Gardeners celebrate new raised bed frames after a hard day’s work.
Garden members place new wooden frames around planting beds. The old frames had started to rot.

Greening Brooklyn One Garden at a Time

A discussion of how we can increase the security our local food supply at a time when rising fuel costs, climate change and political turmoil make it particularly vulnerable. As seen through the lens of the Imani Gardens, located at 1680 Pacific Street and 87-91 Schenectady Street.

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Greg Todd

Greg Todd

Greg Todd  Vice PresidentGreg is a long-time Brooklyn resident.  He took his first permaculture design course from Geoff Lawton at Epworth in 2007 and his second from Andrew Faust in 2011.  His main focus for the past five years has been Imani Garden.Phone: 718-496-5139Fax: 212-415-6133Email: gtodd@green-phoenix.org
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Come to the Brooklyn Permaculture Meetup Friday May 20th at 7:00 at the Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue. We'll be talking about Greg Todd's visit to Selva Negra, a permaculture paradise in northern Nicaragua and Andrew's upcoming Permaculture Design Course.

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In a recent New York Times article,  New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer "discovers" that the City's Department of Housing Presevation and Development (HPD) has allowed large parcels of land to sit idle for decades while the City suffers through the worst affordable housing crisis in its history.  Why hasn't HPD developed housing on these sites the AG wonders.   HPD posits many reasons including lack of appropriate infrastructure, inaccessibility and lack of funds.  

Yet while the Comptroller so sanctimoniously pillories HPD, the Department of Finance which he has a statutory mandate to oversee, continues selling City tax liens on vacant land to wealthy investors, folks speculating in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.  Is there any wonder why the City has no land for developing affordable housing when it no longer takes property for delinquent taxes, as it did up until 1996 when Guiliani began the tax lien sale program?  Since 1996,  the number of City owned lots has shriveled.  Now the City is forced to look at remote and unattractive development sites because it has nothing else left.

Of course, among the parcels sold to investors was 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle lot of Imani I garden.  (the two side lots are owned by New York Restoration Project, the garden group founded in the late 90's by Bette Middler).  Previously this lot had been owned by a church affiliated non-profit.  Because the non-profit, located in Weeksville, the 2nd oldest independent African-American community on the East Coast, failed to file the necessary paperwork, the City began taxing the lot, even though the owner was technically tax exempt.  Why is it that the City puts the burden of filing paperwork on the least advantaged, while allowing the most advantaged to reap the benefit?  Is this part of the systemic racism that causes areas like Weeksville to be filled with tax foreclosed properties and now makes them a hotbed of real estate speculation?

This is the story that the Comptroller should be looking into, not HPD's failure to develop random lots in fringe neighborhoods.  

When will Stringer begin doing his job, the job we the people elected him to do?

 

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 Sign on the fence of Imani I Garden

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Weeping willow sold to investors in the middle of Imani I garden 

 

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I was astonished to find, in the Business Section of all places, a story about cover cropping in the NY Times today.  Just as permaculturists and organic farmers have known for decades, monocrop farmers are now discovering that cover crops increase yield, improve soil health and reduce loss of topsoil.  The article recounts how the Anson family, and Doug Anson in partiucular, attended an unspecified "seminar" (was it a permaculture talk?!?!) about cover cropping and returned home with "his hair on fire".  Sound familiar, those of you who have attended a permaculture talk?  

He insisted that the family plant at least a small percentage of their acreage with a cover crop that fall.  So in part to humor him and in part out of curiousity, his two brothers agreed to let him plant a cover crop on 1,200 acres, a fraction of the 20,000 acres on the "family farm".   Incredibly, as predicted,  yields increased by 20-25 bushels per acre!   And less quantitatively but more satisfyingly, the soil felt better, less sandy more granular and lumpy, the way good soil should feel.  

The article goes on to note that none other Monsanto is now investing in studies to determine if in fact cover cropping actually has the benefits its promoters say it has.

I'll never forget one of the opening observations made by Geoff Lawton when I took his 72 hour permaculture in 2007 (sponsored by Green Phoenix Permaculture).  He stated that America's number one export was not corn, soy or Boeing airliners, but rather top soil.  I've often repeated this quote in gatherings and it never fails to draw astonished looks.

