Hey champs, care to like Panthy’s Garden on the ol’ Facebooks? Membership has benefits. I’m not sure which ones, but it does. Trust…
My buddy Isaac has known I’m into rooftop gardens for well… as long as I’ve known him. So I’m not sure why he neglected to show me the goddamn enchanted oasis on the roof of his parent’s place in the West Village. I’ve only been over there a thousand times, practically high-fiving the doorman, using the bathroom and sitting in his dad’s very comfortable lounge chair, but was never invited to see the roof garden. No big whoop Isaac.
Finally, we made our way up there, garden-rule-compliant Solo cups in hand. Experience has taught me that roof gardens are best enjoyed with a drink. Wild Turkey 101 was maybe overkill.
The garden is funded by the residents of the building, and maintained by garden nuts like myself who live there. It was pretty obvious that they were not new to this game. Dude, look at this place.
My friend Heather tried out one of the enchanted nooks.
I stood mesmerized by one of the many cartoon topiary bushes.
I may have also sampled some of the berries.
They had it all up there. Even some U.S. of A. solar powered lights.
The child-proofing could use some work, but peep the water manifold! The entire garden was set up for drip irrigation, which dutifully watered everything in sight.
I suspect they could sport some sub-irrigated planters but like I said, they know what they’re doing. See these flowers?
When you’re in such an amazing garden it’s easy to look down (literally and figuratively) on the surrounding roof decks. With prime location, the use of rooftops, or lack thereof makes judgement swift.
This roofdeck gets a D + (and only because a D+ is slightly more hurtful than an F). The only thing you’re doing with your massive, finished deck, is drying your gross bath robe? Shame on you.
This spot, however, gets an A.
Two workers at this office have sourced just enough junky chairs to really utilize this illegal space without drawing too much attention. I suspect the City of New York is somehow paying for this, but let’s focus on the positive: they got chairs out there for chilling and they’re awesome for doing it.
My pal Jonah pointed out a clear example of the current economic disparity happening in our country. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?! He did point out that the 99%er garden on the right had a microwave. What’s up now 1%?!
There are a million roofdecks in this town and only a few are really being used well. You’ve got a roof on your place right? Get up there!
“When I moved to Manhattan I was 22 years old. I thought I was the shit, I became a fashion photographer and I loved it. And then after a while of being in the super fashion world I was like, there’s a lot more to life than what the new black was gonna be.”
John Wells - Off Grid interview
About a year ago I read about John Wells, an ex-New Yorker who sold his home, paid off all his debt, and moved to 40 acres of newly purchased desert in southwest Texas. His mission? To live a simpler, happier life, with a lot less stuff.
In its third year, his grand experiment focuses on equal parts lifestyle and practical science. How does one live a meaningful life without all the clutter of modern society? How do you do it comfortably in one of the most inhospitable (but cheap) localities in the country?
He calls his home and proving ground the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory. It’s a long name with a potentially problematic acronym (SWTAESLFL) which is probably why he generally refers to it as the “Field Lab.”
Initially, the Field Lab was this very modest, hyper-efficient home which, according to his site, was constructed for a mere $2,400. He’s spent his days quietly expanding the compound, which has now grown into a much larger home built from four shipping containers and a polycarbonate dome roof which spans a courtyard greenhouse. It’s nuts. And he built it himself.
But he also makes time for things like an RC car cattle chaser for bovine visitors, or a giant flamethrower to light up the night sky. Just cause.
Online, he’s captured the concrete stuff: the building, the planning, the progress. But that he bothered to record a strange and beautiful sonic resonance that rings through his roof says something more. There’s something beautiful about doing nothing but quietly working on projects and having the presence of mind to enjoy and document their unintended side effects.
And it’s all there on the internet for us to enjoy from our uncomfortable office chairs.
On his site he quotes some like-minded friends of his:
“Every day, we get up, have coffee with the early morning, do chores, then get on with whatever project we have going… there’s often a choice. We go to bed tired, but very happy and peaceful.”
Sounds pretty good to me.
Sitting on the couch enjoying New York 1 and some two-day old coffee I heard a ruckus on the roof. The clatter of claws and the weird yodeling of a pigeon suggested an animal face-off. I flung the door open to see both a squirrel and a pigeon looking at me like two kids who just got caught punching each other. I wish they had been punching each other. Being barefoot and in boxer shorts didn’t stop me from hurling chunks of wood at the invaders, and chasing the squirrel around the roof for ten minutes.
