Posted by: David Watts | March 15, 2012


we have been very busy since the last post two years ago! georgia’s place rooftop farm has expanded greatly…our new blog site is
come and see how far we’ve come!

Posted by: David Watts | June 20, 2010

the radishes are ready!

rooftop radishes!

Let’s learn about radishes. The genus name of radish is the Greek word Raphanus meaning “quickly appearing”, which refers to the rapid germination period. Apparently they only take 3-7 days to germinate and can mature in as little as 3-4 weeks. Well, we just harvested our first radishes of the season the other day, and yes, they were quick to appear considering we planted them from teeny tiny seeds. Radishes are also nutrient rich – they are an excellent source of calcium, potassium, vitamin b6, and riboflavin.

at first we feared they too had been defeated by the over-pooification, but never underestimate the RADISH!

Come over to Georgia’s Place Rooftop and munch on some of this spicy root vegetable. Join us in celebrating its victory over the chicken manure!

who's crying now, chicken manure?

over-pooify this!

Posted by: David Watts | June 20, 2010

the farmer kept his word.

Last Tuesday, Will Lee of Sang Lee Farms arrived at Georgia’s Place and unloaded crate after crate of vegetables for the second CSA distribution. The last item out of his enormous truck was a tray full of plants for our rooftop! Sweet! The plants included a bunch of heirloom tomatoes (black prince, cherokee purple, black zebra), yellow grape tomatoes, green giants, zepher squash, straightneck zucchini, cucumbers and starship squash.

the goods.

As the photos show, we do not have much room left in most of our beds (they resemble a crowded subway during rush hour), so we improvised and used old buckets and the Fresh Lee Cut boxes that the vegetables came in. Will punched holes in the bottom of the buckets and we simply lined the cardboard boxes and filled them up with dirt. The tomatoes are planted near the railing so that they can be tied up once they grow. A couple of them already have fruits sprouting! We cannot wait to slice into them.

will & yemi with our new plant friends.

buckets of tomatoes.

Thanks to Sang Lee Farms, our rooftop has nearly 15 new plants, and we have much more to water each day!

we love water!

posing with the new additions.

Posted by: David Watts | June 14, 2010

update: the asparagus is taunting me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I just know you will share in my excitement over the asparagus. Yup, that same old asparagus that we can’t touch for another year…or two.

Look at these beauties!

hear me roar.

just call me fern.

Posted by: David Watts | June 14, 2010

a surprise in the sidewalk.

On Saturday, as I was entering the building, a resident ran up to me and cryptically said ‘follow me’. She said she wanted to show me something outside. I asked not a question and obediently tagged behind her out the building and across Bedford Avenue.
On the corner of Bedford Avenue and Prospect Place, I spied a bunch of weeds (or so I thought) growing in the sidewalk cracks around a telephone booth.

the aforementioned phonebooth.

weeds? think again.

What’s the big deal, you ask? I asked the same question. The resident proceeded to point at a cluster of green and excitedly told me that it was Callaloo, a Carribean leaf vegetable (also known as amaranth- Callaloo is actually the name of the dish made from these greens, however, the name is used interchangeably and confusingly with the plant itself). It was thriving in the pee-ridden sidewalk! Incredible! This particular resident hails from Montserrat and is 100% confident in her leafy green detective skills. She also revealed that there are even larger Callaloo plants growing on the corner of St. Johns and Classon Avenue.

why, hello there!

So what did I do with this precious information? I did what any urban gardener in Crown Heights, Brooklyn would do. I ran inside, grabbed my little digger from the roof, and went to work digging the plant out of the sidewalk. It was a struggle because the roots were definitely holding hands with the cement. I managed to get the plant out carefully without harming the roots too much.
Right now it is sitting in a pot by the window on Yemi’s desk. Once it gets a little bigger we’ll move it to its new home on the roof.

'thank you, GP Rooftop. i will never be peed on again!'

Even better, this afternoon, Yemi went on another excursion with the Georgia’s Place sleuth and came back with an entire bundle of Crown Heights Callaloo transplants.

Check out our recipe page for Callaloo dishes once we harvest some of its leaves.

Posted by: David Watts | June 9, 2010

csa day = csa yay!

