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Back in late summer of 2020, I was searching for abandoned land or otherwise potential sites to garden in New York City. Some friends knew of a site so we investigated. It turns out that it was originally a garden but it was seriously overgrown. There were a lot of broken beds and it was impossible to even look at the soil because there was growth everywhere.
These pictures illustrate some of the story. The shed, for example, was tipped over. We righted it and even found some rusty tools laying around the site to add to it. We chopped down the weeds and instead of discarding them we dropped them onto the beds to serve as a source of nutrients for the soil during the fall and winter.
On October 25th we built a compost bin with scrap materials we found on site. Smith and Luft did it the old fashioned way - hammer and nails. We also took the opportunity to grow some shallots, rye, oats and buckwheat as winter crops in some of the beds as well.
By November 11th, much of the organic matter died back, especially in the beds. Most of the leaves have dropped as well, providing an additional blanket of dead material for the soil. Luft added a wooden nob on the bottom of the compost bin to scoop out the humus (the organic component of soil, the by-product of compost) when its ready.
By November 14th, we started seeing rye and oats popping up from under the brush. That was a good sign.
Someone had accidentally dropped some buckwheat into a pot of soil, so we transplanted that into another bed.
By November 22nd, the rye had grown about 2 inches, enough to stop worrying about it so we could focus on other efforts on site. Here, you can see my finger as a reference point to the height of the plants.
And by December 25th, the only thing green in the entire garden were some very hearty clover and the winter cover crops, although not as high as I expected. I assume that because we planted them so late in the fall that they didn't reach their recommended height. Regardless, its something to note by trying to plant later in the summer.
Of note, we tried sowing by hand in rows in some beds while others, we tried broadcasting the seeds, by loosely scattering them in a defined area. We'll see the difference probably this spring.