Visit and Work Day at Mill Creek Urban Farm: 3 hours
Tree Planting Event: 4 1/2 hours
Groundbreaking Day with Temple Community Garden: 3 hours
Early this morning, I attended the groundbreaking day for the new garden site with the Temple Community Garden. Located behind the red walls on Broad Street and Norris, the new site for the garden is rather large.
This was exciting for me to see because when I attended a TCG meeting earlier in the semester, TCG was loosing their original garden site which would be transformed into a parking lot!
The soil of the lot was very rocky, muddy, and filled with weeds and various debris. When I arrived, the TCG members had already begun to weed a section of land and spread mulch. Because the soil quality is so poor, raised beds will be used for growing. I helped weed out some of the many weeds that filled the property while others spread mulch, build wooden beds, or removed debris.
It was a beautiful day and it was great to become part of something with in our very own Temple community and see an empty lot beginning to be transformed into practical green space. Working with the Temple Community Garden was a great experience and I hope to work with them more in the future.
With the recent trend of “greening” spaces, transforming something old and unwanted into something beautiful is one trend that will hopefully stick around. Seen in the railways of New Yorks Highline, a reclaimed railway turned park, the trend is growing in popularity. Among the Highline, many other cities such as Paris and Rotterdam in the Netherlands have taken the initiative to turn old grey spaces into flourishing, useful green spaces. This case study will explore two California based projects: Park 101 in Los Angeles and the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
Both cities known for innovation, Los Angles and San Francisco have joined the new wave of urban greening to accommodate the many needs of their citizens.
Often referred to a “A Central Park in LA”, the proposed Park 101 system would offer a green space amidst on of the United States top polluted cities. The proposed idea for the park would transform the concrete ridden space and offer the functionality of the retail world LA loves with the green infrastructure and space humans crave. The Park 101 system would be a cap off of the 101 Freeway system would run over the top of the freeway. The new design would change the street design allowing for more space and functionality.
The Park 101 system would integrate usable space into various parts of the downtown location. The design also included adding spaces for retail usability. Park 1o1 would use currently underused space and renew the urban space so it is usable for the public. The space would also have a large parking space so citizens could park and leave their cars and walk throughout the downtown. Also mentioned in the design is a cafe area and a play area for children.
Although development for the park has not gone underway, the City of Los Angeles has involved many citizens in the planning stages as well as developers to construct the best plan of action for Park 101. Whether Park 101 will ever come into effect, the design and outline of the space is a good model for what can be done in other spaces and cities.
Similar to the idea of Park 101 is the Transbay Transit Center. Once a bustling train station serving as many as 26 million in the 1940s every year, the Transbay Transit Center lost its supreme usability after WW2 with the rise in popularity of the automobile. Parts of the station and the tracks were removed in order to reconstitute the facility as a bus terminal. Like many other large structures in an urban area, the facility no longer serves a great purpose in the community. Thanks to hopeful individuals, planners, and designers, spaces such as this may get a major face lift.
The proposed idea for the Transbay Transit Center included retrofitting the old, outdated building and turning it into a 4.5 acre elevated park. Below the park, a new high-speed transit and rail system would be installed to not only re-purpose a currently underused space but, to encourage the use of public transportation. The green landscape is a great way to give life to an unused space while cutting down heating and cooling costs. The green roof system is been proven effective in its ability to properly insulate a building and absorb heat when needed.
Although the Transbay Transit Center project is not yet underway, developers projected the finish date for 2017.
Both of the project serve as excellent design models for re-purposing an unused space and turning it in to something beautiful, functional, and enjoyable for the pubic.
On Friday, Sarae and I met at The Spring Gardens at North Street between 17th and 18th St, a community garden that occupies an entire block. We met the group and then split into smaller groups after a short presentation on how to plant the tree. The event was one of many tree plantings throughout Philadelphia run through the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. Before this event, I only planted small seedling trees so this was a new experience for me.
Our group, consisting of three people including myself, planted four trees throughout the Fairmount neighborhood. The trees varied in size and shape and were planted within sidewalk blocks. All of the soils varied within the different spots. We learned how to properly plant a bare root tree ( a young tree with exposed roots that needs to be transplanted into the ground). We used buckets of water once we dug out the hold, planted the tree, and added mulch. The water helped to get rid of air pockets that will help the tree grow better and increase the chances of survival. We were also told how to properly position the tree so its roots can spread out and the branches will not grow into the sidewalk where they can easily be destroyed by pedestrians. Our leader also explained to us how the tree roots often strangle the tree itself in urban spaces because the roots do not have enough space to spread out. Another group was set to tie posts around the tree for stability later in the day.
I really enjoyed this project. Our group leader was very helpful and patiently taught us the proper way to plant the tree. It was very rewarding to contribute to the neighborhood. Hopefully we can make a return visit and see our trees growing strong!
For more information on The Spring Gardens:
Last week, I visited the Mill Creek Urban Farm located in West Philadelphia. Despite the inclement weather, we boarded the bus in the early morning to head over to the farm.
Once we arrived, we received a tour from one of the workers there, Jo, who explained the history of the lot, the farm, and what they do there. Leased by the Philadelphia Water Department, the lot was formerly a row of homes built with poor foundations. The houses were eventually torn down in the 1970s. On the west side of the lot, a community garden was created for the local community. Until 2005, however, the other side of the lot stood bare.
