Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tis the Season

Well early this morning did it, finally we had a freeze. In my neck of the woods, we hit around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Now we could argue about shades of gray, hard freeze or not. I'd say then we had a soft freeze. Cold enough to wilt and blacken the more tender annuals. Not cold enough long enough to set back the flowering perennials much.

The difference between a frost and a freeze? Well a freeze is much easier to define: when the temperature drops below 32 degrees F for a sustained period of time. This often happens during the early morning hours at this time of year, after much of the heat the city has accumulated radiates out into the night sky. Freezes tend to come on clear, still nights. Clear allows much heat to radiate upwards, still allows this process to continue unfettered. Clear and still also indicates cold and dry near winter time. Dry, meaning low moisture content in the air, allows the air to cool off even faster because water vapor retains heat. So at this time of year, after a cold front passes, the wind dies down, and the skies clear we have a greater chance of a freeze. Freezes will kill most annuals, so many of which are tropical in origin. Freezes may kill native annuals, but often it takes a hard freeze. Perennial leaves will blacken and die depending on the length and depth of the freeze.

Frost is a phenomena dependent on a variety of factors. When the temperature drops to freezing, usually in the dark, early morning hours, and the moisture content of the air happens to be high, we may have a frost. Frosts involve the coalescence of dew point and temperature. The frost can occur at a range of freezing temperatures, but the frosted surface must be colder than the dew point, the dew point colder than the air temperature, and the dew point must be below freezing. Simply put, frost is water vapor that condenses directly into a solid (ice) on things like plants, cars, and ground whose surface temperature is colder than the dew point. Frosts occur most frequently where there is little to no wind.

In spring we worry about late season frosts, which could take down tender young plants. In autumn, we usually accept the fate of our plants after the long season. However, if it is vegetables you want to protect in spring or fall, simple row covers of plastic or even soda bottles filled with water may do the trick. Both these devices hold heat and lessen the chance for frost on an extremely local level. I've grown broccoli under a clear plastic tent for weeks in freezing temps until they were ready for harvest. While broccoli tends toward cold hardiness, most plants can't be protected from a long, hard freeze. It is then time to let go.

This frost formed one December before dawn and was gone by 9 am

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Front Yard

On the right side of NYCGarden is a feature called Front Yard. So far I have been posting pictures of plants in my front yard, but my intention with this feature is to highlight the front yards of New Yorkers. What I want to do is approach certain homes that have front yards that I think are interesting for one reason or another and ask the gardener about their yard and take a photograph. Afterward I will post a picture and some words about what inspired their front yard. It is a little late in the season to get this started now, but by springtime I hope to have a few Front Yard feature posts. You will also be able to link to an archive of past Front Yard posts.

What I am interested in is ideas about yards and gardens. Most yards can be broken into a geography of home, front, side, and back yards. Each has specific uses and psychological conditions. I want to discuss the front yard because it is the place that we present ourselves to the public. It is a visually public space that is organized or designed privately. In NYC, front yards are often simply an apron to the home's body. Yet still they communicate ideas about the people who live there.

For me, the idea of gardening in the front yard is essential. Directly, to anyone willing to notice, I am presenting ideas about myself. It also gives me an opportunity to meet people, to be out in public without the NYC rush. The gardens give me and passers by something to discuss and allowing us, perhaps, to cross over perceived boundaries. They reveal our personal sense of beauty, speak about our cultural background, and express our practical needs. This is only the beginning of what a garden opens up. The front yard forms the passage that visitors experience on their way into our private spaces; our front yards are the preambles to our homes. My front yard may be a precondition.

Obviously, people have different ideas about what their front yard should be. The source of these ideas isn't always explored, but maybe come from their childhood experience, their neighbors, magazines, or a combination of sources. All front yards express something, intentional or otherwise, about the people who live there. However, many of us won't see the same thing when looking at them.

So whenever I stroll down a street I am looking at the many front yards. Each yard tells me a different story and every so often someone is saying something really interesting. That is what Front Yard will be about.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ongoing Crisis - What's in a Yard

There are so many things to get up about, and yards seem to drive more people into a tizzy than anything. Recently I heard a report on NPR about a man who lived in a Home Owners Association (HOA) type community in New Hampshire. He was fighting to hang his laundry out in the yard and use his, ahem, solar powered dryer. The HOA reminded him that it is against the rules as are many yard "disturbances". Protecting the value of homes in the neighborhood, as always, is the reason given.

