Sunday, January 31, 2010

Herbs and Greenway update

With grow lights an inch or two above them, all four of my herb varieties planted on January 10 have germinated. First up were a few of the dill seeds (third group from the left in the photos below), then the 2008 basil (at left). I thought I would have more success with the coriander, but all I have so far is a small finger sticking out of the soil (at right). The most pleasant surprise has been the cilantro; not only were the seeds a few years old, but cilantro (second from left) is fussier than many other herbs when it comes to watering and circulation in the soil. Hopefully I can keep them in enough light and heat so they don't become spindly. The cilantro and dill are looking a little emaciated already.About saving the Greenway Gardens, I've received a little feedback (here and elsewhere) on my previous post ranging from "great writing" to "a little skewed" and even "whining." To the first I say thanks, and regarding the second, it was nice to have a response from someone who lives near the Gardens and who knows a few individuals from the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. Basically, my main purpose of the post was to address the issue of possible plans to remove the gardens, not to accuse the Conservancy of failing to be civic-minded in their goals; they also want people to come together and use the space. A few days after my post, local journalist Karen Cord Taylor explained in more detail the breakdown in communication and collaboration between the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the Conservancy. The different perspectives (as well as comments) shed more light on the complexities of these issues. The encouraging development is that the Conservancy's executive director has stated, according to the post, that "these parcels will remain gardens." We'll see.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Greenway Gardens at risk

These past couple of weeks have been marked by acts of generosity and community activism in the face of disastrous and threatening events. Many of us have opened our wallets to aid victims of Haiti's earthquake or picked by phones or signs in an attempt to sway the results of an uncomfortably close Senate election. These news items had been keeping me occupied when I received a request from a fellow Steering Committee member to become a fan of the newly-formed Facebook page, "Save Boston's Greenway Gardens."

I was a little surprised to learn that the gardens were at risk. After all, they were completed less than two years ago, thanks to a team of volunteer master gardeners, and, according to this LiveJournal entry, $850,000 provided by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The Rose Kennedy Greenway Gardens occupy three parcels of land in downtown Boston that was once shaded over by the elevated Central Artery, before the "Big Dig" rerouted the expressway underground.

Winding paths take pedestrians past an impressive arrangement of annuals and perennials, complete with discreet identification signs staked into the flower beds. The landscape of native perennials serves as a refreshing alternative to the typical public-space mass plantings that feature monotonous rows of petunias, impatiens, or other annuals that get ripped out at the end of a season. And the natives may inspire gardeners to give them a try in their own beds. I have only had a chance to rush down the path on my way to other destinations (hence the embarrassing lack of photos); now I'm concerned I may not get a chance to make a proper visit.

A different group, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, was in alliance with MassHort, but now has other ideas. A non-profit that leases the land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, its plans call for more "active use," with a pavillion, a paved-over area for a farmers market, and even a skating rink.

Ripping out these lovely plantings would be a waste of all of the money and community effort put into this project. The Conservancy argues that the gardens would be expensive to maintain. There are other green spaces in the city that are watered regularly, and plants growing in their native habitat are more adapted to the climate and would presumably require less care. Would maintaining a building or a rink of ice that needs constant temperature control be cheaper? I don't think so.

Do we need these new facilities? There's already a skating rink on the Boston Common, and farmers markets in nearby Dewey Square, Copley Square, and other places. A public toilet somewhere on the Greenway might be nice, since they are scarce anyway, but there is already enough concrete. I think the fountain and seating in the nearby parcels will suffice.

Who knows what will get slipped by us before the gardening season begins. As I write this the Facebook page only has about as many fans as I have friends, with a little overlap, a number that's okay for an individual but not a cause. If you have any investment in this issue become a fan (if you're on Facebook), write to an official, or follow some of the other suggestions on the organization's web site.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More herbs indoors

Today I followed through on my plan to continue growing herbs indoors. My previous efforts have had mixed results. We have been harvesting the parsley and new sprigs that rise up to replace them; although I've been told by other gardeners that the flavor diminishes with the new growth, I haven't tried it on its own to make a comparison. The German thyme that I had moved indoors has been sorely neglected. Call it preoccupation with the holidays, or a lapse in executive functioning, but in any case, maybe I should harvest it in its already-dried state.With a vacancy under the grow lights until tomatoes are sown in March, I have decided to start a few varieties of herbs in the hopes that I can get them established enough to transfer them to sunny windows and have a nice kitchen garden in the spring. I prepared recycled cell packs with a layer of gravel because herbs like soil with good drainage. If I had some sand handy, I would have added a little to the potting mix, but with vigilance I hope to maintain the right level of moisture.The four varieties include dill and coriander that I snapped up from Daphne's giveaway (seeds she had saved). My friend Kim provided me with leftover cilantro seeds, and I found some sweet basil, not my most recent seeds, so I hope they'll take. And now I need to add alerts to check on and water these young ones, not to mention turn on and off the grow lights. I haven't found much online about folks starting herbs at this time of year; in any case, any insights are welcome.