Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Plants and Farmers Market Info!

Clockwise: Mint, Tatsoi, Paul Robeson Tomato, Cinnamon Basil, Brandywine Tomato, and Purple Mizuna


More Plants

On Wednesday, I stopped by the Bushwick Campus Farm (disclosure, I am an apprentice at the farm) to pick up some more plants. See those beauties above. This means that Im about 50% of the way to my plant goal for the season. This weekend, Ill be picking up a lot of soil and will transplant them into containers on the roof.

Bushwick Campus Farm, Ecostation:NY, and Bushwick Farmers Market

Everything from beans to peppers to lettuce being prepped for the Bushwick Farmers Market

You can find out more about The Bushwick Campus Farm at or Better yet, come to the first farmers market of the season on Saturday, June 1 at Maria Hernandez Park. Ill be there volunteering during part of the event helping to sale our beautiful plants. You can find out more about the market here -

One of the many lettuce varieties for sale from the Bushwick Campus Farm

And Then The Universe Rewards Me

After about 8 hours of back breaking work, I was crazy exhausted when I got home. I try to spend at least an hour a day on the roof communing with the world and my growing garden. I forced to go up there exhaustion and all (with a rum and coke and some freshly picked mint) and was rewarded with the view you see below. I never cease to be amazed by the universe!

See Manhattan in the horizon?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pepper Protection with an Easy DIY Organic Fungicide Spray!

One fact that every new gardener should know is that the mistake that most people make in the beginning is actually OVER-water rather than under-watering. Your plant only needs about 1 inch of water to get down to its roots every week. Indoors, this means that they should be able to go at least a week with a solid watering if you have them in an appropriate size container.

With peppers (and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplants) the issue that we have to work out for is a fungus that emerges when the plant is in soil that is too wet. (I want to keep this blog jargon-free, but you can find a more scientific explanation and information here - This fungus can rapidly spread from the leaves to the stem to the root. Once it has attacked the roots, it is game over for your plant and you could discard it and the soil.

It isnt all Debbie Downer news today, though. There is something that you can do most of the time. Be PROACTIVE. A simple spraying of the stem and leaves with a basic fungicidal spray after heavy rains are advised. The one that I make for my peppers and tomatoes is a little different from most that you will find online since I add a little garlic oil to keep pests away. The reason? Pests seem to be able to sense the weakness of your plant and will attack like crazy. The garlic oil should keep them at bay. Try the recipe below and let me know how it works.



- 1 tablespoon of Baking Soda
- 1 tablespoon of dish detergent (an organic soap is ideal if you are going to be eating the plants in question)
- 1 tablespoon of garlic oil
- 1 Gallon of water


Simply mix the ingredients together and add to a sprayer. Spray directly to the tops and bottoms of leaves and stems after heavy rains. Should also be used at least once a week whether yall have had heavy rains or not.

Will update with images these evening.

- Monti

(Updated on May 30th, 2013 to add image)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sweet Potatoes Have Arrived!

Sweet potato plants fresh out of the box.

While the Memorial Day weekend is normally seen as the "official start of the summer" here in the US, this year it was crazy cold outside, which meant a weekend of cookouts turned into a weekend of garden projects. First up was going to the post office to get the sweet potato plants that arrived on Friday. Getting plants in the mail is always nerve-racking (will they make it in time? what if they get lost in the mail? will they be able to handle a week in transit?!), but this time they arrived looking fairly normal.

So, first we should do a little fun fact. Sweet potatoes are tropical vine which are actually more related to peppers than "regular" potatoes (fact check it! As such, they will die if the weather gets below 50 degrees. Since it was crazy cold here, I decided to give my plants a little TLC before putting them out in the big bad world.  Here's how I did it.

First, I separated each plant and composted the rest of the material that they were sent with.

Second, I filled up some easy DIY containers with organic seed starting mix with a top thin layer of worm compost (which, I think has magical powers in the garden). Some add sand here too as drainage is really important for sweet potatoes.

Third, just simply eased the plants into the soil and put the container under the growlight. Ive found that a super easy way to make a hole for the plant to go into is just to use a pen to make the holes.

Sweet potatoes on Day 1. Notice how droopy the stems and leaves are.

Fourth, water water and water again. When using a new container, it often takes a couple times for the water to make contact with all of the soil. I tend to water three times in 15 minute intervals allowing all of the excess water to exit through the bottom. Water is very important especially for mail order plants as they tend to be a bit wilted and the water will fix that.

Fifth, dead head the dead leaves. 

Sixth, put the plants in a window sill or under a grow light.

Plant leaf on day 2. Notice that it isnt as droopy!

On Monday, we finally got a nice day outside so I took them out during the day and brought them back in at night. Ill continue doing this for the next week before I finally plant them outside.

Thanks so much for reading!
- Monti

Friday, May 24, 2013

Super Easy DIY Compost Bin Using A Large Barrel

 This is a situation when my hardheadedness worked against me. All of my research suggested that I have two compost bins. One for collecting compost and one to "work." Of course, I didnt listen so now I have a bin that is humming along but with about a third of the stuff new items that are going to take far longer to finish. Hence, the need for a second compost bin (and an annoying task this weekend of stiffing through the first pile to take out the newest additions.

First compost bin. I happily acquired him for no cost from
someone on
New compost bin I made in less than 30 minutes. Minus the top
and the wooden pallet below.

