Los Sures Social Services- Tour & Tomatoes!


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On a warm Tuesday, the Subversive Gardener brought over 200 tomato plants, grown from seed (Baker Creek Heirlooms)  to Los Sures Senior Housing facility located in Williamsburg. As soon as we approached with 10 trays full of tomato plants, we were greeted with several “Wows” from residents of the building. Right off the bat, we gave away a few plants to people who were really excited and recognized the greenery as tomato plants.

We met up with Zach Williams, who kindly gave us an in depth tour of the incredible spaceThere are two gardens located in the front of the building on either side. The right side is mostly populated with flowers, the other is seeded with cover crop, beans, tomatillos, corn and some tomatoes. We then brought the tomatoes to the back area behind the building, where there are chickens who live in a large caged area among roses and a coop. We even got a chance to hold Einstein the chicken! The back area is also strategically planted in raised beds full of “Las tres hermanas” or some assortment of variations of squash, beans and corn, all of which are important companion plants. We tried mustard greens, borage, and Cuban oregano. DELICIOUS! Zach, Anthony, and many residents of the building contribute plants and time to help take care of the garden and it shows! What a beautiful space hidden away behind a sea of brick and concrete. 

We then ventured downstairs to the food pantry, where we saw hydroponics and aquaponic systems that blew us away.  These help support people who need medicinal herbs in the winter. Zach described the plants grown in these systems as “culturally relevant” for the residents. Many of the people who live here grew up in other parts of the world and are used to cultivating certain plants. It is a great way for people in the building to have a piece of their other homes and cultures close by. Finally, we said goodbye to our tomato babies, gave them a quick water to make sure they stayed hydrated in the heat and were on our way. We are looking forward to seeing more incredible work from the community in Los Sures and were really glad to have had a chance to see the site!


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World Bee Day

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Did you know that bees play a crucial role in our environment? As one of the top pollinators they secure our access to foods throughout the world and they are the only insect that makes food that we can eat! The Subversive Gardener is super grateful to bees for all their hard work that keeps us alive, so we were looking for an excuse to celebrate these amazing creatures!  As it turns out May 20th is World Bee Day, and what better way to celebrate than to be out and about in a garden!

On this sunny Monday morning, we had over 75 students from a nearby elementary school venture into the Scholes Street children’s garden to learn about and help pollinators. The classes discussed heirlooms and then closely observed tomatoes growing in the garden. The kids will get a chance to see these beauties grow their fruit throughout the summer and into the fall!

Finally,  the kids got to make some secret gardening tools AKA seed pills to take home and do some spy gardening. These seed pills were filled with Baker creek wildflower seeds and will be especially beneficial for bees and other pollinators when they are planted throughout the city! Overall, we were so excited to be out in the warm weather and to have a chance to say thanks to our little fuzzy yellow and black friends! Remember to keep buzzin’!

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Meet Padriag!



Hi! My name is Padraig Delaney and I am currently a senior at NYU graduating with a BS in Sustainable Urban Environments. My degree is an interdisciplinary major with a focus on future sustainable cities.  During my studies, I have taken classes on greening cities, green roofs, and community gardens.  Beyond that, my mother has always been into gardening and I would frequently help her pick out plants to plant. My experience and classes have opened my eyes to the role that gardening, or vegetation can have on a city. I am excited to work with the Subversive Gardener so that I can focus on one aspect of sustainable cities which is greening.  

Guerrilla gardening and urban agriculture is an important part of making a city more sustainable. Specifically, I have been very interested in seeing how people take the initiative to green their own communities when the government does not. Another thing that I did not realize until coming to NYC is that urban vegetation can also be a source of food. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how we can bring food sources closer to the people when we live in such a dense environment. Guerrilla gardening can be an avenue to instill that change in society.

After I graduate this spring, I hope to either pursue a graduate degree in public policy or continue to work for a not-for-profit organization that focuses on sustainability within cities.  I hope to keep an open mind to the different methods or approaches that instill change in society such as Guerrilla gardening.



Bring on 2019 with a Recap of our Chili Charity Feast!

Happy New Year everyone!  We wanted to start off the year by recounting one of our favourite projects from last year. On November 1st, twenty-five bold individuals took on a hot challenge: surviving a tasting of six fiery hot sauces. This charity feast took place in a meadery called Honey’s in Brooklyn. As Chef Heather Dombrosky’s prepared the courses, Vanessa Harden of The Subversive Gardener shared the story of the peppers.

