The longest & best days of the year

We are a few days away from the summer solstice, and it is kind of the best time of the year at the farm. (Aside from when we can start taking tons of tomatoes home.) Everything is blooming and fruiting, and it hasn’t been too hot yet, so only the most tender greens have bolted and been pulled up.We replaced most of them with three rows of bush beans. There are only a few signs of pests, so we are mostly watering and weeding and awaiting those summer harvests.

We are also playing a new game we’re calling “Spot the mullein.” Mullein is a member of the snapdragon family that is a biennial and flowers in its second year. We’ve never planted it (that anyone present today could recall), but it has popped up in four different places around the farm. It has many medicinal uses, the leaves are good for the lungs and respiratory issues in general, and oil from the flowers is traditionally used for ear infections. Ours are just starting to bloom, and we hope it will seed itself again.

Mullein

Mullein

The first edibles in bloom and other planting reports

We’re gradually nearing the point of the growing season where things start getting really exciting. While we’ve been harvesting some greens and strawberries, our peas are finally blooming and some of our hot peppers are about to flower as well. Two weeks ago we planted more cucumbers, beans, and vining flowers along the fence…

Planting two weeks ago

… and the beans have shot up the fastest of them all!

Peppers

As of this weekend, we are pretty much all planted. We have a few spots available for some late finds, but we seeded our dedicated kale bed and our straw bales, so we have fulfilled our initial planting plan, including achieving our goal of doing more companion planting, like our raised bed with onions and scallions paired with lettuces.

This year we have two bales, one with melons (watermelons and cantaloupe) and one with squashes (we have an heirloom spaghetti squash and then a variety of zucchinis). We’ll be watching these for one of our biggest pest nemeses, the vine borer.

Bales are planted

Thinning the pluot trees, plus a recipe for Tkemali

Since our fruit trees got pruned this year, we’re seeing an impressive amount of fruit, way more than we’ve ever had, presenting us with a new problem — our pluot tree had branches so heavy with fruit that one even broke! So we learned that we also need to thin fruit from the trees. Aside from avoiding damage to the tree, it also will help the tree bear bigger and tastier fruit, as well as encouraging the tree to “promote an annual fruit set.”

… sometimes plum trees only fruit biennially instead of every year. This is due to the fact that the tree has produced such a copious crop that it’s just plain done and needs an extra season to gather its resources before it can fruit again.

So what to do with all these unripe pluots?

Green pluots

The result of thinning: lots of green pluots!

Jo, one of our trained pruners, was inspired by her friends Carrie Dashow and Suresh Pillai at Atina Foods who make amazing salt pickled “herb jams” and chutney based on South Indian Ayuvedic traditions using their garden in the Catskills.

Tkemali is a sour plum sauce from Georgia (think the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, not southern US). Jo says it’s something they make in huge batches when they have to thin out the orchards, or when the “june drop” happens. They then use it as a condiment all summer. She used this recipe as a guide, which is a lot more specific on the quantities of ingredients and each of the steps, with pics along the way, but you can adjust based on the amount of unripe fruit that you have.

Ingredients:
Unripe green Pluots from our farm
Cilantro and Dill from store (because our herbs aren’t ready to harvest yet)
Green, mildly hot Peppers & Garlic from the Windsor Terrace Food Coop

Preparation:

  1. Finely chop the cilantro, dill, and peppers. Separate the garlic into cloves.
  2. Wash plums and add to a deep pan. Add water until the plums are covered (no more).
  3. Heat on high temperature until the plums are boiled and then reduce temperature to simmer the plums.
  4. Continue to simmer the plums until they are soft.
  5. Remove the plums from the pan and add to a bowl and leave to cool. Put the water left in the pan in a separate bowl.
  6. Crush the chopped coriander and green peppers together. Crush the garlic cloves separately.
  7. Place a sieve over a deep pan and add the cooled plums. Gradually add the plum water that was saved after boiling the plums and firmly press the plums with a wooden spoon. You may need to use your hands to ensure that all of the pulp and juice is strained through the sieve. (This could take a while.)
  8. Discard the plum stones once all of the pulp and juice has been strained into the pan.
  9. Add the cilantro and green pepper mixture, together with the crushed garlic. Add salt (to your preference), stir to thoroughly mix and then heat on a medium temperature.
  10. Taste the sauce and if it is too sour add a little sugar and stir thoroughly. You may need to keep adding and tasting until you’ve balanced the sourness of the plums.
  11. When the sauce has boiled, add the chopped dill. Stir to mix thoroughly and boil the sauce for one minute.
  12. Allow the sauce to cool before bottling or storing in glass containers.

Tkemali sauce can be served with meat, poultry and potato dishes; it has a place in Georgian cuisine similar to tomato ketchup in America.

Finished Tkemali

A giveaway and a jumpstart to our spring planting

One of the benefits of being a GreenThumb garden is getting support to help us farm better. A big part of that support is free materials, and most of our planting committee went out to East New York Farms this Saturday for a GreenThumb-sponsored plant giveaway. The event was very organized, with each registered garden receiving a number when they checked in and one person for each garden entering to pick out a tray of seedlings and native perennials. We chatted up a bunch of fellow gardeners while we waited for our numbers, sharing resources and contact info for further networking.

