Stewardship log

3/19 Philly Food Forest- 3 hours

3/26 Bethany Beach beachgrass planting- 3 hours

4/15 Mill Creek Urban Farm- 3 hours

4/17 Philly Food Forest- 3 hours


Mill Creek Urban Farm and PFF!

This weekend was packed for stewardship hours!

On Friday, I had a field trip with several other classmates to Mill Creek Urban Farm in West Philly. It was a little chilly but the weather wasn’t too bad. The farm itself was bigger than I had imagined, and was built on sustainability principles. The first thing I saw when I entered the farm was the writing “This is a living house, come check it out!” Later on we found out through the farm founder Jade that the house has a green roof. The green roof not only helps absorb rain water and maintain temperature of the house but also beautifies the overall structure.

The wall of the tool shed is made of cob, a natural material consist of clay, sand, straw and water. Like the green roof, walls made out of cob help the room stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The farm also have a compost toilet and they use the compost for the banana tree outside the tool shed. Behind the tool shed was the bee hive area. Unfortunately the bees are not very active at the moment, otherwise I’d really love to see first hand how honey is made!

Jade explained to us that the farm holds regular farmer’s market to sell their fresh produce during working season to the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, the farm also works with local schools for after school program,etc. The Mill Creek farm really bring together the community in this sense.

For our stewardship hours at the farm, we help weeded the land that will later be used for planting vegetables. The soil was a healthy dark brown color and extremely soft. Around the farm were various fruit trees. Their branches were tied down so that they grow horizontally.

Although we didn’t get to plant the actual plant, it was still fun to work in the farm.

On Sunday I, again, biked down to South Philly to work at Philly Food Forests. The farm has changed quite a bit since my last time working there. Several lots has cleaned up significantly and ready for weeding. It was a busy work day and lots of people showed up, including some of my classmates!!

This time I help weeded one of the lots that will become a pumpkin garden.

Since PFF is working on a brand new lot that has never been planted, the soil was covered by nasty weeds and bricks from buildings that has been torn down. The soil was also not as healthy as Mill Creek’s. It was extremely packed and stuck to the roots of the weeds. You are guaranteed to hit a brick digging just few inches deep, therefore it was a lot of physical labor picking the weed and the brick.

The weeding took up a lot of time, I almost spent my whole time there weeding. It was good exercise though (and quite fulfilling), on top of the biking, that is! This time I also helped painted signs for the farm. It was a lot of fun!

Lastly, my ten hours of stewardship has come to an end. I really had a great time getting involved outside of campus. But this doesn’t mean my involvement with these organization has come to an end! I am sure I will continue working with PFF and involve with more organization that helps the city greener and more sustainable.

Grant Proposal Case Study- New York High Line

On June 6th, 2009, New  York City officially opened up its highly anticipated and visionary “Midair Oasis”- The High Line (section 1). The mile-and-a-half-long elevated train track was built in the 1930s to lift freight trains 30 feet up the ground in order to improve dangerous train traffic on the ground level. The trains stopped running in 1980, and the elevated rail became home to all sorts of wild plants. In 1999, Friends of the High Line was formed in an effort to preserve the historical landmark when it was subjected to demolition. The group laid out frame work for High Line preservation and reuse and advocated for city support. In 2004, Friends of High Line teamed up with James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the High Line Park.

The High Line Park runs through several neighborhoods such as the Meatpacking District and  West Chelsea. The greenery along the walkway includes species of plants that were inspired by the wild seeded landscape left after the trains stopped running. Simplistic yet modern recreation spaces are also incorporated in various spaces through out the stretched space. Public art is installed to enhance the recreation landscape and interaction between the park and the visitors. In the future, the park plans to include food service to make the visit more enjoyable and verify the functions of the park.

Ever since its opening, the High Line has attracted millions of visitors and has become a new green, and neighborhood friendly landmark. The reuse of modern industrial relic and turning it into functional and environmentally friendly park space is the perfect example of retrofitting. The High Line built upon existing architectural structure that combines the past and the present.

photo by Joel Sternfeld from the High Line Image Galleries

planting, image from the High Line Image Galleries

A much similar story to the High Line in Philadelphia is the Reading Viaduct. Over the years, various groups in the neighborhood and University from around the Philadelphia had made effort to follow the path of New York. There are talks about renovating the old viaduct to a green public space but none seems to gain enough momentum to leave the planning phase due to lack of consensus from the surrounding neighborhood.

Recently, a new project called Reading Viaduct Park – Philly’s Park In the Sky launched by Jamie Moffett seem to have taken renewed initiative to rebuild the viaduct. There was a presentation at the Flower Show to showcase the project. More information can be found on the link above. Like the page if you support the project!