I'm afraid it may have more to do with taste and class than property values, but isn't that something we all can agree on- the value of our investment? The idea is that people who hang their laundry, have too many cars parked in the driveway (or on the grass), have kids who play basketball for too many hours, etc. are not welcome in these neighborhoods. If the HOA bans it, people inclined to have such things won't buy in or, if you are inclined but bought in, you simply won't be allowed.

But here is where it gets interesting. Values are shifting and boom! colliding into each other. The man in the NPR report wants to air dry his laundry because its good for the environment, not because he can't afford the electricity that operates his expensive dryer! Green-values people, a small but growing segment of the population, are demanding to let their clothes air dry. This is colliding with the HOA segment who wants to maintain property values over all else. We've seen the same thing when it comes to growing vegetables, wildflowers, or meadows in front yards. Also, unusual home designs in conventional neighborhoods. This is such an interesting space, where two sets of "values" are going head to head. Town ordinances (like this one) banning cars from being parked on the grass are running up against people who are promoting green driveways as a way of mitigating runoff and excess heat. To one person it is offensive, to another its forward thinking!

Offensive-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Forward Thinking

Personally, I can't stand for it when town or HOA ordinances state that I can not plant tomatoes in the front yard. These ordinances are the problem, not the decisions of any particular home owner. I say we need to learn to get along instead of legislating absurd conditions for participation in a community! I think we can all get together to discuss what's really necessary for our communities as long as we think deeply about our own decisions. Let's legislate what really matters.

Check this newspaper link:
Yards and Cars

Here is a link to an interesting defense summation in a court case regarding meadows in yards

Here is a link to an excellent page on weed ordinances.

It is impressive to me how many web hits come up that promote wildflower lawns and so on. Not long ago these searches pulled up article after article of lawsuits and fines. These are still out there, but people and government are coming around to more options in the yard.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This week The Brooklyn Paper reported in its Police Blotter section that men, at least one armed, robbed unsuspecting gardeners in a Carroll Gardens community garden.

Here is the text:

November 3, 2007

Green thugs
By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Paper
A gun-wielding trio of robbers busted into a community
garden on Henry Street near Fourth Place and held up three
gardeners on Oct. 22, police said.
The men entered the garden at 5:15 pm and flashed a silver handgun at the green thumbs, a
56-year-old woman, a 24-year-old man and a 29-year-old man.
“Give me your stuff,” one of the thugs barked, while another guarded the entrance to the green
Apparently, money does grow on trees because the garden-robbing goons got away with $790
in cash, as well as a watch and two gold bracelets.
They fled west across the Cole Street footbridge to Red Hook, police said.
©2007 The Brooklyn Paper

What are the chances your community gardeners are holding $250 dollars in cash each. A fenced in space with one exit seems an excellent target for two guys who think the chances are pretty good you got something. Its just that I wonder what tipped these guys off to its potential. Was it the garden? Did it say wealth to them? Was it the fact that gardeners are so often entranced in their work and might be easily surprised? Or that they were trusting and not wary of strangers in a community space? Was it the spatial scenario I described above that said easy pickins? I think the stereotype is that community garden says "people without means, without much money. " Yet, in a place like NYC, it may simply mean dirt for gardeners of all incomes. For these robbers, it meant paydirt. I hope this doesn't catch on.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Leaf Collection

This Saturday begins the leaf collection in the city of New York. Check out the leaf collection website for the details. Remember, put leaves in the tall paper leaf bags or in sturdy garbage pails out on the curb on the dates posted. See the calender to the right for dates. If the bags don't disappear right away, DSNY says they'll get to them, please be patient. Below is a list of stores that sell the bags from the leaf collection website.

Where to Purchase Paper Lawn & Leaf Bags

The NYC Department of Sanitation does not provide bags or bins for recycling, composting, or garbage. Paper lawn and leaf bags can be purchased at various hardware stores and supermarkets.
Below is a list of retailers that sell paper lawn and leaf bags.

Please note: Our mention of these retailers does not constitute an endorsement of their services. If you find any outdated information, or would like to suggest additional listings, please Contact NYCWasteLe$.

