Intervale Green Rooftop Farm

A Bronx Urban Farm Sponsored by Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco)


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A Vibrant August Harvest.

After a few weeks of warming up, the plants are churning out produce with an explosion of color. There’s nothing like stepping onto the roof and seeing the pops of color among the shades of green.

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Once harvested and gathered together, the color palette is quite impressive. harvest 1 original tomatoes and cornSometimes, the vibrant colors trigger memories, emotions, and even physical responses.  Just look at these lively scotch bonnet peppers!  They’ll either make you cringe…or drool. scotch bonnet

I would like to thank the Bronx Food and Farm Tour for making the Rooftop Farm at Intervale Green a stop on this year’s tour.  It was great to meet all of you and I’m happy to see so many people involved in urban agriculture and the greening movement in the Bronx.  A special thanks to Ursula and Sara from the New York Botanical Garden and Ray Figueroa from NYC Community Garden Coalition and Friends of Brook Park.  Thank you, Ursula, for the nepeta!

Enjoy the color and bounty of the August harvest!


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It’s been a great July!

corn & skyline

The rooftop farm is bursting with life these days. The tomato plants are heavy with fruit, the corn is high, and the eggplant and cucumber flowers promise delicious offerings.

We planted more watermelon this year, since we had good results last season and it looks like we’ll get a bumper crop.

baby watermelon among the greenery

This season, I also planted the “Three Sisters”: corn, beans, and squash. This is a Native American tradition that has been practiced for centuries before Europeans set foot in the Americas.  The system deals with planting the three crops together. They form a symbiotic relationship and help each other through the growth process. The corn is planted first and once it has grown a few inches, the beans are planted around the base of the corn stalk.  After a week or so, the squash is planted around the beans.  The corn gives support to the bean vine, which in turn releases much needed nitrogen into the soil while the broad and prickly squash leaves provide shade and weed control and deter creatures from eating the corn.

For more information, feel free to visit the following sites:

http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/the-three-sisters-exploring-an-iroquois-garden/how-to-plant-the-three-sisters/

http://www.iroquoismuseum.org/three_sisters.htm

young corn & squash3 sisters up close

It’s a bit difficult to see the beans among the corn and squash, but they are climbing up the corn stalk.

 

marigolds and corn

Please stay tuned for more updates on the rooftop farm!


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The Rooftop Farm Is Back In Action!

The rooftop farm at Intervale Green is up and running once again.  After a long, cold winter and a shaky start to the planting season, the plants are well on their way to another booming year on the roof.

tomatoes and skyline

 

The greenhouse was full of life during the last few weeks of winter.  These seedlings were periodically moved outside for a portion of the day to introduce them to their soon-to-be permanent environment, a process called “hardening off”.  The conditions on the roof are a drastic change from the controlled paradise that is the greenhouse. Only the strongest and most adaptable plants will be able to handle the conditions seven floors above the street.

greenhouse seedlings       greenhouse tomatoes

 

The tenant farmers have also been busy. After the success attained last season, everyone is dedicated to increasing their yield.

Manderville's plot  Mr. Neville's plot-early

 

I’d like to thank the volunteers from WHEDco: Erika, David, Alex, and Marc for getting the farm ready for planting. I’d also like to thank the volunteers from Greenberg Traurig for taking on the tedious task of weeding and clearing plots. Volunteer work is priceless on the rooftop farm and I invite the volunteers to come back to see how their work has benefited the farm.

Please stay tuned for more news from the Intervale Green Rooftop Farm. This season, we’ll tackle planting the Three Sisters: corn (maize), beans, and squash, as well as more rooftop watermelon and strawberries. There will also be the inevitable battle with the wind and fighting off powdery mildew. It looks like we’re in for an exciting season, so subscribe or check in regularly. Thank you and happy farming!


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Finally! Some well-deserved rest for the rooftop farm.

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The rooftop farm is finally enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. It was an amazing season and we were able to pull out over 1,000 pounds of produce for the tenants and neighbors of Intervale Green.

I want to thank all the tenant farmers, all the WHEDco employees, and all the volunteer groups that helped us throughout the season.

Thanks to the enthusiastic crew from St. John’s University!IMG_1821 IMG_1823

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Thank you to the hard working group from Central Synagogue!

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With the help of the volunteer groups, we were able to clear all the plots, plant bulbs and garlic, and sow cover crops. I encourage all the volunteer groups to come back and help us with our pre-season set-up and to kick off our planting season.  In the meantime, the Intervale Green Greenhouse will be in full operation. Updates and Greenhouse news will be out shortly so stay tuned!

Powdery mildew, a busy greenhouse, and the next generation of urban farmers.