An Introduction to Rain Gardens: building and maintenance

A rain garden is a garden designed to retain rain water, filter pollutants, cut down on the volume of runoff, and help beautify the landscape at the same time. It is suitable for urban environment as it solves problems relating water pollution and excess runoff. Like any other gardening, rain garden does require maintenance and selection of plants. Cities throughout the country have adopted rain gardening to help water management. It is overall very beneficial for an urban environment.

A rain garden, also called bioretention areas, is a shallow depression planted with trees or shrubs, and covered with a mulch layer or ground cover (Clausen and Dietz 2005). This shallow depression contains several benefits:

  • Capture, slows down, and encourages water to enter the soil where it can be used by plants.
  • Reduces runoff.
  • Utilizes rainfall to grow plants and therefore eliminates the need for irrigation.
  • Purifies the water by filtering it, reducing the pollution that must be removed before the water can be used again (Kraus and Spafford 2009:15).

The first step of creating a rain garden is finding a good site. The garden should locate at where water ends up after it flows away from the general surface; the place should also have good drainage. Another important note is not to disturb tree roots while creating a rain garden. If you are installing a rain garden around your house, it should be at least ten feet away from the property to prevent wet basement (Ciesinski 2008). Once you find a proper site for installation, you can begin digging for the depression. The depression should be around 4-8 inches deep or deeper depending on how much organic material you want to place on top. Sides should slope gently as straight sides can erode (Ciesinski 2008). An overflow area is strongly suggested as a solution to heavy, frequent rain events. It directs excess water out of the garden without carrying away the mulch and plants. The soil of the rain garden needs to be amended so that water can enter and drain through the soil quickly. Quick filtration of water is critical because standing water induce algae growth and mosquito breeding. The soil is then topped by a layer of mulch or compost, it increases the soil’s ability to absorb and drain water (Kraus and Spafford 2009:24).

source: Kraus and Spafford 2009:24.

The next step is plant selection. Rain garden plants should be able to endure both short periods of flooding and drought. Perennial plants, woody trees and shrubs are recommended (Kraus and Spafford 2009:25). Native plants are also very good plant choices as they adapt to thrive in your soil and climate conditions (Ciesinski 2008).

Rain gardens are relatively easy to maintain. It needs to be weeded from time to time and watered if there is a drought.


Works Cited:

Ciesinski, T. 2008. Rain check. Organic gardening 55(6): 62-66.

Kraus, H. and A. Spafford. 2009. Rain gardening in the south: ecologically designed gardens for drought, deluge, and everything in between. Hillsborough, NC: Eno Publishers. 140p.

Dietz, M. and J Clausen. 2005. A field evaluation of rain garden flow and pollutant treatment. Water, air and soil pollution 167(1-4): 123-138.

Bethany Beach Beachgrass Planting

My alarm clock went off at 5:30 sharp on Saturday morning. I look around and it was still incredibly dark. Quickly I gathered the gears that I needed for the trip to Bethany Beach and left my dorm. When I arrived at the parking lot Pat and Max had already been waiting in the van. We took off shortly afterwards to our destination- Bethany Beach, Delaware. The sky lit up as we drove through the dawn on I-95, and we arrived  after three hours of driving to the beach with volunteers already planting beachgrass.

Pat and Max in the van (b-l-u-r-r-y)

The species of grass we were planting is called Ammophila breviligulata (Although I remembered Pat said a different name), commonly know as American Beachgrass. The beachgrass serves two functions, either to stabilize existing dunes or to build new dunes. I think we’re the latter case because Bethany beach is relatively new and there are pumps out on the sea to pump sand to the beach. Beachgrass stabilize the sand and reduce the damage done when storms strike the cost. When planting beachgrass, each plant needs to be 18 inches apart, and planted in a 8 inch deep hole, two roots per hole. Staggering the rows also ensure a larger coverage. We worked in a team of three (usually a team of two) where two dug holes and one planted the grass. In the processes of digging, I realized that making a 8-inch hole is harder than it seems. Some part of the dune is looser and it’s hard to make a hole when the sand pours back just after you make the hole.

This picture shows the newly planted beachgrass and some original beachgrass that has already grow out.

the stick they provided have a 8-inch mark

this is how it looks after the grass is planted in sand:

Hundreds of volunteers came out to the event and the planting proceeded smoothly. We walked down the boardwalk and planted at a second location. There has been a lack of care and protection of the coastline and surrounding area. Many industrial waste from the north had polluted the marshlands and coastal environment when they travel down the river. In recent years, however, there is an increased awareness of the environment due to the failing oyster industry. It’s good to see that people are starting to care about the environment because we both need the mutual beneficial relationship to survive.