Confirming reports from my neighbor that a squirrel was using the fire escape to access the garden, I chased the little bastard around until, quite skillfully, he descended a LADDER and escaped with his life and a story that he’ll soon forget because he has such a tiny, stupid brain. (Not that stupid apparently.)
I’ve let my guard down. While there’s not much to eat up there now, there will be.
It’s official, the Panthy Defense Shield (P.D.S.) has been initiated (cue robotic sounds).
The two pronged approach uses my robotic owl S.T.E.V.E. intimidate pigeons ON SIGHT and a non-lethal trap to capture the squirrels. If you’re familiar at all with WWII tactics, you might also know this strategy as a pincer movement.
It’s going to be a little sad seeing that squirrel in the trap. Until of course, I ride him on my bike over the Gowanus Canal, to the relatively peaceful, industrial environs of Red Hook, where no doubt, he’ll live out his days molesting someone else’s garden. Can’t wait.
His service was short and came with mixed results, but I respected his hustle deeply. When activated, he literally never stopped hooting, which if nothing else, showed real fire.
Flyers went up, tips came streaming in, many a night’s sleep was lost. The streets were littered with BBQ’s, deck furniture and downed trees, but nowhere was the head of my sweet over-hooting owl.
Until I spotted it in my neighbors backyard, staring blankly up at me. Not more than two minutes later I was ringing their buzzer.
“Hi, uh, I’m your neighbor from next door, and I have this owl on my roof. A plastic owl. His head flew off and I’m pretty sure it’s in your backyard. Could you go grab it for me?” Skeptical, she disappeared back into her apartment and returned a few minutes later.
She never opened the wrought iron security door and I don’t blame her. She handed me S.T.E.V.E.’s head through the metal bars. “Thank you!”
Ever get really into something, like say, owls, and tell everyone only to realize a year later that you’ve become the owl person? Suddenly, your place is filled with tons of owls that people give you: owl cookie jars, owl clocks (with moving eyes), robotic owls that hoot when they detect movement. You’re living in a G-d owl bonanza. That’s how I feel about gardening. I’ve told the world, and now… people give me gardening stuff, all the time. Which.I.Love.
As most people I know were getting ill-fitting and unwanted clothing at Christmas, I got a rather generous gift certificate to Gardener’s Supply. Now that I can literally taste the pollen in the air, I pulled the trigger on some extremely fly gardening gear.
Like a fine watch, these Felco pruners are both Swiss and have WEIGHT. They make a very sharp slicing noise, as demonstrated near the ears of a nervous co-worker. They have a SAP GROOVE, which I suspect is like a blood groove on a combat knife. Can’t let sap get in the way of a good cut right? These plants will not even know what they just had chopped off, cuts clean as a damn chrome whistle on a sunny day.
I also bought a hose to replace the very sad excuse for a hose I’ve had for years. I unintentionally got it in the exact color of my sun-faded cooler, er rainwater cistern. And what goes well with hoses? You guessed it, spray nozzles.
Do you see the various types of HOLES in this thing? Can you possibly imagine how many different ways I’m going to water my plants with this?
Oh you want something gentle? Maybe a lil’ mist? Nice right? Oh hang on, you want more? You want the full force of an NYC fire hydrant? No problem, I gotchoo.
My garden has never been more well kempt or well-watered in all its years.
I am the garden dude. I’m into gardening. And I’m prepared to accept all that comes with that title. I’m also prepared to accept any and all of your generous garden-related gifts. Thank you in advance.
The second thing I do in any new apartment, after getting the keys, is figure out how to get on the roof. I’ve never turned down the chance to get to get onto the roof of a building and I’ve never once been disappointed. In my younger days I never missed a chance to throw something off said roof. But those are tales for another day.
There’s something really liberating about being up there, slightly taller than the building you’re standing on, seeing for miles when just minutes before you could maybe see the end of the block.
I got lucky and got onto the roof terrace of one of the tallest buildings in Brooklyn. The pictures can’t possibly capture how awesome it was. The wind was strong enough to whisk the glasses right off your face, the city’s ambient hum was quieter than I expected. The Brooklyn Bridge you see there, was the tallest structure in North America when it was built. Further back, the new Freedom Tower has just become the tallest building in the city, eclipsing the Empire State.
