Parents Frieda Lim and Trisha Mulligan did an outstanding job of convincing Park Slope, Brooklyn public school PS39 administration and community that sub-irrigated portable micro gardens were the best way to implement an edible garden at the school.
They deserve a lot of credit for perseverance. Park Slope is a community of liberal progressives who have a tendency towards an ideology that producing food in "mother earth" is good and anything else is not.
As illogical as it is, it is still a belief that is not easy to change. Fantasy farming is all the rage in the Brooklyn artsy-foodies community even though concrete and contaminated soil is the reality of school gardening in the city.
The PS39 edible garden is now a model for other schools to follow. And that’s a good thing!
The story from Edible Manhattan follows after the jump. The writer got a little bit hung up with the details of the "plumbing" but that's understandable with something that is new and counter-intuitive.
A few weeks ago Brooklyn’s Henry Bristow Landmark School (aka Park Slope’s P.S. 39) welcomed spring with the launch ceremony of their new containerized Edible Community Garden in their concrete schoolyard, as shown in the video above.
Spearheaded by Frieda Lim, who runs Slippery Slope Farm on her Brooklyn rooftop, and Trisha Mulligan, an experienced gardener and herbalist and the mother of two students, the garden uses “sub-irrigation” planting techniques Lim mastered working with fellow Brooklyn gardener Bob Hyland. (Read the Brooklyn Based story about his technique right here.) At the school, vegetables are grown inside 20 boxes and eight planters that have plastic tubes (or even old Poland Spring water bottles) buried beneath the planting material and the plants. Those bottles are covered with tiny holes, and a “wick,” or another bottle or spout, is driven into one of the bottles in one end of the planter and left exposed to the air. You water the plants by pouring water into the wick, which trickles by capillary action through the holes in the plastic and up to the soil, watering the plants from the bottom up–hence the name sub-irrigation.
Impressively, the farm was conceived just this past fall: “The idea was to demonstrate that we could do this inexpensively and quickly,” says Lim. She and Mulligan funded the whole project and put in a starter fee of $ 500 for the sub-irrigated micro-garden planter boxes, which are nested inside painted recycled wooden shipping pallets. “The key thing about the garden is that it uses modern, innovative technologies,” says Lim, “which are perfect for urban environment.” The beauty of sub-irrigation as Lim explains, is that it allows you to plant immediately in any closed container. They require less soil and far less watering, resulting in less of a load on rooftops and healthier plants. Container planters are also portable, which make it perfect for space-constrained Manhattanites who move from apartment to apartment, or when some urban garden space might be shut down for development: You can just take your tomatoes and go. Read more...