Plano man converts yard to wild prairie of native plants | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Home and Gardening | Dallas Morning News

Plano man converts yard to wild prairie of native plants | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Home and Gardening | Dallas Morning News.

This article is about a Texas man who, over two years, turns his yard from the typical St. Augustine grass lawn, to a wildlife oasis using native plants. He chronicles the transformation on his blog, which you can read here. One thing I like about the article is how the neighbors came to appreciate his work, even though initially they worried it “didn’t fit with the neighborhood.”

I can’t stress enough how important it is to plant species native to your area. They are particularly adapted to your climate, which means they don’t need supplemental watering or fertilizing. But even more importantly is how crucial they are to the survival of wildlife. Whenever we build new buildings, we lose more native plants. In their place, we usually plant non-native plants and grassy lawns. The wildlife that used to live there now has nothing to eat, because insects and other critters are often only able to eat one type of plant. Who cares about a bunch of bugs you say? Well the birds do. If the creepy crawlies die out, the birds don’t have anything to eat and they move on. Or they die out too.

People like Michael McDowell in the article above and many others are realizing this and planting native species, which builds islands of native habitats, and can have a great impact on helping wildlife.

Corn Planting in Brooklyn

By Gary Buiso
The Brooklyn Paper

Christina Kelly might be the corniest artist in Brooklyn.

The Carroll Gardens resident will soon plant corn in Boerum Hill, part of an art project called “Maize Field” that examines the borough’s agrarian past and offers a living meditation on the idea of change.

“It’s interesting how much things have changed in kind of a short period of time without leaving any trace,” she said. “It’s a very New York thing to talk about how your neighborhood has changed — but there has always been change. If you think about the things you’ve lost, maybe you’ll pay attention to things you want to preserve.”

To decide on where to plant, Kelly relied on archival maps showing Indian paths and planting grounds throughout the borough.

Along with corn, she’ll be planting beans and squash, the so-called “three sisters,” a trio of vegetables that enjoy a symbiotic relationship in the soil. The corn provides a natural pole for the beans to climb, beans fix nitrogen in a form that is needed by corn to grow, and squash vines help keep the soil moist, improving growing conditions for the entire trio.

“The idea was to plant varieties of crops that were grown in this area for a long time,” she said. While corn is technically not native to the area, it was cultivated by different Native American tribes that once thrived here.

The vegetables will be planted on May 24-25 and take root on a raised garden on the sidewalk at Smith and Bergen Streets.

“I just hope people will take care of the them,” Kelly said. Don’t step on them or pull on the plants. Besides, it’s fun to watch corn grow.”

The seeds come from an Ohio cultivator who collects rare heirloom plants. The corn is blue flour corn — not the kind you eat from the cob — traditionally ground for flour. The same seeds were used by the Lenape tribe, who once had settlements in what is now Gowanus, Sheepshead Bay, Flatlands, and Canarsie.

Residents are eager to see the vegetables that are the fruit of Kelly’s labor.

“This will be a nice installation on an otherwise drab corner,” said Howard Kolins, the president of the Boerum Hill Association, which is sponsoring the project, with cash from the Department of Transportation’s Urban Art program.

“It will be exactly what art is supposed to do: challenge you and give you an unexpected perspective. Here’s a cornfield reminding us what was here centuries ago, and lost.”

PARK(ing) Day NYC

Sustainable Flatbush's space from 2008. photo © Sustainable Flatbush

Sustainable Flatbush's space from 2008. photo © Sustainable Flatbush

Tomorrow is the 3rd annual Park(ing) Day in NYC. It’s a day when people take over parking spots in creative ways to raise awareness to the extra public space that is normally hogged by cars. People play music, lay down sod, have kid’s activities, hold environmental workshops, etc.

Sustainable Flatbush will have a space on Cortelyou & Argyle this year with a puppet show, worm composting demo, a solar-powered cell phone charging station, etc. To find a Park(ing) Day space near you, visit the Park(ing) Day NYC site and look at their map.