BRONX stores that sell paper lawn & leaf bags:
Big Kmart 1998 Bruckner Blvd., Bronx 10473 718-430-9439
C.S. Brown True Value Hardware 12 E Tremont Ave., Bronx 10453 718-294-1650
Fairbanks Lumber True Value 4527 White Plains Rd., Bronx 10470 718-324-8358
Georges True Value Hardware 2044 Westchester Ave., Bronx 10462 718-829-6666
Home Depot 1806 E Gunhill Rd., Bronx 10469 718-862-9800
Home Depot 635 Zerega Ave., Bronx 10473 718-518-8811
Kornblau Supply Co Inc 5554 Broadway, Bronx 10463 718-548-0433
Pathmark 961 E 174th St., Bronx 10460 718-860-3139
Pathmark 1851 Bruckner Blvd., Bronx 10472 718-892-0100
Pathmark 2136 Bartow Ave., Bronx 10475 718-320-2902
Stop & Shop 5716 Broadway, Bronx 10463 718-548-3344
Super Stop & Shop 691 Co Op City Blvd., Bronx 10475 718-862-2809
Van Nest True Value Hardware 669 Morris Park Ave., Bronx 10462 718-829-2338

BROOKLYN stores that sell paper lawn & leaf bags:
A&G Locksmith & Hardware 347 Knickerbocker Ave., Brooklyn 11237 718-497-5882
Almac Hardware 596 E 16th St., Brooklyn 11226 718-434-1736
Almac True Value 2 Newkirk Plaza Brooklyn 11226 718-434-1736
Bath Ave True Value Hardware 1800 Bath Ave., Brooklyn 11214 718-236-6700
Clinton Hill Hardware 452 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn 11205 718-237-7827
Corner Hardware & Paint 2266 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn 11210 718-377-8516
Court Street Hardware 95 Court St., Brooklyn 11201 718-858-5250
Crest True Value Hardware 558 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn 11211 718-388-9521
Doody Home Centers 2461 E 17th St., Brooklyn 11235 718-648-6000
Frankson True Value Hardware 469 Kings Hwy., Brooklyn 11223 718-375-2873
G & M True Value Hardware 9105 Avenue L, Brooklyn 11236 718-209-0717
Hardware Express True Value 829 E New York Ave., Brooklyn 11203 718-778-2700
Home Depot 585 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn 11205 718-230-0833
Home Depot 2970 Cropsey Ave., Brooklyn 11214 718-333-9850
Home Depot 5700 Avenue U, Brooklyn 11234 718-692-7296
Home Depot 579 Gateway Dr., Brooklyn 11239 718-827-9568
Home Depot 550 Hamilton Ave., Brooklyn 11232 718-832-8553
Lowe’s 118 2nd Ave., Brooklyn 11215 718-249-1151
Mazzone True Value 470 Court St., Brooklyn 11231 718-624-8494
Midwood Lumber & Millwork 1169 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn 11230 718-859-8100
Murrays True Value Hardware 4214 Avenue D, Brooklyn 11203 718-629-9555
New York Lumber 600 Utica Ave., Brooklyn 11203 718-774-8900
Nostrand True Value Hardware 1785-87 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn 11226 718-693-6327
Park Ave True Value Home Center 525 Park Ave., Brooklyn 11205 718-403-0100
Pasternacks True Value 5506 18th Ave., Brooklyn 11204 718-232-3900
Pathmark 1525 Albany Ave., Brooklyn 11210 718-859-4600
Pathmark 111-10 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn 11207 718-649-8225
Pathmark 2965 Cropsey Ave., Brooklyn 11214 718-266-4935
Pathmark 1-37 12th St., Brooklyn 11215 718-788-5100
Pathmark 625 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn 11217 718-399-6161
Pathmark 1245 61st St., Brooklyn 11219 718-853-8633
Pathmark 3785 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn 11235 718-934-6614
Polsteins Home Center 7615 13th Ave., Brooklyn 11228 718-232-5055
Sids True Value Hardware 345 Jay St., Brooklyn 11201 718-875-2259
Sunset Hardware 8111 5th Ave., Brooklyn 11209 718-748-0960
Super Stop & Shop 1009 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn 11226 718-469-1300
Super Stop & Shop 1710 Avenue Y, Brooklyn 11235 718-648-0202
Tarzian True Value Hardware 193 7th Ave., Brooklyn 11215 718-788-4120
Waldbaum’s 3100 Ocean Ave., Brooklyn 11235 718-743-5291
Waldbaum’s 2149-2151 Ralph Ave., Brooklyn 11234 718-531-9115
Waldbaum’s 81-21 New Utrecht Ave., Brooklyn 11214 718-236-8369