Now it seems that commercial agriculture as reported in the Business Section of Americas newspaper of record, is beginning to feel the heat.  

Will this new awareness trigger a revolution in agricultural practices?  And more interestingly how will Monsanto and other big ag companies figure out how to subvert cover cropping for their own fun and profit?   Let's all pay careful attention over the months and years ahead.

 

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Below is a video link to testimony presented by Paula Segal, 596 Acres, Aresh Javadi of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, Greg Todd of Imani Garden, David Vigil of East New York Farms, Sarah Hobel of the New York Horticultural Society and Alice Forbes Spear of the 462 Halsey Garden before the Community Development Committee of the NYC Council on a proposal to create an Urban Agriculture Advisory Board.  Filmed on December 3 at 250 Broadway.  At 1:26:00 in this video, testimony begins from garden advocates. At 1:36:53, Greg recites Imani Gardens' recent experience with acts that threatened the continued existence of the Imani gardens.

 

 

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Fall is the time we get our garden ready for the coming winter.  It is the time when summer crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, okra, beans, squash and other crops that prefer warm weather are dying off and other crops that prefer cooler temperatures such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and mustard are coming into their own.  

Accordingly, we spent several weekends preparing our gardens for the change in seasons.  It all began in early October when we planted 7 trays of seedlings in our greenhouse, trays of lettuce, spinach, kale and mustard.  In the greenhouse, temperatures got into the 90s during the day.  Our passive solar system consisting of six 55 gallon drums filled with water on which the seed trays sat helped retain the heat during the nights and keep the greenhouse cooler during the days.  By the end of October, we had seedlings that were a couple of inches high and ready for the rigors of the real world.

On October 18th, Guy D'Angelo, a long time garden supporter and 20+ year organic gardener from Center Moriches Long Island came to teach a class on fall crops.  Guy explained the ways he developed in his garden to extend the growing season using hoop houses and proper crop selection to five eager students.  The group then planted garlic bulbs in one of Imani II's 13 raised beds and sprinkled rye seeds on another bed as a cover crop.  Finally we put a hoop house over a third bed already planted with spinach seedlings and a cover crop.  

On October 22nd, Repair The World, a Jewish philanthropic organization, brought in high school students from a school in Fort Green for a work day.  The 20 or so eager students spread a layer of wood chips over Imani I, learned the secrets of chicken husbandry with our chickens and helped fetch leaves from a nearby park for our compost pile in Imani II.  All of this hard work was rewarded with a BBQ at our outdoor grill.  Much fun and learning for all.

Finally on October 31st,  four permaculture enthusiasts from the permaculture meetups, New York City Permaculture Meetup and  Brooklyn Permaculture Meetup came for a garden tour and work day in the garden.  This group stripped the remaining 10 beds of summer crops and placed the spent plants in a pile at the back of the garden for a future fungi project.  We then spread a thin layer of mulch over the stripped beds and planted the 200+ seedlings from our greenhouse into the beds.  Finally we sprinkled a cover crop seed mixture over the beds.

After all this hard work, Imani Garden is ready for the fall weather, coming for sure in the weeks and months ahead.

Many thanks to all for their hard work and enthusiasm!

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On September 18th, the City Register published the name of the gentleman who purchased 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden.  His name is Herman Stark and his address is listed as 199 Lee Avenue Suite 308 Brooklyn NY 11211.  He paid $365,000 for this single 20x100 lot.

As far we can tell, the only reason someone would spend $365,000 for a 2,000 square foot lot would be to build a residential building.  Of course building such a structure would entail cutting down one of the tallest and most beautiful weeping willow trees in Brooklyn.  Is this really what the community wants to happen?  Is it really that important that we have more unaffordable housing in a borough already rated as one of the least affordable in the United States?  

Or would we rather have a community garden with a towering willow tree, surrounded by chickens, an aquaponics project, fruit trees and a cob oven?

Let your electeds know your preference.  Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, can be reached at 212-669-2156.  Robert Cornegy the local council member, can be reached at 212-788-7354.  Let them know you'd prefer a willow tree over a housing project!

