Let It Rain
Most urban farmers would be hard pressed to see anything positive in the heavy downpours we’ve been having all summer. The rain has flooded plots, draining gardeners of their energy.
Veteran farmer Abu Talib, however, is one of the few who sees a sunny side to the rain. The director of Taqwa Community Garden — whom I blogged about here — says the crops in the garden are well-irrigated as a result of the rain. The one-acre garden near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is built on brick, which has absorbed the rainfall well.
“The water goes straight down,” said Talib of the garden’s good drainage.
Still, he concedes that too much rain can be problematic. There’s double, even triple, the weeding to do, plus, said Talib, “plants need sunshine too.”
When I visited the garden last month, the rain almost sent me on my way. The garden was locked after a downpour, and there was no trace of Talib. Just as I was about to leave, Talib emerged from the shed in the garden. “Taking a nap?” I asked, as he approached me. “No, I was reading,” he said.
Talib showed me around the garden, which looked none the worse for the rain. The plots were brimming with leafy greens, and the fruit trees, despite buzz cuts, appeared to be fit and healthy. In fact, the bonsai-like fruit trees looked like botanical masterpieces.
“We cut down the trees to make them more manageable,” said Talib. Though he didn’t tell me, I surmised that much fruit had been lost for the season. Many tree limbs, I thought, must have been destroyed by the rain.
Talib looked on the bright side.
“They’re midgets but they’re big inside,” he said of the pint-sized apple, plum, pear, peach and fig trees. Though the trees were smaller, they bore bigger fruit. Besides, he said, if the apple trees were allowed to grow to their full size, they’d “shade the garden out.”
Good farmers, I learned, are not easily thrown by nature’s slings and arrows. They know how to adapt.
I told Talib about a Taqwa gardener who complained that the rain had hurt her plants. She’d harvest one row for every three rows planted.
“If a plant isn’t doing well in 13 to 14 days,” he said, a good farmer “will take it up and do it over again.” He also recommended a “broadcast,” meaning taking a plant’s seeds and sprinkling them on the soil. “Then, you thin them out,” he said, when the seeds begin to grow.
All good farm tips, I thought, tricks of the trade that only a consummate urban farmer like Talib knows.