Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raised Bed Sub-Irrigated Planters: A solution for urban gardening

For millenia, soil has meant life, the source of our harvest. That makes it one of the cruelest ironies of our post-industrial world that so much urban soil is harmful. There is a whole host of industrial contaminants, from lead to cadmium to dioxins, that may be found in our back yard farms.

Raised beds are the solution, based on trucking in dirt and making sure it does not leech. But there is sub-irrigated (SIP) solution, a planter that does not need the dirt, and that does a better job of meeting a plants needs. Most SIPs are made of plastic, like the famous earthbox, or its many DIY iterations.

Well, Robert Hyland over at insideurbangreen has let us in on a great new compromise--a sub-irrigated raised bed planter--made of wood no less!. In this post, he gives us a materials list and basic how-to.

This post is a must for community gardens looking for new solutions to the old challenge of urban soil. But, I should warn you--they work better too!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Greening Schools: A handy guide

This simply written whole school guide was produced by the Worcester PolyTechnic Institute in partnership with a Costa Rican High School(Carlos Pascua Zúñiga High School).

Its an impressive project that more NYC schools should consider taking a page from!

There are activities applicable for every type of class, every type of student, and every part of the school.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Happy SIP Container Gardening! Earthbox is just the Beginning

On the roof at Bushwick Campus, our GreenLab is getting its first workout. Inspired by the Earthbox we got at Home Depot, we are now expirementing with a few other DIY planters types.

We have a lot of 5 gallon "carboy" Deer Park bottles. They take quite a lot of work to cut open, I have found...

Thanks, custodian crew! I don't have my own circular saw!

The Cat Litter box was much easier. Just picked it up on the street. Both are bottom reservoir type containers, like the tote box in the last post. They both have drain holes for
access water.

i have a tote box type planter I'll show ya'll next week. Soon, we'll take on tires!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


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Madison Street Garden

So we are now partnered with New York Restoration Project at the Madison Street Community Garden in Bushwick. It is on Madison Street between Bushwick Avenue and Broadway. And it is super cute!

There are 6 beds to plant in, 2 tables to sit at and read, a compost bin, and plants galore. The best part is that NYRP provides seedlings and seeds. So there are tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, lavender, rosemary, and oregano in the beds. And there are blackberry, strawberry, and raspberry bushes, and a pear tree in the yard. It is adorable!

Check out Madison Street Community Garden's webpage for more information and pictures!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bushwick Green Team in the News: Insideschools.org

It ain't easy being green, as noted in this article on www.insideschools.org.

“Learning Gardens” have sprouted in City Hall Park, at Randall’s Island, and Gracie Mansion.

But what if such programs aren’t so easy to launch? As schools struggle with budget cuts, administrators may see a vegetable garden as a luxury, particularly if such basics as text books and copy paper are hard to come by. Space constraints may also be hard to get around, or there simply might not be enough momentum

What the Green Team is doing is worth all the trouble! We don't do it as one, but as a team!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NYC School Garden's Initiative

Mayor Bloomberg joins Rachel Ray in Connecting Education, Agriculture, and Healthy Eats!

Very happy to see this press release on the schools.nyc.gov

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Rachael Ray today announced a series of initiatives to help our City’s youth eat healthier and understand where their food comes from. The new programs, supported by Rachael Ray and her Yum-o! organization, will help schools build a garden or connect them to an existing garden and provide cooking and nutrition instruction to young New Yorkers. The announcement was made next to the vegetable garden at PS 29 in Brooklyn, which the school is using to teach students about healthy eating – in addition to enhancing science and nature curriculums

PS 29 is just one of many schools taking advantage of the use of outdoor gardens for educational and nutritional value. This is a challenge for many schools whose space is limited, the press release notes:

There are growing and food learning opportunities even amidst space constraints in our dense city. City schools have already found creative ways to implement gardening projects.Examples of innovative growing projects include PS 364 in the East Village which grows vegetables in converted pickle barrels; PS 146 in Brooklyn which has created a complex composting and rainwater harvesting system to support their thriving garden; and Discovery High School in the Bronx which started a hydroponic growing wall, which was also featured at the announcement.

(I would mention another barrier to educators: the supposed lack of a "green thumb" on the part of teachers. This may be from a past bad experience with house plants, or garden. This is one additional benefit of sub-irrigation agriculture (read more at insideurbangreen.com), is that its harder to kill the plants!)

But its great to see that the city is stepping up and providing (limited) funding and guidance to schools who want to take this path.

The Mayor announced new efforts that will help address these obstacles including:
  • Launching a new mini-grant program (grants of $500-$1,000) this fall for schools in need of funds to start a garden.
  • Creating a website for schools, being designed by GrowNYC, to be launched by this fall with resources including:
    • Additional technical assistance provided by GrowNYC and GreenThumb.
    • Information on how to locate and connect to local community gardens.
    • Complimentary programming provided by City and nonprofit partners.
    • Information for teachers on how to incorporate garden instruction into existing curricula to maximize their academic impact.
  • Expanding the “Garden to Café” pilot program from 25 schools to more than 50 schools in the 2010 school year. The program’s goal is to connect school gardening and lunch menus through seasonal harvest events and educational activities. PS 29 is one of the initial Garden to Café sites and the school uses what is grown in the garden in its salad bar and to create recipes for special events.
  • Starting a teen intern program to take care of school gardens during the summer months. NYC Service will also help coordinate volunteers to care for the gardens.

