On the brink of escalating harvests

The farm

True summer is only a few days away now, and we’ve been having plenty of storms to help keep the farm well-watered. We’re seeing more signs of the harvests to come (aside from the plentiful greens we’ve been enjoying) — our first snap peas and lots of bush bean blossoms were most seductive today. Almost all our tomatoes are flowering now, so it won’t be long until we have ripe veggies to share.

The green beans we replanted late popped up quickly, and there are some lovely white onion flowers up on the hill, a beautiful organic variety one of our composters saved from the bin. Overall the farm is starting to fill up with greenery.

On July 1st, in addition to our usual Saturday tasks, we’re getting a bunch of soil and lumber to fill and build new raised beds. Anyone interested in lending a hand should come between 10 and 11am.

Hot, sunny, and ready for summertime

Our usual Saturday work hours were filled with watering, weeding, spreading tomatoes around, and filling in some empty spots in our plots. Some green beans didn’t come up, so we decided to try again and planted more seeds.

Farmers

We have a lot of blooms around the farm now, from nasturtium to roses to yarrow to the so-called cardinal climber (which looks quite purple so far). We planted more sunflowers in our all-flower bed. Our mixed kales are also looking quite happy.

 

In the tomato realm, we have so many and so many large varietals (we weren’t totally sure what they were when we planted them!) that we needed to shuffle some around because they were getting crowded. Several plants were potted up to sell at the Windsor Terrace Food Coop; thanks to Corey and Jo for coordinating! We’ve started caging up our tomatoes, and we spied a few tiny fruits. So far we are harvesting strawberries, greens, and herbs and can’t wait to start picking tomatoes too.

 

Our okra still is not thriving, though most of the plants have hung in there. Any ideas what’s wrong?

Sad okra

Desperately seeking spring sunshine for seedlings

Watermelon seedlings

The rainy weather we’ve been having has been great for the farm beds. Almost everything is doing well — strawberries are ripening, we have lots of greens to harvest, and all the tomatoes are coming along. Also those straw bale watermelon seeds have sprouted nicely. Our mystery starts from GreenThumb are looking a bit like collards, perhaps? The okra (not pictured, because they looked so sad) might enjoy a little more heat and sun. Wouldn’t we all? But June is coming, and we’re looking forward to summer harvests to follow!

It’s all about greens and purples right now

irises have exploded

We have a lot of little seedlings that are growing up so fast, and we even have a few flowers on some tomatoes — but right now the most exciting things are the irises and strawberries! Purple and green must be the colors right now as the clematis on the fence is blooming too. Red is starting to make a showing, as after I took these strawberry pics last week, a few have started to ripen…

Experiments in urban farming

Lead-awareness sign on our shed

Maybe you’ve noticed this sign talking about “Our Legacy of Lead” on our shed, and it’s there for an important reason. One thing Prospect Farm has worked on since the beginning is improving our soil quality. Like any urban green space that has existed alongside roads and highways for more than 40 years, our soil is contaminated from the lead in exhaust, even though it’s been many years since gas has had lead in it. Soil near houses older than 50 years also tend to have elevated lead levels from the paint chipping off over time.

It’s difficult to extract lead from soil, so the most effective approach is to add more to it in order to bring its overall concentration down — things like compost, which is why we maintain our well-organized composting system! We test a selection of our beds year-to-year (Brooklyn College’s Soil Lab is our go-to resource for this), and, for the most part, our numbers have improved a lot. But we’ve noticed in the last couple of years that some beds have jumped back up, most likely from rainwater run-off coming down from the hill where we haven’t remediated the soil.

Lead contamination is of particular concern for young people as excessive exposure to lead can cause developmental problems, reduce brain function, and affect motor skills. Just touching lead-contaminated soils will not cause problems, but what will is breathing in high-lead dust or eating lead-contaminated soil (i.e., by not washing hands before eating). As for eating plants grown in soil with high lead, the Soil Science of America lead info page has this info:

It’s hard to be exposed to lead by eating vegetables or fruits. Plants do not take up lead on purpose, because lead is not a plant nutrient. Plants may contain measurable amounts of lead, but this isn’t because plants are actively taking up lead from soil, but because we’re able to measure very low concentrations of lead in environmental samples.

Additionally, lead is generally more likely to be found in the greens of a plant than fruit (e.g., tomatoes!), so we plant strategically based on our test results. We generally don’t plant any root vegetables in the soil, since it’s hard to wash all the soil off, though we’ve tried a few in containers. But we are looking into other ways of planting safely while we work on improving our soil, like utilizing rain gutters as containers.

Gutter greens

We’ve already planted three rain gutters with greens and herbs

Our other experiment this year is straw bale gardening. One of our members picked up a bale from a nearby café’s leftover Halloween decoration, which was helpfully already broken down a bit, saving us some prep time. Then for ten days everyone who came on their watering shift sprinkled the bale with fertilizer and doused it with water to prime it with nutrients. Now we’ve covered the straw with a layer of soil mixed with compost and planted two spots with watermelon seeds. The plants will grow into the straw bale, and at the end of the season, we can mix the remaining straw into the bed to further amend the soil. We’re curious to see how it goes!

Strawbale planting

Watermelon seeds going in

We encourage members and visitors to be cautious working in and around our soil, especially younger folks. The most important tips from the posted sign are to wash your hands after gardening/playing and be mindful of tracking soil/dust into your home. If you are harvesting veggies, wash them thoroughly before eating. Also keep in mind these hazards are possible in most green spaces in the city!

Spring planting continues

Tomato seedlings planted

We had a productive work day on Sunday, turning over several beds and planting seedlings members picked up from a GreenThumb giveaway, as well as some seedlings from our planting committee. There were a lot of tomatoes, as well as peppers, eggplants, greens, okra, a couple more cucumbers, and some mystery plants that might be broccoli? We also have some mystery tomatoes from GreenThumb. Could they be cherry tomatoes? We’ll find out soon!

One new thing we are trying this year is planting in gutters. So far we put in (what we’re pretty sure is) kale and some swiss chard. Already we have planted up about half of our beds, and we hope we’ll have a little sun this week to encourage our seedlings along.

Photos from Earth Day 2017

Repotting tomato starts

Thank you to all our friends and neighbors who came out amid rain showers for our Earth Day party! We were happy to have help planting seeds, re-potting tomato starts, and prepping a straw bale for planting — an experiment we will post more about soon! There were a bunch of young visitors exploring every corner of the farm on a scavenger hunt, checking out the worm bin, and getting their faces painted.

Some of those tomato seedlings are marked with their helpers’ names, so we hope they’ll  check back this summer and see the fruits of their labor — literally!

We still have a lot of spring planting to do, so we’ll likely be having work days more frequently over the coming weeks to get all the beds planted. The next scheduled is Sunday, April 30th starting at 10:30am and going to about 1:30pm. Check the home page or our Facebook page for more upcoming dates.

Special shout-out to members Rachel and Jo for taking most of these photos!

Earth Day celebration at Prospect Farm

Everyone is invited to our annual Earth Day party when we welcome the community to visit & see what’s sprouting at Prospect Farm. Check out the photos from last year’s event!

We’ll have activities for all ages! • planting & composting • music • scavenger hunt • tours • bake sale & book table • and more!

Saturday, April 22nd from 11:00am to 2:00pm
The event is FREE (but your donations are always welcome!)

Directions and map are available on the contact page.

Tell us if you’re planning to come on the Facebook event or download a flier.