Welcome ...

Welcome to the Clifton Place Block Association Community Garden. Since 1991, the garden has been a green oasis for many in this corner of the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. As is the case with so many New York City community gardens, the Clifton Place Block Association Community Garden developed from the community's need to reclaim and transform a garbage-strewn city-owned lot into a place of beauty and an asset to all in Clinton Hill and surrounding areas.

In its years of existence, Clifton Place Garden (short) has served as a place where neighborly bonds are strengthened, the passion for gardening and nature is shared, friendships develop, and neighborhood children learn. Through its open door policy, Clifton Place Garden has endeared itself to the community. It is not uncommon to hear someone passing by compliment its beauty and express pride and appreciation for what the garden does to the surrounding area.

Going forward, Clifton Place Garden will seek to continue strengthen its ties to the surrounding neighborhoods through composting programs, children's workshops, and unique arts events. And we hope to connect, via this Web Log, to other gardening enthusiasts, and to share the excitement of our urban gardening experience here. Hopefully, this site will be a favorite place you will keep returning to, and if in the neighborhood, you will stop by to enjoy the pleasure of our small, flourishing retreat.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Splendid Weather and Great Food

… And it rained for forty days and forty nights. Or, so it seemed during the month of June, 2009 in good old NYC. Then on June 27th, out came the sun and in came the warmth of summer, as if on cue for The Clifton Place Gardens first fund-raiser.

Last year we held our early fund-raiser across the street from the Brooklyn Flea (Vanderbilt & Lafayette Avenue, in our Clinton Hill / Fort Greene neighborhood) , in the hopes our proximity would benefit our bake and plant sale, drawing a portion of the crowd that flock to the weekend outdoor market. With a little coaxing we were able to direct some to our setup. This time we decided to spends some extra “dough” to setup as a vendor within the market and take full advantage of the market's foot traffic. Having taken a little more risk, we very much hopeful (and thankful) for a change in the weather pattern.

This year we dropped the plant sale (lost money last year) and decided to go with baked and cooked items, and a tag sale, with concentration on the food component. Knowing that we would have to compete with the likes of Choice Market, we devised a diverse menu of attractive sweet and savory offerings; assigned recipes to garden member volunteers for baking and cooking, and on the morning of the 27th everyone delivered beyond expectations.

On the sweet side we had baklava, biscotti, blueberry muffins and scones, chocolate-ginger-fig cake, Russian Tea cakes, sweet potato pie, and zucchini-walnut cake. Our savory offerings gave the world a small sampling of the world's comfort foods with: French Brioche, Indian potato bondas, Panamian tamales, and Caribbean cod fish filled johnny cakes. And to wash it all down, we offered homemade lemonade, iced and hot teas, and spiced sorrel. Yum! Aren't you getting hungry? I am!

Check out the slide show!

With the splendid weather and great food, we felt optimistic about our prospect for success. And we were - almost doubling the result of last years fund-raiser. Though, beyond the money raised (and that sure is important), participating members were rewarded with the satisfaction that comes from teamwork and camaraderie. One of the great thing about events like the fund-raiser, is that it gathers members together, spurring informal get-to-know-you sessions.

The proceeds of our fund-raisers is used to address capital and operation cost that the garden incurs seasonally, including: paying for insurance and water usage, purchasing assorted materials (wood, fencing, special plants), and other fees. These fund enables The Clifton Place Garden to continue to meet it commitment of being a green oasis for the community in this corner of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Flea showed a spirit of community that is welcomed from an event sponsor. We are extremely grateful to them for their assistance in making our participation at the Flea way easier than we could have imagined.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Seafood Conundrum

Here is a New York Times article that addresses an issue we all should become more aware of. Like so many other foods, seafood has been, and continues to be, severely damaged by industrialization (chemical run-off, etc.), over-fishing, and detrimental fish-farming practices.

As a result of the sustained pressures place on the world's seafood populations, what is, and should be a reliable and healthy food source, is marred by concerns about heavy metal contamination and the extinction of many species.

Hopefully, this New York Times article and the corresponding Environmental Defense Fund data helps to inform about the current state of seafood.

New York Times
Environmental Defense Fund

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gowanus Nursery

Last week some of our gardeners were asking for recommendations regarding good sources for plants. In response, we provided some of the usual run of the mill places year in Brooklyn (The Brooklyn Terminal Market, Home Depot, etc.). They are run of the mill because they are not places you turn to if you are looking for a good (“exotic”) variety of plants. But they serve a more mundane purpose, in that that at the two sources cited before ( and many like them) you can find colorful and popular plants that meet the budget. And at this moment, that's that not a bad thing.

As fate would have it, though, I met up with neighbor and fellow gardener, Shelly Hagan (member of the Dean Street Community Garden in Prospect Heights), who turn me unto a wonderful resource for exotic garden plants. It is the Gowanus Nursery in Red Hood. Located at 45 Summit (Van Brunt and Columbia streets), this nursery offers up a wide variety of unusual annual, perennials, and shrubs that will allow any garden the opportunity to design a sophisticated garden. And similar to the Terminal Market and Home Depot, their pricing fits within the budget.

