From Weeds to Harvest at Flatbush Community Garden

From Weeds to Harvest at Flatbush Community Garden

We first took you to the Flatbush Community Garden to introduce you to neighbors and their green projects on Tuesday and followed up with another visit yesterday. Today, meet local gardeners Sofia Sequenzia and Mona Jimenez.

An eggplant in Sofia Sequenzia’s plot.

A founding member of the garden, Sofia Sequenzia remembers that in the garden’s beginning, it was “all weeds” and tree trunks toppled all over one another. In one area of the garden, where a house once stood, soil testing revealed high lead content. But putting organic content in that area improves the soil, according to Sofia. Future testing will reveal how much of a difference the organic material has on lead levels.

Sofia comes to the garden “every day it’s open,” she says with a smile. “I’m here trying to pick whatever I can… I rely on my plot to harvest a lot in the summer.”

This summer’s crops included eggplant, okra, cucumbers and green beans. She has planted her fall cover — among these crops are mustard greens, kale, turnips, chard and radishes — and if this winter is as mild as the last, she could have a harvest for Thanksgiving.

“It’s kind of amazing what you can get out of one plot,” says Mona Jimenez, above.

“It’s just peaceful to be here,” says Mona Jimenez as she snips and uproots old tomato vines, picking off all the remaining fruit, no matter how ripe (a friend has promised to make green tomato relish). “I didn’t think that this would be so satisfying, just this four-by-four plot.”

And Mona is drawn not just to the vegetables. “I would find myself coming here in the morning and just sitting and reading.”

As she continues clearing tomato plants, Mona discovers a small Swiss chard plant, its purple veins spreading like spider veins through a leaf of rich green. At the corner of her plot are nasturtiums. The leaves are not edible, but the flowers are. Mona plucks one. The nearly weightless petals are crisp, with a delicate, almost peppery spiciness.

For a fall crop, “I’m going to plant some rutabaga, which is taking a bit of a chance,” Mona says. Rutabaga takes a while — 90 days — to mature, she explains, but the risk will be worth it.

“I believe in using the garden for experimentation,” she adds. “You never stop learning about plants.”

Ditmas Park Corner is introducing you to members, plants and projects of the garden this week.

Elizabeth Whitman is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. She has written about issues ranging from participatory budgeting in New York City to the uprising in Syria and has also reported for Inter Press Service out of the agency’s United Nations bureau in New York.

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