QUEENS stores that sell paper lawn & leaf bags:
Clearview Paint & D├ęcor 20-11 Francis Lewis Blvd., Whitestone 11357 718-747-5000
Forest Builders Supply Inc 74-02 Forest Ave, Ridgewood 11385 718-381-5800
Hillside True Value 16921 Hillside Ave., Jamaica 11432 718-297-2656
Home Depot 112-20 Rockaway Blvd., South Ozone Park 11420 718-641-5500
Home Depot 124 04 31st Ave., Flushing 11354 718-661-4608
Home Depot 131 35 Avery Ave., Flushing 11354 718-358-9600
Home Depot 132-20 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica 11434 718-977-2081
Home Depot 50-10 Northern Blvd., Long Island City 11101 718-278-9031
Home Depot 75 09 Woodhaven Blvd., Ridgewood 11385 718-830-3323
Main Star Supply True Value 7610 Main St., Flushing 11367 718-261-7907
Raindew True Value 3515 Francis Lewis Blvd., Flushing 11358 718-539-7559
Pathmark 42-02 Northern Blvd., Long Island City 11101 718-937-5722
Pathmark 134-40 Springfield Blvd., Springfield Gardens 11413 718-525-0600
Pathmark 92-10 Atlantic Ave., Ozone Park 11416 718-835-7900
Target Store 135-05 20th Ave., College Point 11356 718-661-4346
Stop & Shop 64-66 Myrtle Ave., Ridgewood 11385 718-381-5136
Stop & Shop 8989 Union Tpke., Ridgewood 11385 718-846-2310
Super Stop & Shop 24926 Northern Blvd., Little Neck 11362 718-423-5601
Super Stop & Shop 34-51 48th St., Long Island City 11101 718-728-7724
Whitestone Hardware True Value 1248 150th St., Whitestone 11357 718-767-9546
Waldbaum’s 156-01 Cross Bay Blvd., Howard Beach 11414 718-738-6875
Waldbaum’s 83-25 153rd Ave., Howard Beach 11414 718-843-5585
Waldbaum’s 75-55 31st Ave., Jackson Heights 11372 718-651-6013
Waldbaum’s 196-35 Horace Harding Expy., Fresh Meadows 11365 718-423-9588
Waldbaum’s 46-40 Francis Lewis Blvd., Bayside 11361 718-224-9302
Waldbaum’s 213-15 26th Ave., Bay Terrace Mall 11360 718-279-3188
Waldbaum’s 35-10 Francis Lewis Blvd., Flushing 11358 718-445-7472
Waldbaum’s 15-301 10th Ave., Whitestone 11357 718-767-8404
Waldbaum’s 133-11 20th Ave., College Point 11356 718-359-2394
Waldbaum’s 259-01 Union Tpke., Glen Oaks 11004 718-831-6227

STATEN ISLAND stores that sell paper lawn & leaf bags:
Community Hardware 453 Port Richmond Ave., Staten Island 10302 718-442-6299
Doody Home Centers 1677 Victory Blvd., Staten Island 10314 718-872-0099
Eddies Home Center 2076 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island 10306 718-979-7878
Home Depot 2501 Forest Ave., Staten Island 10303 718-273-5069
Home Depot 2750 W Veterans Rd., Staten Island 10309 718-984-4690
Home Depot 545 Targee St., Staten Island 10304 718-818-9334
Lowe’s 2171 Forest Ave., Staten Island 10303 718-448-5244
North Shore Hardware 647 Forest Ave., Staten Island 10310 718-981-1013
Reimans True Value Hardware 1825 Victory Blvd., Staten Island 10314 718-442-1200
Pathmark 3501 Amboy Rd., Staten Island 10306 718-967-6788
Pathmark 2730 Arthur Kill Rd., Staten Island 10309 718-984-7961
Star Supply 3000 Richmond Terrace., Staten Island 10302 718-448-7772
Super Stop & Shop 2795 Richmond Ave., Staten Island 10314 718-761-4856
Village True Value Hardware 262f Arden Ave., Staten Island 10312 718-966-9217
Waldbaum’s 1441 Richmond Ave., Staten Island 10314 718-698-6454
Waldbaum’s 4343 Amboy Rd., Staten Island 10312 718-948-9596
Waldbaum’s 3251 Richmond Ave S, Staten Island 10312 718-967-9029
Waldbaum’s 6400 Amboy Rd., Staten Island 10309 718-966-8393
Waldbaum’s 375 Tompkins Ave., Staten Island 10305 718-447-5690

