Every garden I know is rooted in real work and real bounty. The two beget each other. Every garden worth its salt becomes paradise by being both a safe refuge from the madness of the world and a field of action within the cacophony of this very word.
– Wendy Johnson Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate
The Wyckoff Garden is on 1.5 acres of some of the last remaining farmland in Brooklyn. Our mission is, first and foremost, to steward this land for future generations. We strive to engage our community in land stewardship, sharing in both the real work and real bounty of this site, at every opportunity. Our work showcases the miraculous tenacity of this farm, withstanding the pressures of time and urbanity for 400 years and counting. Our mission, above all, is to continue to be both a safe refuge and a field of action, to allow us to learn from nature, how to navigate through the chaos, with grace.
As of the summer of 2015, the garden is run by a part-time farmer and her team of 4 Farm Apprentices. After the Wyckoff Museum cut the funding for land stewardship in 2013, and almost 2 years without a farmer or gardener, thank you for bearing with us as we rebuild our garden programming, and reclaim this land from the invasive wild plants and weeds that have since deeply rooted. We hope to have regular garden volunteer opportunities for all ages for the spring and summer of 2016. Please feel free to send questions and comments to garden [at] wyckoffmuseum.org.
For most of human history, almost all culture was agriculture. We want to reconnect Brooklyn with its proud history as some of the most fertile and productive farmland in the United States.
Pieter Claesen Wyckoff and his descendants farmed their property, mostly southeast of the House, from 1652 until 1901. For much of its early history, the Dutch farmers of the area produced mostly grain crops for sale: wheat, corn, oats, rye, and hay. For their personal use, they also would have grown a wide variety of vegetables in their kitchen garden. The kitchen garden was also the home of many household herbs used for cooking and medicine. Kings County farmers frequently had orchards with multiple species of fruit trees.
The 19th century saw a great change in the character and production of Kings County farms. As New York City and Brooklyn rapidly expanded, the outlying farmland became progressively more oriented towards providing for the needs of the urban market. By the later half of the century, most of the land in Kings County had been converted to market farm production. Vegetables and fruit were grown at high profit to supply demand in the adjacent cities, while less perishable grain crops were increasingly supplied by farms of the Midwest. Records show that Brooklyn farms produced a wide variety of vegetables, including: cabbage, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, beans, peas, onions, tomatoes, celery, beets, rhubarb, squash, asparagus, cauliflower, and turnips. They also grew fruit for market, including apples, cherries, raspberries, and pears. As late as the 1880’s, Kings County ranked second in the United States in terms of agricultural production; Queens County ranked first.
Despite the dramatic expansion of urban Brooklyn, the Flatlands survived as a farm community into the 20th century. The Wyckoffs on Canarsie Lane were among the first families in the area to sell their land to developers, likely pressured by the incursion of the Long Island Rail Road across their lands in 1897.
By 1940, urban Brooklyn had essentially enveloped all of Kings County and its agrarian past was no more than a memory. It is a miracle that the farm survives to this day. We hope to restore our land to agricultural productivity and become, perhaps, the first NYC Park that serves its community food.
On the farm
We’ve devoted the 10 raised beds by the main gate entrance to seasonal sun-loving vegetables, rotated with cover crops over the winter. Our late-summer and fall crops include: beans, peppers, tomatoes, radish, turnips, carrots, kale, collards, chard, mustard greens, hull-less oats, winter wheat, winter rye, buckwheat.
We’ve planted medicinal herbs and heirloom flowers and vegetables in the 6 raised beds on the south side of the house, as well as throughout the landscape. The herbs play an important part of the museum’s educational programs on Colonial cooking, medicine, and self-sufficiency. See more on our medicinal herb page.
Fruits & Nuts
In addition to our peach tree and Black Walnut tree, we are looking to add a collection of heritage apple trees and hazelnuts to the property. With proper care, these trees will produce fruits and nuts for hundreds of years. Eventually, our apple harvests will be used to make on-site apple cider throughout the fall.
Raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries
A berry garden including raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries (currants) grows along the wall to the east of the house. Besides providing berries for consumption and ink-making, the berry garden is intended to function as a hedgerow, an essential feature for maintaining ecological balance in a traditional organic garden.
Our farm team is thrilled to prepare for the arrival of 5 spring chickens in March of 2016. They arrive 1 day old, and for the first 6 weeks, we will raise them inside the Museum under a special warm light. When the birds are big enough to walk around, they will move into a chicken coop tucked safely around the back of the house. Join our mailing list for updates about when you can come meet the new baby birds.
Regular updates from the garden coming soon on our garden blog.
Garden Apprentice Program
Pop-up Farmer’s Market
School Group Field Trips
Breukelen Country Fair