to see the first crocus of this year.
Feel free to post questions in the comments, if you have a plant I have not mentioned here, or have any other gardening question. I will do my best to answer everyone over the weekend. (more…)
Learn about gardening and food policy at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend during its 33rd annual Making Brooklyn Bloom conference. The event, which is free with admission to the garden, includes workshops, networking lunches for gardeners and urban famers, walking tours and gardening how-tos. Workshops will cover topics like composting, soil contamination, nature walks and kitchen botany.
Attendees can take a seasonal guided walking tour of the gardens, visit the Rotunda and learn how to build an indoor terrarium. The conference will take place from 10 am to 4 pm, with workshops starting at 11 am and 3 pm. You can register the day of, and BBG suggests you arrive early to reserve space in your preferred workshops. Check out the full schedule here on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website.
Coney Island gardeners outraged over the razing of their garden to make way for the redevelopment of the landmarked Childs restaurant filed a lawsuit against the city today, according to a press release they sent us. The 16-year-old community garden on West 22nd Street was legally a park and Parks Department property, according to the statement.
The Boardwalk Community Garden, Coney Island and the New York City Community Garden Coalition filed an Article 78 petition challenging the environmental review and approval of the outdoor amphitheater project, which was championed by former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. They plan a press conference on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall at noon today to announce the lawsuit.
The Black Urban Growers association is hosting a conference this weekend in Bed Stuy that aims to “enhance the critical relationship between food and health in the Black community by empowering growers, eaters and activists,” according to their website. The Black Farmers and Urban Growers Conference offers networking events, roundtables and panels for those interested in improving the health and well-being of black communities through better food choices.
The first event is tonight at COLORS, the only cooperative restaurant in New York, and the rest of this weekend’s sessions will take place at Boys and Girls High School at 1700 Fulton Street. The conference will tackle topics like community gardens and at-risk youth, new farmer development, unhealthy food marketing and agricultural co-ops. Those interested in attending can check out the full schedule here and buy tickets here.
A Sterling Street block in Prospect Lefferts Gardens that has entered the Greenest Block contest for more than 10 years won first place in the 19th annual contest this year. “We worked really hard,” Claudia Loftis, the block’s garden committee chairperson, told NY1. “We organized, we had the fundraiser, we bought plants for seniors, we bought plants for the children’s garden. We’re taking care of a garden in front of an abandoned house. We have planters, window boxes.” The winning block, pictured above, is located between Washington and Bedford avenues. For a full list of winners and photos, see here. Two hundred blocks from 25 neighborhoods entered this year. Photo via Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Summit Garden in Columbia Street Waterfront contributes cooperative green space to the neighborhood.
Lincoln Road between Bedford and Rogers avenues won the title “The Greenest Block in Brooklyn” in 2012.
The summer in Brooklyn reveals itself in lush gushes of green, throughout the borough. There are the community gardens on many city corners, one of which, Summit Garden in the Columbia Street Waterfront area, offers a perfect example of tranquility in the midst of urban life. And once a year in August, the Greenest Block in Brooklyn is announced to great acclaim. In 2012, a block on Lincoln Road in Lefferts Gardens was given the title, and we had a chance to photograph it in all its glory. (more…)