Tag Archives: NYC garden

The Rooftop Garden in Brooklyn Thrives!

We have a great garden growing on our rooftop in Brooklyn overlooking the construction of the new stadium at Atlantic Center. While watching them build the stadium, we’re growing some good ol’ Brooklyn produce.

At first, we planted in clay pots and plastic pots. We have cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, green-beans, green peppers, serano chiles, and lots of herbs.

Tomatoes and Squash

The best growth we’ve had is with our kale. It grows wonderfully on the roof. Here’s a shot of the kale growing and a shot of cooked kale with garlic and hot red peppers:

kale

Brooklyn Kale

Kale with Garlic and Hot Red Peppers

Kale with Garlic and Hot Red Peppers

I also tried a new method of growing tomatoes using a Sub Irrigated Planter (SIP). The idea is to water the plants from the bottom instead of the top. It’s far more efficient and you use a lot less water.

There are a lot of websites that help teach how to make your own SIP system. I like Global Buckets a lot. There’s also a company called Earthbox that sells kits. It’s not that hard to make one yourself – I recommend it so that you can really see how it works.

We made our SIPs out of plastic buckets. In the photo at left, you can see Anya (wearing safety goggles of course!) drilling a large hole into one bucket. A smaller hold is also drilled next to the large one.

In the photo at right,  you can see that a chinese food container with little holes drilled in it, is inserted into the large hole in the center of he bucket. A plastic PVC pipe is inserted into the smaller hole. It’s important that when you cut the plastic PVC pipe, one side is cut at an angle. The side with the angle is inserted into the bottom of the bucket. The angle is important so that water can flow through the tube into the bottom bucket.

The bucket is then inserted into another bucket. We drilled two holes into the lid — one for the PVC pipe and one for the plant to stick out of.

The top bucket is filled with soil and whatever you are planting. You water by pouring water through the PVC tube. It fills up the bottom bucket and wicks into the soil through the chinese food container and then up to the roots of the plant. At left is a finished SIP.

We have two SIPs working with cherry tomato plants that are doing wonderfully. It’s really not hard to build them and it’s a fun construction project. Anyone interested in container gardening for your rooftop, deck or even backyard should try to build these. Our finished SIPs are at right.

Below, I’m including a youtube video that explains how the construction process of a SIP more clearly than I did above. Enjoy!


The Glorious Red Pepper

Have you ever taken a bite into a red pepper and felt like you’ve gone to heaven? Unlike it’s earlier plucked green cousin, the red pepper packs a delicous punch of sweet and savory. Our Brooklyn rooftop garden has about 5 pepper plans that are all doing well in the after the hot summer. The peppers are all on the small side and I’ve eaten a few delicious green ones. I’m leaving the rest on the plants to mature into reds. I just picked a glorious red pepper off of my Brooklyn rooftop garden. Here she is:

A Brooklyn Rooftop Red Pepper

So – what does it take to grow a red pepper? Although many people eroneously believe that red peppers are a different species or type of pepper than the green pepper, they are actually the exact same plant – the capsicum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsicum). Red peppers just stay on the plant longer and turn red as they mature or age. That’s why they are more expensive at the supermarket. They take more work and water to grow.

The pepper or capsicum is indigenous to the Americas and was cultivated first in South and Central America. Columbus noticed peppers being eaten by Native Americans and named it a “pepper” on account of the sharp taste which reminded him of black pepper. Columbus and other explorers brought peppers back to the “Old World.” Colonists then spread peppers throughout  North America. An interesting history of the pepper can be found at the Texas A &M Agricultures Site.

One of the Brooklyn Red Peppers

Interestingly, a red pepper has 10 times the amount of Vitamin A and double the amount of vitamin c as a green pepper. And, both green and red peppers have more vitamin c than a whole orange.

If you want to grow your own peppers, wait until next Spring and then go for it – it’s easy. Here’s an easy guide for pepper growing: http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/pepper.htm

Last but not least, a quick video guide for roasting red peppers. So many good recipes have roasted red peppers. This video shows you 3 easy ways to roast ’em:

Let The Great World Spin

The rooftop garden in Brooklyn is flourishing: spinach, zuchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, snap peas, green beans and a whole bunch of herbs. To get to the roof there’s a ladder and then you open a hatch and out into the blinding light. It feels like leaving a spaceship and walking on a whitewashed moon.
We have a view of the statue of liberty and all of lower Manhattan.
We got sick of lugging bottles of water up for the plants and bought a hose. Now, we run the hose from the kitchen sink, out the door, down the hall, up the ladder and out the hatch. For a secret rooftop garden, we have a lot going on. Hopefully the landlords won’t catch on. We’ll probably end up like that children’s book and have tomatoes growing in our closets.
The plants love getting drenched. There aren’t enough bees in Brooklyn so Anya had to pollenate a lot of the plants using Q-Tips. Too bad city pigeons can’t be taught bee tricks so they can have a use. We’ve harvested the first tomatoes and snap peas- delicious. I’d like to grow sunflowers too. It would give the people on Flatbush Avenue something nice to look at.
On a side-note, I just read a beautiful book by Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin. If you live in NYC, ever lived in NYC, or hell, live anywhere, it’s a good one. It captures a lot.

More cheesemaking soon….

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