On September 28th, garden members put up the sign you see in the photo.  We are asking for anyone who knows and cares for Imani Garden to send us an email telling of their experiences there and what they like most about the garden.  We're asking that you send your comments to " This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ".  With your permission, we will publish your responses on this website.

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The weeping willow at Imani I, 87-91 Schenectady Avenue

 

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On Saturday October 17th at 1 PM, Guy D'Angelo, an organic farmer with 20 years experience growing on a 1/4 acre garden in Center Moriches Long Island, will be discussing fall crops and cover cropping at Imani II. Find out what plants you can grow in the fall in this zone and how to prepare your planting beds. Also learn about the advantages of putting a crop on your planting beds that will protect and enhance the soil over the winter. We will provide a demonstration of how to start your crop, how to cultivate and harvest it. Learn how you can extend the growing season even further with hoop houses over your growing beds.


Imani Garden II is located at 1680 Pacific Street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It has 13 raised beds, a 350 gallon water storage tank and a year around polycarbonate greenhouse.


To get there by mass transit, take the A/C or 3/4 trains to Utica Avenue. Walk Utica to Pacific Street and then walk west to Schenectady Avenue. Imani is located at the corner of Schenectady and Pacific Street.

 

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According to the Comptroller's website, his job is to be:
"...responsible for providing an independent voice to safeguard the fiscal health of the City, root out waste, fraud and abuse in City government and ensure the effective performance of City agencies to achieve their goals of serving the needs of all New Yorkers. "

Why is the amount of the liens on 89 Schenectady said to be $95,000 when the amount shown on the notice of intention to sell tax liens was only $1,844.20?

Why wasn't NYRP notified of the liens, given that they own the adjacent lots at 87 and 91 Schenectady which together with 89 Schenectady form Imani Garden? Is the Comptroller aware that selling this lot will cut a community garden into two pieces, including the largest chicken coop in Brooklyn and destroy a 60 foot willow tree that's the centerpiece of the garden?

Given that the owner of 89 Schenectady Ave is a non-profit shown as active by the Secretary of State, why does it owe real estate taxes in any case?

Aren't these enough questions to prompt the Comptroller to "root out waste, fraud and abuse", or at least stop the sale scheduled for August 3rd so the facts can be investigated?  

Mia Hilton has been assigned to investigate this case by the Comptroller.  She called today to say they are reaching out to the Intergovernmental Affairs office to get some answers.  Watch this blog for more updates.

The Duties of the Comptroller Scott M. Stringer is the Comptroller of the City of New York, the City’s Chief...
COMPTROLLER.NYC.GOV

 

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We just learned that, in a process still unclear to us, on June 18th, 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden, was sold to a private investor for the sum of $365,000.  In conducting a difficult referee sale, the community was overlooked and is now paying the price! Let us bring this great error to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s attention. Let him know that Crown Heights is who is suffering most from this dispute.  The other side lots in Imani are owned by the New York Restoration Project.  This sale goes forward on August 3rd.   Imani will be effectively cut into two pieces, and the 60 foot willow pictured above, an icon in Weeksville for a very long time, will be cut down.

 

Please ask Comptroller Scott Stringer to halt the closing.   Scott’s hot line number is 212-669-3916.  Tell him we need time to transfer the lot of NYRP where it should have been from the beginning.  

Also contact Stephanie Zimmerman, Council member Robert Cornegy’s Chief of Staff at 718-919-0740 x 106.  Ask her to have the Council set aside money to reimburse the City for the liens on 89 Schenectady.  

If you want more information about how you can help, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

We are working on an on-line petition and Facebook page to address this injustice.  Stay tuned for further developments.

 

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Gardeners relaxing under the weeping willow.  It may soon have a lot to cry about!