Visit them at they website www.gowanusnursery.com. Then go check them out. From what I observed, this nursery's aim is to fill the void that The Terminal Market and Home Depot create with their limited offerings. So if you are looking to load up on Petunias, you may still need to trek over to those places. But if you are looking to create that stunning rock garden, for example, this is definitely the place to go.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Snap On; Snap Off – The Watering System

After years of relying on the nearby fire hydrant and creative water collection systems as a source for water , The Clifton Place community garden was fortunate to have its own feed established, thanks to The Trust For Public Land. At one one point, because the city had implemented special caps on hydrants to prevent water loss during the summer month, we were solely reliant on rain water and water schlepped from our homes to meet the garden's water demands. After struggling through many seasons' dry spells with little or no water, today the water system is a cherished component of the garden.

But, long before the existing system was implemented, steps were taken to make it easier to water the various areas of the garden. Particularly, hoses that lead to connecting points were submerged into the ground. Initially, these hoses were fed by the source we took from the fire hydrants. Today the underground hoses connect to the feed station located within the confines of the garden.

To simplify things for everyone, we have design our system to have only one connection point gardeners need to interface with. In the old days, gardeners had to drag cumbersome hoses from the tool shed and establish connection to one of the connecting points in the garden. And after use, a gardener would need to recoil the hose and return it to the shed. A lot of work. Today, because of sustained connections throughout the garden, snapping in the hose that feeds the underground system is all it takes to water any point in the garden. Now that is progress.

While the system is simple, for the uninitiated it can seem more complex than it really is. For these gardeners, here is a photo demonstration of how to connect the water systems.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


April 4th and it's opening day at the Clifton Place Garden. It is suppose to be spring but bad, old winter decided to show up with the many gardeners wanting to join and re-up. With overcast skies and and a blustering wind, it didn't take long to became chilled! But spirits were high and an old timers like me we was warmed by the high turnout of people looking to join the garden. Boxes were assigned and re-assigned. And while we were all chilled to bone after the 45 minute meeting, and the weather didn't indicate it, something in process indicated Spring.

Given the high interest in the garden this year we are very excited about the coming gardening season. We are looking forward to the results that will come from the combined efforts of our new membership. Maybe the high interest is an uncommon economic indicator or just an indication of our ever evolving community. Whatever the reasons, its hard to not sense that this should be a special summer at the Clifton Place Garden.

So hopefully spring beats back winter quickly. Because clearly in this corner of Brooklyn, there are a group of folks wanting to reconnect with the food their eat. And the sooner it warms up, the sooner their will be picking and enjoying tomatoes, corn, and a host of other wonderful fresh veggies. When the garden is fully flourishing, it is hard to believe winter will ever come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Expanded Composting At The Clifton Garden

One project The Clifton Place Garden was able to accomplish this season was substantial improvement to our composting system. With help of gardener Melanie Skrzek, who attended classes on composting offered by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, we have expanded our composting capacity 3 fold. The Clifton Place Garden now maintain 4 distinct composting bins: three for hot composting and one for cold composting. The expanded composting system enables The Clifton Place Garden to produce high quality organic compost that is re-used during the gardening season for fertilization of planting beds.

Given our increased composting capacity, we expect to invite non-garden members of the surrounding community to compost with the garden. This should be of immense benefit to apartment dwellers interested in composting. Methods on how best to accept material from the public is being worked out. Likely, the garden will setup a receptacle at the front fence where contributors can dumps food scraps and other compostable materials. When all logistics are figured out, announcements will be posted on this Blog and at the garden.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Planting Smart To Control Pest ....

This year, it seemed that conditions were ripe for an attack of White Flies at the Clifton Place Garden. Over our years of existence, we have had mild aphid infestations. But nothing to the extent experienced this year with white flies.

Liz, one of our gardeners, realized a wonderful yield of Kale in her plot. But her success was greatly overshadowed by a persistent fight to rid the plant of the infestation of white flies. Because The Clifton Place Garden strive to maintain a pesticide free garden, Liz's option to fight the problem was limited to washing the plants regularly with water and installing sticky pads. Ultimately, Liz would lose the battle. Like most of our members, she is not at the garden often enough to wage a determined battle against the little creators.

What we should have done was companion planting. Companion planting is the long practiced organic growing technique where beneficial insect-repelling plants are grown with other plants to fend off insects they attract. In Liz's case, for example, we could have planted, together with the kale, nasturtiums and marigolds to repel the white flies. Were we to have had an infestation of aphids we could have grown garlic, mint, or catnip. (more info: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp7j7xj_0dx6v2fhc)

There are other benefits that are gained from companion planting. Beyond the benefits of pest control companion planting can help with nutrition and moisture management of the soil. Some crops concentrate nutrients in their tissues. Others move nutrients from the subsoil to the above ground parts, that in turn is made available to subsequent crops upon decomposition. Some plant increase potassium levels, while others (particularly legumes) gather unusable nitrogen in the air and convert it to usable nitrogen. This is probably what the farmers at the the Stone Barn Center for Food & Agriculture in Westchester, NY, have in mind when they choose to plant corn is plant together with beans and squash, and melons are allowed to grow in grassy fields. (More Info: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/ecogardening/complant.html)

We have used organic principles in the way we grow at The Clifton Place Garden, but our white flies problem prove that there are some techniques we need to make standard practice. Going forward, companion gardening will become an integral part of our growing methods to both manage pest and ensure quality yields. Given that the average size of a gardener's plot is 4' x 6', with proper planning and companion gardening, a greater amount of crops can be grown in a season. Realizing greater results through natural processes is clearly smart planting.