March 2016 Newsletter
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March 2016 Newsletter
The incumbent and newly elected board members at the 2015 meeting.
Don't Miss the BQLT Annual Meeting; Elect Your Board!
Save the date: Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. at the Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation -- 520 Prospect Place, enter on Classon Ave -- for the BQLT Annual Membership Meeting. It's your chance to make your voice heard, network with gardeners, meet and elect board members and be part of the community gardening movement.
  • Elect BQLT Board of Directors
  • Elect BQLT Board Officers
  • Vote to approve the 2016-2017 annual budget and stay abreast of important decisions affecting our gardens and the future of BQLT!
All gardeners are invited to attend, but only Voting Representatives and Alternates designated by your garden can vote. Make sure your garden has submitted names by Friday, March 18 via
BQLT Supports EPF in Albany

By Meg Fellerath, BQLT Board

On February 24th, a BQLT delegation of five traveled to Albany to join hundreds of our land trust colleagues from across New York State. As a group, we supported the proposed inclusion of $300M for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in this year's NYS budget. More info here. These funds allow the Land Trust Alliance and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to award annual grants through the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP). In the past, NYSCPP grants have supported BQLT's professional staff, programs, strategic planning, and even the deed transfer to protect our newest garden, 1100 Bergen Street Community Garden. 

While in Albany, the BQLT delegation met with the offices of NYS Senators Velmanette Montgomery, Leroy Comrie, Jesse Hamilton, and Martin Malave Dilan, and Assembly Members Jeffrion L. Aubry and Annette M. Robinson, all of whom have BQLT gardens in their districts. Sharing stories and successes from each of our gardens was a highlight of these conversations! In total, BQLT's gardens stretch across 8 NYS Senate districts and 14 Assembly districts.

BQLT also had the opportunity to meet with Brenda Torres, the newly-appointed Assistant Secretary for the Environment. We shared some of the challenges and opportunities that face community gardens in an urban environment and we invited her to visit BQLT's gardens. We look forward to continuing this important discussion.

Wondering how you can get involved here in NYC and let your local politicians know that you care about open space? A great place to start is by attending your own Community Board meeting. Find dates and locations here.

BQLT participants at 2016 EPF Lobby Day, pictured above, included (L-R) Dorothy Mills, Demetrice Mills, Amelia Blanquera, Carl Green and Meg Fellerath. In the photo they are joined by Diana Hernandez (center), Research Assistant to Assemblyman Aubry.
Wagoner with a fellow gardener
In the Garden: Improving our Soil

By Nitza Wagoner, Gardener

Last spring and summer I was inspired to create a special place for children in my neighborhood community garden. I envisioned a tranquil, shady space delineated by lattice where children could play while their parents tended their plots or relaxed in the garden. It took long hours over multiple days to remove all the debris that had built up in this area over the years -- broken toys, milk crates, branches, broken tools and general garden trash.
We tested the soil for lead. Though not extremely contaminated, the readings nonetheless indicated that the soil needed remediation, especially given that we intended it as a children’s play area. We closed-off the plot and added two feet of organic material including leaf mold, a form of compost produced by the fungal breakdown of shrub and tree leaves.  Leaf mold is a soil conditioner that increases water retention and is generally dry, acidic and low in nitrogen, which is ideal for bacterial decomposition. And it has yet another benefit -- enabling a natural habitat for earthworms, creatures many kids love to play with! We also added wheel barrels of dried leaves and wood chips to bring the organic matter up to one foot in height.

Our plot has shallow, compacted soil due to large, thick roots from trees nearby and a dwarf cherry tree within the plot, making it difficult to work new matter in. A small, softer section of the plot designated “the digging pit” has been turned several times, however the remediation will ultimately take years since the turning of soil in most of the plot is almost impossible.  While we wait, we decided we will install a raised bed, a perfect height for young children. The plot will be used for activities children will enjoy such as planting seeds, repotting small plants, playing with wrigglers and digging to work in compost, a soil conditioner that I will discuss in other article along with vermi-composting with worms.  

This Spring we plan to place heavy-duty landscape cloth and a thick layer of wood chips and leaves on the earth floor. My vision for a children’s area may have been unexpectedly interrupted, but as Mother Nature works her magic below ground, we will provide a safe place for children to learn about gardening and healthy soil above it.

For more on Soil Remediation visit Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Council Member Jumaane Williams, BQLT board members and community gardeners at the opening of the E. 43rd St garden, July 2015
In January, BQLT issued a press release applauding HPD's decision preserve 34 gardens on city-owned land, including our own affiliate, East 43rd Street Block Association Garden. The release was picked up in The Brooklyn Eagle. Below is an excerpt from the release:
"Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT), a non-profit organization which stewards 36 community gardens, is pleased to announce that the East 43rd Street Block Association Garden, located at 1087 East 43rd Street in Flatlands, is being preserved as a result of a recent announcement by the city in regards to dozens of NYC Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) lots currently used as gardens. Thirty-four HPD gardens, including the E. 43rd Street Garden, are to be placed under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks via its GreenThumb program and thus saved from development, while nine other gardens are designated for affordable housing development."

Read the entire release here.
Jackie Henderson, Westbrook Memorial Garden member, shovels snow after January's blizzard.
Thanks to All for Shoveling!