It’s too late to register for this year, but I’m dying to make a park next year!!

The 200 Foot Garden

This is a nice story about Patrick Gabridge who took an ugly, unused strip of land in Brookline, MA and turned it into a community vegetable garden. He decided against planting without permission (aka Guerilla Gardening) and got approval from the property manager. He planted squash, cucumbers and lots of other veggies. The little 200 foot long patch of soil (which he had tested to make sure it wasn’t contaminated) will blossom into something much more beautiful than the weedy patch it used to be. Gabridge hopes that the neighbors will help themselves to the veggies as they ripen.

You can read about his project on his blog.

From school yards to school gardens


Tuesday, July 14th 2009, 9:39 AM

It’s a rural lesson in an urban jungle.

Students at 10 Brooklyn schools will be toiling in the soil this summer and fall, growing vegetables to feed their classmates as part of an effort to get student-grown foods into the school cafeteria.

“We want to eat the stuff we grow,” said Aidan Israel, 7, a student at Public School 107 on Eighth Ave. in Park Slope, who has been helping cultivate peas, kale and basil in the school’s yard. “It tastes fresher than the stuff in the store.”

With its fall harvest, PS 107 – which is in mobile “earth boxes” while its new garden is closed due to a school renovation – will join a program started last autumn by the Department of Education’s SchoolFood department and the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Dubbed “Garden to School Cafe,” it began with 20 schools citywide – nearly half of them in Brooklyn.

Next year, the program, which lets school cafeteria staffers put kid-gardened produce on the menu, will expand to about 25 schools as part of a broader effort to source school food locally, said Billy Doherty, who heads the program for SchoolFood.

“It’s something that’s important in terms of teaching the kids how to eat better and connecting them to farming, to help them have an overall healthy lifestyle,” Doherty said.

Last week, PS 29 science teacher Tina Reres and a group of incoming prekindergarten students gathered around one of four long gardening beds built behind the Cobble Hill school. They tied up tomato plants, searched for bugs and then lettuce shoots that, if all goes well, will be part of a meal the school’s students will get to eat in the fall.

“It’s a chance to learn where your food comes from,” said Kristin Berman as her daughter Julia, 3, dug in the soil. “City kids don’t really know that.”

Some of the schools – like the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art in DUMBO – are combining food-growing with culinary lessons. Students in the school’s Teen Iron Chef program grew parsley and mint for tabbouleh and demonstrated how to make it, said Lynn Fredricks of FamilyCook Productions, who runs the cooking program. “For them to actually create the food itself is pretty amazing.”

Pesto pasta from school-grown basil was a big hit with kids at PS 29 last fall, Reres said.

But whether getting locally grown foods will really get kids to eat more veggies remains to be seen.

Mia Espinosa, 4, turned up her nose at the peas she had excitedly plucked from the PS 29 garden.

“She won’t eat anything green,” her grandmother, Carmela Panico, said, sighing. “Maybe next year.”

The High Line in NYC


The decade-long project of Friends of the High Line (FHL)  has just opened. The High Line was originally built in the 1930s as an elevated train track and went out of use in 1980. There were plans to tear down the elevated tracks, but a community-based non-profit  group Friends of the High Line formed in 1999 to preserve it as a public space. The first section just opened a few days ago, which runs from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. Eventually it will go to 34th Street and be a mile and a half long.

As you may know from previous posts, I love creative ideas for unwanted or underused spaces. This patch of green promises to be a soothing place in a very industrial area. I love that they are going to keep it a bit wild instead of having manicured plantings.

They are expecting big crowds, so they recommend that people enter at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets. There are other exit/access points at 14th, 16th, 18th and 20th Streets. There is also an elevator at the 16th Street access point.

Hours: Open daily from 7am to 10pm.

You can see lots of photos and get more info at The High Line site.