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As Brownstoner readers know, Brooklyn’s days as an agricultural hotspot didn’t come to an end 300 years ago. The borough is home to the world’s largest rooftop farm: Brooklyn Grange’s 65,000-square-foot spread at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Installed in 2012 at the top of the Navy Yard’s Building 3, the farm turns out tens of thousands of pounds of produce every year, in addition to producing eggs and honey — and you can see the operation on a pair of tours offered every Wednesday morning.

Visitors see up close how the farm works and learn about the methods and environmental benefits involved with rooftop farming, and urban agriculture more generally. After the 30-minute tour guests stop at the farm stand for honey, hot sauce and vegetables. (more…)

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With Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson no longer prosecuting minor marijuana offenses, and Downtown Brooklyn about to get its first pot dispensary, the borough is on the verge of returning to its pot-growing roots.

Before the 1950s, pot was cultivated pretty freely in the city. Just imagine the summer of ’51 — the Dodgers were leading the National League, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was campaigning for hundreds of miles of urban freeways, and downtown Brooklyn was home to an enormous field of marijuana. (more…)

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Brooklyn is known for a lot of things — Coney Island, the Nets, hip-hop, cheesecake. But farming? It’s probably not the first thing Brooklyn brings to mind.

But working farms do exist in New York City’s most populous borough, usually with the help of some good ‘ole fashioned ingenuity and the hard work of community volunteers. These five working farms aren’t only supporting the community, they’re adding something special to Brooklyn’s economy, too. (more…)

Horizontal-fence

Wow. The fencers have spoken. Yesterday’s Bed Stuy backyard makeover sparked a wave of inquiry into the horizontal cedar-plank fence. And a 2006 post of ours about a similar horizontal fence has been pinned more than 10,000 times.

Horizontal fences are a thing. And we want to share more.

If you have a horizontal fence and would like to share, please send photos to barbara [at] brownstoner.com along with your neighborhood info and any details useful to folks pondering their own fence installation.

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The first party guests arrive in the newly finished backyard

Editor’s note: This is the latest in our long-running Bed Stuy Reno, a renovation diary written by a Brownstoner reader about a budget renovation of an Italianate brownstone in Bed Stuy financed with a construction loan.

When I finished most of the house renovations last year, there was no budget left for the backyard. Which in hindsight was a good thing, because I needed to recover from all the ills of going through a gut renovation.

Fast forward nine months later and I had enough saved to start my budget garden renovation. My old contractor offered me a great price to complete the work and as much as I like to save money, I really did not want to work with him on this project. I knew that I needed an expert and I wouldn’t have time to watch the project like a hawk. (more…)

Even city dwellers need a little green in their lives. A selection of plants can make your backyard, deck, rooftop, countertop, or planter box feel like an urban oasis. If you’re not experienced in plant care, however, the idea of raising your own crop of ferns and flowers can seem daunting.

If you’re wondering how to get started with your urban garden, this post is for you. We’ve spoken to the most skilled green thumbs in Brooklyn — the gardeners and landscape designers of Brownstoner’s Home Pros. Following are our experts’ top tips for choosing the right plants and keeping them healthy.

Tip #1 – Don’t overwater your plants

Brownstoner Home Pros Leaf and JunePhoto by Erica Gannett

“Selecting plants based on the natural sunlight they’ll be receiving is key, even more important than watering.  Overwatering is the quickest way to kill a plant, so feel the soil to gauge whether it’s thirsty. In this space, a palm tree, philodendron and snake plant all do well with plenty of light. That said, snake plants are versatile and are great low-light plants, making them ideal for city dwellers.” – Lisa, Leaf and June (more…)

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Spring is here, and the biggest annual plant sale in Brooklyn takes place next week at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The annual fundraiser for the garden has become a staple for Brooklyn gardeners and offers more than 20,000 plants of all kinds.

There will be a large selection of perennials and annuals for shade and sun, including roses, dahlias and many varieties of herbs and vegetables.

The garden’s staff members will be on hand to dole out advice, including the director of conservatories and horticultural programs, Mark Fisher; curator of the Shakespeare Garden and Fragrance Garden, Jennifer Williams; curator of the Bonsai collection, Julian Velasco, and others. During the sale there will be a number of workshops and demonstrations on everything from orchids, shrubs and herbs to vertical gardening.

(more…)

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Gardeners take note: The Cobble Hill Tree Fund is getting ready to host its annual plant sale next month. There will be perennials and plenty of annuals for both sun and shade, as well as herbs and vegetables.

Hanging baskets will also be available (hint: Mother’s Day is the weekend after the sale). And there will be a plant identification game for kids. (more…)

making brooklyn bloom rebecca bullene

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is hosting its 34th annual “Making Brooklyn Bloom” conference tomorrow, where urban farmers and gardeners can learn all about setting up and cultivating a successful community garden. Workshops and breakout sessions will cover topics like community composting, edible flowers, decontaminating soil for urban gardens, caring for street trees and city partnerships. There will also be exhibits from local gardening organizations, a guided walking tour of the gardens and a workshop on building indoor terrariums. Check-in begins at 10 am and the conference runs until 4 pm. Take a look at the full schedule over on BBG’s website.

Photo by Rebecca Bullene for Brooklyn Botanic Garden

February 2015 - 2

It may seem like spring will never come, what with the puddles of ice under parked cars, and the banks of dirty snow lining the sidewalks, but if you look at the fuzzy buds on the trees growing fatter by the week, you know winter is almost done. Already you can see the dark pink buds of the eastern redbud trees if you look closely. Four or five weeks from now, we’ll enjoy the yellow blooms of daffodils and forsythias, and in two months, it will be time to replant tomato seedlings.

So, as odd as it may seem after weeks of below-freezing temperatures and yet more snow yesterday, this is the perfect time to start new things from seeds! Instead of starting indoors, having to remember to keep everything moist at all times, which can be a challenge in a typical dry and hot New York apartment, I am inviting you to put everything outside in recycled homemade “greenhouses” and let nature take its course.

You can start vegetables, herbs, salads or flowers, or mix and match as you wish. I use empty plastic gallon jugs I had initially bought to prepare for Hurricane Sandy, but other clear plastic food containers (juice or milk, for example) work. (more…)

November 2014 - 1

Cold weather is approaching fast! Next week, we might get our first real frost, and snow that actually stays with us for a while.

Assuming you followed my advice last month and weeded, cleared most spent flowers, and mowed your grass one last time, there shouldn’t be too much left on your plate. If not, this coming weekend provides one last opportunity before the promised first snow next week. It’s time to cut the last of the basil and mint, or bring it inside with the houseplants that summered on the patio or terrace.

If you have any planters made out of terra-cotta, any tropical plants, dahlia or caladium, this is it! Time to dig it out from the ground and store it inside. Then you can make sure to turn off the outdoor faucet valve in the basement, and remove or disconnect any timer, manifold and hose outside. With so little left to do in your backyard, we can bring a little bit of love to the street trees.

For the past two years, I have watched this acacia grow out of the root ball of one of the million trees planted by the city. At first, it was pretty small, maybe three or four feet. By now, it is almost as tall as the Gingko the city planted in that bed. Technically, you don’t need a license to weed street tree beds, but that thing is as large as the tree, and I really don’t have time to get arrested (falsely) for destroying city property. So I decided to go legit and get the Citizen Pruner license, so I could take a loper to the interloper.

We have almost a million new trees in the city, and maybe one of them is your block.  They can all use a little bit of love. Ten things you can do to help a street tree: (more…)