It was great for us to see such a large, well-run farm that hosts a weekly market during the summer, featuring local gardeners and vendors. While East New York is the neighborhood with the least grocery stores per capita in the city, they also have the most community gardens, in large part due to the stewardship of East New York Farms. Running three urban farms and one community garden themselves, the organization additionally provides support for over 60 gardens in the neighborhood.

 

Back in our little plot, we set to work planting up the beds, currently carpeted with a yellow-green dusting from our resident tree’s blooms. With the late start to spring, we’ve been a little slow out of the gate, so this was a good opportunity to jumpstart our planting. We picked up cucumbers, butternut squash, hot and sweet peppers, parsley, and traded out some tomatoes for eggplant with another farm. (Don’t worry, we have plenty of tomatoes coming — members of the Windsor Terrace Food Coop should look out next weekend for our surplus seedlings.) The Brussels sprouts that survived the winter have since gone to seed, which we are leaving until we are ready to plant in that bed, since they are so popular with the bees.

 

More to come soon as we continue planting out our beds!

Wattle fences: a project idea for bed borders

Now that we are learning more about fruit tree pruning, here’s a project that could make use of those pruned branches and help us improve the borders of our garden plots and better support our plants.

Wattle weaving is a craft that has been in use as far back as the Bronze Age in parts of Europe, in particular across the British Isles. Stakes are put in the soil and branches are woven in-between them; they can be arranged in horizontally in fences or around plants as towers. Traditionally hazel, willow and alder were used, as their branches are sufficiently flexible, but Lovely Greens has a video tutorial using raspberry canes and bamboo — the result is pictured above.

We’ll definitely be trying this technique out at the farm!

Welcoming spring with an Earth Day celebration

We had beautiful weather for our Earth Day event this year, and we saw a lot of folks from our community come out to join us. They helped us sift compost and look for worms and learn a bit about climate change. After an extended winter, it was great to bask in the sunshine and plant seeds for the season. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and enjoyed the day with us! We hope you’ll come back throughout the summer.

Join us for Earth Day at Prospect Farm

Winter has been hanging on longer than we hoped, but it seems like spring might finally be winning out. Join us in two weeks as we begin planting for the season! 🌱

Activities for all ages! 
+ Composting Demonstrations
+ Music
+ Face Painting
+ Scavenger Hunt
+ Plant Sale
+ more!

Saturday, April 21, 2018
11am–2pm 1194 Prospect Avenue

FREE but your donations are welcome! Prospect Farm is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so donations are tax-deductible.

Let us know you’re coming on our Facebook event

Notes from first two works days of the year

Fruit tree blooming

We’ve had two productive work days so far, and in between we had our biggest snow fall of the year. Happily the snow was mostly gone by the weekend.

On St Patrick’s Day we did a lot of clean-up around the beds, bundling up branches and twigs, re-building a stone wall behind one of the beds, moving raspberries, and collecting soil for testing. Plus we planted onions and shallots in one of the raised beds.

This week we took on the shed, pulling everything out, purging, and reorganizing everything that went back in. We had some daffodils that survived the snow admirably, but some especially wet compost that needed some extra help — we learned that this is a common spring experience as frozen greens finally thaw out. Jo gave an impromptu clipper sharpening tutorial. We noticed our recently pruned fruit trees blooming more than we’ve ever seen before (see main image above). Weather permitting, we hope to be back at it next week!

 

596 Acres & the potential of vacant lots

Back in April 2011, Paula Z. Segal obtained a spreadsheet that indicated all the publicly-owned, vacant public land in Brooklyn. She tallied up the areas of each lot and got the number 596 — a total area slightly bigger than Prospect Park — and 596 Acres was born.

Segal created a map of the information and started distributing it. The organization continues to build tools to help neighbors realize the potential for green spaces focused around community organizing and civic engagement.

Our tools help neighbors see vacant lots as sites of opportunity for green spaces in neighborhoods that lack them. We activate imaginations, initiate campaigns to legally get the keys to previously inaccessible vacant lots, and ultimately unlock more than just the gates. Through collaborative organizing residents become active stewards of urban land.

Now you can access their map in an interactive format at Living Lots NYC. You can check and see if there are any open lots near you, and if people are already organizing to reclaim that space for community use.

They’ve also reported recently that NYC has sold 202 city-owned lots to developers for $1 each, just since Mayor deBlasio took office in 2014.

Planning for this year’s spring plantings

Brooklyn is getting another round of snow today, but last weekend our Planting Committee met to put together a plan for our spring planting — this year going so far as to plot out not just locations as usual but also specific timing of when we’ll sow seeds or transplant seedlings started at home. Taking a look at the mostly empty beds, it’s hard to believe in a few months this space will be alive again.

But there is already signs of life around the farm.We have been puzzling over some mystery grass in a raised bed that might be wheatgrass. We had some Brussels sprouts up on the hill that made it through the winter, but now we’ll have to see if they make it through this snow! 😬 We’re guessing that Hellebore “Snow Love” should do just fine.