Guest post by Renee Garner
Words like hyperaccumulator and phytoremediation sound like something straight out of a 1960s Sci-Fi movie and hardly verbs describing gardens. But when the conceptual, and socially minded artist Mel Chin creates a garden, you get these lengthy words among others.
Mel Chin is a Texas born artist now living in North Carolina; and when he plants, he plants for good. In 1990 Chin began working with the United Stated Department of Agriculture’s senior scientist, Rufus Chaney, to plan, sculpt and garden Pig’s Eye Landfill in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Together they assessed hyperaccumulator plants, which absorb heavy metals through their root systems and store them during the growth process. The heavy metals in this case are zinc and cadmium, and the project is called “Revival Field”, not “Revive James Hetfield.” The ultimate transformation occurs through phytoremediation, or the transference of the metal laden dirt to ore quality metals (harvested through the plants for reuse) and revived, healthy soil.
The Minnesota test site lasted 3 years, and while the trial run was productive, the soil was still somewhat polluted, and not yet reusable. A second garden was planted in Palmerton, Pennsylvania and another has been installed in Stuttgart, Germany. Ongoing tests are run for productivity, as other plants are researched for affective levels of metal accumulation.
Apparently, Chin always knew the plants were up to something.
Guest post by Emira Mears
Try saying that three times fast. TrugTubLove. TrugTubLove… Anyway. Gayla’s post about Lee Valley got me to thinking about my last Lee Valley impulse purchase. I had stopped there on my way back from picking up a load of compost, and tried very hard to restrain myself from making too many luxury garden purchases. Afterall, while so much of what is there is truly wonderful, nifty and swell really: I don’t need it. I manage to get by in the garden with my second hand tools and bits and pieces borrowed and acquired from here and there just fine. Still, nice shiny new things are always alluring.
Somehow, in spite of my resolve, I managed to justify the purchase a red plastic tub. How? Well you see, ever since we bought our place and I got to work on the garden I’ve been scrounging the house/thrift stores/garage sales and the like for a good all-purpose garden bucket. Something that I could use for both a 30 minute weed session, or to transfer compost around with me while planting bulbs, etc. Growing up, my mom had a bucket that she called the “weed bucket” that was just such a multi-use item. It was made of galvanized steel and though I haven’t seen it lately I bet she still has it. I ended up sans bucket and making due with cardboard boxes for small jobs and the wheelbarrow for larger ones last year, but kept on the look-out all winter. As nothing had materialized and because no matter how much I try, my resolve at Lee Valley is really pretty minimal, I caved and bought one of these Trug Tubs. And I have to say: I kind of love it.
I’ve used it for all kinds of gardeny things, like:
- Repotting plants at the office (I brought down a load of potting soil from home to the office in the tub and voila!)
- Soaking my bulbs before planting them
- Carrying transplants from one part of the yard to the next
And I’m sure I’ll get up to much more with it over time. What I like about it is that it is a big enough size to hold a whole lot of weeds, a good amount of dirt, etc. but it is not so big that I overfill it to the point of not being able to carry it (the kind of thing I’ve very likely to do). The fact that it is flexible means that I can often carry it around with one hand while carrying tools, etc in my other hand and as a neurotic multi-tasker that makes me very happy.
So yes, it is plastic, it is undoubtedly not something you have to spend $40 on as other thing will do, but as my one big garden “tool” purchase for the year so far, it has been pretty darn satisfying.
The one-stop crack distribution depo of the Canadian gardening world recently opened a store in downtown Toronto, and… ummm… I have been there twice in two days. I want to state for the record that prior to this I have never purchased a Lee Valley product, somehow managing to walk past the booths at garden shows and peruse the catalogue with barely a gleam in my eye. But something about stepping into the store where catalogue shopping meets department store released a deep-rooted nostalgia for the long retired Canadian institution Consumers Distributing.
I need an intervention.
And it doesn’t stop with me. I went in on the first day for a peek and came home with almost $100 worth of miscellaneous gardening implements — this coming from the person who preaches gardening on a dime. Then I went home and glanced through the catalogue on my own time, realizing that it was necessary that I go back for at least one additional item. This time I brought Davin along with me who was immediately taken in by all the fancy wood turning blocks, safety goggles, various glues, and build-it kits. He can’t shut up about the massive selection of fancy door locks. Because really all our apartment requires are a few new/old skeleton key locks to launch it out of its current bad 80′s renovation pickle.
Here’s a few of the items I bought. I plan to review these when I finish testing them.
- Windowsill Seed Starter - I pay $20 for styrofoam so you don’t have to. The first problem I noticed was no tagging system. I fixed that by fashioning tiny tags that don’t interfer with the dome using toothpicks, sticker paper, and an indelible marker. So far I don’t mind it as it fits perfectly on my narrow windowsill and I haven’t had to even think about watering for days. However, seedlings are only just starting to emerge and my suspicion is that the real challenge will come as they near transplant size.
- Rootrainers – Interesting idea but I can’t test it since it did not come with a bottom tray and the sizing is awkward. I’ll have to wait until it warms up to try this one outside.
- Quick Row Covers – Right out of the box I can tell you these things stink. My community garden plot is too tiny for the traditionally-sized row covers so these are a lame compromise.
- Upside-Down Planter – I have attempted this feat on a few occassions with a found bucket but I can’t get it to work out. My last bucket broke and smashed to the ground only minutes after hanging it. I’ll let you know how the pre-fab product works out. I suspect it will be a success, but it makes me feel like a failure to cough up $20 for plastic, foam, and tenting material.
Guest post by Christina Radisauskas
Last week I went to a film and discussion series entited “Label Me Confused: What organic, free range, and all those other words really mean” at a local theater. Several organic farmers gathered to discuss the benefits of choosing to eat locally produced and/or organic foods rather than typical supermarket fare. It started with the showing of the film “My Father’s Garden,” a documentary about the perils of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers (50% of the top soil in the U.S. is just GONE!). Afterwards, a panel of local farmers discussed the processes of becoming certified as organic farmers, and what the labels on the food we buy really mean. Of most interest to me was the question of whether buying certified organic food was better than buying locally produced food. The average food item in the United States travels 1500 miles before reaching the dinner table! And many local farmers use sustainable and/or organic processes on their farms. Becoming certified is expensive and time-consuming, and a lot of small, local farmers just don’t do it.
Here are some links of interest-
Sustainabletable.org – A site addressing many issues of eating, living, and growing sustainably. The ‘shop’ page is helpful in finding conveniently located stores that sell locally produced food items.
eco-labels.com – A site devoted to clearing up what labels really mean.
Short articles addressing local vs. organic foods:
How ingenious is this: a flower shop where rather than buying cut flowers, you buy photos of plant bits that are then constructed into 3-Dimensional arrangements.
Wolf Klein’s Der Blumenladen (The Flower Shop) is part old-school flower shop, part mad take-out menu, and part wacky flip book with a splash of conceptual art (at least that’s the impression given by Google’s translating tool — the site is in German). What’s more, patrons can mix it up by choosing leaves and flowers of assorted plants to build a monster plant or keep it simple with a sole flower. Whatever your floral tastes, cut stems last a week at best, while a photo lasts a lifetime Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no care required.