All posts by Jonny

Dirt: the ecstatic skin of the earth-A must read!

William Bryant Logan, a columnist at the New York Times and contributing editor at House Beautiful, raises dirt from the humble to the sublime in this paean to the substance in all its geological, agricultural, and spiritual manifestations. Belying its prosaic title, this descriptive history of the most basic stuff on earth is unfailingly beguiling and literate. From its creation on the planet some three billion years ago, Logan shows the interconnectedness of the soil with life and especially with human civilization. Man’s veneration and understanding of soil are shown in the writings of Virgil and Cato; Saint Phocas, the patron saint of the garden, instructed the Romans who killed him to compost him in his garden; the ancient Egyptians worshiped the dung beetle for its soil-enriching properties; John Adams wrote lengthy essays on manuring. In a section on graveyards, Logan notes how formaldehyde-filled corpses pollute the earth and groundwater, in contrast to the rather grisly but highly salubrious manner in which untouched bodies contribute to soil fertility. Readers will also find discussions on living inhabitants of the soil, such as the earthworm and gopher. Other chapters examine how the foundations of cathedrals are dug; whether dowsing is a legitimate way to find water; and which soil bacteria have contributed to the cures for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Logan’s point of reference is occasionally Scripture-based, yet never obtrusively so; following a detailed, scientific discussion on whether clays are the birthplace of life, the author writes, “”Perhaps this Genesis story can symbolize the rise of life as we experience it, from the joining of organic and inorganic realms. Wouldn’t it be strange if…clay performed the function of angels?”” Frequently philosophical, at times bordering on the mystical, but mainly fertilely attuned to the earthiness of its subject.

Hans Rosling:Making Climate Statistics Exciting (so we will pay attention)

Distributing the burden and shouldering the solutions together to solve the population growth issues we are facing.
Distributing the burden and shouldering the solutions together to solve the population growth issues we are facing.

When handled with care – global statistics can help challenge common myths and misconceptions about the world, Rosling hopes. Chief among the myths still to be debunked, he says, is the idea that the world is split in two – with a developed world on one side and a developing world on the other. “We don’t have two types of countries any longer, we have four or five types … [and] the idea that the western world will be ahead of the rest for ever is wrong.”
This plays a particular role in the following video which shows how quickly things can shift.

Peas photo Copyright:NY Times April 30/2014

Peas, Emerging From The Deep Freeze

Peas photo Copyright:NY Times April 30/2014
Peas photo Copyright:NY Times April 30/2014

Peas, Emerging From The Deep Freeze

By  published in The New York Times: April 30, 2014

Which cuisine do you think of when you think about peas? French, with petits pois aux laitues? Italian, which offers piselli con prosciutto? Indian, and its mutter paneer? British, with buttered peas with mint?

And when you reach for peas, are they frozen or fresh?

Worldwide, most peas are consumed straight from the deep freeze. Many would argue that frozen peas are the better choice, for quality. They certainly can’t be beat in terms of convenience, and they do taste good. I am not immune to their charms when pea season is still a ways off.

Continue reading Peas, Emerging From The Deep Freeze


We just planted our first seeds of the spring, and they were peas!

Did you know that peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world?

Burpee has some great tips on how to grow peas:

“Growing peas is pretty easy, as they need little attention other than watering and harvesting. Pests and diseases are rarely a problem, particularly if disease-resistant varieties are planted. Just keep an eye out for aphids on the pea plants and get rid of them with a sharp spray of water from the garden hose.

Peas thrive in cool weather and young plants will tolerate light frosts. Once germinated, peas adapt well to the cold, damp climate of early spring. Peas must be planted as early as possible in the spring to get a full harvest before hot summer temperatures arrive and put an end to production.”

Continue reading Peas

Biodynamic Gardening Techniques


Here is a variety of techniques that we will be teaching our students this year!




Waxing and Waning

  • The waxing and waning of the moon is called the synodic cycle and is used to divide the moon into each of its four phases. The entire synodic cycle, from the first through the fourth phase, takes 29.6 days to complete. Waxing and waning are terms that describe the progression of the moon and how it exhibits itself from dark to light. A waxing moon increases in brightness. A waning moon decreases in brightness. Planting during the waxing phase is referred to as planting “by the light of the moon.” Planting during the waning phase, as the moon darkens, is called planting “by the dark of the moon.” An old farmer’s adage advises gardeners to always plant potatoes during “the dark of the moon.” Another adage advises gardeners that planting crops at night is the best time of all.

New Moon and Full Moon Planting

  • Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University conducted laboratory experiments and concluded that plants absorb more water when the moon is full. Lunar planting “purists” make sure their seeds are planted within 48 hours of a full moon. They also resist planting on the day of a new moon or a full moon, and only plant on the day before or after.

First Quarter

  • The first quarter of the moon is the time to plant above-ground crops. They are referred to as “above-ground” because the yield is visible and their seeds are produced outside of the vegetable or fruit. Examples include leafy plants such as spinach, endive, celery and asparagus.

