Welcome to science. these posts explore the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
It's January 14th here. We're expecting snow later in the week and currently it was not so cold. Luft, Smith and I thought it was a perfect time to fix some of the beds. Not much green except for the cover crops.
We're trying to make all repairs without having to buy new material except for screws and nails. We brought drills, hammers and a circular saw to make the repairs. And tea. Smith brought some tea! Thank you Smith for bringing tea.
A day later, after we repaired the beds, we added as much organic material as we could find. That included horse manure from a nearby stable, straw, leaves, sticks and other rotting hardwoods. We were trying to finish as snow was expected the same evening. You can barely see Smith shivering in the last picture. He brought some tea (again!) as it was getting late and cold.
There are lots of things that I get done in the winter and now one of them is deciding what to grow in the spring. If you grow year 'round, then I guess you get January off. Once February hits, its time to germinate!
This year seed selection wasn't necessarily about choosing as much as it was about what could I get. Everyone wants seeds this year. What I really needed was onions, tomatoes and corn (and beans people. Everyone needs beans). They were high on my list and I was lucky enough to get varieties of all. Some that I planned for and some surprises like Rossa di Miliano onions.
Rossa di Miliano onions need quite a bit of time to germinate. I started mid February. They really need 12 weeks time before transplanting - I got them in 3 weeks late. The issue, however, wasn't time or space. It was finding the location of the sun. I live in the biggest city in the United States, so space is tight. You need to be creative. I've seen friends germinate seedlings in their basements, or designated rooms in homes and apartments. Heck, one guy I know even turned his bedroom into a greenhouse. Initially I thought I might build a custom greenhouse on the fire escape out in the back of the house where I could keep it warm with a solar heater on the roof and pump warm air down into it using a solar fan. There was one big problem though.
I realized that the sun was on the south side of the house and therefore, in the front of the house. During the summer, the sun is in the back of the house and I just assumed that it was still there. I've never tracked it but this year I will watch to see when the transfer happens.
Just like my germinating calendar above, now I understand where the sun will be at key points during the year which will help me with germination (and transplanting). I can tweak the charts this year through observation to help me with planning. Since plants don't care about daylights savings time, it also gives me an idea of how long the day will be and to help maximize their exposure to sunlight in the coming months.
I ended up building a temporary shelf system by designing it into my window. I gave about a foot between each shelf just to make sure all the seedlings were going to get enough light.
Today, which is March 6th, the Rossa di Miliano onions have just crested the soil. which is on time and right where I need everything to germinate.
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.
Since I've started keeping a five gallon compost bin, I've been noticing how less often I'm using the waste bin. In fact, right now, I'm pitching five gallons of waste once every month. I do recycle paper, plastics and glass. That goes out about twice a week and compost on average is being thrown into the larger 65 gallon bin outside every two weeks.
I asked 20 people 20 questions about the environment. This is what they said.
Once I upgraded to a 5 gallon compost bucket in my kitchen, and a 65 gallon bin to my neighbors yard, I wondered what else I could do? What other resources am I using that could be replaced or upgraded? What else can nature provide that I can use or reuse? The first thing I thought of was solar.
Summer typically is a slow season for me but with Covid, I was a little overwhelmed with the future. Should I stay in Brooklyn? Will it be safe? What would I do? Where would I go if I decided to move? Should I keep my studio? How should I plan? Eventually I came up with a plan. And I also felt comfortable enough to read a few books. Well, ok, maybe 20 books.
Since moving to Brooklyn in 2008, I have always collected compost. Up until right before the global pandemic, I've kept it in my freezer. At first I would