celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Block Beautification Day

Ok. So this post isn't about food. Sometimes food blogs talk about gardening and sometimes garden blogs talk about food. Really the two go hand in hand. Though admittedly I wouldn't eat the plants we were out there planting on Saturday.

My block decided to enter the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest this year and in preparation the block association went out there Saturday to plant whiskey barrels and rake the treepits.

Sounds easy doesn't it? But in reality it required weeks, no actually months of planning. Small on members, we really had to pull together and get everything we needed. In the end since the whole block benefits, people are nice enough to give us monetary donations.

What we did in a nutshell:

  • Raised money by selling raffles
  • Bought 11 whiskey barrels, bags of gravel and top soil to mix with the compost
  • Rented a U-haul truck, drove to the city's compost site on designated dates for the free giveway. Then we loaded up 50 heavy-duty trash bags with glorious compost. We stored them in someone's garden until the time to plant.
  • Planned the placement of the barrels and decided on the best types of shrubbery
  • We ordered iron stands for the whiskey barrels, but they didn't come through on time, so we improvised with bricks. Not the most elegant solution, but it looks ok.
  • Finally, after so many weekends planning and preparing, putting everything out there!

My side of the street.

The other side of the street. Oh yeah and that big silver machine is my car.

This is our treepit. We planted purple salvia and some orangey-yellow flower that is supposed to be one of the hardiest perennials. We also planted a climbing rose. We're hoping it will grow up the tree. In the city, treepits are an extension of your garden (if you're even lucky enough to have one!)

Someone was smart enough to think to put the bricks underneath the barrels so you don't see them. So the barrels look like they are floating. When the bricks stick out like legs I think they detract from the overall look.

This one has a jasmine in it. There seems to be some controversy over whether this is an annual or a perennial. I'm betting the poor guy won't survive the winter. We also planted vinca vines in all the barrels.


Blogger meresy_g said...

You should write about gardening more often. I love your pansies. So pretty. And your planters and tree-pits look amazing. How cool that everyone worked together. It will look so great in a month when everything is filled out.

12:35 PM

Blogger Emergency999 said...

Hi, I really like your blog... I don't live in Brooklyn, but I try to go there sometimes for FOOD and to see friends. I really like the spirit and the whole vibe of your beautification project.

Having been "around the block" a few times in the planting game, I did have a few comments to make about some of the things you are trying (in the spirit of being helpful and positive, I hope). First, while vinca is a great thing to plant, there is a lot to consider with it. (sometimes they try to sell you ANNUAL vinca (feh), so you have to make sure to get "vinca minor", which is often known as "myrtle" or even "periwinkle"). Assuming you have gotten that, however, let me share some experiences I have had with it. First, it is very hearty and also quite pretty when it is flowering, which it does quite prodigiously in spring. But while technically it is a "vine", as far as I can tell it is more of a "creeper", and an AWFULLY SLOW one at that. I don't know how many you bought, but I recommend finding a place online and buying a whole bunch more. The more you buy, the cheaper they are. Seven years after planting TONS of it, I am STILL waiting for it to do the things I envisioned it doing. I got both white and purple-flowering ones, which has turned out to be a nice touch for my area, but for a smaller urban area, I would think the purple would probably look the best. I just re-read your article and I guess most of it is in the barrels? It probably will survive the winter, but I would also go so far as to recommend mulching for the barrels and the tree beds, for overall winter survival and also for summer moisture retention.

Also, the climbing rose strategy might have missed the mark ever so slightly, as unless you literally tie it around the tree, it will probably not "climb" as desired and in general is a very unruly critter that doesn't do what you want. It will probably want to bush out and will be a thorny menace to passers-by. In the case of "climbing roses", they climb in the sense that they do get quite vertical (up to 20 feet high), but they seem to do it largely on their own terms. It is probably not too late to give it a bit of rose food to jump start the flowering for the short-term.

In general, your tree bed looks to be a bit of a challenge, as the tree roots appear to be formidable. I would say if you didn't have such lovely wrought-iron edging, that you should add a lot more soil but that doesn't appear to be feasible.

I did think of a couple of easy and cheap things you can do to get a bit of climbing going on though. I am all about annual vines, although they require an insane amount of watering. Martha over at Kmart has nice ones (seeds). I plant her Sweet Pea vines every year, although I only bought the seeds once because you can harvest your own seeds from the vines at the end of the summer. They make weird but pretty purple pods and if you let them turn brown, you can clip em and save em. Also, Morning Glories will grow and should wrap around the tree and make a nice show. I personally try to stay away from the really fluffy ones (and my partner feels the blue ones are "unnatural" looking, so I am not allowed to get those either). The other thing I really recommend is "Black-Eyed Susan Vines" which are surprisingly esoteric, but they are like miniature Black-Eyed Susans that should climb the tree. I think it will be hard to find those though and it might be a bit late to go from seed. We usually just buy the plants every year. Nasturiums, from seed, also recommended and probably not too late to get something going.

Anyway, I wish you good luck!! Thanks for your wonderful blog! :-)

3:33 PM

Blogger EFB said...

Thanks for the comments! We are also growing nasturtiums, moon flowers, sweet peas and morning glories, just not in the front of the house.

we'll see how everything goes with the treepit and barrels. unfortunately people like to vandalize or steal the plants. i had a gorgeous clematis growing along the gate to the house and someone came along and ripped it in half. it was just about to bloom too. major bummer.

11:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should def. write more about plants, including herbs and vegetables. I am a big fan of perennials and vines. Annuals are gorgeous, but they do require a lot of care and many of them stop blooming once they set seeds (sweet peas and morning glories are a good idea though, as they add color and scent). Morning glories look awful when thirsty though. I would suggest a climatis as well. Purple would combine amazingly with a red, white of prink roses. Most climatises are are slow growers though and any passerby who cuts a piece of it would set you back for years in terms of growth.

11:30 AM

Blogger Emergency999 said...

Damn that sucks about the vandals... Messing up a clematis ought to get you the death penalty, as long as we seemingly must have one. That must be very disheartening in the face of your well-intentioned efforts. I sympathize as where I live, while nobody has vandalized any of the plants (YET), it is a very working-class area and I overheard one neighbor grousing about how we were trying to "turn it into Cape May" (like that's some kind of crime!). Like heaven forbid it should actually be NICE HERE. I don't complain about the plastic shamrocks! (Well, not publicly anyhow)

Anyway, sounds like you are at the top of your game and can now concentrate on finding me good things to eat! :-)

1:32 PM


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