thanks, if your ever in bklyn and want to help out…
despite the ongoing battle with pests, the life on the roof is pretty much thriving. my biggest lesson so far is that the plants are quite able to recuperate from the pest attack as long as they receive plenty of water. we have to start watering more now that is seems that we’ll be getting a lot more sun and less rain.
one of our readers, who is becoming a friend of the blog, let us know that the colorful caterpillar is something he recognized:
“Just took a look… definitely a caterpillar and I am nearly sure it is a swallowtail (black swallowtail). Black swallowtail caterpillars feed on parsley family (Apiaceae) and dill is in same family as parsley.”
we also discovered that there is a light that comes on when the sun goes down, which might explain the abundance of insects we are seeing…they are drawn to the roof literally like moths to a flame
we have started to compost up on the roof using a big, old plastic trash can. since georgia’s place is supportive housing, we have offices downstairs that generate much paper waste. social work is all about documentation. this year we bought shredders and we are adding the shredding to our bin. (our “browns”, (dry, carbon-rich plant materials with no life in them)).
to this, we add various plant things from weeding and thinning on the farm, as well as carrot greens and other leftover stuff from the csa distribution, (our “greens”, (moist, nitrogen-rich plant materials that still have some life in them)).
we learned from john that compost is a teeming, veritable society of micro, (bacteria and fungi), and macro, (millipedes and sowbugs)-organisms. our bin is like a large apartment building for these critters. by creating a happy, warm, moist environment, we are encouraging them to multiply and to break down our organic materials in return. it’s symbiotic!
did you know that the composted material can heat up to over 100 degrees? and that rodents and others generally steer clear of hot piles of garbage/compost? cool, no worries about rat infestation.
next week we assemble our formal, rotating compost bin. stay tuned…
so, we bought these two 60 gallon faux-terra-cotta rain catchers to assist with our farm watering, (photos to follow). the hoses with the valved splitter is still making life easier upstairs, but, rain water is the prize we are now after. some people go as far as to swear that rain water can double growing time and production as compared to tap so we shall see.
the barrels are made from plastic to cut down on the weight i guess, and had an elaborate system to attach them to the existing downspouts which involved a series of tubes and gadgets to allow some overflow. why does everything have to be so complicated. we decided to just cantilever the downspout over the barrel and cut a hole in the plastic top. this will allow us to catch all of the rain coming off the structures on the roof.
i met two male residents of the roof and we positioned the rain harvesters in their permanent positions. while we worked, we talked about storm water runoff. it was amazing how intuitive the idea was that it is better for the rain to be soaked into the ground and evaporated than to wash the toxins on the sidewalks and roads into the water supply. the residents are beginning to gain interest in not only the garden, but realizing the power of plants and the earth.
it was a glorious afternoon on the farm yesterday, with staff, csa volunteers, and residents all coming together to get stuff done upstairs, (see photos below). there was intermittent rain, but for the bulk of the time we were dry. the ominous grey-black clouds were very dramatic as they rolled in from over the manhattan skyline.
since all of the lettuce is harvested, we got to work on planting various seedlings. the new compost and peat moss was hauled to the roof, less than the initial time, but still laborious. the soil has settled in the trays, so there was a need to refill to add inches of depth for happy, deep roots. we cut strips of gardening felt and draped the strips over the edges of the adjacent boxes so that we could pour copious amounts of peat and compost forming two long, 13 inch deep mounds, (you can see what i mean in the pics below). the same was done in other harvested trays.
with john’s help, we constructed a trellis-staking-structure with bamboo and twine for our cucumbers and squash to hold onto and climb towards the sun. it was a true team effort. will, our dear friend from sang lee farm who had just dropped of the csa vegetables, came up and was blown away. he had helped us last year when we just had some beds, 5-gallon buckets and boxes on the roof and was psyched about our progress.
conversation ranged from what organic really, really means, to farming in hawaii, (wher the soil is several million years older than long island soil), to comparing our rate of breaths per minute to plants carbon dioxide/oxygen output to the sun’s 365 day cycle…trippy