Visiting Myrtle Village Green Community Garden in Winter

By Neenah Payne

My First Indoor Gardening Steps shows that I joined the Myrtle Village Green Community Garden on May 8, 2021. I became a “Core Member” on November 6 and have been invited to help with the Pantry Project and the Flower Ag Bed this year. Both will provide me with a good introduction to gardening that will be valuable if I get my own plot next year. This is the first year the MVG Community Garden was designated by New York City as a drop-off site for Christmas trees. The garden received 112 trees and lots of wreaths on January 8-9. That was the second biggest haul for a community garden — pretty impressive for MVG’s first year!

Composting: Creating Soil For The Garden

Members of the garden were asked to assist in receiving Christmas trees on January 8. When I arrived, a new member was churning the compost. Although the outdoor temperature was in the 20s, the compost in the steaming hot bin was cooking at 150 degrees! Three more composting bins are shown against the wall — for a total of six bins.

Food scraps provide nitrogen for the compost and leaves provide carbon. See The Carbon-Nitrogen Radio (C:N). The leaf pile in early December is shown below.

The garden’s ability to meet the demand for finished compost is limited by the amount of volunteer labor the garden has. There is a profound supply of nitrogen-rich feed stocks in the community that the garden can tap into — for example, by partnering with BK Rot.  However, the garden is at an equilibrium now with the amount of labor volunteers can offer and the amount of work that needs to be done. Every year, the garden recruits and trains more volunteers to build the garden’s capacity. The garden will be advertising compost trainings in its Google Group and Facebook page this spring.

 

The six compost bins are used on a rotating basis. One bin is fed until it’s full and corkscrew tools are used to mix and aerate the bin until it’s ready to go out and fertilize the garden. Typically, the timing works out that a finished bin is emptied the same day that space is needed to start a new feeding bin. Usually, every bin is full of compost at some intermediate stage of decomposition, and rarely are any of them empty for long.

Over the winter, in addition to the six screened compost bins, the garden also composts with windrows — the large heaps of compost in the Community AG Plot. Wind rows are a great way to compost large bulk amounts of organic material, and the entire heap can be spread out into the garden plot right where it is when the weather warms up. That saves a lot of wheel barrow labor.

However, since windrows don’t have the metal screens that structured bins do to prevent rodents, the food scraps are allowed to partially compost in the bins until they aren’t recognizable as food scraps. Then, this hot, partially-composted matter is used to build windrows. As much bulk chopped weeds and garden waste (squash vines, sun flower stalks, etc.,) is mixed in as possible. That is why multiple compost bins were empty during my visit. They had recently been emptied to build wind rows.

New members of the garden are usually given a very small plot. Some people initially complain, but when they realize later how much work is involved, they understand the wisdom of starting small!

Green Roofs

The nearby Chocolate Factory (689 Myrtle Avenue) has a roof garden. The site says: “The condominium building boast a large GYM a Children play area on the ROOFTOP GARDEN with panoramic views of the city and glass enclosed ROOF DECK GYM.”

Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest rooftop garden in the world, is a short walk from the garden. When I took an official tour of Brooklyn Grange in 2016, I saw the garden, the greenhouses, the chicken coop, and the beehive — and bought some honey. I visited Brooklyn Grange last summer when I went to the Navy Yard as a member of the garden to help a Food Pantry. See Brooklyn Grange: World’s Largest Rooftop Farm

I took a green roofs course at Brooklyn Grange in 2016 and tried to get my co-op to contact Brooklyn Grange to see if our 12 buildings can have green roofs. The Board turned the idea down because the roofs were new. However, when I visited the Brooklyn Grange office last year, I was told that green roofs should be installed when roofs are new! I tried to get the current co-op board interested in having a Zoom call with Brooklyn Grange about green roofs.

When they declined, I created a 62-page Flip Book proposal for Green Roofs, Roof Gardens, and Solar Panels and posted it on my Urban Gardens Revolution site. I am running for the co-op board this year as a single-issue candidate — to see if it’s possible for our co-op to have green roofs, roof gardens, and/or solar panels.

My Flip Book Proposal for my co-op is shown below.

 

62-page PDF

Foraging in Prospect Park

On May 8, when I was given a key to the garden, I met Elba Cornier, one of the founders of the garden and we became fast friends. We’ve spent lots of time chatting on the phone and had an extended lunch at a great Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. Elba invited me to a number of NYC rallies. I included her photos in several of my articles which were published about the rallies.

