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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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Photo: Amy Sterling
Amy Sterling’s guerrilla-gardening campaign means tulips will be blooming in unexpected places come spring. You could do this in your neighborhood.

Boston Globe reporter Steve Annear gets all the fun stories. Here is one that John knew at once was made for this blog. I do love public-spirited projects that people organize just for the heck of it.

“Amy Sterling had tulips on the brain,” writes Annear. “After returning from a recent trip to Amsterdam, where she served on a panel about artificial intelligence, the Cambridge resident went to a home improvement store and picked up a bag of bulbs so she could plant the spring-blooming flowers in her yard.

“When she was finished gardening, Sterling and her husband, Will, realized they had about 50 bulbs left over. In a moment of spontaneity, they decided to bury them in random places around their neighborhood near Inman Square.

“Now Sterling wants others to do likewise and participate in this act of so-called ‘guerrilla gardening.’ …

“ ‘It’s just a way to cheer people up,’ Sterling said. ‘Get outside, it’s super nice out, go plant some stuff, and then sit back and relax — and when spring comes, you can enjoy the spoils.’ …

“After burying bulbs beneath public trees in Cambridge Sunday, she posted a picture of herself, shovel in hand, to the Boston Reddit page, as a way to spread some happiness, [and] others quickly latched on to the concept. …

“Sterling started calling around to Home Depot stores in the area, asking if they’d be willing to donate to the cause. In the days since sharing her impromptu project with others online, Sterling has collected hundreds of additional bulbs, she said. …

“Sterling said she chose tulips because they’re ‘a signifier of the death throes of winter’ and require very little maintenance. You dig a hole, plop the bulb in the ground, cover it up, and then just wait, she said. …

“She has also started a Google signup sheet for the ‘Boston Tulip Takeover,’ where people can get a free bag of tulips to plant around their neighborhood.

“ ‘We need some actions to bring us together,’ she said, noting that the news has been particularly hard to swallow lately. ‘And remind us that people are generally pretty nice and want to do well for their neighbors.’ ”

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Providence resident Stewart Martin’s passion for science and art have informed his work to promote urban gardening and composting.

My husband and I have a compost pile in Massachusetts (with a naughty mystery squash reaching out to strangle our neighbor’s lilac), but we are not brave enough to compost food scraps as there are too many animals around. I think if I lived in Providence though, I’d try a food-composting service and reduce my contribution to landfills.

In a recent edition of ecoRI News, Abby Bora interviewed Stewart Martin, a Providence entrepreneur who has perfected the art of urban composting and now offers his skills to others through Providence GardenWorks.

“Martin and his wife, Adrienne Morris, moved to Providence 15 years ago from New York City.

They were looking for a yard and fresh air, along with the bustle of a city. Providence was the perfect place. …

“Martin and Morris decided to replace their shrubs and perennials with veggies. To grow his skills, Martin trained through multiple gardening and composting programs. He has earned numerous certifications, including becoming a tree steward with the Rhode Island Tree Council and a University of Rhode Island master gardener.

“Martin said that in the past 14 years, his family hasn’t contributed even a cup’s worth of food scrap to landfills.

“ ‘We’re throwing away gold,’ he said, when food scrap is casually discarded.

“Compost — recycled food scrap, among other organic ingredients — contains many necessary soil nutrients that are valuable in fighting soil depletion. When not composted, organic matter rots in landfills, creating heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as methane. …

“Providence GardenWorks provides installation and training to urban gardeners and composters. For his composting clients, Martin installs an outdoor, animal-proof compost machine, and teaches them how to use it. He also provides a stainless-steel food-scrap pail, carbon filters, aerator, and a full bag of shredded leaves to begin the composting process. After installation, he offers technical support over the phone, via e-mail and on-site for six months. …

“While local organizations are working toward better food-scrap management, Martin wishes the city of Providence would commit to initiatives like the food-scrap collection program run by the city of Berkeley, Calif. … ‘The myriad benefits are well documented and it’s not rocket science. No one has to reinvent the wheel here.’ ”

More at ecoRI News, here.

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Shared interests can bridge cultures. The Guardian‘s Jim Cable offers up a nice example in his report on “two plantsmen in Israel – one Jewish, the other Muslim – [and their] mission to save their region’s rare native species.”

