#658 Seeds from New York’s rooftop gardens

Rooftop Ready Seeds packets in a Chilean wine box; photo from the company's Facebook page

Rooftop Ready Seeds packets in a Chilean wine box; photo from the company’s Facebook page

This clever young man’s seed business inspires me. I also love the nose-tweaking nature of the name Zach Pickens has given his Brooklyn-based company: Rooftop Ready Seeds*.

I have trouble growing any kind of plants on my balcony because of occasional high winds that send even heavy pots flying and beat the heck out of growing things. Plants and seeds that thrive in ground-level gardens are not sturdy enough for my high-rise setting. So I really relate to what Zak Stone wrote for Fast Company about this urban seed company:

Pickens says he first started saving seeds when he moved to Brooklyn six years ago, to save money and find plants that could thrive in the tough conditions offered by New York’s rooftop gardens: intense wind, unfiltered sunlight, hot nights caused by the urban heat island affect, and limited container space for roots to extend.

At the end of each season, he’d collect the seeds from the plants that did best at his rooftop garden in Bushwick, and then plant them the next year, which would lead to a stronger harvest and, eventually, a very-limited edition product line.

Now Pickens collects seeds from growers around the city. This is how he describes his company:

All Rooftop Ready Seeds are open-pollinated (meaning you can save seed from your own plants and regrow next year) and grown using organic methods in several rooftop locations in and around Brooklyn–including a special seed-saving partnership with Brooklyn Grange. Each variety of seed is collected from individual plants that have proven to thrive year after year in the urban garden environment, with some varieties representing sixth-generation seeds.

Because growing space is tight in the city, our seeds are all limited edition.  When they’re gone, they’re gone until next year.

Pickens works full time at the Riverpark Farm I wrote about a while back. His urban-farming credentials are solid, as he writes on his site:

Zach Pickens is an urban gardener, farmer, seed saver, Master Composter, and a full-time urban farmer at the Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center. Zach has worked on an urban farm and managed youth-run farmers’ markets throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. He helped PS20 in Brooklyn design and implement a curriculum for a greenhouse education program and the eventual construction of a rooftop farm. Zach started Rooftop Ready Seeds in 2010 to develop a stock of vegetable seeds that are tailored to the unique climate of the city of New York.

With young people like Zach Pickens finding solutions to the challenges of food security in urban settings, we can all have hope. Reading about his Rooftop Ready Seeds gives me a real surge of optimism.

You can follow Rooftop Ready Seeds on Twitter and Facebook.

*Monsanto’s big money maker is the Roundup Ready System of genetically modified crops that can survive heavy doses of the company’s famous herbicide, Roundup®.



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Lydia - May 5, 2013

What a fantastic idea. I will be passing this on to my gardner friends. 🙂

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