How Does Our Garden Grow

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Well, so far, so good. We survived that freaky hail storm a few weeks ago and the seedlings are grabbing whatever sun they can. With the invaluable help of our building maintenance crew we’ve worked out a way to water the garden with minimal hose lugging.

At last night’s weeding party we even harvested a few sprigs of basil, grabbed as they were about to flower. We also thinned the beets and swiss chard, and staked up the tomatoes, cukes, and pole beans.

 

Rethink Health: The Power of Play

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Last night, Joan Almon, Executive Director of the Alliance for Childhood, reminded us of the importance of mud puddles.

She began by outlining the importance of play (that is, undirected messing around, preferably outside). It helps children develop negotiation and social skills, and coordination between their brains and hands. They learn to wonder, concentrate, and overcome challenges.

But these days, children 6-8 years old spend only 12 percent of their time outdoors. Children 10-16 spend only 12 minutes a day in vigorous physical activity, but 10 hours a day in sedentary activities (is that an oxymoron?). You won’t be surprised to learn that they spend a whopping 53 hours a week (about 7 hours a day) with media–whether its … Continue reading

This Sidewalk is Made For You and Me

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Designers think a lot about how wide sidewalks should be, what they should be made of, and how they should be decorated with wastebaskets and benches. Should they also think about what happens on a sidewalk?

A book from the MIT Press, Sidewalks: Conflict and Navigation Over Public Space, (reviewed here) explores the role of sidewalks; more than a transportation route, they are our most prevalent public space. We know sidewalks are promenades for “the consuming public” but should they also be available to the homeless, to panhandlers, and to protesters?

What makes sidewalks so challenging and interesting is the interaction between public and private—the storefront enticing a passerby, a sidewalk café creating a public stage. In America we … Continue reading

Climbing the Walls…

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Frank Lloyd Wright is supposed once to have said that “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”   Our new CR zone provides bonus density for doing the same thing (not burying mistakes…nevermind).  But all irony aside, Green Walls, Living Walls, Vertical Gardens, etc.  are gaining currency and are being installed with greater frequency in a variety of locations.

The leader in the field seems to be Frenchman Patrick Blanc, with many installations to his credit including Jean Nouvel‘s Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

(photo: deconarch)

Other Parisian examples include the Fondation Cartier and the BHV Homme Department Store.

(photo: urban greenery)

Another cool garden spot faces Herzog & … Continue reading

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

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Apparently, Park and Planning is keeping pace with Google, PepsiCo, and Best Buy. As this New York Times article recounts, corporate vegetable gardens are the thing. Whether they are a way to break down corporate hierarchies, provide an employee benefit, or build green credibility, velvety sod is giving way to staked tomatoes.

Our garden is also linked to another news story. Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity task force released its report yesterday and among its recommendations: access to healthy affordable food. If the sun cooperates, our vegetables will be right outside our front door, just a few steps past the vending machine.

We planted yesterday and will post pictures soon.

In My Back Yard…and In Town!

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Last weekend we visited the Glover-Archbald Community Garden, near DC’s National Cathedral (and 2Amys Pizza!), to drop off some straw for a friend’s patch (Image above lifted from Prince of Petworth).  Nearly three acres, the community garden is one of several associated with the District’s Field to Fork Initiative.  Our Montgomery County Parks Department Community Gardens Program is a similar effort.  For folks without the proper room or aspect for gardens in their yards, community garden plots are an excellent opportunity to bring nature into more urbanized areas, connect people back to the soil, and produce some mighty fine fruit and veg in the process.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, urban agriculture is on the minds of … Continue reading

Rethink Infrastructure

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At the second event of the Rethink speaker’s series, Casey Anderson of WABA and Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space talked about making (or trying to make) the suburbs more bike friendly for cyclists, both commuters and recreational riders.

Anderson has interviewed 10,000 federal employees about their attitudes and experiences and found some not surprising stats—potential riders are afraid of car traffic, and some surprising ones—even those who would never consider riding a bike think it’s worthwhile to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Anderson says the take-away for policy-makers and politicians is that this is not flaky, the community will support this investment.

Layman is seeking to make cycling “irresistible,” and emphasized that a bike-friendly … Continue reading

MRO’s Own Edible Estate

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Tina Schneider, who works in Park and Planning’s Environmental Division, was talking with Planning Director Rollin Stanley about ways to “green” our site. They came up with a number of ideas, which will become our sustainable landscape plan, that include a few bee hives on the roof (starting in mid-May) and turning our flower beds into a vegetable garden rather than planting and replanting them with annuals through the season. About a dozen employees (from neophytes to experts) have volunteered to help design, plant, maintain, and harvest the garden.

Today, Mohammed Turay’s crew of the Parks Department generously got us started by removing the mulch, tilling the soil, and adding some amendments. We’ll have the soil tested this week … Continue reading

On the (Brooklyn) Waterfront

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Brooklyn continues to reclaim its waterfront for public use.  The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, perched atop the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, offers a delightfully open place to…promenade…and has great views of Manhattan (even in the rain).

The newest piece of this collection of public spaces will be Brooklyn Bridge Park, an extensive redevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront south of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Pier 1, the only completed section, opened while we were there.  Our lads, while not tots, gave it a thorough going over.

Portions of the riverwalk had also been completed and were open.  With the rain that bedeviled our time in the borough, however, only park maintenance staff and people whose kids had been cooped up and needed exertion were about.

Spring Breaklyn 2010: Boerum Hill

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Over the first rainy weekend of Spring Break 2010, lads in tow we trundled up on the Amtrak to spend a few sodden days in Brooklyn.  Having only really been to Brooklyn in a couple of three-hour sittings, we looked forward to digging the scene, as it were.  Our “Nu”Hotel, situated directly across Smith Street from the famous Brooklyn House of D (at left), is on the northern end of the Boerum Hill neighborhood south of downtown Brooklyn.

The streets were lined mainly with older 3-4-story brick walk-up apartment buildings and rowhouses, with ground-floor retail on the north-south Smith Street and Court Street (with the latter moving into the adjacent Cobble Hill).

As you would expect, the shops featured a … Continue reading