On Tuesday, we were elated to be welcoming the Crown Heights CSA back to Georgia’s Place. This year, we are proud to be the community pick up site for CSA members. In return, the CSA generously donates all unclaimed shares to the residents of Georgia’s Place. Sweet deal, if you ask me. This is the second year that the residents are benefiting from these donations, and we must say that these farm fresh veggies have had a major impact on their eating habits and overall health.
Yesterday was the first day of the Spring/Summer CSA. It was fun to watch the entire process unfold. First, the farmer arrived with a cargo van full of vegetables. Then, punctual as always, the CSA site supervisors arrived and went to work separating the vegetables and weighing them out. Fran Miller, a site supervisor, described it best when she said picking up your share is like being at the salad bar. Next came the members, hungry and excited for their first pickup of the season. This year there are around 200 people signed up for both full and half shares. To observe the pickup, you would never guess that many people were coming in and out of Georgia’s Place. The CSA runs like a well oiled machine.

snap peas!

crates of veggies!

And it gets even better. Of course we couldn’t miss this opportunity to pick the brain of an actual farmer. Will Lee, the son of Fred & Karen Lee of Sang Lee Farm in Long Island, NY, was happy to take a few minutes to check out our roof…and readers, he gave us the official green thumbs up! We learned invaluable information from him in the short time he was up there. For instance, did you know that sunflowers actually don’t need a lot of water? If you give them too much water, their bottom leaves begin to turn yellow and their stalks thin out. Not only that, the bloom gets too top heavy causing the flower to be unstable. We can’t have that, now can we? Here we were thinking of renaming sunflowers to ‘rainflowers’ because we thought they required so much water. Nope. Let them dry out. They like it. They are hardy little buggers.
Will also assisted David in adding more dirt to our tomato plant. He explained that more soil will allow the roots to grow deeper and the plant will grow larger (and increase the yield). We also learned why heirloom tomatoes are so damn expensive at farmers’ markets. Turns out that they are those most testy of tomato plants, bred for taste and not productivity. They are very slow growers and the yield is very low. I guess we should all be more understanding about that $4 green zebra heirloom tomato now that we know it probably took the poor farmer 3 months to grow.
We were also able to ask Will about our strawberries. Our strawberry plants are very large and in charge, having grown back from last year, but we noticed that the berries, albeit delicious, are teeny tiny treats. Will thinks this is because of insufficient pollination. Maybe there weren’t enough bees doing their waggle dance up on the roof this spring. Likely because we didn’t plant enough flowers. Solution? HIVES ON THE ROOF! You heard me: Bzzzzz. Stay tuned, we’re working on it.

Will adding more dirt to the tomato plant

team work at its best

P.S. To make Will Lee even more farm-tastic, he is bringing us tomato plants and planters from Sang Lee Farm next week. Thank you Will Lee, Crown Heights CSA, and Sang Lee Farms! We are so happy to be partnering with you and welcoming the Crown Heights community into our home!

yemi & i all smiles with the donations at the end of the night.

Posted by: David Watts | June 4, 2010

Saara saves the day!

On Wednesday, our friend Saara Nafisi, from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, paid the Rooftop a visit…and she came bearing gifts in the form of seedlings and marigolds!

Saara is the supervisor of the Garden Apprentice Program at BBG and we were thrilled to play the role of eager students as she gave us an impromptu gardening lesson. She examined our soil and plants, and sad to say, folks, the chicken manure continues to haunt us. Crap (literally)! We tasted some of the lettuce and it was incredibly bitter. Blah! We removed it from the beds – 4 rows total. We were sad to see it go, but found comfort in the seedling replacements that went in its place. Hello Swiss Chard!
We also learned that our basil would be much happier if we split the plants. What we had thought were single plants of basil were in fact 6,7,8 different plants clumped together. Saara showed us how to split them without harming the roots. She actually used the word “blunt force” to describe how to pull them apart. I love that.

The all-knowing Saara.

It saddens me to say this, but we have a little more bad news…our Arugula. Or should I say argh!rugula. It already flowered and is on its way to seed! Oh no! Saara explained that when a burst of heat occurs early in Spring (which happened this year), a lot of plants start thinking its the end of summer and they need to hurry up and seed. Looks like that is the case with our Arugula. We are so disappointed. (David, Yemi and I realized that a couple other plants are experiencing the same phenomenon- a few peppers and strawberries. We believe that the nursery where we got the plants from sold us a lot of overly mature buggers. We will be more careful next year. You live, you learn, right?)

