Garden and community space in Bed-Stuy

Spring Membership Update

This past winter, while the garden was resting, we took the opportunity to reflect on what worked well for us in past years and what could be better in the coming year. We created a “task force” consisting of both officers as well as general members to think about ways we could strengthen and improve our infrastructure and procedures, with a specific focus on communication and engagement with both members and the public, as well as the tasks of garden maintenance. 

Each general member will be required complete 2 units of work per month and members with plots 4 units. Units of work are defined as: 1 open hour shift (2 hours), 1 task of watering, or 1 unit of a special project (however much takes place on 1 day eg. organizing an event, building planters, maintaining compost, administrative work). Each open hour shift is two hours long with 2 members per shift and members will serve as ambassadors of the garden welcoming neighbors, fielding questions, etc. Members can sign up here or let Alison know which shifts you would like. Please do not sign up directly on the whiteboard in the shed!!! Alison will transpose all signups onto the whiteboard. Alison will take on the first shift (10am-noon) on Saturdays for new member orientations and if members need to discuss anything with her.

Also on the white board will be a list of garden tasks for the week that members are encouraged to complete during their open hour shifts. Members who are unable to complete work requirements due to disability or age-related infirmity are welcome to request an exemption. 

Preparing the Garden for Winter

Fall is closing in on us and it's time to start thinking about prepping beds for winter. There's a few options from cleaning up your bed and letting it lie fallow for the season to extending your season and continuing to grow winter crops or overwintering crops.

Regardless of what you choose to do to your bed, you should remove all plant parts, including leafy material, and pieces of tomatoes so that late blight spores cannot continue to reproduce throughout the winter and affect your (and your neighbors!) plants next year. Please trash all plant material rather than compost so we don't continue the cycle.

Prepping Bed for Winter

Remove all plant parts and spread amendments (manure/compost) evenly over the area before you till. You'll need a lot of manure and/or compost to feed microorganisms and help the soil remain open and well-drained. Fall tilling is about opening up the soil to incorporate amendments, relieve compaction, increase oxygen and improve drainage. The deeper you get the better. Because you're not planting right afterward, it's best to rough till once in each direction. This leaves the surface irregular with large chunks of earth. The clods will gradually erode over the course of the winter, carrying amendments deeper down with the runoff. You can litter the entire surface with a mulch of shredded leaves, hay or straw to prevent erosion.The ground will flatten out considerably by spring when you'll need only fine till to prepare for planting.

You can also plant cover crops to improve your soil in preparation for spring planting. Cover crops can be planted as a cost effective way to improve your soil. Use cover crops to build organic matter, fix nitrogen, draw nutrients from the soil, prevent erosion, and break pest and disease cycles. Hudson Valley Seed Library seeds here. September is the best time to plant cover crops. In the spring, break up the plants and till your soil to bury the cover crop. The cover crop will decompose, creating compost in your bed for your seasonal plants.

Adding coffee grounds to the top of your bed to deter cats from using as a litter box. Coffee grounds will also add nutrients to the soil.

A soil test can also help to determine if your soil will benefit from amendments to add specific nutrients and adjust pH. You can get soil tests done through: Environmental Sciences Analytical Center at Brooklyn College, Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory, or UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has more detailed info on why you would want to test your soil here.

Winter Harvest Crops

As plants are dying or stopping production, you can use the space to plant for a winter harvest. Fall is like spring in terms of cooler temperatures, so you can plant greens, kale, carrots, beets, radishes, cilantro, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, bunching onions. Johnny's Seeds has a real nice selection of seeds for planting here and gives detailed growing information. Hudson Valley Seed Library also has a nice selection of seeds.

Overwintering Crops

Overwintered Crops are planted in the fall or winter, and left in place for the earliest possible spring harvest. What is important is to purchase seeds that are hardy varieties that can withstand freezing temperatures. For example, carrots can be overwintered but you will be more successful if you plant a hardy variety of carrot. Garlic can also be planted, but harvest is around June or July, rather than early spring. Johnny's Seeds overwintering crops are here and a pretty informational article about the most successful crops to overwinter here. Johnny's did a trial on overwintering onions, that is super in depth for anyone expressing interest in onions here.

Hoop Houses - Extending Season

Hoops over your bed can also help extend your season to keep warm air in and the frost out when planting for a winter harvest or overwintering crops for a spring harvest. I recommend PVC pipes that are anchored to the sides of the bed. Wrap the hoops with plastic or row cover and anchor to your bed. Johnny's Seeds has a nice selection of products to do this here. If you use plastic, you will need to make sure your bed is getting watered since plastic will keep water out.

First meeting of the year!

Our first meeting is Wednesday, March 1st at 7pm in the basement of L' Antagoniste restaurant located at 238 Malcolm X Blvd on the corner of Hancock Street. If you intend on coming, please be prompt, as we would like to keep to an hour.

If you are interested in becoming a member, please join us! We will only be accepting new members at meetings (first Weds of every month) in order to streamline the process.