The MAN Gardens

Strolling through the Flatbush Gardener I picked up this little piece from I have to hand it to Xris over there, he's on top of things. So I am glad he brought this to my attention. I do not want to speak on the specifics of the proposal because I only quickly read his post and glanced at the slide show presented by the city. But some thoughts...

First I want to say, as a gardener and appreciator of things garden and wild, I would like to see more green in all neighborhoods. Second I want to say that I think the city should encourage the greening of the city exactly for the reasons they state: cooler temps, storm water runoff, cleaner air, etc.

I hope this won't be simply stating the obvious, but we should consider why neighborhoods have become concrete. As a man and woman passed my bulb planting activity four years ago, I heard the man say "Too much effort". And isn't this to the point. I have always believed the woman had said to him, "oh, look- he's planting a garden." Yet too much effort are the words ringing in my ears.

So why has NYC become a concrete paradise? Well simply put, people feel it's too much effort to plant. Concrete sheds water, barely needs to be weeded and if so, spray it with herbicide! It easily shoveled, swept, or hosed. Most of all, money spent and its O-V-E-R! Its the same for vinyl siding, isn't it. We can lament its aesthetic shortfalls, but homeowners don't want to paint their homes, don't want to repair rotted wood siding because its costly and time consuming. Absentee landlord's love concrete and tenants have little choice. People with physical problems may want concrete. These are some reasons concrete has won over in areas where cars don't fit or can't get to. Let's face it, its less effort and maintenance.

Of course there must be the driveway for the car as well. I guess that's reasonable if you have a car in the city. And there are so many cars. There is not a night when all the spots in my neighborhood are not taken. Brooklyn is a car town.

This leads me to a sore point about grass strips between sidewalk and street. In my neighborhood, grass strips are many things: weed strips, dirt strips, dog shit strips, garbage strips, broken bottle strips, and lets not forget the most important thing- open car door strips! Where people are parked and must exit cars every day, the grass cannot hold up to this grinding by the feet. In neighborhoods where grass strips seem to work, there MUST be conscientious passengers and caretakers of them. As long as we worship the auto, do away with the grass strip. Its absurd, really. Like those two concrete strips running up a grass driveway-you remember the kind. This photo resembles the idea.

We, as gardeners, can help anyone convert their concrete pad into a garden space. We can show them how to do it with little watering, weeding, and the like. We can show them the beauty of plants the landscape contractor would never touch. We can give them perennial divisions, cutting, and seeds. I am interested in what I call our Collective Green. You heard it here first. We can band together to green up the neighborhood's yards. Volunteers wanted.

I like to win people over as opposed to forcing them. I hope that my front yard sells itself, gives people ideas. If not, so be it. Must be the Libertarian in me. But is a mandate being proposed for NYC? It appears that the proposal is only for new development. But how much new row house or single family style construction is there in the city? The kind that would create "front yard" space? In Queens and Staten Island, mostly, I'd guess.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Flowers Won't Push Daisies

It has been at least a week since my last post. I am getting ready to put together part two of "Our Weeds". The garden is still blooming like mad, especially the aster I cut back hard in June. Roses that won't quit-it is the industrial hedge rose, sunflowers may bloom forever. I've had them blooming into December. That reblooming iris doesn't know what the hell its doing, buds won't open. The sun is so low, there is about 20 minutes of sunlight a day on it now. I still don't know where I will put that Salvia I bought a week ago at Liberty Sunset. Plus the landlord still has workers tamping down the soil and plants in the side garden. I think I'm going to have to get in there and dig things up-at least in the side garden.

Making plans for a larger garden at a remote location, well remote to my house, but still in Brooklyn.
I plan on dividing my plants soon and delivering those divisions to a garden in Sunnyside, Queens. Someone I met while away in New Hampshire this summer. She has more soil than plants, lucky devil.
Leads me to an idea...