Ask the Nature Nut
About the Nature Nut
In this column, Susana Correia, a certified holistic health counselor, former organic farmer and total “nature nut,” answers questions about nutrition, health and organic farming. Click here for more information about her background.
Please use the comment box at the bottom of this page to ask questions.
I am on the steering committe of the Clinton Community Garden in Hells Kitchen. Perhaps you can help me? I manage the bees and they just died from the Varonna Mites. We had the dead bees tested and found this to be the fact. Can you tell me of any garden groups that you know of who also has bees? I was trying to reach Karen Washington who I think has hives but don’t have her e-mail, can you forward her mine? She will remember me when she converses with me. Thank you. — Millie Tirelli (March 10, 2011)
A. Hi Millie, Thank you so much for writing. I am going to take this question for my sister, the Nature Nut.
There are several community gardens that keep bees. One that I recommend is Taqwa Community Garden, a one-acre garden in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Abu Talib, the longtime director and co-founder of the garden, has been keeping bees for several years.
There’s also the Narrows Botanical Gardens, a 4.5-acre community garden in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which installed two hives last year. Jimmy Johnson, co-founder of the garden and a beekeeper, is the person to talk to.
I would also like to recommend the New York City Beekeepers Association, a group that holds public two-hour meetings in Manhattan the first Tuesday of every month (the next one is April 5). Lastly, there’s the New York City Beekeeping Meetup Group, an association of beekeepers and bee lovers founded in 2006 as an educational non-profit group.
I will forward your message to Karen Washington, the founder of the Garden of Happiness in the Bronx and president of the New York City Community Gardens Coalition, and ask that she e-mail you directly.
Hope this helps. Thanks again for writing.
I have some incredible tea roses (hybrid) in a large terracotta pot on my terrace. I get lots of southeast exposure, they’re growing nicely, and there is a brick wall where the pot can be protected from wind. But I’m worried. These pots are large, and I’m probably not going to take them in for the winter (just too big to do so). I was wondering if there was some way to protect the pots, and the roses, from the damages of frost, etc., during the winter. Thanks so much! — JR (May 24, 2009)
A. As perennials, roses need a period of cold and dormancy but require special protection in areas like NYC where winter temperatures drop below 25 degrees and also rise, creating occasional winter thaws. Winter winds, especially on high terraces, can also be intense and drying. You definitely want to keep the pots outside, against the warmest, most protected part of that brick wall on your terrace. To keep the terracotta safe from cracking and the roots insulated, wrap the pots first in bubble-wrap and then cover with burlap. Stop fertilizing around early September and keep the roses well watered until the soil freezes. After the first frost or two, pile up a heavy layer of mulch and/or soil creating a mound up to a foot at the base of the plant. Additionally, you can layer straw at the base and/ or pile fresh snowfall, which also acts as a great insulator. When thaws occur, be sure to water the plant. A lot of roses die from desiccation during the winter. A product that can be useful is “Wilt-Pruf”. This natural pine oil emulsion is sprayed on the plant after its leaves have completely fallen. It forms a clear coating that protects against the cold drying winds of winter without interfering with normal plant functions. Best of luck!
What do you think are the best vegetables to cultivate for urban gardening?
Thanks!/Funky (Jan. 31, 2009)
A: Whether you are gardening within your apartment, on your windowsill, fire escape, rooftop, in a community plot or a vacant city lot, growing your own vegetables in the urban landscape can be very rewarding. I am going to assume (especially since it is winter in NYC) that you would be interested in knowing which vegetables grow well indoors with limited space and sunlight. If your apartment doesn’t receive much direct sunlight (less than six hours per day), I suggest buying an artificial grow light and/or sticking to plants that are highly shade tolerant. Regardless of the size of your apartment, space need not be an issue. Seed companies offer many compact varieties of vegetable plants, which can be grown in pots or other types of containers. You can maximize your growing space by choosing plants that use vertical space, such as tomatoes, peas, and pole beans, as well as plants that can be grown within a close proximity, such as salad crops and radishes.
‘Window Box Roma’, ‘Red Robin’, ‘Yellow Canary’, ‘Tiny Tim’ and ‘Sophie’s Choice’ are some of the many petite varieties of tomatoes that can grow in small containers and some of these can even tolerate lower light conditions. Many tomatoes, such as ‘Tumbler’ tomatoes, do well as hanging plants, helping optimize that valuable city apartment space as well as providing a great design aesthetic. Certain squash, like the ‘Bush Butternut’ winter squash and ‘Gold Rush’ zucchini, grow efficiently in containers and as a vine, can be trained to climb upwards onto a small, simple trellis. Similarly, cucumber plants, like the compact ‘salad bush’ variety, can also be supported to grow vertically. Salad greens, including most leaf lettuces and spinach, can be grown very close together and are fairly shade tolerant. The salad green arugula prefers slight shade. Radishes grow quickly and easily in shallow soils, can also tolerate light shade and their leaves are edible as well. Although not vegetables, it’s good to know that many herbs and fruits, including strawberries and citrus plants, can also grow well indoors. Basil, cilantro, parsley and sage can all grow well in one-gallon pots. Specific dwarf varieties of kumquats, lemons and limes can thrive year round in a sunny spot inside. As you can see, there are a myriad edible plants that can be grown inside your apartment! For more information, check with an online seed distributor or with your local garden center.