Jo explained the mission of the farm and how mostly everything grown here goes back to the community. Throughout the growing season, the harvested crops are sold to the neighborhood residents for a reasonable price. Because there is not a supermarket or grocery store in this area, residents often rely on a corner store with little food with good nutritional value for sustenance, a sad but ever present trend within urban populations. With this fact in mind, the farm was created to provide fresh produce to the community without discrimination of financial standing.
On the tour we were shown many things that enhance the character of the farm while still keeping within sustainable practices (and also allowed to sample the just picked asparagus which was out of this world!).
Besides growing their food organically, the farm uses a composting toilet, solar, panels, sustainable building materials such as cob walls and recycled pieces to decorate. Cob is a building material (seen in the photo) and is made from clay, sand, straw, and water. Cob is not only cost effective and made with out harmful chemicals but, it is also a great for heating and cooling buildings.
We also got to see (what I thought was the coolest thing!) a green roof. Although it was only a small scale roof, it was very cool to see a green roof filled with sedum and succlents and other plants that can absorb large amount of water for period and also thrive during drier periods. This design lowers cooling and heating costs effectively and with little maintenance.
After the tour, I was so excited to finally get my hands dirty and do some work! Our group helped weed a bed that would one day produce veggies. It was hard work but it felt very rewarding after we were done.
All in all it was a great way to spend a morning and the weather held out. I really enjoyed visiting the farm and seeing urban agriculture flourishing : )
Last Tuesday, a friend and I attended a meeting for the Temple Community Garden here at Temple University. I wanted to go to their meetings before as gardening is my favorite hobby but never could seem to make it to them. When I came to Temple, I thought I would only be able to keep house plants and plant a garden in my hometown in the summer. I was thrilled to find out that I could participate in a garden project right in the middle of Philly. Although I wished I had started working with them earlier, I made a specific point to add them to my list of resources for the stewardship project for Green vs. Grey. At the meeting, I was shocked and disappointed to find out that the space TCG had for their garden was going to be taken away by the school only to be replaced by a parking lot. In light of the irony of this recent update, I began to realize the sacredness of space in a city.
Community gardens have been the cornerstone of each and every civilization and its people. Despite the trendiness of urban gardening, growing food for consumption is one of the most rudimentary things humans can do and carries great benefits. Authors of “Rethinking Urban Poverty: A Look at Community Gardens”, Autumn K. Hanna and Pikai Oh of Penn State University, cite a study sponsored by the Penn State Cooperative Extension saying, “…urban gardeners in Philadelphia ate more fresh produce from their gardens for at least 5 months of the year than a statistical control group of nongardeners (Blair, Giesecke, &Sherman, 1991). Many gardens shared fresh produce with neighbors and with their church” (Hanna, Pikai 2000). Vegetable gardening is necessary for life and often promotes a healthy demeanor and mental approach. But, with the constraints of a city, urban community gardens and their caretakers often face a much greater challenge.
Space in a city is an issue that extends far beyond urban agriculture. Space in a city is sparse and coveted and there are often few areas of vast open space. Due to the lack of large amount of private space, urban dwellers often rely on community gardens to feel close to nature. A case study conducted by Ishwarbhai C. Patel, a County Agricultural Agent specializing in urban gardening, cites a 1982 Gallup Poll showed that “more than three million Americans garden at community sites; an additional seven million would garden if land were available and 76% of those polled would like community gardens to be a permanent part of their communities” (Patel, 1991). While the lack of space was a problem over twenty years ago, increasing concern comes in the statistics of the 2010 Census. According to the national poll, the population in metropolitan areas in the Unites States increased by over 10% from 2000 to 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). It is also reported that over four-fifths or 83.7% of the U.S. population resides in cities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).
On top of a lack of space, urban gardeners are often faced with very poor quality soil. Urban soils often hold remnants of buildings and other debris. According to a 2000 study “Urban Soil Management: A Growing Concern”, the layers of urban soils are often uncharacteristic of healthy soil and can be traced to anthropogenic sources. The layers of the soil are often heavily inundated with pollution and inorganic matter and soil becomes compacted and loses its health benefits. Urban soils often contain many contaminants unless properly treated. Not unlike air pollution, soil pollution can be very detrimental to crops and not safe for growing crops to be consumed (De Kimpe, Morel). Although urban gardening has many great benefits, often it comes with a challenge.
Example of unhealthy city soil
Source: (De Kimpe, Morel, 2000)
Healthy soil Diagram
Source: (Cain, 2010)
For more information on urban farming, soil quality, and alternative to city soil:
De Kimpe, C. R., and M. Jean-Louis. “Urban Soil Management: A Growing Concern: Soil
Science.” LWW Journals 165.1 (2000): 31-40. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.
Hanna, A. K., and P. Oh. “Rethinking Urban Poverty: A Look at Community Gardens.” Bulletin
of Science, Technology & Society 20.3 (2000): 207-16. Print.
Mackun, Paul, and W. Steven. “Population Distribution and Change 2000-2010.” U.S. Census
Bureau. (2011). Web. 30 Mar. 2011.
Patel, Ishwarbhai C.”Gardening’s Socioeconomic Impacts.” Journal of Extension 29.4
(1991). Web. 30 Mar. 2011.