the garden spot

A History of Gardens in Brooklyn’s “Garden Spot”

Victory Garden in McCarren Park during World War I ( Image from the scrapbook of local resident)

Greenpoint has a nickname, “The Garden Spot,” which was given at a time when our area was truly a bucolic haven. Although it later became one of the most industrial areas on planet earth, today our community is trying to live up to the verdant image of its nickname and Greenpoint is rapidly becoming a “green point” again, but let us take a look at the history of gardens in our area.

Greenpoint was once a farming community and every family had its own garden. There was a huge hill running around the area of Franklin and Green Streets called Pottery Hill where wildflowers grew. The flowers there were so pretty that courting couples sailed over from Manhattan to enjoy its beauty. However, the name Garden Spot derives from the Meserole Orchard, which once occupied a huge swath of land around Meserole Avenue. The garden was famous for its apples and the beautiful apple blossoms each spring, but in what has become a familiar local story: the real estate was too valuable and the orchard disappeared as lots were sold off for housing.

Greenpoint became an area of factories and heavy industry, but it was also still an area of homes, many of which boasted gardens. One of the most beautiful Gardens was the rose garden of Thomas Smith, the porcelain baron who lived on Milton Street, but many local kids who grew up in tenements never saw a garden and the name “ The Garden Spot” became something of a cruel joke in the heavily polluted area. The area suffered from a severe lack of green spaces, however, Pete McGuinness not only ironically referred to the area of smokestacks and pollution as “ The Garden Spot of Brooklyn,” but he even called it “The Garden Spot of the Universe.” Continue reading

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Why Compost? To Make Greenpoint Green!

Composting is one of those things I really wanted to try this summer, and just didn’t. My boyfriend is sort of a neat freak, and I was worried the rumored smell and bucket of hot garbage on the balcony would put him over the edge. I was also concerned about the space it might take up – you know, Brooklyn-sized apartment and everything. Of course all of my concerns could have been assuaged with just a little more research. As it turns out, composting is pretty clean, easy, and compact after all.

I recently interviewed Kate Zidar, of  The North Brooklyn Compost Project (NBCP) to find out the whys and hows of composting in our neighborhood. Founded in 2004, the NBCP is a community-based effort that seeks to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, as well as improves the soil used in backyards and container gardens around Brooklyn. They are a super organization, and as you will find out, they have a ton of information that will calm your (and my boyfriend’s) worries about composting.

Greenpointers: How does someone start composting?

NBCP: If you have any access to backyard space, starting a pile is easy. You just need a source of “browns” (brown, dry, carbon rich material like shredded newspaper or saw dust)  to layer on top of your “greens” (fresh scraps from the kitchen).  The leaf fall in October is a perfect opportunity to stock pile browns.  To get going, I would recommend a workshop with the city – they are FREE!

COMPOSTING WORKSHOPS

Saturday 8/25: Urban Food Waste Workshop @ 3rd Ward (195 Morgan Ave) 10am-1pm, More info

Thursday 8/30: North Brooklyn Compost Project Workshop – email Kate at [email protected] for more info

If you don’t have any backyard space to use, you can save up your scraps in the freezer and bring them to certain Greenmarkets.

Check out times and locations here: http://www.grownyc.org/compost

Continue reading

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The Garden Spot, Week 19

Goodbye tomatoes. Goodbye summer squashes. Goodbye radishes.

what do I even do with these skeletons?

Like any proper New Yorker, I am going to be away for the next six weekends of the summer. This is the hardest part of having a small, highly sensitive, needy garden — you have to make a choice about how worthwhile it is to have a friend come by to water it, when you aren’t getting any produce to begin with. My crops are just too temperamental, and simply not bountiful enough to devote another person’s time to. It’s like any one-sided relationship — at some point, you have to let go. Continue reading

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The Garden Spot, Week 18

I was looking forward to yesterday’s storm, as my plants (and I), needed a little reprieve from the heat. It started rolling into Greenpoint around 3pm, and I moved some of the smaller plants with lighter pots inside for protection. Those winds were fierce!

scary clouds over greenpoint.

The storm went on for a few hours, with shocking claps of thunder and loud bursts of lightning. Henry the cat, the brave little that dude he is, sat watch on the kitchen table.

