Concept: Orchards & Tree Groves
Initially, the hardest part of growing a fruit tree is literal – the back-breaking work of digging out compacted dirt, devoid of nutrients and possibly contaminated -- to create a hole twice the depth and diameter of the root ball, then filling it with a compost/top soil mix.
Patience is the other hard part. Pay $13 for essentially a sapling or up to $250 for a tree that is fruit-bearing age. A dwarf apple tree or a peach tree might first produce fruit in two to four years, while it may take four to six years for a standard apple tree to bear fruit.
While fencing is an option, particularly once trees start yielding bushels to be sold at the farmer’s market, sharing fruit with the neighborhood also supports social interaction and healthier attitudes about food.
For a primer on tree care and to buy trees:
For specifics on growing fruit:
Concept: Maple Syrup
You won’t be making any money selling maple syrup from trees grown on your vacant lot, but your grandkids might. It takes 30 to 40 years for a sugar maple to grow 12 inches in diameter, big enough to be tapped. Meanwhile, you’ll have your own private sugar bush, doing double duty absorbing run-off while providing shade in summer and glorious orange and red fall foliage.
Sugar maples range in price from the $10 bargain for Arbor Day Foundation members to $395 for a 4’ to 5’ tree. In the world of farming, maple syrup is not just amber, it is gold. Cornell University sells a 50 ml (1.7 ounces) bottle for $7.99 and a quart for $24.99.
Once mature, sugar maples can always be tapped – one tap yields 10 to 20 gallons, and 30 to 50 gallons produce one gallon of syrup. In today’s dollars, that gallon is worth $100
For a primer on tree care and to buy trees:
To learn about maple syrup production, and find numerous links and instructional videos:
For instructions, and a glance at supplies:
Concept: Community Garden
Gardening is rewarding but it’s also hard work. You don’t need much land to fill your fridge and freezer with fresh produce. Invite a couple neighbors or the whole block to join you and share the work, you will soon be sharing the fun and the food as well.
Community gardening improves people’s quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education. Several local organizations can help you get started. Capital Roots is the largest and most experienced group around. They can develop a garden with you/for that they would own. Collard City Greens in Troy is a neighborhood based garden managed by the Sanctuary for Independent Media. All around there good examples to learn from. Seek them out, take tours, and get inspired.
The best reason to compost is to help protect the environment: 20 percent to 30 percent of what we throw away could be composted and kept out of landfills, where this refuse not only takes up room but produces dangerous methane gas. Compost – or humus – makes for successful gardens and crops, reducing the need for fertilizers in the process.
And, from the literal trash heap can come real dollars: a compost business can be as small or as broad as your ambition. Current pricing ranges: A 40-pound bag of compost costs about $6.99, which works out considerably less than a big-box retail price of about $3 for a 10-pound bag. Pricing for a yard varies, from $30 to $178!
Compost is a simple but labor intensive process, so these ballpark prices do not include the labor or delivery costs of an operation. Put together a solid business plan to see how far you’ll go to make black gold. And the size of the business dictates whether it must be registered or permitted by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. (See http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/98069.html)
The business of composting:
Concept: Hops Growing
It seems like there’s a microbrewery around every corner these days, so why not provide them with the hops they need to both transform a vacant lot and make some money on the side? The hop plant, in fact, may be a vacant lot’s best friend. Unlike time-consuming vegetable gardening, hops are vigorous perennials that require less care. These space saving vines also grow vertically.
There is potential for profit, fairly quickly after initial start-up. As of December 2017, dried hops typically sell for $2.95 ounce. Assume a lesser price by using volunteer labor-- $2 per ounce. Hop plants produce 8-10 bines (yes, they are technically called bines, not vines), each yielding 1-2 pounds of dried hops. That’s $32 to $64 per bine.
Growing hops in the city is a novel twist on a centuries-old penchant for beer.
A brief primer:
Urban Farming Examples:
For instructions on how to build a raised bed:
Concept: Rain Garden
A rain garden is a great, low-tech method for collecting run-off. Simply put, a rain garden is a planting area that slowly absorbs run-off, helping to lessen the deluge that triggers a CSO. Locating them is not difficult. Generally, they are planted where there is a slight dip in the landscape. Better yet, rain gardens may be established to capture water funneled through down spouts from an adjacent building. Planning a garden is not so much hard as it is strategic; special attention needs to be paid to the type of soil, for instance, so that it’s clear that it allows water to percolate.
There are bonuses: perennial native plants support a diverse ecosystem. One of them, milkweed, is free. Just harvest the dried pods and “seed bomb” the area. An added bonus: the caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly feed only on the beautifully fragrant milkweed.
Infiltration test to determine if you lot is suitable:
Native grasses and Flowering plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions:
Concept: Rain Barrels
Rain Barrels, or cisterns, reduce storm water runoff volumes. They delay and reduce peak runoff flow rates. stored water from cristens can also help reduce water consumption by providing "grey" water for irragation, gardening, car washing, and other outdoor uses. This ultimately reduces the demand on municipal water systems.
Water from cisterns is non portable. It cannot be consumed by humans and pets, Cisterns can also be used in urban redevelopment scenarios to reduce runoff volumes in areas where soils are compacted, groudwater levels are high or hot-spot conditions exist that preclude infiltration