He writes that Oron Peri, a Jewish garden designer who lives halfway between Haifa and Nazareth, has long partnered with Mansour Yassin, a Muslim, on landscape work. Now they are collaborating to share a large collection of Eastern Mediterranean native species with other plant enthusiasts. He says their affiliation is perfectly natural in the part of Israel where they live.

“Yassin adds, ‘We have the same ideas about relationships between Christians, Jews and Muslim people. We don’t hold to stereotypes about where you come from.’

“Peri realised the time had come to formalise the way he shared plants with other enthusiasts. So Seeds of Peace was born; a scheme where seed sales of garden-worthy bulbous plants support conservation of rare species. Yassin is gradually matching up botanic names with the Hebrew he naturally uses for plants he has known since playing in the mountains as a boy. …

“For Peri, the collection represents 20 years of travel and botanising, specialising in plants from the Mediterranean and Middle East. Indigenous populations have suffered due to tourism (particularly on the Greek islands and Cyprus) and illegal harvesting for the bulb market. Some plants are endangered in the wild, with no conservation scheme to protect them in their native country. They give these refugees, as Peri refers to them, a place to thrive and set seed.” Read about the work here.

Photo: Yadid Levy
Oron Peri, left, is Jewish and his Seeds of Peace partner, Mansour Yassin, is Muslim. Here they examine cyclamen in their beds in Kiryat Tiv’on.

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This story comes from Heather Dockray at Good magazine (by way of the Huffington Post). It’s about a life-affirming project in Atlanta.

“Good, local, nutritious food shouldn’t be expensive,” she writes, “and shouldn’t only be enjoyed by people who can afford it.  A homeless shelter in Atlanta decided that their residents desperately needed access to healthy food — but instead of sourcing out, encouraged residents to grow their own. Now, the shelter is home to a huge rooftop garden planted by the residents themselves, which is expected to yield hundreds of pounds of great quality greens. …

“While eating discounted snacks might give homeless residents short-term financial benefits, the long-term health consequences are substantial. The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, who runs the gardening program, wanted to give homeless people access to food previously considered out-of-reach. Now, residents are responsible for 80 garden beds, producing kale, carrots, chard, and squash, among other vegetables.” More here.

Dockray doesn’t mention how gardening and donating to the shelter makes residents feel, but I am going to guess it builds their self image and confidence.

Photo: Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless

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My husband suggested we go to Worcester County Horticultural Society’s Tower Hill Botanic Garden today. When we got there, we learned that this weekend, the admission is free for fathers.

All the flowers and trees have labels, so it’s another way to get your plants identified (besides MisterSmartyPlants). There were lots of plants. Lots of families, too. A curious thing: In spite of the crowds and the absence of trash cans, I did not see one single piece of litter.

My husband chose to pose by a large aloe. Borrowing a line from A Raisin in the Sun, he said the aloe “expresses me”: prickly and healing. 🙂

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Once upon a time, mine workers were paid in paper chits that could be redeemed at the company store. (Remember the song “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “I owe my soul to the company sto’ “?)

A while back I saw a story in the NY Times about refugee gardens, and there was a picture of someone using wooden coins to buy produce. It turned out that people were not being paid in wooden coins as miners were paid in paper. Instead, the City of San Diego was encouraging poor residents to pursue good nutrition by giving them wooden coins for shopping at farmers markets.

The coins were really just a footnote to Patricia Leigh Brown’s story, which focuses on a national movement to help immigrant farmers get back into the occupation they know best.

“Among the regular customers at [San Diego’s] New Roots farm stand are Congolese women in flowing dresses, Somali Muslims in headscarves, Latino men wearing broad-brimmed hats and Burundian mothers in brightly patterned textiles who walk home balancing boxes of produce on their heads.

“New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country. American agriculture has historically been forged by newcomers, like the Scandinavians who helped settle the Great Plains; today’s growers are more likely to be rural subsistence farmers from Africa and Asia, resettled in and around cities from New York, Burlington, Vt., and Lowell, Mass., to Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Diego.”

Read how it works. (And click on the slide show to see the wooden coins. My eyes were drawn to them because my father’s favorite “good-bye” line to toddlers always was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels”!)

Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
Khadija Musame, right, with a customer from Somalia at the New Roots Farm stand in San Diego.

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The plant-identification site Mister Smarty Plants, which I first blogged about here on May 23, 2011, just keeps getting better.

One innovation from the past year has been rounding up tweets containing photos of flowers and plants that people around the world want help identifying and bringing them to the site to be identified by the growing number of readers.

I used to get a lot of identifications right, but Mister Smarty Plants queries are quite exotic now, which makes the site both exciting and challenging.

Today, John announced a new design with special features like kudos to the week’s most successful plant identifiers.

The Smarty Plants concept has always been that the more people who come to the site with their questions, the more who will be available to identify plants. John has been persistent about finding new ways to reach the folks who need the service.

Even if you think you don’t know much about plants, check it out. It’s almost like playing a game, and believe it or not, there are people in other parts of the world who don’t know what a dandelion is.

MisterSmartyPlants

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Brian sent me information about Higher Ground Farm, which is putting down roots on the roof of the Design Center in South Boston.

“A roof farm is a type of green roof. A green roof is a system of layers that is laid over an existing roof. A green roof is beneficial to a building owner and the community because it protects the existing roof, doubling to tripling its life, thereby saving money and keeping materials out of the landfill.

“Green roofs also reduce a building’s energy costs by insulating in the winter and cooling the rooftop in the summer. Finally, green roofs temper the effects of two common urban environmental problems – combined sewer overflow and the urban heat island effect.

“A series of roof farms throughout the city will capitalize on the environmental benefits of green roofs while also increasing access to fresh, healthy food. Higher Ground Farm will operate several roof farms throughout the greater Boston area, utilizing previously unused space while providing additional rental revenue to a building owner.

“Roof agriculture has the potential to be a job-producing boost to the economy, and a completely environmentally sustainable business sector that can set Boston apart from other cities. Higher Ground Farm will utilize the resources of our top-notch universities to study roof agriculture, which will position Boston as a leader in the field. Finally, Higher Ground Farm will be a space where our community can reconnect to productive green space and learn about sustainable city planning.” More.

I also found a video interview about it that you will like, here.

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A library seed program, described by Luke Runyon at National Public Radio,  reminds me of the sharing concept behind Heifer Project International (if you are given a chicken or a rabbit or a calf, you must give some of the offspring to another person in need).

“In a corner of the library, Stephanie Syson and her 4-year-old daughter, Gray, are just finishing a book with a white rabbit on the cover.

“When Gray approaches the knee-high shelves filled with seed packets, she zeroes in on a pack labeled ‘rainbow carrots.’

” ‘We just read two books with bunnies in them, so we’ve got bunnies on the brain,’ Syson says.

“Syson flips through a wicker bin labeled ‘carrots’ and offers other varieties to Gray, like ‘atomic red’ and ‘cosmic purple.’

“Here’s how it works: A library card gets you a packet of seeds. You then grow the fruits and vegetables, harvest the new seeds from the biggest and best, and return those seeds so the library can lend them out to others. …

“The library’s director, Barbara Milnor, says in the age of digital, downloadable books and magazines, the tangible seed packets are another way to draw people in.

” ‘You have to be fleet of foot if you’re going to stay relevant, and that’s what the big problem is with a lot of libraries, is relevancy,’ she says.

“Milnor says that while a library may seem like an odd location for a project like this, seeds and plants should be open to everyone. That makes a public library the perfect home for a seed collection.” More.

The sharing aspect is what stands out to me. Remember the post about Hebden Bridge in England and how people were planting in random bits of land and making the produce to free to anyone? Check that out, too.

4/7/13 Update: A similar effort in Concord, http://www.concordseedlendinglibrary.org.

Photograph: Dylan Johns
The seed library is a partnership between the Basalt Public Library and the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. Seed packets encourage gardeners to write their names and take credit for their harvested seeds.

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At Nourishing the Planet in October, Molly Redfield interviewed Vietnam vet Howard Hinterthuer, a peer-to-peer mentor for an Organic Therapy Program that helps distressed veterans.