A glimmer of sunshine arrive around 6pm, and it remained calm for the rest of the evening. Continue reading

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The Garden Spot, Week 17

I did a post a while back about all the other farms in Brooklyn that I was planning on visiting this summer. While I have been slacking on that a little, I did get out of town this weekend and managed to swing by a place that is pretty inspiring for any small space gardener.

Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts was nothing more than a tiny farm stand when I was a kid, but now it is a flourishing 4H with a giant greenhouse, a fully stocked store, and more baby sheep than you can shake a stick at (please don’t shake a stick at them).

I tried to steal one of these but I don't think they'd get along with my cat.

I am a total softy, and I die for baby animals. My partner and I spent 45 minutes feeding the cows and goats and lambs grain pellets and trying to talk sheep with them. It was totally magical in a way that is hard to find some days in New York.

On our way out I spotted a Charlie Brown-style blueberry bush, and knew it had to be mine. It is now out on the balcony, adjusting to the sounds of McGuinness Boulevard, and the slightly smoggier air of our dear city.

please be bountiful.

Have you gotten out of town recently? What are some fun, farm/garden day trips I should take?

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The Garden Spot, Week 16

So, um, do you guys have a favorite herb?

In my post-college life, my favorite leafy green substance has to be basil. I seriously cannot get enough of it. I put that shiz on everything!

Last week I did a major overhaul of the garden and decided to sow some seeds that seemed to be flourishing on my balcony. I now have the beginnings of what just might be more basil than I know what to do with.

Maybe I should start a small business?

Basil for days!

Do you have any plants that are doing particularly well? I want to hear your success stories!

 

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The Garden Spot, Week 15

If I’ve learned anything about small scale gardening in the last 15 weeks, its that you really do get what you give. This past weekend I attacked my garden for a few hours, pruning and weeding, and saying goodbye to some bolting radish plants and sad looking lettuce. It was a rewarding process, as now my garden is in tip top shape.

I now know which plants really thrive in the space/light I give them — summer squashes, basil, kale, and sunflowers. I decided that I can never have too much basil, so I combined some of my squash plants in a larger container, and used their old pots to plant some more of the delicious green stuff (pesto for days!).

I also did a fair bit of harvesting, which I cooked up that same night in the style of a salad from my beloved Anella. All fresh, all local, all totally grown by me. It was truly a beautiful thing.

Are you eating anything from your garden yet? I want to hear all about it!

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The Garden Spot, Week 14

we're hot 🙁

Summer literally just began and already it’s a scorcher! My balcony garden has seen it’s fair share of extreme weather in the past 14 weeks, but I still wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could to preserve my multitude of squashes and newly sprouting cilantro.

Here are some of the best tips I found:

  • Water early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.
  • Increase the shade or even move some of your more sensitive plants indoors if you can.
  • Weed often so the plants save their energy and use water in the most productive way.
  • Give your plants some space – I am planning on doing some serious re-potting over the weekend with fresh, moist soil to burst some life back into my crowded tomatoes.
  • Some plants wont survive the heat, so decide if you want to replace your most wilted greens, or move on and plan better next year.

What are you doing to protect your garden from the heat? Leave some tips in the comments!

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The Garden Spot, Week 13

I admitted in my very first post that I was not necessarily a skilled gardener. I am definitely a novice, and someone who is prone to mishaps, or rather, serious missteps along the way. This week proved that theory, as I cruelly neglected my little balcony garden while caught up in other life things, and noticed only yesterday how very bad it’s gotten.

The rain has drowned many of my new flowers, leaving a small swamp for me to deal with. My radishes have sprouted flowers, which I am not sure they are supposed to do, and my lettuces have straight up perished.

I am going away this weekend for a wedding (’tis the season) and I am at a loss at how to solve all of these problems before I take off tomorrow morning.

Leave your condolences in the comments, I need as much support as I can get!

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The Garden Spot, Week 11

Nobody likes a wilted basil!

An appropriate title for this week’s column might be, “Sad, Droopy Things”. I mean, wasn’t that what we all were this past week?

The H was O, as they say, and we were all wondering how this could possibly be just the beginning of summer (or, technically, still the end of spring).

Pathetic.

My plants were no exception, and as I checked on them this morning, I noticed that many of them had shriveled a little under the stress of the humidity. My most promising squash seems to have deflated, turning in on itself in an almost painful display of undernourishment.

Don’t worry little guy, I got you! This week is all about making sure the basic needs of my baby seeds get met.

How are your plants taking the heat? Tweet me @everydaycaitlin

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