Plants Change Wasteland to Wonderland

| 4/4/2013 2:51:43 PM

Tags: urban gardens, Nan K. Chase, Nan Chase, urban renewal,

roses and gardenA new generation of urban settlers is moving back into city centers, back into the sometimes distressed properties and devastated industrial landscapes that hold so much promise for the future. Pedestrian lifestyle! High-density living, with neighbors and shops and schools nearby!

It all sounds great in theory, but sometimes the actual scene on the ground can be disgusting…rusting metal, oil-soaked dirt, rank weed growth, trash.

As one of those urban pioneers myself (but a grandmother already, one of the older set) I want to give you first-time city center wannabes some encouragement. Don't worry how bad the land looks now; it can be fixed by plants alone, in many cases over just a few growing seasons. The healing power of plants can remediate years of soil and water pollution and create unexpected islands of beauty.

The trick is just to plant one plant. Just get one thing into the ground (suggestions below), and then next one and the one after that will be easier.

Over the last few years I have been discovering some great urban success stories. Once you see how quickly results come, you too can branch out on your own urban "wasteland-to-wonderland" projects.

In many cases a new garden can act as an economic engine, not just a pretty place to sit. The beginnings of any urban garden are cause for celebration, the more so when courageous investors use new green space as the foundation for additional people-scaled development. 

4/18/2013 8:56:34 PM

Well intentioned article but a bit misinformed. In urban areas partticularly sites that maybe toxic from industrial use you CANNOT simply start planting. You need to do some soil tests and get an idea of what types of toxins maybe present so that people don't start recreating on what looks like a garden area. As someone trained in Restoration Horticulture certain species of plants and mushrooms are helpful in bioremediation so you want to match them to the type of toxins you find. Some plants will hyperaccumulate heavy metals but then those plants need to be removed and disposed of as toxic waste. If you are planting edible plants you want to know whats in the soil and in the surrounding envirnoment that maybe a continuning source of pollution. University of Mass. is just one of many soil testign labs that you can send a soil sample at an affordable cost. When taking your soil sample make sure to get several samples from variety of places in the garden.

4/18/2013 1:23:42 PM

Does anyone have any experience starting an urban gardening organization or community garden? I'd like to get one going, but am intimidated by the first steps.

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