Well, all right, it's not Spring yet, but a feller can dream, can't he? Imagination comes before action anyway, so now's the time to get ready and plan for what we're going to try to do this year. We could use fifty more gardens in Hazelwood to my way of thinking, but they don't all have to look the same. Each site with its situation is unique, so we can visualize beautiful and functional growing places to fit different locales.
I'd like to be involved with a garden or gardens somewhere in which there was a large ongoing input of organic matter, and in which one of the goals is nurturing both quantity and variety of life of all sizes, from trees to bugs. The community of life and health generated in this kind of a garden makes for a general productivity of ecosystem services - air cleaning, water cleaning, feeding people and wildlife, and others. But (if you don't know what you're looking at) this kind of a garden might look to you like just another overgrown place. The plants are not in straight rows, and Nature decides to some extent what grows where. The happiest gardening experiences I've had have had to do with finding myself enmeshed in living things. My mother called one of my first gardens Jimmy's Jungle.
Similar to this is a food forest type of garden, the difference being that a food forest is called a permaculture (permanent culture) site because (like a natural wild forest area) it doesn't necessarily need any input of organic matter once it gets going. But, as an activist working to get more of our organic waste recycled, I'm oriented toward quickly and efficiently transforming biomass into plant food. For this I need a much larger composter than what most gardeners have. Having studied industrial composting during a long period of unemployment, I learned that a relatively simple system can be set up in which the material gets hot and turns the organics into soil amendment faster. People don't know about me that I was in the waste management business for a hot broke minute before having to look elsewhere because I couldn't make any money as a "resource recovery consultant".
Some wonderful desires are being talked about for the greening of Hazelwood. Lots more of all kinds of gardens. There are phrases going around like "gardens on steroids" and "Hazelwood - the breadbasket of Pittsburgh". When we get our community grocery store, some of the produce there can be produced in Hazelwood. The Meals on Wheels kitchen can have locally grown produce going to our elders. The Fishes and Loaves Food Club can provide members with healthier foods with lower prices coming from our gardens.
Everybody's Garden, at the corner of West Elizabeth and Lytle, is evolving into a more peaceful, settled place than I had originally expected. It has a picnic table, a barbecue pit we built from salvaged brick, some chairs, some raised beds with mostly herbs, and some fruit trees. We need places in areas not so busy where vining plants like watermelon and cantaloupe can trail out without getting trampled.
The rush of activity that comes on when it starts to warm up makes Spring always surprising, in so many ways unpredictable. With community gardens there are other people involved, so along with the weather and any number of other variables it's even more complicated. I'm beginning to think everybody needs her or his own garden, since each person is so different as to what to grow and how. We can work together to for instance organize community composting of kitchen scraps or coordinate runs to get pickup trucks full of horse manure; but each garden has to be run according to individual styles and tastes and priorities.
What gets me into the garden is making good soil, but I know there are people in our neighborhoods who for example would just love to garden with butterflies in mind. Low-maintenance pollinator gardens can be set up to give habitat to all the wonderful insects that pollinate the plants. Local organic gardening experts Doug Oster and Jessica Walliser say, "Love your bugs."
Years ago we with the help of the Western Pennsylvania Nature Conservancy put in what are called "highly visible floral beds" (gorgeous flowers) on both sides of this end of the Glenwood Bridge, and also at the corner of Hazelwood and Second Avenues.
A healing garden would be just the ticket for so many spots. This kind of garden doesn't necessarily have to be worked at all once it's established; it's just nice to be in. There's an illness called "nature deficit disorder" which refers to how so many children especially nowadays have had so little contact with woods and trees and birds and bugs and so much of nature that they're not healthy. This is psychological, but it's also has real physical health impacts. People in contact with nature heal faster, learn faster, don't as often get sick in the first place. Studies have determined that a view out of a window of a green scene, even if it's just a mowed lawn and some trees, tends to make employees more productive. Even a painting or picture of some natural setting in a place makes for healthier happier occupants. Whether with many people or by yourself, being in some form (even if only in your imagination) with other life is what life is all about.
Spring always turns out different than we expect. So these are my positive garden dreams; maybe some others are dreaming along some of the same lines. But others have other ideas for gardening. What makes for an attractive place? When I was younger and a little more materialistic, I would have answered by naming things - clean air and water, good homes, lots of gardens, wildlife, birds,... I still like them now, but I've come to realize that everything is connected. And everything changes, so you can't get stuck on things. Happiness comes from enjoying being a part of good things happening, so it's more about verbs than nouns.
What are your garden dreams?
Here are a few great websites: