Workshop on Fall Crops and Cover Cropping Oct. 17th

Guy D’Angelo, Wenting Chen plus one other in Imani II with hoop house

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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Compost Tea Workshop at Imani Garden April 18-19

Compost with worms in Imani II compost bin

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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Imani Under Threat of Demolition

Monica and Tawhid with kids working to clean up Imani II

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 “imanigreg@gmail.com”.
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.

Planting seedlings during work day at Imani II greenhouse
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Climate Battery Completed At Imani II

Climate battery in formation. Imani II

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!

Climate battery under construction showing buried tubing
Solar panel powering climate battery

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.

55 gallon barrels filled with water will store heat gained from the sun.  Barrels are reused, water was captured from a nearby roof.

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.

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.

Roman Javier painting water barrels in greenhouse with climate battery

 

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Composting at Imani

Composting bins freshly moved to Imani II

Currently we have five composting bins at Imani II. At three bins we collect plants and other resources such as brush, leaves and tree limbs from the garden. Once these resources have been in the bin for several months, we place them in one of the other two bins where we mix them with other resources such as chicken manure to create a compost pile that balances brown (carbon-rich) and green (nitrogen-rich) materials. We actively turn this pile every three days into the adjacent empty bin and add water as needed to keep it moist. In as little as two months, this active (aerobic) compost pile can be compost ready for use in our garden.

Continue reading “Composting at Imani”

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