By the middle of August, we were getting regular harvests of a wide variety of veggies. Although we got a few Green Zebras in the mix (one shown here), the plant had been diseased for a few weeks and we were losing the battle. Its fruit were few and small. Cucumbers were coming in great and we were careful this year not to let any grow too large to pickle in a pint jar. This was one of our goals for the year—to keep harvesting regularly and not let any fruit get overly large, so as to encourage our plants to produce new fruit. Also in this day’s harvest was a lone asparagus spear—many of his buddies’ first-year roots had not survived the harsh winter.
I met the friendly and experienced Zach Pickens at Farm Beginnings, a 10-week course on the business side of farming, last fall. He’s already got a few years of urban farming under his belt at Riverpark, a restaurant perched on the east side of Manhattan which has its own outdoor area carved out for growing its own produce. Zach’s the man in charge of the farm, which is nestled between a high-rise office building and a very active helicopter pad, which is handy for scaring off the deer.
The good people at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy had approved the mushroom cultivation workshop I had proposed, and we had done a dry run at our own garden a few weeks earlier. As with our dry run at our home garden, sourcing the correct species of logs for the project turned out to be the main bottleneck. The logs have to be of compatible species with the mushroom species that inoculate them, and they also need to be a certain diameter and length. (Here is one mushroom/tree compatibility chart example.)
We talked to several different local arborists and city departments. Basically the larger arborists offered us plenty of prime oak, but the smallest limb they had was as big as I am… anything better suited to our needs they said was like a twig to them—they would chip it on the spot and not save it. City departments also said that they chip all the tree limbs they cut on the spot. The logs also have to be more or less freshly cut—partially rotting logs will be too infected with competing fungi to allow for the new mycelium to have a chance. Eventually we collected enough oak, birch, and linden to be useful raw material for a workshop of up to 30 people.
As with the garden dry run, we used the same suppliers—Fungi Perfecti, who kindly donated plug spawn (thanks PF!) and Mushroompeople for a few other supplies. I had a few notes I had taken from Paul Stamets’ recent lecture in NYC, during which he touched on a wide range of topics. He was wearing this same hat at the lecture– made out of mushroom, of course. I’d highly recommend checking out the lecture, the video of which has been kindly posted by the New School for Social Research where the talk was held on June 17, 2015: