September 7, 2011
When JoJo Demirel and her husband Baris moved into their new place in Red Hook, Brooklyn last April, their first order of business was to put up a greenhouse.
The couple had always shared a love of gardening but only began digging in the dirt last year when they moved into their new house. And they had good reason to start: their new building had 4 terraces which they’ve since transformed into prolific urban gardens.
Water was initially a bit of a struggle as only two of the four terraces had connections, but they overcame this obstacle by adding a rain barrel and extending hoses which they dropped down from the main spigots to the secondary levels.
The Demirels, who have together been in the restaurant and catering businesses for the past 12 years, will roll out their own catering company next spring, for which they plan to utilize their own garden produce and large selection of herbs from their urban garden.
Asked about her favorite garden feature, JoJo Demirel responded poetically, “Smells of the rosemary, basil and lemon verbena after a rain. Butterflies.”
Veggies currently growing on the four terraces include tomatoes, spicy, super hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, carrots, and cucumbers. In addition, they are cultivating a variety of herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, dill, parsley, chives, basil, purple basil, mint, bay leaves, and lemon verbena. To attract the bees for pollination, the Demirels grow catnip and lavender. For privacy, the’ve added lots of coleus plants and boxwood shrubs.
The Brooklynites maintain the garden for their own daily use–for canning and otherwise preserving–but also for sharing baskets of produce with friends and family, and for entertaining, which they like to do often on the rooftop.
Demireal says one of her biggest successes was learning about hand pollinating plants. “And doubling our yield!” she claims, while adding she has also picked up, “that Jaune Flamme tomatoes are incredibly prolific!”
I asked Demirel if she had any tips for other urban gardeners. “We are organic gardeners. The best way we’ve found to treat aphids is with a mixture of water, canola oil, and a touch of pure soap in a spray bottle.” she advised. “Also, planting scallions, leeks or chives in between your peppers, zucchini and cucumbers (the most affected plants) works as aphids don’t care for the smell.”
This is their first year trying their hand at growing dwarf plum, meyer lemon, and orange trees…fingers crossed.
But it’s not just the lure of four terraces that brought them to Red Hook. “We have always loved this area, Demirel said of the couple’s move to their present Brooklyn neighborhood. “It feels like we are on our own out here, in many ways, yet so close to the city. We previously worked in Dumbo so it was a quick bike commute to work.”
All photos: JoJo Demirel