Elba also suggested that I go foraging with “Wildman” Steve Brill which I did in Prospect Park on December 4. That was Steve’s last tour for the season in the park. He had one final tour in Central Park the next day. Steve was accompanied by his daughter, Violet, who sometimes leads the tours on her own. Violet is an avid bird watcher and she emailed me the photos of birds she took on the tour which I included in my article Foraging With “Wildman” Steve Brill and Violet.

Steve’s books, DVDs, his flash cards are available on his site.

I hope to go foraging this year again in Prospect Park and also on the Apalachian Trail.

Pantry Project in Fall and Winter

Elba founded the Pantry Project in the garden for the kids in the school. When COVID hit, the kids were no longer allowed to go to the garden and Elba turned the plot over to the Bengali community in the garden. When they were short-staffed last year, Elba recommended that they invite me to help them.

Nokib Ahmed and his sister Roshan Ara manage the Pantry Project which is used to provide food for the community. They showed me around the plot in September and gave me some produce. They invited me to start working with them in April.

Pantry Project in November

Pantry Project in early December

Pantry Project in early January

Food Pantry and Flower Ag Bed

My neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY has an extensive program to help reduce food insecurity. Alejandra Remijio, Event Coordinator at the Myrtle Village Green community garden, was contacted by Chad Purky, BID (Business Improvement District) Executive Director of Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project  (MARP) to request volunteers to help package foods at the food pantry in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The MARP site says:

“Through programs like the Fort Greene & Farragut Fresh Pantry, our Healthy Communities Initiatives connect local residents with healthy, affordable food and active living programs in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. Our Healthy Communities Initiative engages community members in improving access to healthy, affordable food in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill; supporting residents as they grow their own food; increasing community nutrition education & physical fitness opportunities; cultivating leaders of all ages;  and documenting the food & health needs and desires of our community, especially for those with low incomes and seniors.

The Fort Greene & Clinton Hill Fresh Pantries, operated in collaboration with One Community and the Clinton Hill Fort Greene Mutual Aid (CHFGMA), provides over 10,000 pounds of FREE fresh produce and perishable items each month to residents of Atlantic Terminal, Farragut, Ingersoll, and Whitman Houses every Saturday. We are thankful for receiving food to distribute from City Harvest. We are proud to partner with the Atlantic Terminal, Farragut, Whitman and Ingersoll Residents Associations on this initiative.”

Alejandra recruited four of us to assist at the pantry last summer. The operation is run by Ryan Greenlaw, the MARP Director of the Social Impact Partnerships Program. He helps manage the program’s food access, youth employment, and senior living programing for residents of two neighborhoods. Ryan previously served at Lyft as an equity and community engagement specialist connecting NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients to bikeshare.

When I went to the garden on the November 13 Work Day to help spread leaves, Alejandra invited me to join the Flower Ag Bed in the spring. This will be another great opportunity for me to learn more about gardening so I can manage my own plot next year. She invited me to join GroupMe to facilitate communication just within our group. Alejandra brought lots of flower seeds back from her trip home to California and plans to plan them in the Flower Ag Bed this year.

Tool Shed in Spring, Fall, and Winter

Two truckloads of leaves were spread throughout the garden in early November. Another three truckloads were delivered later! Walking on the soil feels like walking on a sponge mattress! See Preparing A Community Garden For Winter.

Matthew Rader is developing the plan for the 2022 garden as shown below and left room my plants. I mentioned that I would like to grow kale, blue potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, butternut squash, and/or parsnips. Being a member of the garden is like attending an informal school where it’s easy to pick up a lot of knowledge about what goes into making a garden work. I was surprised in November to see all the leaves the garden received from the city and spread out across the plots. It’s an opportunity to learn about composting — how soil is created. It’s also a chance to learn which crops to plant when and how.

Grow Plans For 2022 Garden

The chart below shows which plants will be planted when.

https://www.growveg.com/garden-plans/1371790/

Map of the MVG Garden

The map of the garden shows how the plots are laid out. The Tool Shed is the blue rectangle in the middle. The yellow S1-S3 (now S2-S3) rectangles are the Pantry Project. The two red rectangles above them are the six composting binds with the leaf pile above them. The grey circle shows the meeting table and benches for garden meetings. Plot C7 is for the Bengali community. Plots C6 and C10 are for the Mexican community. The small tan squares are individual plots.

Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post and Natural Blaze

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