It began with hundreds of Baker Creek Heirloom hot peppers grown in an apartment and harvested for the Heatonist to turn into six tasty hot sauces. Next, the hot sauces were paired with six vegetable dishes generously grown and provided by Natoora, and served up by Chef Heather Dombrosky. (Checkout the yummy menu below)  Finally, the profits from the meal were donated to the Youth farm, an education focused community farm.

The farm-to-table-to-farm event brought together people from all walks of life including those who contributed to some aspect of the meal such as representatives from Bakers Creek Seed company, the Heatonist, the Youth farm, the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, New York University, The Subversive Gardener and many more. The event left guests energized by their newly made connections with other guests, a gift baggy full of a seed packet with their very own peppers to grow, crushed red peppers, and chocolate and of course a very full happy stomach. We can’t wait to see what next year will will bring!

Greetings Subversive Gardeners!


My name is Sarah Fogel, I am currently a senior graduating with a BA/MA degree from The New School in New York City in the field of Urban Studies and Food Studies, and I am so elated to have been recently welcomed to be a part of the Subversive Gardener family to work alongside Vanessa on this project that seems very close to her heart and mine.

I began my work as a gardening enthusiast and fruit tree seeker long before I could understand what it was I was doing, and far longer before I knew my adventurous plant searching habits would one day become the way I navigate my daily interactions with this urban terrain. I suppose I’ve come a long way for it now to be the subject of all of my writing and research.

Growing up in San Diego, CA was a utopia of produce, whether we grew it ourselves or had access to it at the local farmers market, it became second nature to care for the beautiful seasonalities of fruits and vegetables. At a young age my brother and I would wake up every morning and pick ingredients in our backyard, as our garden grew, so did we. Beyond the boundaries of our yard, we began to scavenge around the neighborhood for more fun goodies that maybe others had neglected, this included possible gardening tools as well as that lemon tree a few blocks away dripping down into the street. This is what we categorized as “alley finds.”  This scavenger hunt ritual became the best part of the day, and went on for years. It wasn’t until I moved away to New York City and lost the habit that I noticed it held a fundamental importance in my life.

I am glad to say that for the past 4 years I have reintegrated the practice or fruit foraging, adventuring, and gardening back into my life as well as sharing my practices through pedagogy, urban fruit tree maps, and literature. With this new opportunity to join the Subversive Gardener family I know that I will learn so much more in the ways of urban gardening and hope to contribute my love for cooking with the possibility of pop-up dinners in the near future as well sharing anything else I find along this journey.


Our Pepper Growing Project with The Heatonist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Back in June, in the budding month of summer, Subversive Gardener paired up with our friends at The Heatonist to begin an exciting new adventure in the world of chili pepper growing. The Heatonist storefront was opened back in 2015 with the goal of finding the worlds best small batch hot sauces and curating a space to house and share that collection, bringing the stories and the sauces of the makers under one roof, one very spicy roof. We worked alongside each other to restructure the backyard space of their north Williamsburg headquarters in hope of building the home that exists now for the 9 different types of beautiful heirloom seeds gifted from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. Recently, we caught up with Noah Chaimberg, founder of The Heatonist, in the test kitchen backyard where this chili pepper growing exploration began.

Peering outside of the test kitchen windows into the backyard was an awe inspiring sight, it was clear to see the chili pepper plants were happy and bountiful. After a couple sunny summer months the baby seeds were now tall lush and full of their own unique and spicy morsels. Noah brought us through the test kitchen which has evolved into a space of sharing, tasting and creating, with the new addition of growing.

Noah shared the space and took us through the garden where new opportunities for learning have revealed themselves, whether it be the inspiring new flavors of these unique peppers, challenges with growing, or as Noah excitedly shared with us, the journey of creating their own sauce on site from start to finish.

Although the peppers plants are flourishing now, there were challenges to restructure the yard to ensure their well being. Noah recounted the chili bed building process as one of those initial challenges. Due to the heavy industrial activity of Williamsburg’s past we had to take the necessary step of building raised garden beds which we then filled with organic soil in order to mitigate the deep histories of oil refineries and chemical processing plants which were so pervasive many years ago. These beds were the solution and now are the home to 20 tall growing pepper plants. With over 300 healthy seedlings abundant The Heatonist saw another new possibility, the opportunity to give back, to share the growth. The surplus of seedlings were sold at the storefront to spice enthusiasts and hot sauce fans alike, and all proceeds were then donated to The Youth Farm in Brooklyn, a non-profit urban farm initiative that seeks to teach youth about where food comes from.

Now, with pepper harvest upon us, The Heatonist family is looking forward to all of the forthcoming sauce exploration, as well as the possibility of a harvest dinner in the near future.


