Turning Your Lot Into A Food Production Space
SIX SIMPLE STEPS TO TURN ANY NYC LOT INTO A FOOD PRODUCTION SPACE
1. Test your soil. Assume it's toxic, but you might as well know. You can get soil tests through Brooklyn College. You might also be interested in an Environmental Protection Agency report, Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices. (If your soil is toxin-free, skip to step 5!)
2. Get materials to build containers to hold the clean soil you'll be growing in. You can make boxes out of wood and line the bottoms with plastic - get free wood from BIG!Blooms or call up a local scaffolding companry and ask if they have wood headed to the landfill that you could take. Or you can do something like getting big plastic bags or canvas sacks, or something else. Just make sure that the clean soil will be divided from the soil on the ground. PLAN A VOLUNTEER DAY TO PICK UP MATERIALS AND ANOTHER ONE FOR THE BUILDING! The GrowNYC Tool lending program can come to you for volunteer days! TimeBanksNYC may be able to help you find volunteers and people or organizations with specific skills you might need for your project and to reward them for their work without money.
3. Get (or make!) soil. Compost makes great soil! Take a look at soil-building recipes from BKpermaculture. You can also access finished compost, soil and woodchips from the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.
4. If your native soil has lead in it - cover your paths! Mulch is a good way to do that but you might have other ideas for what would work to keep people from kicking up dust. Tree care and landscaping companies might be able to drop of off woodships for free and frequently post on Craigslist; the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation might be able to help, too.
5. Get seeds or starts. (You might need to raise some money to do this. In Our Backyards, Inc. is a great way to raise money from your community. There is also information about grants on our page.) Members of your group who recieve SNAP or Food Stamps can use those benefits to buy seeds or starts.
6. Make sure you have a sustainable plan for water. You might be able to get water from a local resident or business; you can get a key for a fire hydrant if that would work; rainwater catchment works really well in New York City, too. INVOLVE YOUR VOLUNTEER BASE IN BUILDNG THE SYSTEM.
A more comprehensive resource you might like is the Green Thumb Gardeners' Handbook.
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