 

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Ngonda and Ntangou Badila With A Sign They Created

 

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Chickens Hard At Work in Imani Chicken Run

 

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Gardeners harvesting greens in Imani II

 

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Imani II raised beds and water storage tank

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Since at least the Bloomberg administration, NYC has been aggressivlely trying to paint itself as being "green".  The building codes are now requiring many green features and incentivising builders to add even more.  Builders get additional buildable square feet for adding water storage tanks on site and get tax credits for adding solar panels.  Bloomberg launched the "Million Tree" initialive and much progress has been made towards that goal.  PlanNYC initiated by Bloomberg and recently updated by DeBlasio calls for every NYer to be within a ten minute walk of green space.

Yet when the sustainability agenda collides that of real estate developers, guess who get thrown under the bus?  As you may already know, Imani Garden II at 1680 Pacfic Street, an established community garden with 13 raised beds, water storage system and greenhouse was put on a list along with 18 other gardens sent to developers as sites for "affordable" housing.  

Now we learned that, in a process still unclear to us, on June 18th, 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden, was sold to a private investor for the sum of $365,000.  In conducting a difficult referee sale, the community was overlooked and is now paying the price! Let us bring this great error to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s attention. Let him know that Crown Heights is who is suffering most from this dispute.  The other side lots in Imani are owned by the New York Restoration Project.  If this sale goes forward on August 3rd, Imani will be effectively cut into two pieces, and the 60 foot willow pictured above, an icon in Weeksville for a very long time, will be cut down.

To allow time for our elected officials to save the tree and the lot, please ask Comptroller Scott Stringer to halt the closing.   Scott’s hot line number is 212-669-3916.  Ask him to stop the sale so that the erroneous liens can be rescinded.  

Also contact Stephanie Zimmerman, Council member Robert Cornegy’s Chief of Staff at 718-919-0740 x 106.  Ask her to have the Council set aside money to reimburse the City for the sale price of 89 Schenectady.  

If you want more information about how you can help, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

We are working on an on-line petition and Facebook page to address this injustice.  Stay tuned for further developments.

 

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Imani I street view.  Weeping willow now has a lot to cry about!

 

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Imani II raised beds and water storage tank

 

 

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Are you part of the California drought problem?  Every time you buy a bunch of grapes from California, your contributing not only to some grower's bottom line, you're also consuming 24 gallons of California's water.  For details, check out this recent article in the New York Times about the Cali Drought.

Long before Napa and Central Valley become the nation's number one producer of grapes, New York had an established vineyard colony in the Finger Lake region.   While not reaching the levels of fame achieved by Napa, the the Finger Lake region still produces a passable riesling, and the climate is often compared to that of the riesling producing areas of the Rhine valley in Germany.  According to a 2005 study conducted about wine production in New York State, we have 31,000 wine bearing acres in New York and 1,384 farms producing grapes.  

So as the drought bears down, and California's water restrictions start to effect grape prices, you might want to look for a more local source.  We've actually got a nice grape vine growing along the fence at Imani Garden, which will be bearing grapes shortly, that is if Mayor De Blasio doesn't turn the garden into unafforable housing instead.  

IF this upsets, you might consider letting the Mayor know by writing him a letter.  Send us a copy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Every little bit helps.  According to Paula Segal at 596 Acres, the City should be releasing in June the list of developers who've been awarded sites.  Stay tuned to find out if Imani has been awarded to anyone.

In the meanwhile, see you at the local wine bar!

 

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What's compost tea and how do you make it? Come find out on April 18 and 19 at Imani Garden! We'll be brewing a batch on Saturday and applying it on Sunday t...o our garden beds. Many soil biologists including Dr. Elaine Ingham believe that compost tea is an excellent way to amplify the biological activity in your compost.  For a 10 minute video that explains how to make compost tea click here.
We'll also be doing some work to get the garden ready for spring, including bringing leaves from a nearby park in a wheelbarrow brigade and cleaning out our water storage tanks and fish ponds.
Lots of fun. Bring some work gloves and if you have them, rubber gloves for cleaning the tanks and ponds.
We'll be providing some tasty vegetarian stew. Bring your favorite beverage and some hearty bread.
See you there! Donation of $5 requested to cover material costs.
Loving those worms in the compost pile at Imani!

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Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown announced an executive order mandating cities and towns in the drought-ravaged state to reduce water usage by 25%.  Unaffected by this order were the state's farms, which consume 80% of the state's water.  Why did farms get a pass on these reductions?  How much longer can they get away with it?  

