A tree may indeed grow in Brooklyn — but Frieda Lim is using her Gowanus rooftop to grow lemon verbena, echinacia, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and other delicious produce.
More than that, Lim is aiming to lend a helping hoe to other budding farmers who want to raise crops a few stories above the pavement.
Lim’s Slippery Slope Farm — it is technically in Gowanus but on the edge of Park Slope — will offer design solutions, product development ideas along with solutions for combating aphids and spider mites.
Her method relies on the work of urban food activist and Bay Ridge resident Bob Hyland, whose blog, insideurbangreen.org, advocates sub-irrigation planters as a more efficient and modern way to grow food.
The system is different from traditional gardening, which relies on top-down watering, and instead uses a growing environment that can be any box or container as long as it is outfitted with a water and aeration reservoir at the bottom.
The plant is fed via a plastic fill tube, and water collects at the bottom of the container in a reservoir, bathing a plant’s hungry roots.
“The benefit of this is that is like having your plant in an intensive care unit,” Hyland said. “When you water plants from the top, maybe 70 percent of the water is going to waste. Here, all the water is going to the plant.”
Lim said the techniques could usher in an era of “food justice.”
“Sub-irrigation is a way for anybody from any socioeconomic means to have a fresh box of vegetable for $20,” the cost of supplies and seeds. “It is totally economical and accessible to everyone,” she said.
Seventy-five containers line the perimeter of her Eighth Street rooftop, which overlooks a fertile urban oasis bisected by elevated subway lines and the polluted Gowanus Canal. None of the food, from the 10 varieties of tomatoes and six varieties of peppers to the edible flowers, goes to waste.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to have fresh food grown in my home,” she said. “With few exceptions, I don’t have to buy any green vegetables or herbs during the growing season.”
Hyland offered high praise to the Slippery Slope. “It is arguably one of the finest rooftop gardens in the metropolitan area and in the country right now.”
For info on Slippery Slope Farm, call Frieda Lim at (917) 843-5062 or e-mail [email protected]. Also, the Center for Urban Greenscaping will hold a workshop on sub-irrigation at the Gowanus Studio Space [166 Seventh St. near Second Avenue in Gowanus, (347) 351-5753] on July 29 at 7pm.