Sunday, December 27, 2009

Living christmas trees

The New York Times ran a story this Tuesday on a California-based service that rents out potted Christmas trees (their website is Customers can actually rent the same tree year after year and watch it grow. Other outfits donate their inventory, after the holiday season is over, to reforesting efforts.

The idea of a living Christmas tree is intriguing. Last year, the United States alone farmed, cut and sold 28.2 million spruces, pines and firs for the holidays and another 8.9 million artificial trees were imported (according to Nina Shen Rastogi in this month's Oprah magazine.) Considering an average conifer absorbs up to one ton of carbon over six decades, an opportuniy to help our environment may be lost.

This year, my husband and I decided on a potted spruce. We got a good price because we purchased it a few days before Christmas (generally, living trees should not be in a heated home any longer than a week.) We also identified a non-profit organization that will take the tree, care for it over the winter and plant it on the grounds of an affordable housing development when the warmer weather arrives. In the meantime we are enjoying our noble tannenbaum knowing it will live on into the new year.

Season's Greetings

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Community gardening

Community gardens are a great resource for people who want to exercise their green thumbs. A few years ago, I did some reserach and found a publically-owned site just a short distance from our home. Although my plot is small, just 5 feet by 10 feet, I have been able to grow three seasons worth of fresh vegetables for my family. We also share the bounty of several fruit trees and a large red raspberry patch. Of course, as with most folks, the horticultural advice and support from other gardeners is the best part of the experience.

Yesterday, I finally put my little plot to bed for the winter. I searched for any remaining brussel sprouts (none), weeded out any extraneous vegetation and put a cover of chopped up leaves on top of the soil. As in most community gardens, we only use organic products and make sure to not compost with invasive species. Those of us using leaves for plot cover are also careful not to use anything swept from streets or driveways. This is because car exhaust can emit heavy metals and other toxins that can get mixed in with nearby organic material. Thankfully, the small yard we share with our condo association had just enough leaf litter to cover my plot - so I assisted our property management efforts as well.

For those looking for a community garden in their area, the American Community Gardening Association is a good place to start. Their website can direct interested gardeners to local land trusts or horticultural organizations with available locations.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The following blog details my humble efforts to garden in a dense, urban setting with no particular landscape to call my own. After years of puttering around inside my home, I have finally decided to reconsider my traditional ideas about gardening. Thankfully, horticulture does not require private property or expansive open space. I have found plenty of places to garden within community settings and adopt-a-lot programs. I have also discovered that my small townhouse can provide many opportunities for green roof structures and vegetated walls. Most surprisingly of all, being landless has led me to envision the entirety of our living environment as a garden. The organic growing methods and green design standards I employ now take on a greater sense of importance. It is an alternative approach to gardening that, in its own small way, helps point toward our future on this fragile planet.