Check out this article in the Daily Beast about the politics of water in California. 

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state in 2013 exported the following amounts of food key to our nation's food supply:

 

  • Milk — $7.6 billion
  • Almonds — $5.8 billion
  • Grapes — $5.6 billion
  • Cattle, Calves — $3.05 billion
  • Strawberries — $2.2 billion
  • Walnuts — $1.8 billion
  • Lettuce — $1.7 billion
  • Hay — $1.6 billion
  • Tomatoes — $1.2 billion
  • Nursery plants— $1.2 billion


How will the rest of nation's food supply be effected by California's worsening drought?  What happens when the state's farms are forced to reduce water consumption?

Wouldn't it make sense for NYC residents to think about these questions now, before there's a crisis.  Community gardens certainly provide at least part of the answer.  In January, Mayor DiBlasio's Housing Dept. announced that 17 gardens were to be developed as affordable housing.  Let Mayor DiBlasio know that you want the 17 gardens saved from development so they can continue to provide residents with a secure and healthy source for fresh produce.  You can reach his Brooklyn liaison Kicy Motley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Send her a note today to express your concern.  

 

 

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On a cold February 10th morning about 100 intrepid gardeners gathered on the steps of City Hall to express their outrage.  It seems that Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the housing arm of New York City, had decided on its own authority to confiscate 17 community gardeners for "affordable housing".  Without any advance warning to the Parks Department that administers community gardens on City land, the affected City Council members or the community boards, on January 14th HPD issued a Request for Proposals asking developers to express interest in developing housing on 181 City-owned lots.  Buried among these 181 lots, among over 1,000 owned by the City, were 17 community gardens.

The response was swift and furious.  Within 24 hours, Antonio Reynoso, a Council Member from Williamsburgh, issued a letter to the mayor asking that all 17 of the gardens be removed from the list.  By the date of the rally, CMs Robert Cornegie, Rosie Mendez and Stephen Levin had also voiced their concern about the manner in which HPD conducted itself.

The question we have to ask ourselves: what role do gardens play in our communities?  Are communities more than just affordable housing?  In fact, the housing being offered by HPD is not even affordable.  Using something called the Area Median Income (AMI), under the RFP terms, only 1/3 of the units need to be affordable, meaning 2/3 of the units won't be affordable.  And HPD's definition of affordable is 80% of the AMI for a family of four.  Given that the AMI (based on regional statistics that include suburban counties) is $88,600, than means that one out of three units must be affordable to a family earning $70,880.  Hello, HPD.  That does not reflect the actual incomes of families in these communities.  These units will be affordable in name only.

Don't let this mindless land grab go unnoticed.  Sign our petition at Stop the land grab.

For more information on this situation, check out New York City Community Garden Coalition website.

Stay tuned for more developments!

 

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When we discovered that the vacant lot near Imani I was actually owned by the people, we were overjoyed.  We'd been trying to garden at Imani I for several years but due to a large willow tree, the garden got little light.  By contrast, the vacant lot at 1680 Pacific was just a few feet from Imani I and had no trees at all!

We asked the elected officials who represent us if we could garden there and were initially told no because it was under the jurisdiction of Housing Preservation and Development.  But to our surprise, they offered us a license revokable at will, to use the lot for gardening.  

Of course, our mistake was to accept this Faustian bargain, and sure enough just a few short years later, after we had invested over $5,000 in adding planting beds, a water storage tank and a beautiful greenhouse, our 60 plus past or present members are about to be evicted.  Why this lot was given to HPD, and not Parks, is a mystery.  It's a small corner lot just 30 ' x 87 ', across from the Weeksville Houses, down the street from a large Sanitation garage and a block from the LIRR elevated train line.  It's the only garden in a 20 block radius so if you want to garden in the area, we're it.  It's noisy and has been vacant for over 30 years.  If there was ever a house on the site, it was a long time ago, and it's probably been vacant for good reasons.  

But rather than fight City Hall, we took the bait and ran.  

Now, we have no choice but to fight the decision to turn our garden into housing.  After a meeting of garden members last night, we will be producing a video featuring garden members and inviting local elementary schools to come by for a visit.  If you'e like to find out how you can help, send us an email at " This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ".