At Bushwick Campus, we may be a bit ahead of the curve, but we are right on time in NYC!

Let's all grow green together as a campus!

Friday, May 7, 2010

dirt day!!

Staff and students from AEL and AUP gathered at the Secret Garden for some fun hauling dirt and wood chips in honor of dirt day!

Ms. Heuer from AEL carrying a heavy wheel barrow full of dirt.

Mr. Schwartz from AUP hauling dirt.

Sara Basilio moving those wood chips!

Stevenson from AUP shoveling dirt.

Shoveling more dirt!

Ms. Vitanza from AEL is smoothing dirt in newly constructing wood boxes.

Basilio family Shoveling and hauling wood chips.

Thank you to the Secret Garden and Kendall Morrison for letting us help out.

For more information on Kendall, the NY Times proclaimed mushroom man, check here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ms. Gammon's class (from AEL) starts our garden!

After three days of heavy rain, the clouds finally left, which meant it was time to put our plants in the ground.
First, we had to plan it out.

Then, we had to dig our holes.

Then, it was time to put the plants in the ground!

Everyone had a plant they were in charge of: basil, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, or dusty miller.
The final product!!
Nathaly, Joshua, Rochelle, George, Byron, Jazmin, and Nicole.
Not pictured: James and Mindy

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to: Sub-Irrigation Planters

There are tons of places on the internet that will show you how to make a soda bottle planter, but this one comes straight from the master of Sub-Irrigation Technology, Robert Hyland, creator of http://www.insideurbangreen.com/.

His home garden contained dozens of different plants in different kinds of sub-irrigation planters. But much of Bob's work focuses on reusing plastic objects, especially soda bottles! When one considers the damage that soda does to our bodies and our wallets, and the damage that plastic bottles do to the environment, using these plastic bottles to help bring new plant life into the world becomes perhaps the most inspiring aspect of sub-irrigation planting.

So here is Bob's method for making a soda bottle planter.

1. Peel off most of the label. If you heat up the bottle with a hair blow dryer for 10 seconds the label should peel right off.

2. Use Goof Off on a rag to rub down teh bottle to take off the glue that is left.

3. Poke holes into the top of the plastic bottle in 2 staggered rows. If you heat your poking instrument (a soldering knife works best, or a long thin metal stick like a fondue stick).

4. Draw a straight line with a permanent marker around your bottle. You can use a 12oz. can as a guide for how high up the bottle your line should be, and it will keep your line straight!

5. Cut your bottle! But make sure your line remains straight!

6. Cut off the top of the bottle. This is to keep the roots from clogging the bottle and it gives an overall cleaner appearance to the bottle--less trash, more treasure!

7. Next, cut off one inch of plastic off of the bottom of the bottle. This is to make up for the inch of bottle you just cut off. Make sure you cut straight!

8. Get your soil and planting or seed and plant them in the top part of the bottle. The little holes are for the roots to poke out of so that they can soak up the delicious water you will be putting in the base of the bottle.

9. Put the top of your bottle inside the bottom of the bottle. Make sure you add water to the bottom part!

10. You're done! Enjoy your beautiful new sub-irrigation planter!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

BUSHWICK GREEN TEAM is collecting e-waste!!

Did you know that each year we throw away enough handheld devices to fill Yankee Stadium?
Sad, but true.

With this in mind, the Bushwick Green Team has decided to collect e-waste for the month of May.

Bring in your e-waste from home by June 1st and let's recycle it properly!!

What is e-waste? E-Waste is unwanted or broken electronics. This can include computers, monitors, TVs, cellphones, and any other electronic device that is no longer wanted or is broken.

Contact your school's Bushwick Green Team representative if you have further questions about this project or any other BGT projects.

BUSHWICK GREEN TEAM is selling t-shirts!!!

Hey friends!

These days everyone is trying to be green, but it's hard. How can we help without totally changing everything we do and turning our lives upside down? It seems like fixing the environment is an insurmountable problem, but the Bushwick Green Team is here to tell you that that is not true. In fact, we have partnered with an organization called WE ADD UP that has a very inspiring slogan: "No one can do everything. Everyone can do something." For them, the something that you can do is buy an awesome t-shirt with a customizable environmental theme. This may sound very simple, and it is, but the message these t-shirts hold can and will inspire you and those around you to make changes in their lives to better the environment.

So check out bushwick green team + WE ADD UP and buy yourself and everyone you know a t-shirt!!

We Add Up - Stop Climate Change

Still not convinced? Let me tell you why these shirts are so cool and why you should purchase one:
  1. They are organic cotton - very happy for the environment!
  2. Each shirt is individually numbered - you will have a truly unique shirt!
  3. You can custom order your t-shirt to have any one of the 25+ designs
  4. WE ADD UP also sells tote bags, mugs, and bumper stickers
  5. If you order 2 or more t-shirts the shipping is free! Or you can choose to ship it carbon-free for a very small fee!
  6. A portion of each product is donated to an environmental organization
  7. A portion of each product also is donated to the Bushwick Green Team. The Bushwick Green Team is an organization made up of students and teachers from the three schools located at the former Bushwick High School Campus in Bushwick, Brooklyn-- Academy of Urban Planning, Academy for Environmental Leadership, and Bushwick School for Social Justice-- that have come together to make the Bushwick community more environmentally friendly. We have a lot great ideas to affect change at the Bushwick Campus and in the community, for example:
    1. We are building a new garden on the school grounds that will be used as a learning environment as well as a supplement to cafeteria food
    2. We are working with another garden in the community as well, the Linden-Bushwick Community Garden
    3. We are starting recycling programs for batteries, cellphones, medicine, paper, etc.
    4. We want to educate students about what small things they can do in their every day lives to help the environment through field trips, movie showings, speaker presentations, etc.
    5. We want to educate people in the Bushwick community about cooking and eating healthily and environmentally friendly.

Again, check out bushwick green team + WE ADD UP and get a t-shirt or tote bag for you and your friends and family members. You will be helping out good causes and making a inspiring fashion statement.

Bushwick Green Team!

We encourage you to forward this website along to anyone and everyone you know, post the link on your facebook, myspace, or twitter. We can all help out in the fight to save the environment! Remember "No one can do everything. Everyone can do something."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Earthbox, welcome to Home Depot!

I was at Home Depot getting supplies for my school garden, when I noticed this unique display. An Earthbox!As a fan of Robert Hyland's work at insideurbangreen.org,

I am aware how unavailable Earthboxes are in local retail in NYC. It always confused my why this great product--supported by the UN's food and Agriculture Organization's Growing Connection--is not available more widely. Well, the answer is here now.

I talked to the manager of the garden section, and he explained to me the Bed-Stuy Home Depot serves as a test market for other stores nationwide, so in the last week, this display had arrived. It was so new, there was not even a price on it. But it was only $49.99, just a few bucks more than Amazon. As you can see from this photo, it was already attracting interest. This woman was an afterschool teacher, who was very interested by the educational material provided by Earthbox.

So of course, I had to buy one! As I have it at home now, really look at the workings of it, its just an injection molded plastic box with some prefit pieces and nutrient solution included. My DIY sense of frugality led me to notice the $4.50 18 gallon plastic bins across the store, that could easily be converted into sub-irrigation planters on par with earthboxes.

We vote with our dollars in this society, so I am happy with my purchase, and eager to get started with my Earthbox on the roof of Bushwick Campus! But DIY, here I come!

spring into green!

What a great day for plants and all plant related verbs!

The plants have been waiting all weeks for the big day, when they find who their new owner is!

So the plants that GROW NYC set aside for me were waiting patiently at the Hattie Cornan garden in Bed-Stuy.

It might have seemed a little crazy to order so many plants in early April. I had no idea where I would put them. One month later, we not only have a garden, but are assembling a team of teachers and students to grow it--the Bushwick Green Team.

Students from the Academy of Urban Planning helped us to get the little plantings to the roof, where they'll stay until we can get them in the ground at our new (as of yet undug) garden.

Ms. Bodanyi is a very grounded member of the team at the Academy of Environmental Leadership. Together with the Bushwick School for Social Justice, we share this amazing roof.

Yes, a roof! A roof with 4-foot parapets, making it a permitted space for outdoor instruction. And you can be assured that we are working on that! But for now, it is just the storage space for our garden, which still needs to be designed and dug!

Here is the space as it looks now

But ours is not the only greening going on at Bushwick Campus. Check out what Mr. Sambuerg is up to in front of the school! Garden boxes, for all three campuses! Now we have even more space to plant! Viva Verde!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bushwick Green Team Earth Week 2010: A great green start!

The Bushwick Green Teams first ever event was a verdant success. In celebration of Earth day 2010, Bushwick Campus students joined a group from PS377 in a multi-generation planting and party at Palmetto Gardens Senior Citizen Center.
The multi-generational event today was hosted by NYCHA and EcoStation NY, an environmental advocacy and educational org based in Bushwick’s own Secret Garden. The dedicated students from the Academy of Urban Planing mostly came with our PhotoVoice afterschool program. Interns from the State Dept of Environmental Conservation carried out a teach in with students from PS377.
As you can see from the photos, our first go at team gardening was really fun, for everyone. Me too! I loved weeding, but my favorite part was breaking up the packed urban soil for planting by the younger kids! There was a lot of excitement among our crew about the prospect of getting our own garden at Bushwick campus!
When I get the photos from photovoice, I’ll try to post those as well!

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