NYC OFF THE RECORD: A GARDEN PRIMER


ONE

The Union Square Farmers market in New York City is a perfect source for inexpensive but hearty regionally grown plants, herbs, and flowers. Arrive first thing in the morning and you’ll quickly discover there’s too much to choose from. Stroll among the market stalls and weave between the Blew Family’s jumbo packets of rosemary and the Migliorelli Farms sugar snap peas. Bring along your kitchen scraps and drop it off at the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s stand and while you’re at it pick up a bag of black gold (worm casting compost) for only 50 cents a pound. In its place decide on home baked garlic & duck fat Ciabatta along with a too- beautiful- to-pass bouquet of freshly cut snapdragons. (Bordered by 17th Street, Union Square West, 14th Street and Union Square East Directions: 4, 5, 6; N, R; L at Union Sq.)

TWO

CREST a neighborhood HARDWARE store in Williamsburg Brooklyn on Metropolitan & Union Ave. is unique in a sea of big-box chain stores. As soon as you walk in you hear TOP TEN AM radio playing and a salesperson (let’s call him Mike) whose been there for decades, sings out, ‘hello sweetheart‘. Everyone is dubbed sweetheart, even the African grey parrot whose been in residence for just as many years. Isles 4, 5 and 6 are a gardeners eden, laden with plant food, organic seeds and soil, hanging baskets, rain wands, marble chips, pea gravel, green hoses, and watering cans. Oh, yeah, the prices are friendly too! (558 Metropolitan Ave Directions: L train to Lorimer)

THREE

Wrapped around the back of the Chelsea Garden Center on 11th ave and 48th are 100’s of wooden barrels, black clay urns, Italian & Hungarian terra-cotta containers, stunningly hued Vietnamese glazed pots, and natural cedar crates in every imaginable size. In one way or another, everyone is a certified horticulturalist, largely through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens education program. Just ask any idiosyncratic garden question and the easy going staff has a solution. 580 11th Avenue @ 44th Street NYC and 444 Van Brunt Street (adjacent to Fairway Market) Redhood Brooklyn, NY

FOUR

Snatching up abandoned and derelict city lots, planting flowers and vegetables, creating green-space and invigorating a neighborhood is essentially illegal. That said, it’s been happening since 1973 in all 5 boroughs with unshakable influence by the Green Guerillas of NYC . Visit them online and find a community garden in your neighborhood, and while you’re at it, stop by the 18 gardens on the annual Green With Envy Tour. http://www.greenguerillas.org

FIVE

If you can’t grow it, go in its place. Cherry Blossoms in May and Roses in June. All year long the Brooklyn Botanical Garden provides a vibrant-green lovers escape. BBG is 52 acres of urban horticulture and botanical resource. Apply on line and help out in the gardens extensive volunteer and education program. Or become a member and enjoy the plus side of members only summer picnics, tour & class discounts, and pre-view seasonal plant sales.
1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11225 · 718-623-7200 Directions: The B or Q train to Prospect Park station. The 2 or 3 train to Eastern Parkway.

BONUS

Gardening is like any great adventure and a pocket sized guide or a list of rules is always handy.

1. Spend your money on good soil and the soil will feed the plant.

2. For beauty sake use stone, wood, iron, terracotta and other natural materials in your garden.

3. Recycle. Rusted metal for your hard-scape, cement bricks for boarders and other odds n ends found on the street (look near construction sites theres usually lots of natty debris nearby).

4. THINK COLOR. Experiment with monochromatic arrangements, color themes, and contrasting one-color, two-color, and three color toned gardens.

5. Grow something that attracts butterflies; you’ll never regret it.

a. Bee balm

b. Cosmos

c. Marigold

d. Sunflower

e. Zinnia

6. Keep a gardening journal. (An oasis once winter rolls around.)

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