Dear Nature Nut,
I’ve had this pain located in back of my upper thigh. At first, I thought it was my hip, but various doctors have told me that I have hamstring tendonitis. I’ve tried heat as well as ice. I’ve tries many over the counter products such as motrin, aspirin, tylenol etc. Do you know of any herbal remedies that could help? It is very much affecting my lifestyle as I love to run and work-out…the pain prevents these activities. Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks. (Jan. 31, 2009)
A: What hamstring tendonitis requires most is patience. It can take a while to rehabilitate and people tend to reinsure it often, making the condition more severe. Recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or even a few years once it becomes a chronic condition. Resting the muscle is key. In the acute stages, cold compresses help with inflammation. Once the inflammation has subsided, rotating hot and cold can be helpful to pump fresh blood to the area.
Working with a sports medicine professional to design a specific therapeutic program is advisable. They will combine exercises and physical therapy tools like ultrasound to aid the healing process. Find yourself a good sports or medical massage therapist who can use a variety of techniques, including deep tissue, friction and/or ice massage. I would also highly suggest doing a series of acupuncture treatments to help with pain and speed recovery. A couple of other alternative therapies that are helpful in correcting the cause of your tendonitis and preventing reinjury are Alexander Technique (which teaches you to use your body more efficiently) and Feldenkrais (which restores balance between both sides of your body).
Your local health food store may also offer some relief. Aside from providing nutritious whole foods as the basis for a healing diet, there are supplements that can help. Look for the pineapple enzyme bromelain (250-500 mg per day between meals), which could help reduce symptoms and decrease recovery time. Tumeric (250-500 mg taken with bromelain) seems to boost the effectiveness of bromelain. Vitamin supplements, such as vitamin C, zinc, beta-carotene and vitamin E, can also be beneficial. Potential homeopathic remedies are arnica (for the more acute stages) followed by rhus toxicodendron or bryonia. Using arnica gel topically can also be very healing during acute stages.
After the acute stage has passed, light stretching of the hamstring helps prevent scar tissue buildup while strengthening the gluteal muscles helps support the hamstring from more undo stress. Some light yoga like a simple supine leg stretch and the ‘locust’ posture work well. Move slowly and don’t overdo it!! With injuries like this one, visualizations, meditations and breathing exercises can really help focus your intent to bring healing energy to the affected area. It definitely takes concentrated effort to put this injury behind you for good. You must figure out what combination of therapies/ supplements/ resting/ stretching and strengthening works best for you. I wish you well!
Dear Nature Nut:
I bought a rosemary bush not too long ago, which I keep by a window in my apartment. The plant was healthy and doing quite well at first, but now it’s drying up and a fuzzy white mold seems to be invading the plant. What should I do? Should I spray it with an insect killer – like Schultz insect spray – or is there some sort of natural remedy to save my plant? Can it be saved? (Jan. 22, 2009)
A: Yes! Although houseplants can become infested with pests such as aphids and spider mites, especially in the winter, your rosemary has more likely developed “powdery mildew.” This white fungus occurs when there is too much humidity and not enough air movement. But don’t worry, although it can weaken your plant, it does not have to kill it!
Make sure your rosemary bush is getting enough direct sunlight, at least six to eight hours per day. This can be difficult in New York City apartments, especially if it’s winter and you don’t have a southern-facing window. You can buy an inexpensive artificial light to help. A “shop light” from the Home Depot (or any other hardware superstore) which comes preassembled with two fluorescent bulbs will work well when hung just a few inches from the top of the plant. Alternatively, you can buy a fancier, more expensive “grow” light from an indoor gardening/ hydroponic store that can be screwed into any regular light fixture. Heat is not as important as light. Rosemary must also have good drainage so make sure you let the plant dry out between waterings. To help with air circulation, you can run a small fan on the plant for a few hours per day. If the bush is thick, thin it out a bit to allow light into the center and to also help with air movement. If you allow for these three basics in rosemary care – sun, drainage and air circulation – I believe your rosemary plant will bounce back to vibrant health.