The deadline for developers to respond to the City's request for proposals is February 19th.  We have up until then to pursuade the City to remove our garden from the list.

Any help would be appreciated.

 

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In 2007 I was among a group of local permies who visited something called the Science Barge floating in the Hudson River.  It got a lot of media attention.  It focused on using solar power to do a lot of things, including growing vegetables with hydroponics.
 
Somehow, this little barge morphed into a big outfit called Bright Farms.  They're still based in NYC, and one of their first projects was supposed to be in Sunset Park on the roof of a manufacturing loft.  As far as I know, that never happened.  They do appear to have a large operation in Bucks County, and are gearing up for greenhouses in Wash. DC, St. Paul Minn and a number of other cities.
 
They have a large staff and are based in lower Manhattan with lots of money from venture capitalists.
 
 
Ok, I get this all sounds too weird to be true, but there’s a lot to like in what their CEO Paul Lightfoot is saying.  My key question: how do we feel about hydroponics?
 
 
 
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Geoff Lawton has developed yet another timely video featuring a greenhouse in British Columbia that's using climate battery technology to heat a large greenhouse.  Interestingly the greenhouse incorporates an insulated mass on the north wall to conserve heat.  In the model we're developing at Imani, we propose to build just this sort of wall made out of earthbags.  The ideas are tantalizing in a time when our reliance on fossil fuels is about to end, one way or another.  Will the end be a horrible disaster because we haven't prepared for it, or a gradual transition based on a carefully thought through plan.  The choice is ours, and yours.

Click here for more information about this exciting geo-solar greenhouse.

 

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As the darkness of December descends on Imani, a group of volunteers completed work on the climate battery in the greenhouse at Imani II.  Just to recapitulate, the climate  battery concept was introduced by Jerome Osentowsky at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute to extend the growing season in their greenhouses.  Located in Basalt Colorado, CRMRI has been able to achieve remarkably warm temperatures in their greenhouses during cold winter weather using what Jerome calls a "climate battery".  At 7,200 feet above sea level, the greenhouses suffer very low winter temperatures, but also enjoy lots of sunlight.  CRMPI was able to capture the heat generated by the sun and keep it in the greenhouses using a climate battery. The climate battery consists of ducts located at the top of the greenhouse which connect to similar ducts in the ground under the greenhouse.  Using small fans, the heat available during the hot sunny days is blown into the ground where it warms the soil.  Jerome grows a number subtropical and tropical plants in the greenhouses.  When the cold is too intense for even the climate battery to overcome, the staff fires up the adjacent hot tub and lets the heat warm the greenhouse.  Now that's not just sustainable, that's a great permaculture lifestyle!

At Imani II. we've run 4" aluminium duct commonly used to exhaust household dryers along the top of the greenhouse.  We've connected this to 4" drainage pipe buried a few inches below the ground on each side of the greenhouse floor.  At the front of the upper duct is a 12 volt fan repurposed from a discarded computer.  The fan is controlled by a thermostat commonly used for attic fans.  When the temperature at the top of the greenhouse reaches 60 degrees, the fan comes on and blows hot air into the buried drainage pipes.  

To enhance the solar gain, we've placed six donated 55 gallon plastic drums filled with water along the sides of the greenhouse.  The water will capture the heat during the days and use it to warm the greenhouse at night.  We're also using the tops of the drums as platforms for our planting beds.

The fan is powered by two 6 volt deep-cycle batteries connected in series to create 12 volts.  The batteries are charged by a single 100 watt PV panel mounted on the south side of the greenhouse.

We installed an inexpensive ($12) electronic indoor/outdoor thermometer to measure the indoor and outdoor.  Because it has been raining here in Brooklyn for the past week, the differential has only been averaging a couple of degrees between indoor and outdoor.  I'm waiting on some sunny weather to see how much the sun raises the indoor temperature.

Today, Roman Yavich, Corey Hopp, Tommy and myself spread about 700 pounds of sand and gravel on the floor of the greenhouse on top of a layer of heavy plastic.  The plastic will prevent moisture from coming up into the greenhouse house and the sand and gravel will help retain heat.  