As I "acquired" three large barrels, I wanted to use one to make a quick and easy compost bin in less than 30 minutes.

You'll need:

  1. Large "Food Grade" Barrel
  2. Cleaning Solution (I use vinegar, lemon juice, and peppermint soap)
  3. Drill
  4. 1-inch spade bit


  1. Acquire your barrel. Food-grade is ideal, but as long as you know what was in it before and it was not toxic then it should be able to be used. Remember that anything in this bin will end up in your soil, which will end up in what you grow, which will end up in your body. Be smart.
  2. Wash your barrel inside and out with your cleaning solution.
  3. Using your drill and 1-inch spade bit drill from 5 to 10 holes in the bottom of the barrel.
  4. Drill 16 holes on the sides of the container.

   5. Drill 4 to 10 holes on the top of the barrel.

   6. Load up your new composter!

Final Tips:

One of the benefits of using a round barrel like this is how easy it is to lay it on its side and roll it around to mix everything around. If you are going to be using this on your roof, I advise that you elevate it in some way. Wooden pallets are always being left for trash pickup in Brooklyn so that's what I use.

Anyone else made their own bin? How did yall do it?

Happy Holiday (aka hardcore garden project) Weekend!
- Monti

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My (hopefully not too) Ambitious Goals for This Site

  1. Garden Journal - It goes against just about every rule about blogging to focus on my needs instead of yours, but honestly this will be an awesome way for me to stay accountable in keeping my garden journal. Why keep a garden journal? Mainly, because my memory isnt quite as good as I think it is. There are times I put three different seeds in containers under the grow light and a week later when it germinates, Ive already honestly forgotten which is which unless I use a marker then Ive already forgotten. This goes for the garden, too. After getting tired of trying to remember where I bought the kale seeds that yielded the biggest harvest is hard, so making sure that I note that and the progress of each plant helps a lot when it is time to reorder. If you arent keeping your own garden journal, I cant recommend one enough!
  2. Promote Engagement with Gardeners of All Levels - Im a big believer in the idea that the best way to test if I know something is how well I can teach it to others. Using this logic, I want to share what I have learned along the way to help those of you who are looking to start your own garden...particularly one on the roof, on your fire escape, etc. More advanced gardeners will hopefully benefit with the pro tips that I include along the way. And just as importantly, will share some with me that will help with unforeseen pitfalls! Through sharing, I hope that we will all walk away better off than if we didnt. On that front, you can always reach me via
  3. Brutal Honesty - Often I have learned more from my failures than my successes, so I want to be brutally honest here to help myself and others. Hopefully, others will be able to avoid my pitfalls. It is also important for me to be honest about who I am and let my personality shine through (yes, I really do get this excited about everything in "real-life"). The only caveat here is to ensure that we stay focused on the relevant topics (ie no politics talk) and keep it save for kids (curses will hopefully all be edited out).
  4. Share Relevant Resources - I tend to be an information hoarder. Whenever Im interested in a new subject, I read EVERYTHING there is to read and then jump in. As such, I have a stack of 40 different books which I will share with yall. Hopefully, the tips and tricks in them will bring as much value to you as it has to me. Also, I want to showcase awesome things from around the web that have been of use for me.
  5. Reaping the Riches! - Well, not really. I dont plan on getting Zuckerburg money from this site. But, I know that if I am successful with these goals then there will be some small monetary benefit. This will not the be way that I will measure my success, but lets be honest I would love an extra income to plunge on expanding my garden into a true urban farm.
    Thanks for reading. And thanks for joining me on this journey! 
    - Monti

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who I am and What Im Doing

Hey everyone and thanks for taking a second to stop here on my blog. I wanted to have as my first post an introduction about who I am, my goals for this site, and my personal goal for my garden for this year.

My name is Monti and I am a transplant to New York (Bushwick in particular) from Virginia. I have always been interested in great food, but ironically, never took seriously the idea about growing my own until moving to New York.  I love cooking and making lavish meals from scratch for myself and my friends and this is how my interest flourished.  I was constantly annoyed at after buying herbs they would go bad before I could use all of it. Now, I have two compost piles so at least I can put the rotting herbs to use, but it is still annoying. My first attempt to grow something other than a houseplant was a year ago growing cilantro in my window and I have never looked back.

Next, came growing leafy greens and some tomatoes and peppers under a grow light. While in theory, this would save me a ton of money versus buying fresh produce at the farmers marker/grocery store, it ends up being a wash due to the cost of the electricity used with the growlight, but the flavor makes it worthwhile. Now, I am expanding again by using the roof to grow a lot more produce on the roof from strawberries to thai chili peppers to sweet potatoes to beautiful flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Im so excited for this summer and can see a lot of garden parties!

There are a ton of resources out there about just about every aspect of gardening. I haven’t seen many focused mainly on growing under growlights (using soil) and growing in an urban environment on the roof. This site will primarily be a journal of my journey with a lot of tips/tricks/resources thrown in an attempt to remind myself of what works and what doesn’t and to also be a guide for you if you want to start a similar journey. I can be reached at
Next up, will be a list of my goals for the site and garden and some pictures of my landscape before I begin. For now, I invite you to contact me to let me know of some of your tips for urban rooftop gardening or awesome resources that you have found that would be helpful. Thanks for reading. Talk soon!