Volunteering at Philly Food Farm

When I looked out my dorm room window yesterday I saw little red buds on the trees. I know spring is here and the weather is getter better and better. On this sunny Saturday, I biked all the way down to South Philly to check out this new garden on 5th and Mercy St. It was a rather long bike ride but I enjoy biking through the city on a good day.

I think the garden is really just getting started. It is located in the midst of apartments and townhouses, a rather surprising spot around the neighborhood. It is very much like the vacant lot we visited in class. All of the lots are build upon old buildings that are torn down so there are bricks just few inches beneath the soil. Robyn is the person in charge of the Philly Food Farm. Her vision is to build the garden with existing materials and soil and make efficient use of rain water and compost.

I helped clean the path between plots and put the first layer on one of the plots. There’s also a white cup for worms; I put a lot of earthworms I found when cleaning the path in it. It’s almost like a little culture of warms. As weird as it may sound but I love playing with tiny earthworms!

Here’s a glimpse of how the garden looks like so far:

here they are trying to build a compost area:

across the street they’ve set up what I think is becoming a rain garden:

I stayed for almost four hours and got some good exercise out of it (including the bike ride!). Right now the farm/garden is still in its early stage. Robyn told me that there is a lot she wants to do with it. I am sure I will come back and help out. It feels great to be a part of it.

Reflection on “Urban Ecological Citizenship”

1 a) My favorite parks are the parks Fairmount Park system and along the Schuylkill. Outside of the city, I really like going to Longwood Gardens near Kennett Square. Besides those places, my absolute favorite place to connect with nature is my backyard. My house is located in a suburban/wooded area and has lots of wildlife. Also in my backyard are my garden and my mother’s flower garden. I enjoy going to these places because they offer an escape from the fast paced world.

I love to go to a beach to see the beauty of nature. I like beach resorts that are crowed with tourists and sometimes more desolate beaches that line the east coast. I love hearing the sound of the waves as well as the peaceful nature of the entire environment of land and sea together.

I like to go to Washington Square Park in the city. I can bike there on a good day and relax in a little green space in the city. I like to watch people in the park and have conversations with my friends. It’s a little place where I find some serenity in the city.

1 b) Philadelphia area: Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Backyard is maintained by my mother and me!

Ricketts Glen State Park is maintained by the PA State Parks system and Longwood is maintained privately and has an admissions fee.

Many of these beaches are cared for by a Beach Patrol service. They help to keep the beach in good condition for those who would like to use it.

2) My motivation to care for nature comes from a love of nature as a young child. I think the Philadelphia parks system is well maintained but might get more use if they had more activities and things for children. If people felt more connected to their surrounding space, they may be more inclined to keep it clean/be respectful. No one wants to see his or her hard work destroyed. The parks are retreats for every citizen to get away from the concrete jungle. When I do go to a park I would like to see it clean and feel as if I am close to nature. I would not want to see litter or anything else to defame the area.  If everyone can utilize the place, everyone should have the responsibility to maintain it.

3) On this question our answers are split in half. But first of all, we establish that Andrew Light’s ideal ecological citizenship consist of an “ethical citizenship where citizenship is a virtue met by active participation at some level of public affairs.” We live in an urban setting where every citizen lives in close proximity. Everything we do affect one another.

Two of us think every citizen has responsibility to maintain the environment that we share. We all deserve to have access to the natural world even in an urban environment. If everyone can utilize the place, everyone should have the responsibility to maintain it.  One of us thinks that rights and responsibility should not be given more to the public because most of the citizens do not care about the environment and are apathetic towards preserving it. If rights and responsibility is given more to the public, our space will get dirtier instead of cleaner.

4) We agree with Light’s suggestions for hands on ecological citizenship.

Community service makes people feel like they are part of something greater than themselves. Also, when we contribute to a community project or something we are proud of, we will want to preserve and protect it. In order for people to care about the environment, they need to experience first hand what it takes to keep a natural environment running. Just like Light said, “If someone is in a normative and participatory relationship with the land around then he or she is less likely to allow it to be harmed further.”

5) We believe that waterways and parks bind community together because:

Parks and waterways can be accessed by all with no (or little) fees, which always serve as an incentive for participation.

Parks engage young children and give them a safe place to play, if maintained and kept clean.

Community ecological restoration project, like the one Light mentioned (Bronx River Alliance) helps create a common interest among citizens thus strengthen the bonding effect.