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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Greenhouse
Posted by on in Imani

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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Posted by on in Imani

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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Posted by on in Imani

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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Posted by on in Imani
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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Posted by on in Imani

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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Posted by on in Imani

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.


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



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



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


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



Tommy and Cory spreading gravel on top of the sand  



Roman painting the water-filled drums with black paint



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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Posted by on in Imani


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.




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.  


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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Posted by on in Imani

I couldn't resist this title in today's New York Times. 

The thrust of the piece seems to be that we have to be flexible about what we grow in our garden. What is "native" is not as relevant as "will it grow here now". 

At Imani Garden, we're trying to address climate change by building a greenhouse that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

We all need to thing about how to adapt. Climate change is no longer a hypothetical, it's getting very real.


Tagged in: Greenhouse
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Posted by on in Imani



It seems that the drought in California is really kicking in.  According to today's New York Times, experts estimate that over 500,000 acres will not be planted in the Central Valley this year.  As you may know, the Central Valley is the single largest source for fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States.  The four most productive agricultural counties in the US are in the Central Valley.  The total agricultural production of the Valley amounted to $17 billion in 2002.  It is the leading source in the US for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus.

No water has flowed in irrigation canals for three years now at some farms and drilling wells, if one can find a well-driller who isn't booked years in advance, is very expensive.  Without regular rain to replenish the aquifer, it's only a matter of time until the water in the wells dries up as well.

In a February 13th article in the National Geographic, Celeste Cantu, manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, states that "the cost of fruits and vegetables could soar" because of the drought.  In the same article, B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied 1,000's of years of drought history, states that "California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more."

Because we receive most of our fresh fruits and vegetables from areas such as California, the implications for NYC are clear.  We need to obtain a lot more food independence.   One of the ways we can do this, in addition to relying on local farmers, is to begin growing food on vacant lots. 

With some 596 acres of city land sitting vacant, growing in community gardens is a real possibility.  And because we need to eat year around, we need to grow food year around as well.  Growing fruits and vegetables inexpensively in the winter in the Northeast requires a special kind of greenhouse, one that maximizes the sun as a heat source. 

Several gardens have been developing this capability for years.  One example is at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute at Basalt Colorado.  Jerome Osentowski, their executive director, has been growing semi-tropical plants year around using what he calls a "climate battery" to capture the warmth of the sun.  More well known in the Northeast of course is Eliot Coleman, whose Four Season Farm in Maine is an example of what can be grown year round in a cold climate.

The Imani Garden, at Schenectady and Dean in Crown Heights Brooklyn, is about to build a greenhouse that uses a climate battery and a below grade design that should achieve semi-tropical temperatures throughout the winter with few external inputs.  Working with the architectural firm of SRY Rainbow, Imani and its sponsor Green Phoenix Permaculture with the assistance of Citizens Committee NYC, Project Green Thumb and New York Restoration Project, hopes to begin construction this spring.  By using earthbag construction that incorporates earth from the excavation to build walls on three sides of the greenhouse, construction costs will be kept to a minimum.

If you would like to attend a pre-construction fund raiser to help us raise funds for the construction and view the design for this new greenhouse, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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Posted by on in Imani

 As we New Yorkers endure the worst winter in decades, it's nice to dream of year around gardening.  Imagine a greenhouse you could walk into in February and find lots of green things growing.

Well, dream no more! We've already talked about the Central Rocky Moutain Permaculture Institute near Basalt Colorado that is growing semi tropical fruits at 7,200 feet.

Now here are two more gardeners growing plants in their greenhouses all winter long.  One uses a climate battery to pump warm air from the top of the greenhouse into the soil under the greenhouse.  Another has built an underground greenhouse take advantage of the warmer temperatures below the surface of the soil.

We hope to use both approaches in our new greenhouse at Imani II.  We should have the design completed shortly.

Stay tuned for more soon.


Tagged in: Greenhouse Imani 2
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