Second Quarter

  • The second quarter of the moon runs from the time the moon reaches its half-full stage to its full-moon stage. It is also a good time for planting above-ground crops, particularly those that grow on vines and those that produce their seeds inside of the fruit. Examples of this category include beans, cucumbers, peas, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Third Quarter

  • The moon enters its third quarter when it is in full moon and begins to wane to its half-full phase. During the third quarter, you should plant varieties, including flowers, that grow as a biennial or perennial along with root crops and flowers that grow from bulbs. Examples of these types of vegetation include onions, potatoes, grapes and berries.

Fourth Quarter

  • Those who plant by the moon phases do not plant during the fourth quarter. Instead, they take this phase of the moon to pay attention to the soil needs. This can include pulling weeds, getting rid of pests, tilling and turning the sod and soil, and adding nutrients and fertilizer to cultivate the soil and make it more productive.

    Continue reading Biodynamic Gardening Techniques

Browning Senior Project

A senior class from the Browning School came to our Bayonne Ecology Center to help us build an awesome pond for our garden! They made building this pond their senior class project. It was hard work, but worth the effort.

Ponds are a great way to make your garden even more beautiful. Unfortunately, ponds and other freshwater resources are disappearing fast. They are a unique resource for wildlife. They also play an important role in water management and carbon capture.

Thank you Browning School for our great addition!

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardening is gardening on a piece of land that you don’t have the legal right to use, usually an abandoned site or random plot of grass or dirt. People have been planting guerrilla gardens for a long time, but everyone has a different reason for doing it. Some do it as a form of protest, while others just want to beautify an area or grow food and build community.

Here are some awesome guerrilla gardens from around the world…

The gutter garden

The dumpster garden.

The newspaper garden.

The drain pipe garden.


You can even put a garden in a pothole! Here is a video of the pothole gardener.


Want to start your own guerrilla garden? Here are some steps on how to get started.

Rock Stars Rockin’

Looks like Rock ‘n Renew isn’t alone in wanting to use rock connections to transform the world and make a change. Our friends over at Good interviewed Beastie Boys’ Mike D on the great work he is doing in Rockaway, New Jersey.

Beastie Boys

Rockaway was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy, leaving many local businesses closed and little food for the local community. Mike D created Rockaway Plate Lunch, which has delivered 19,000 hot meals to date.

GOOD: How did the idea behind the Rockaway Plate Lunch come about?

Mike D: Rob and I went out [to the Rockaways] very shortly after Sandy. We had no idea what was needed other than contractor bags, batteries, flashlights. So we loaded up Rob’s car to the roof, and brought them out to Rockaway Surf Club. We saw right away all these people living without any power, without any businesses being open, and therefore, no food. We saw the immediate need for warm food, but we didn’t have time to put together a long-term cohesive plan, we just had to react quickly. Rob comes from the hotel and restaurant business, and with myself, being involved in a couple of restaurants and just knowing all the friends in that world, we were able to draw on a bunch of these contacts and start bringing food out from restaurants in the city. But we quickly saw, to get a lot of people fed and to have something warm we needed a truck. So we went to Sam Talbot, the Breslin/Spotted Pig team, and the Fat Radish people and said ‘hey, we’re going to get this food truck going, but can you guys provide us with chefs and cooking expertise to execute this?’ Thankfully, people were already looking for a way that people could be of service out there and this was a super grassroots, very direct way that they could.

Hurricane Sandy hit many communities in New York and New Jersey and left many without power, homes, food, and jobs. Although the storm hit 6 months ago, many communities are still struggling to recover. Let’s all get out there and volunteer to help those still in need!

Go to to find out how you can still help.


Onions sometimes get a bad rap because they make us cry when we cut them, but onions make dishes delicious! Onions come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, the most common being round and smaller than a tennis ball. They can be white, brown, red, or yellow.

Our friends over at have some fun facts about onions. Did you know?

• Onions were thought to be powerful medicine during the American Civil War in the 1860’s. General Ulysses S. Grant would not move his army without a good supply. He thought onions could cure many different sicknesses.
• Onions are related to Easter lilies, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and asparagus
• It’s the acid which makes you cry when peeled
• Brown onions have a stronger flavor than white onions.

You can also grow an onion from a discarded onion bottom.  No seeds needed! You can create an endless supply of onions.

Here is a step by step guide on how to grow onions from onion bottoms. It is easy and keeps those onion bottoms from going into the trash. We love finding way to keep trash out of the landfill!

Spring is Kind of Here

It is finally starting to feel like springtime, kind of.  One day it is cold, the next day it’s warm again. Hopefully, it will be warm for good soon! With the weather changing every day it the perfect time to start planning those spring gardens and sowing seeds indoors.

Sowing seeds indoors will give you a head start on your garden before it’s warm enough to start outside. When choosing containers to start you seedlings in, try homemade containers using old milk cartons or other plastic containers lying around the house.

You can even make your own containers out of newspaper! helps show us how.

Making seed starting pots from newspaper is not only very cheap but you’re keeping trash out of landfills. To make your own seed starting pot is very simple. First, take a sheet of newspaper and fold it in half so that it is about the length of a can of soda (or “pop” as we say in Chicago) and then just roll the soda can until it wraps around the can. After that just fold in one end of the newspaper to make the bottom and you have a quick and cheap pot for starting seeds that you made from newspapers that you were just going to throw away.

Here is a video with step by step instructions on how to make your own newspaper seedling pots.

How to Create Seed-Starting Pots From Newspapers