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So the the nasty fungal disease known as powdery mildew has attacked our zucchini, squash, and pumpkins. A few dozen zucchini were harvested before the plants were taken over but the squash and pumpkin didn’t even get a chance to flower. I tried to eradicate the disease with a home remedy of water and baking soda when I first noticed the powdery blotches, but the mildew proved too tough an adversary. There is one squash plant and one zucchini plant that survived and I’m hoping they make it through the flowering stage. For now, I’ve taken out the rest of the affected plants and disposed of them, all that remains are the empty containers.
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While the plants on the rooftop farm are enjoying the twilight of their lives, new life is thriving down in the greenhouse.

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The spinach seedlings are loving the coziness of the greenhouse.  They’ll get some breathing and growing room once they’re thinned out.

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The collard greens are also growing like crazy and will also need some serious thinning out.
collardseedlings

Whatever your stance on thinning seedlings may be (whether you take mercy on them and leave them to crowd each other out, pluck them without a second thought, or any other routine), the best tool for thinning out seedlings is the human hand. More specifically, small hands. That’s where my future urban gardeners come in. They helped me sow the seed, they helped transplant some rooftop okra, and they will help thin out the seedlings. Once the amount of space remaining is determined, these young farmers will plant carrots and a few varieties of lettuce.
my helpers

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These young urban farmers will also help monitor the health and growth of the greenhouse plants. One young urban farmer is experimenting with the benefits of compost. Her plot is divided into two sections, one section has lettuce growing in conventional soil and the other half has the lettuce growing in soil amended with our own homemade compost. We’ll be recording the first data numbers in the next few days.
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In addition to the beans, collards, spinach, and okra that have been planted in the greenhouse, our tenant farmers have transplanted some pepper and callaloo (or amaranth) that seem to be doing very well.

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Please stay tuned for more updates from the rooftop farm and the greenhouse!


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Hello Fall! Hello Greenhouse!

The greenhouse is built and the beds are planted! I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the wonderful people that made this possible.
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The custodial staff at Intervale Green were a huge help, their expertise was definitely appreciated.

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The young and energetic tenants of IG also helped out filling the raised beds with soil and compost, and helped plant the first greenhouse crop of vegetables.

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The greenhouse will help educate the next generation of urban farmers. The young people of Intervale Green will not only experience first-hand the benefits of fresh, organic produce but they will also have a personal stake in the process.

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Meanwhile, up on the roof, the fall crops are doing well. The beets and beans will be ready in a few weeks and our squash has started flowering and growing.

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Thanks again to all of you who helped us realize this goal. Please stay tuned for more updates.


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Reflecting on Summer, getting ready for Fall and beyond

rooftop greenery

The end of the summer growing season can be emotional and bittersweet. The cucumber and tomato plants that seemed to be producing fruit as soon as the ripe ones were picked off have slowed down production and the plants themselves are dying back from what can only be described as exhaustion. The peppers and eggplant are still going strong but I’m noticing a slight reduction in production and the beginning stages of yellowing and wilting are setting in.
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bell peppers

The basil that gave us powerful pesto and the cilantro that added the underlying freshness to our salsa, along with the lettuce that withstood the insane heat we had here in New York City, finally decided to bolt (go to seed). In a few weeks, these plants will go back to the soil from which they sprouted and help replenish it for (hopefully) another booming summer.
basil, cilantro, lettuce going to seed
But enough of the sadness and melancholy! Let’s celebrate our successful summer! Let’s celebrate…the rooftop watermelons!!
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A total of six watermelons, averaging a bit over 3 lbs. each, grew on the roof this summer. These cute little orbs looked so unassuming but packed a big time punch with their mind-blowing sweetness and juiciness. I’m definitely planting more watermelon next year.

And it’s not over yet because we’ve planted for Fall! As the Summer crops die back, the fall and early winter crops are taking hold and stepping into the spotlight. We have more beans and lettuce, three different types of beets, Brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas, zucchini, collard greens, and a variety of squashes and pumpkins. So there’s really no time for dwelling on the past when the future promises to be just as delicious.

On a quick side note, I’d like to thank everyone that donated money to our greenhouse campaign and to everyone who worked tirelessly on making it a success. I’m very excited to announce that we met, and actually surpassed, our goal. We were able to purchase all the equipment and materials needed to grow fresh, organic produce for the tenants of Intervale Green through the winter months. The greenhouse kit was ordered, it has arrived at Intervale Green, and we’re building it this weekend. Please stay tuned for upcoming posts as we put the rooftop farm to rest and recuperate, and move into the greenhouse for some hot winter growing!

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