Day 113/365 - On community gardening

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4/23/17

Today was a wonderfully sunny, warm and pleasant day which I got to spend outdoors. I had a weekend class trip to El Sol Brillante, a community garden in NYC’s East Village. One of my teachers, Claudia Keel (herbalist at EarthFlower.org), tends to a piece of land there, and shared some of her plants with us! It is a beautiful garden with many cultivated and wild herbs, trees and shrubs there. We saw a magnificent ‘Grandmother sage’ bush, a juniper tree, a periwinkle plant, celandine herb, bleeding heart plant, loads of ground ivy as well as english ivy, black cohosh (fairy candles), yarrow, sweet woodruff, grape hyacinth flowers, catnip, lemon balm, purple dead nettle, nettles, violets, solomon’s seal, a peach tree, and many others… I tasted some of these, gathered a few, and even took some nettles to plant and grow at home (out of the 4 plants I took, only one currently survives on my fire escape, crossing my fingers that it thrives!).

We also learned about the ‘Bokashi method’ of composting the garden does. Using bokashi is superior to regular composting because it saves time and labor, and if bought in bulk is also cost-effective. Bokashi is any fermentable material that helps drive food fermentation and recycle it into nutrient-rich soil. It’s usually fermented wheat bran that’s used (in Germany, they omit using bokashi and follow the rest of the protocol) - mixed with EM (effective microbial occulant) culture, molasses (for extra sugar) and fresh food scraps (the fresher, the better). After this mixture ferments for about 2 weeks, it can be mixed with existing compost (such as worm, or any other method). Not only does the bokashi method make great soil to be added to gardens and potted plants, it can be used to clean up ecologic waste! Studies have shown that bokashi ‘mud balls’ (bokashi + EM + molasses + soil) help clean contaminated soil and water. In Japan and Malaysia, it took 9 months for previously polluted water to give life to aqueous creatures that haven’t been seen in over 50 years! This gives promising leads into how to tackle environmental cleanup, and I hope more countries and entities hop on this boat! Unfortunately, I learned that similar efforts to clean up the Hudson River had been halted due to plans to cement the floor of the river… In any case, it’s a method to keep in mind for household or group composting, such as your local garden. Or, you can drop off food waste to El Sol Brillante 24 hours a day at the drop-off bin in the front.