Redfield: “You recently gave a Ted Talk on the Organic Therapy Program (OTP). Can you tell us how the OTP started? …

“William Sims, a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who served from 1966 to 1967, started the Organic Therapy Program. Mr. Sims was wounded after being in Vietnam for about 9 months, and returned home to Milwaukee. He was able to deal with the stress of coming home and experiencing combat by puttering around in his mom’s garden. He remembered that.

“The Center for Veterans Issues [in Milwaukee] has about 300 or more formerly homeless veterans in transition with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and depression. These veterans come to us and we provide a wrap-around service to deal with their different problems. Mr. Sims figured that if gardening was good for him, then it would be good for other veterans as well. So he began creating raised-bed gardens to help veterans cope with their problems. …

“Gardening is important because it allows our veterans to have …  positive experiences. This is almost guaranteed by the act itself, as it creates such a peaceful place. Gardening is meditative and increases self-esteem. …

“After the TED talk I gave, I was contacted by a woman in Scotland working with veterans of the British military. Her program used horticulture for veterans’ recovery, so I think gardening is an approach to dealing with difficult issues that can definitely be replicated in other places.”

Read more.

Photograph: AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press/Allison Love
Working in community gardening programs is proving to have many good effects on troubled military veterans.

 

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Photograph: Leah Nash for the NY Times
Tyler and Alicia Jones on their farm in Corvallis, Ore.

I’ve blogged before about young people who are attracted to farming. Here, I wrote about a friend’s great niece raising organic chickens on a farm in Connecticut.

At the same time, I have been reading about the phenomenon. For example, Dawn Thilmany and S. Sureshwaran wrote in a publication called Choices about “Innovations to Support Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.” And the USDA has increased the numbers of programs they have for beginners.

Recently, Isolde Raftery wrote in the NY Times about a young farming couple in Corvallis, Oregon.

“For years, Tyler Jones, a livestock farmer,” Raftery wrote, “avoided telling his grandfather how disillusioned he had become with industrial farming.

“After all, his grandfather had worked closely with Earl L. Butz, the former federal secretary of agriculture who was known for saying, ‘Get big or get out.’

“But several weeks before his grandfather died, Mr. Jones broached the subject. His grandfather surprised him. ‘You have to fix what Earl and I messed up,’ Mr. Jones said his grandfather told him.

“Now, Mr. Jones, 30, and his wife, Alicia, 27, are among an emerging group of people in their 20s and 30s who have chosen farming as a career. Many shun industrial, mechanized farming and list punk rock, Karl Marx and the food journalist Michael Pollan as their influences. The Joneses say they and their peers are succeeding because of Oregon’s farmer-foodie culture, which demands grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. …

“Garry Stephenson, coordinator of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, said he had not seen so much interest among young people in decades. ‘It’s kind of exciting,’ Mr. Stephenson said. ‘They’re young, they’re energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.’ ” Read more.

Check out the National Young Farmers Coalition, here.

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In a sign of moving with the times, the 54-year-old Littleton, Mass., Country Gardeners now call themselves a flash mob when they descend on public spaces to pull weeds and trim bushes.

Writes Grant Welker of the Sun, “The club of 34 active members — ranging in age from 30s to 90s, and all women — might not turn as many heads as a flash mob that quickly forms in a public setting, and there’s surely no dancing or singing involved. But it does serve more of a purpose.

“This group plans its mobs, shows up at the arranged time, works its gardening magic, and then disappears again, leaving a beautified space in its wake. …

“On a recent Saturday at 1 p.m., a group of five assembled at the Littleton Cemetery at the intersection of King Street and New Estate Road, fixed up a butterfly garden and, within about an hour, was gone, with some of the same members on to the next project. There were three mob-gardening sessions that day: at the cemetery, and then at Littleton Cafe at 3 p.m., and Common Convenience on Littleton Common at 5 that afternoon.” More.

Now, without calling these cheerful efforts at all staid, I can’t help thinking that a little singing and dancing wouldn’t hurt. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of pulling a flash mob on a flash mob?

You could find out when the gardening flash mob was scheduled, then show up with a brass band and baton twirlers to encourage the workers in the town common.

Or what about something around Halloween, with the surprise mob descending on the cemetery clean-up wearing costumes and handing out candied apples while “Monster Mash” plays on someone’s iPod?