I clung to my phone trying to snap these pictures. There were some rose bushes and boxwoods up there, hanging on for dear life. I don’t blame ‘em. Taking in the entire skyline of New York in one gulp, I kind felt like I was clinging on for dear life. “Wow, this is pretty amazing. Wanna go inside now?”
A few years ago my office brought in a wellness expert presumably to correct our wayward habits: poor posture, over-caffeination, and love of Chipoltle.
Among the many things we learned from her (including how to participate in awkward massage circles) was that leafy greens are “nature’s feather dusters”; a nice way of saying that if you eat enough of them no food remnant in your intestines would ever be safe again. And this would be good for you, after all, you’ve been eating cheeseburgers all winter, and well, you could stand to lose a couple.
My kale is starting to bolt so it was time to harvest. I’d been pretty leery of the stuff, particularly after said wellness expert recommended baking it into “chips” as a healthy alternative to potato chips.
Truth is, it’s pretty great. It tastes like broccoli lettuce, if that existed. Describing it as a “feather duster” would be a gross understatement, this here is nature’s grappling hook. I’m fairly sure you could thatch a roof with it.
With a few bits of other leafy things I was able to scrape up from the garden, some Swiss chard, spinach and some mint, it will become tomorrow’s lunch. I literally ate a cheeseburger for dinner, my last for a long time. And by “a long time” I mean roughly two weeks. I’m not sure how things will work out, but I’m confident I’ll be a better person for it. Wellness expert, this one’s for you!
This is a hanging squash garden some pals of mine recommended I investigate. They told me it reminded them of my college apartment, the one we called “Club Balls.”
Yes, there were lots of dudes in that place but that’s not why we called it that. We hung dozens of brand-new tennis balls from the ceiling with rubber bands, really to celebrate their bouncy and black-light friendly properties. No we weren’t on drugs! That much.
Anyway, this hanging garden is pretty fresh. After all, to get straight fruits from your zucchinis, cukes and relatives, you gotta let em hang. Or in the case of these squash, uniform bottoms. (I said “uniform bottoms”). How’s my innuendo going?
What I’m not seeing being used in the squash garden is the other benefit to “letting it hang” which is shade. Some of your plants may not thrive in direct sunlight. Why not create a shade of hanging jams to help protect the shade-friendly plants? The fine folks at Gardener’s Supply are doing just that:
See what they’re doing here? Cuke vines crawl up the front, cukes will dangle, and below spinach can grow, protected by the partial shade. Pretty sweet.
A day late and a dollar short I got my seeds started for what I’m hoping will be an EPIC 2012 season in rooftop gardening shenanigans. My tomatoes are going to explode off the branches with flavor!
My peppers are going to get so big they’re going to crush curious guests… in their mouths! My Dwarf Siberian Kale is going to get… appropriately little! Panthy is practically jumping out of his skin.
Some people get extremely nerdy about their seeds. They fawn over the quaint packaging, rattle off the obscure names, and collect them in precious little files. I respect it to the fullest, it just ain’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some heirlooms and everything they stand for, I just hate planting them. I’m more of a dig a hole and dump a plant in it kind of guy. If I could somehow use a chainsaw to plant seeds, I just might.
Trying to get into the spirit, I pulled out an appropriately tiny notebook and a very fly Swiss pen and got down to the tedious business of planting and marking down exactly where each of the 144 seeds went.
Keeping a record is almost as important as planting the seed. Today I ate part of this mystery plant to see if it was a weed or the obscure Corn Dutch Salad I planted last summer. I think it was a weed. Hard to know, I don’t think anyone has ever eaten Corn Dutch Salad. Probably because it looks like a weed. Or tastes like one. Or is one?
After a quick soak, each tiny divot in these puffy little shit disks received a pair of precious seeds.
They’ll sit in the window until they start to sprout, after which my grow light will take over, combining its beaming light with the grooviness of this patterned cloth to make the magic happen.
Almost my entire flock of sweet veggies will emerge from these humble plastic trays; ground cherries, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, cukes, eggplants and bunch of other exotic heirloom vegetables. Hard to believe actually. An entire season of obsession, dutiful watering, constant complaining, and occasional success; all from these little seeds. Maybe I better start showing them a little more respect.