Finally we painted the drums black to increase their heat absorption.  

Total cost: $172.  The solar panel and batteries are not included as they were borrowed from our aquaponics system which doesn't work in the winter.

Below is the story in pictures.

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A solar panel affixed to the south side of the greenhouse charges two deep-cycle storage batteries

 

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An aluminum duct that runs along the top of the greenhouse ceilig is tied into buried drainage pipe.

 

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Plastic drainage pipe is buried in the floor to transfer the heat at the top into the soil.

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Sand is placed top of plastic on the floor of the greenhouse.

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Tommy and Cory spreading gravel on top of the sand  

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Roman painting the water-filled drums with black paint

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Some trays of micro greens on top of the black drums.

 

We will be monitoring the climate battery's performance over the winter months and will fine tune and adjust the system based on its performance.  As an old boss once told me, "all good big systems are based on good small ones".  As we learn about climate batteries in our little 10' x 12' greenhouse, we hope to apply our experience to larger greenhouses.  The goal: help feed ourselves year round, not just in the warm summer months.  After all, I do eat 12 months a year, and I suppose you do the same.  Let's learn how grow locally 12 months a year as well.

 

 

 

 

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Travis Frazelle and I spent a lovely Sunday morning moving the solar panel from the aquaponics system in Imani I to the new greenhouse in Imani II.  The aquaponics system goes quiet in the winter while the greenhouse scene comes to life so we figured the solar panel would be more helpful with the greenhouse.  We also removed the pump from the pond for the winter and moved the two six volt deep cycle storage batteries to the greenhouse. 

 

I salvaged a 12 volt fan from an old computer and hooked it up to the batteries (connected in serial to create 12 volts) and it works fine, as you can see below.

 

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Next step: bury 4 inch plastic drain pipe along the sides of the greenhouse.   We then tie 4 inch aluminum duct along the ridge at the top of the greenhouse and connect it to the buried drain.

We'll connect the 12 volt salvaged fan, controlled by a attic fan thermostat, to the front of the top tube.  

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We will cover the floor of the greenhouse with thick plastic, then sand and finally gravel.  

Finally we'll place donated six 55 gallon barrels filled with water on top of the buried drain pipe and paint them black.  These barrels serve as the base for our planting trays in the greenhouse.  These also store heat captured during the days.

Once the system is all in place, the fan will move warm air at the top of the greenhouse down into the soil under the barrels.  The fan will only come on when the temperature reaches 60 degrees at the top of the greenhouse. The black barrels will also absorb heat directly from the sun.  The heat will then dissipate slowly over the cold nights to keep our greenhouse warm.

We'll also be installing a thermometer to measure both indoor and outdoor temperatues to record the temperature differentials we are achieving.  

At the very least, we should be able to grow cold hardy plants such as lettuce, kale, cabbage and brocolli during the cold winter months.

Net cost: about $175.

More soon. 

 

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On Saturday, Sept. 27th,  Imani Garden held its 5th annual lobster dinner and permaculture talk.  The talk this year was given by Claudia Joseph, a well-known permaculture instructor and gardener at the permaculture garden at the Old Stone House in Park Slope.  As she spoke, garden members Roman Yavich and Travis Frazelle loaded lobsters and corn on the cob onto steaming seaweed over a bed of charcoal.  

 

Around 5 PM the cooked lobsters and corn made a journey over to the Concern for Independent Living at 151 Rochester Avenue, a few blocks from Imani.  There the David Ambrosio trio performed live jazz while diners partook of delicious lobster, corn on the cob, potatoes, Bangladeshi steamed vegetables and homemade cake.  This was the first year we've served our dinner at this location and it worked out great!  

 

Many thanks to Cynthia Solomon and the staff at CIL.  Also thanks those who donated tickets for the event, to David Ambrosio and this trio and to all of the Imani gardeners who worked so hard to pull of this labor intensive event.  

 

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Travis Frazelle takes lobsters and corn off the pit in Imani Garden.

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 Claudia Joseph speaks with attendees about permaculture.

 

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