But on to the good news – after we removed the Arugula, it was replaced with Broccoli and Red Onions from Saara! We also made room in other beds for Cabbage, Sweet Basil, and Celery!

Thank you, Saara! You rock.

broccoli and red onions being welcomed with water!

hello celery!

Posted by: David Watts | June 2, 2010

practicing patience with asparagus.

The Rooftop is meeting a lot of new friends this week. Today we planted asparagus crowns (2 year old clumps of roots – apparently easier to get to harvest than starting from seed). We had an empty bed just calling out to the asparagus roots…who were we to resist?

Asparagus is fun (and a little intimidating) to plant. You have to dig trenches because the foot long roots go in sideways. They also do not want competing plants near them. Apparently, asparagus roots are lovers, not fighters- if another root system is competing for nutrients, asparagus usually backs down and suffers.

Now for the test of patience: we won’t be able to harvest any of the spears this year. I know, I know, we were really looking forward to bouquets of asparagus this spring too. Not this year – we were told to just let the plant go to seed. Next spring, however, we will be able to harvest asparagus spears for about two weeks (each year the length of harvest grows). Once the spears start becoming thin stalks (pencil-like), the harvest is done for the year, and you let those ones go. And that’s not all, a bonus after the harvest is that the plant turns into a pretty feathery fern!

Posted by: David Watts | June 1, 2010

these leaves taste like sugar!

Please join us in welcoming our newest addition to the herb bed at the Rooftop (farm): Stevia! Heard of it? Come over to Georgia’s Place and chew on some of its leaves. It tastes just like sugar. In fact, its extracts have 300 times the sweetness of sugar! And its good for you. Unlike sugar, it has negligible effects on your blood glucose and actually can enhance your glucose tolerance. It’s gaining popularity in diabetics and for treatment of obesity. Some interesting facts about Stevia is that it was banned from the United States and on the FDA’s import-watch list until the 1990s, apparently because of alleged toxicity (even though there is no evidence to support this and it has been used in other countries, particularly Japan, for 20+ years). Some believe that it was banned to keep other sugar substitutes in business. Think about it- if it has the potential to become a popular substitute, what need would there be for the other products?
In 1994, the ban was lifted through the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, however, it is still not legal to use as an ingredient in food products, and it must be labeled as a supplement.

Politics aside, we can’t wait to bake with it and use it to sweeten tea! Maybe we will mix it with some of our mint and make sweetened sun tea!

a bee is already welcoming stevia to the roof!

We are also excited to start offering bags of herbs to our residents at Georgia’s Place. Right now we can spare chives, mint, oregano, thyme and lavender. Soon we will be able to harvest basil, parsley, marjoram and rosemary.

Wow, this post makes me want to listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”.

Yemi, the expert weeder.

Posted by: David Watts | May 24, 2010

oh crap, did someone say over-pooification?

Manure is gold to gardeners. It contains nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium that are essential for plants to grow healthy and strong. Farmers and gardeners use various manure sources – cow, horse, chicken, turkey, bat, seagull, rabbit…the list goes on. Actually, later in the season, we are hoping to visit the Bronx Zoo to pick up some elephant dung, which is apparently highly prized by gardeners. Who knew?

When we planted this spring, we used chicken manure as fertilizer for our plants. Well, a couple days later, we were shocked to see that much of the basil was burned: the leaves were brown and singed and the growth seemed stunted. We were very confused. Initially we thought that the plants were getting too much sun, but after consulting with Will Martin at Baker Design & Build, we discovered that the burning was occurring because of the acidic nature of chicken manure. Through research we learned that as manure decomposes, it gets very hot and needs time to cool off. Not only that, chicken manure is very high in acid and is best used when it is mixed with compost.

After speaking to other gardeners, we found out that the next time we use chicken manure, we should either mix it with compost, or use it sparingly and let the soil SIT (without plants) for a couple weeks so that it can cool off and settle.
So what did we do about our poor burned basil? Well, we were going to have to rinse the soil to repair the damage, however, we were blessed with several days of rain that managed to do the rinsing for us. Luckily, the other plants were not damaged by the chicken manure. The basil got the worst of it. But the good news is that this morning the new growth looks green and happy. Take a look!

I must admit, our egos have been bruised, but we understand that gardeners are constantly learning by trial and error, and the over-pooification accident is just an example of our education in progress!

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