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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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