03/28/14 11:30am


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…)

03/07/14 4:00pm

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.

Image via Brooklyn Botanic Garden

03/05/14 11:30am


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.

A consultant for the city told The New York Post the garden was “decommissioned” as a park in 2004.

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.

Coney Islanders Want to Protect Their Garden From Marty’s Theater [Brownstoner]
Photo via Inhabitat

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.

Image via Black Urban Growers


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 1

Summit Garden in Columbia Street Waterfront contributes cooperative green space to the neighborhood.

Greenest Block 1

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…)

07/01/13 12:00pm

According to 596 Acres, Patchen Community Square, a community garden in Bed Stuy, is now officially open on weekends. Visitors can stop by on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am to 8 pm. Earlier this summer the community was hard at work transforming this lot, which has been empty since the turn of the century, into a mixed-use space with garden beds and an open space for the community. Check out photos of their progress at the Patchen Community Square Facebook Page.
Community Garden Almost Ready at Putnam and Patchen [Brownstoner]
Photo via Facebook

06/24/13 12:00pm

Sustainable Flatbush recently transformed their community green space, at the Flatbush Reformed Church property on Kenmore Terrace, into a culinary and medicinal herb garden. They host free herbal workshops open to the public, offer internships for Brooklyn high school students, and give educational tours of the native plant garden. They’re planning to grow a total of 30 varieties of herbs in tiered raised beds, planters, and vertical wall gardens. The garden will also contain a mini hoop house for seed propagation, a worm compost bin, a work table and a seating area. Sustainable Flatbush held the first herbal workshop series last Saturday, June 15, and plans to keep them going through the summer. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the garden effort, visit the website here. Sustainable Flatbush hopes to raise $3,000 to finish the garden buildout.

06/12/13 10:30am

Affordable housing will replace a community garden at 346 Bergen Street, between 3rd and 4th avenues, in Boerum Hill. It’s not a surprise, though, to the organizers of the community garden, which has always been temporary. The building plans call for 24 rental units and six stories, with studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, and three-bedrooms. The design will blend in with neighboring buildings. Rents will run between $1,850 to $2,200 a month and tenants will be selected through the city’s affordable housing lottery. According to the most recent minutes of the Community Board Two Land Use Committee, this project has been in the works for awhile but only recently acquired financing from the HPD. (The DOB first approved the developer’s building application back in 2005.) The garden, Feedback Farms, has tentative plans to move elsewhere once construction begins. Here’s what they said in February:

Our tenancy at 346 Bergen has, from the beginning of this project, been temporary. The lot we use, as well as the one on the west side of the space, is owned by the city and has Greenthumb Community Garden status. But the middle lot is privately owned, and the owner has always planned to build on all three lots. He has generously allowed us to use it until he secures the permits and financing he needs to build. We’ve heard from him that the earliest he’ll begin building is August or September of this year, and we have decided to go ahead with our growing season full-steam, with the understanding that even if we have to leave in the late summer, our work will have been well worth the effort for even a truncated season’s worth of fun and fresh produce. Hurray! He’ll give us 30 days notice if he needs us to vacate, and we will decide then what the best way forward will be should that happen.

Apparently the developers already have the permits in place to begin construction, but we hope they hold off until the fall. New building permits haven’t come through yet with the Department of Buildings. GMAP

06/06/13 11:30am

garden-1-060613A reader sent in these photos and the story of her garden transformation. Over several years, she and her family took the land from rubble-strewn dirt lot to fully landscaped with patios, grass and flower beds, using mostly found materials and doing much of the work themselves. They had a patio with pavers laid close to the house, then put down sod for a lawn. They created a small raised bed for flowers from rubble at the back of the yard, and fashioned a small patio around it using bluestone found in the garden. The circular bench toward the back, made out of compressed paper and resin, was contributed by a friend who was testing the design (it is now available at Material Process). In 2010, they extended the patio in the rear using pond pebbles. In 2011, Hurricane Irene felled a tree, which took out part of the garden. They took advantage of the newly sunny spot opened up by the felled tree and added raised beds for vegetables. Then they added a metal deck to the back of the house and redid the lawn again with new sod. Voila, a space for gardening, entertaining, BBQ and basketball. (more…)

06/05/13 12:00pm

A new community garden is in the works in Bed Stuy, at the corner of Putnam and Patchen avenues. The neighbors have dubbed it Patchen Community Square and are envisioning a mixed-use space with both garden beds and an open space for the community. The group received licensing last July from GreenThumb and HPD along with Community Board Three’s recommendation. 596 Acres helped them access the lot, which has been empty since the turn of the century and was previously home to a garden in the ’80s and ’90s. The community has been working on the space on Sundays from about 9 am to around 3 pm. They are planning a grand opening party for June 16; after that, the garden will be open to the public on weekends, as well as a weeknight or two.
Photo via Facebook

06/04/13 12:00pm

build-it-green-drop-off-060413The Gowanus Canal Conservancy and Build It Green!NYC have teamed up to open a drop-off facility for composting in Gowanus. Starting June 6, Brooklyn residents can drop off their food scraps on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm at Build It Green!NYC’s Reuse Center in Gowanus. There are 14 other drop-off locations in Brooklyn and Queens; pictured above right is one in Jackson Heights, Queens. The compost goes to street tree beds, community gardens and parks.