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My friend’s great niece doesn’t come from professional farmers, but the gardening gene goes back at least to her Italian great grandfather. Now, having graduated from a liberal arts college and worked for various park services, she is — like a surprising number of young people today — going into farming.

At a farm blog, she describes raising organic chickens in Connecticut.

“Hi! Nichki and Laz from The Wooly Pig here, taking over the Barberry Hill Farm blog for an entry!

“We are young aspiring CT farmers who were lucky enough to meet Kelly and Kingsley last March and over the past several months they have become our good friends and farming mentors. This fall, the Goddards have been so kind as to lend us their pasture and their expertise so that we can raise our very first batch of chickens for our community.

“Our birds are pasture raised, which means they are brought up outdoors with plenty of access to fresh vegetation, open air, and sunlight.

“They are fed a strictly organic diet — an added cost for us that we feel is a worthwhile investment in our customers’ health. …

“We can’t thank our customers enough for supporting local, sustainable agriculture. Your good decisions help build strong, healthy communities right here in Connecticut. …

“For more information on our chickens, please contact us by email at TheWoolyPig@gmail.com.”

Read the engaging Barberry Hill Farm blog here. And if you live near Madison, Connecticut, get your chickens from The Wooly Pig

Photograph from http://www.barberryhillfarm.com.

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You remember the advice at the end of Voltaire’s Candide? “Il faut cultiver ton jardin”? Increasing numbers of people are finding the advice to cultivate a garden a good idea for our times. But the implication of minding one’s own business is not part of it as people become more neighborly and create better communities through gardening.

“In 2002,” writes Katherine Gustafson at YES! Magazine, “two neighbors armed with spades and seeds changed everything for crime-addled Quesada Avenue in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point area.

“The street had been ground zero for the area’s drug trade and its attendant violence. But when Annette Smith and Karl Paige began planting flowers on a small section of the trash-filled median strip, Quesada Gardens Initiative was born. Over the course of the next decade, the community-enrichment project profoundly altered the face of this once-blighted neighborhood.

“Jeffrey Betcher is the initiative’s unlikely spokesperson. A gay white man driven to the majority-black area by the high cost of housing elsewhere, he moved into a house on Quesada Avenue in 1998 to find drug dealers selling from his front stoop and addicts sleeping beneath his stairs. He told me about the day that he returned home from work to discover that his neighbor Annette had planted a little corner of his yard.

“ ‘Even though there was a throng of people – drug dealers who were carrying guns, pretty scary folks – she had planted flowers on this little strip of dirt by my driveway,’ he told me. ‘I was so moved by that … I thought, that’s what life is about. That’s what community development is about. That’s what’s going to change this block faster than any public investment or outside strategy. And in fact it did.’ ” More here.

If you like this sort of thing, please read a little book called Seedfolks. You will love it.

Photograph: Katherine Gustafson

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I never met my Syracuse grandfather. He was an osteopath and died before my time. But I often heard about his avocation, a remarkable alpine garden.

A garden needs a gardener, and it is understandable that the garden would fall apart after my grandfather’s death. But in recent years, neighbors got together to reconceive a garden on the site. In June 2007, their efforts paid off, with the mayor announcing the dedication of a memorial park.

“The Dr. James P. Burlingham Memorial Park will be officially dedicated on Saturday, June 30, 2007 … This park, formerly Gray Park, was originally a 2 acre meadow behind the house of Dr. Burlingham, which he slowly developed into flower gardens and a world famous alpine plant region in his spare time in the 1920s. … A small group of individuals from the neighborhood … decided to bring the park back to its original appearance with flower gardens and plants. … As part of the dedication ceremony on Saturday one of the doctor’s daughters, who is 94 years old, is expected to attend.”

That would be my Aunt Maggie, seen here with her daughter Claire.

There’s a passage on the garden in Remembering Syracuse, by Dick Case.

A gardening gene runs in the family. My son has it, both from my side and his father’s. As part of John’s interest in identifying mystery plants in his own yard, he came up with a crowd-sourcing solution. Today, if you upload a photo to Mister Smarty Plants, you can see if someone on the Internet knows what your plant is. Check it out.

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