Urban Leaves and their Collaborative Approach to Urban Farming


Every Sunday morning, the members of Urban Leaves meet at dawn to tend their edible gardens. Established by Preeti Dehadrai Patil, Urban Leaves is a group of urban farmers that create rooftop gardens that can be enjoyed by all those who help maintain them.

“We are a group of passionate, gardening crazy, food loving friends.” reads their website. “We find joy in growing our own food, sharing farming techniques, cooking recipes, harvesting seeds and helping hands. Each day our stories inspire each other to reach our goal of greening rooftops in Mumbai…. to overcome difficulties and setbacks….to find creative strategies and alternative resources.”

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Preeti and her team and help out with the weekly maintenance of their Bhavans Campus garden located on the rooftop of a university building in Mumbai. I was one of twelve individuals who was pruning, weeding and spreading compost on at least fifteen garden beds that were bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables. Preeti and a few of the more experienced gardeners inspected each plant to ensure that it was healthy and to care for the plants that needed a little TLC.  After the hard work complete, the morning’s harvest was divided between all participants and volunteers. A yield of papayas, peppers, turmeric, mint, lettuce, parsnip and other delights were ours to take home and enjoy – What a treat!  Thank you Urban Leaves for sharing your delicious bounty


Children Often Know Best

Yet another beautiful day in Mumbai and a perfect afternoon to visit Dr. Vijaya Patil’s terrace garden at her family home.  As Dr. Patil shows us her garden she tells my colleagues from Earthoholics and I how a roof top garden has brought joy to her and her children. Seeing seeds grow into plants has amazed them in a way that can only be taught from ‘doing’ rather than ‘teaching’.  This along with the fresh produce that her garden yields on a regular basis are the main reasons why she decided to create this rooftop garden of fruit and vegetables.  Today we have been called to her house to help her with a small pest problem.  Our garden specialist quickly assesses the situation and concocts a liquid of neem oil and liquid soap – Barbie shampoo to be exact!  The children’s youthful presence can obviously be seen in every aspects of this family’s garden.  After treating the infected plants with the neem solution, we then go to work sowing additional seeds in empty pots hoping for more organic produce to grow.  Not only has this garden provided Dr. Patil and her family with fresh produce year round, it has also offered her children the opportunity to learn and understand how food is grown.  As her daughter points out,”Eating a bean that you’ve grown is much tastier that eating a bean that you’ve bought!”  Children often know best.

Urban Farming at an Orphanage for Boys

We paid a visit to the terrace garden at Our Lady’s Home, an orphanage for boys in central Mumbai, where we met Priti and her team from Green Souls. For the past 2 years, Green Souls have been building an edible garden to help educate the children of the orphanage about the gardening process as well as providing them with a space to ‘retreat’ from their everyday lives. Here the boys are learning how to grow and maintain fruit and vegetable gardens. “Being able to see a seed grow into a fruit or vegetable that can be harvested and eaten is a very rewarding experience – especially for these children”, explains Priti. Using mainly donated or found objects, Green Souls have managed to create a lush garden that yields papayas, eggplants, greens, berries and other fruit and vegetables. Old wardrobe doors, cardboard boxes and scavenged pieces of wood are used to create beds that are then filled with soil. The compost is made on site using organic waste from the orphanage and then mixed and added to the garden beds to produce soil that is rich in vital nutrients and minerals. The end result is a magical rooftop forest completely removed from the busy city below – a secluded oasis within a bustling urban centre.

The Importance of Good Soil

Recounting another beautiful afternoon spent gardening in urban Mumbai.  This time we had the opportunity to meet Julius and Priti from GreenSouls, an non-profit organisation supported by volunteers that create organic farms in Mumbai for vulnerable communities. Today we were volunteering at the Cheshire Disability Centre located in the heart of the city. Along with about 8 other voluteers, we set to work building a large garden that would eventually provide residents of the centre with fresh and organic produce. One of the most interesting elements observed was the care taken into using soil that would hold moisture and feed plants for expended periods of time. “We create our own ‘living’ soil,” explains Julius, “by using organic ‘waste’ matter like leaf litter, tree trimmings, branches, weeds, kitchen waste, tender coconut shells etc collected locally, to make ‘compost,’” In addition to using beautifully enriched soil, GreenSouls also make use of the land’s natural topography in the design of their gardens.  In this case, the garden was being built on a slope that directed water down trenches that had been filled with organic matter.  Not only was the water being purifying as it made its way through the leave filled trenches, but was also being directed to the areas of the garden that required the most nourishment.  A truly enlightening day spent with the wonderful people of GreenSouls.

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