A big thank you to all of the gardeners who shoveled snow off the sidewalks in front of gardens this winter. Your work helps to keep pedestrians safe and BQLT's gardens looking great!
Gardening & Botanical Apps

By Daisy Okas, BQLT Board

Spring is nearly here and to help you prepare, we recommend checking out a variety of mobile apps that do everything from help you identify plants and flowers to teach you the basics on organic gardening. Here are just a few:

Like That Garden -- Discover and study thousands of flowers and plants via image recognition. Using built-in visual search technology, LikeThat Garden identifies plants and flowers from photos you already have stored in your phone or new photos taken with the app. It returns multiple potential matches with detailed species  and descriptions. And the addition of similar looking flowers and plants to your search results makes this app an educational tool, helping you distinguish look-alikes and choose flora and foliage that fits your garden style.

The Dirt on Organic Gardening -- To succeed at organic urban gardening, you need three things: patience, a willingness to get your hands dirty, and a great source for information on this rapidly growing movement. The Dirt on Organic Gardening app is a companion to the magazine of the same name and is free to download but requires payment for each new issue ($2.99). Each issue digs into a new seasonal topic, with articles for both beginners and established gardeners. 

High Country Apps -- Wildflower identification apps and field guides for outdoor enthusiasts. Currently the apps cover Western states only so load one up for your summer hiking trip.  Input the color and shape of a flower, time of year and location and view the possible matches. Apps are segmented by region and include Colorado WildflowersGlacier WildflowersIdaho WildflowersMontana GrassesOregon WildflowersWashington WildflowersFlora of YellowstoneYosemite Wildflowers, and Yellowstone Outdoors

They cost between $4.99 and $9.99 and a portion of proceeds support natural resource conservation, education, and research organizations.

Gardening uKnowMo app -- This comprehensive app will get you started on the basics of building your own home garden, proper maintenance and care for your plants, growing foods such as herbs and vegetables, protecting against from those pesky plant-killing enemies; landscape gardening and great design practices; cultivating a beautiful flower garden, harvesting from your favorite fruit trees and the history and profile of over 50 different plants.

The even helps reinforce your new-found knowledge with "Do uKnow?" quizzes. If you're just getting into gardening or looking to determine wha topics to start with, this is a great all-around app that will help inspire and inform. Gear up your green thumb and download the Gardening uKnowMo app
BQLT Book Review: The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson 

By Irene Van Slyke, BQLT Board

Author Thor Hanson, a conservation biologist, has spent decades researching plants and animals and has now set his sight on seeds in The Triumph of Seeds. He muses about history, genetically modified seeds and botanical evolution. For instance why are trees immobile while seeds are dispersed in ingenious ways, the farther the better?  What if seeds were to remain close to its parent? Not all questions have answers, but there are great stories around questions such as why nature made highly toxic seeds often used by assassins, or how some seeds can sprout after thousands of years, and who tends to national seed banks and how.

Personally, I most enjoyed reading about the collapse of the lucrative spice trade in 15th century when societies realized that spice crops could be cultivated widely given the right climate.

Hanson weaves his thoughts on seeds throughout a narrative about his long-term study of the Almendro tree – which grows 150 feet tall with a 3-foot diameter and is a keystone species the Central American rainforests. Besides being massive and living for centuries, the tree is known for its strong-as-iron wood that can break chainsaws and is important to animals who rely on it as part of their habitat and to humans who use it in various industries. Hanson is intent on preserving the tree in the face of shrinking territory.

He also acknowledges plants and seeds as the source of many of our modern-day medicines. Working alongside a cancer-stricken colleague, he observes: “It was a situation that sick botanists must face all the time: struggling against diseases whose treatment may come from the very plants on their herbarium sheets and microscope slides.” The jacket says “this is a book of knowledge, adventure, and wonder, spun by an award-winning writer.” It is also surprising, since Hanson’s curiosity makes for an unexpectedly entertaining investigation into all kinds aspects seeds, the source of almost everything in our physical world.
Mama Dee's gardeners cut up a tree limb after removing it from a mulberry tree that had begun to interfere with a neighbor's property
Winter - A Wonderful Season to Prune

By Zack Schulman, BQLT Staff

This winter I assisted gardeners at Mama Dee's Garden and The People's Garden with several pruning projects. We pruned two mulberry trees to maintain the trees' health and safety - and, in the case of the tree at Mama Dee's, also to prevent the tree from damaging a neighbor's home.

These were small participatory educational events, which included gardeners with various types of pruning experience. In a third garden, Hollenback, BQLT contracted with professional arborists to prune two much larger trees, and also to remove a large tree that was leaning steeply and was on the verge of becoming a safety issue.

Winter pruning is often ideal because trees have moved their energy into their root systems during this dormant period. The judicious removal of of limbs does not harm the tree, but rather strengthens it, allowing the tree to grow into a more resilient structural form. Additionally, in winter it's often easier to work with and evaluate the form of deciduous trees such as mulberries, since they have dropped their leaves in the fall.
About BQLT
Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that owns and stewards 34 community gardens in 16 neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. In 2014, BQLT launched an affiliate garden program and now stewards two additional community gardens. BQLT manages and enhances all 36 properties for the benefit of the public. BQLT gardens are open spaces that provide opportunities for diverse groups of people to meet and cooperatively work together, as well as to engage in educational, cultural and arts activities.
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