Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dirt Talk

Yesterday, the hubs and I went to a talk about Dirt and Soil sponsored by Prospect Farm and Sustainable Flatbush. They are hosting Monthly Talks on Urban Farming and Gardening, and this was the first talk of the series, held at Sycamore Bar & Flowershop.  The hubs and I thought that was an excellent place for a talk, a bar that sells flowers!  What a cool concept.  You can buy a pint and a bouquet of flowers for $10!  Nice!!
We ordered our drinks and went downstairs to hear Chris Kreussling (AKA Flatbush Gardener) speak, he has a blog that I read, He talked about the makeup of dirt, and showed us some detailed diagrams about soil organisms.  He showed us samples of his soil from his garden, I was so envious, his soil was dark and rich.  He said he's been building up the soil for the last 5 years and it still wasn't where he wants it to be.  He talked about how soil has a mixture of sand, silt, and clay and a mixture of all is considered loam.
The other speaker was Jay Smith, an environmentalist and horticulturist.  He talked a lot about phytoremediation, which is using plants to remove pollutants from the environment.  He spoke about how some plants like sunflowers, ornamental cabbage and mustard greens can extract lead, arsenic and heavy metals out of the soil.  He recommended to get your garden soil tested and if your levels of toxins are higher than 500 parts per million to try to grow these plants to remove the toxic metals.  They are doing phytoremediation at Propect Farms, which in some areas of the soil had really high levels of lead.  He spoke about how there could be several factors that have caused the levels to be so high.  In an urban environment, you might have older buildings with lead paint getting into the soil, there is also run off of water from other areas of the city perhaps a construction site down the road etc., use of harmful pesticides or pest control, illegal dumping of chemicals or garbage, there are just so many factors.  Jay also spoke about the importance of building up your soil, he talked about composting and trench composting, which is digging a trench in your garden and adding organic material to compost into the dirt to attract organisms like worms, fungi and nematodes.  The hubs and I did trench composting in our garden in the fall.  We dug trenches and put lots of leaves in the trench and shoveled soil over it.  After the organic material composts, you rototill it so that the compost is mixed into the soil.
We were so surprised how many people showed up for a talk about... dirt!  The room was packed, and many people had to stand in the back.  It was dark in the room, so I couldn't get a good photo.  There were at least 40 people at the talk.  We thought it was pretty cool that there a good amount of urban gardeners out there to talk about soil.
After Chris and Jay spoke, there was a Q&A with the members of Propect Farm and Sustainable Flatbush.  It was a good discussion.  The hubs and I are excited to look for other discussions around the city, the hubs wants to go to one on beekeeping and we both want to find one on raising chickens.   Excited!


  1. Sounds like a good source for a lot of great info.

  2. That is so exciting! What an important event to have around your area! I hope you get to go to all of them. The great part about that event is that is shows that growing vegetables and taking care of your soil is not a solitary process. LOTS of people are interested in it and doing it like you guys are! The best thing I see is that you are a team about all your efforts. That's GREAT!

  3. This looks like it was a cool discussion, I love going to talks like this! I bet you both learned a lot.

    Hope you go to a chicken talk and blog about it. I sooo want to raise a few chickens here. Hope you get to do it, they look like so much fun!

  4. I really wish we had stuff like this around here. It sure would be nice to meet some like minded people. What a great resource though!

  5. I went to a lecture a few weeks ago and two of the speakers were gardeners. Afterwards, a few of us were talking about how much we'd love to have a book club about dirt. Dirt books! Can you imagine?

  6. What fun. I love the idea of a bar/flower shop- and a talk about dirt! Wow!
    I'm hoping to send out seeds soon. I see in your sidebar you're looking for thyme. I don't think I've got that but I've got marjoram and summer savory if you're interested, as well as the flower seeds. Shoot me an email to fullfreezer at gmail.

  7. That sounds like fun. I plan on growing some flax for a cover crop for part of the area across the street where I garden.

    I look forward to hearing more about your endeavors in raising bees and chickens if they work out for you to get them.

  8. Sounds like great speakers and a good turnout. I don't think you can spend too much time on soil building. You gotta feed your soil so it can feed you. The whole soil science thing is fascinating to me.

  9. So much yet to learn! it must have been a great experience

  10. Thanks for coming. Hope to see you again.


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