Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho…It’s Off to Work We Go!

Wildflower Group Cleaning up the Land

Not unlike Disney’s ‘Seven Dwarfs’ who like to ‘dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night’, the Wildflower Garden Group donned their gardening clothes and eagerly dug into the next step of the Wildflower Garden plans—preparing the soil.  A few hours were spent with some help from the Urban Agriculture group (who also aided in the purchase of a permanent tool collection for the Eco-House garden) sorting through the tilled lot removing garbage, large rocks, and other debris that could hinder the growing of plants as well as digging up the grass the till had missed.  The soil was found to be incredibly hard and so it was only the biggest rocks and clay that were removed in the hopes that the flowers and rain would be able to break up the smaller mounds of dirt.  Slowly, the land is improving, and though we don’t have any Disney magic to instantly transform the lot into supple soil, we’re not far off with the generous donation of minerals from Noel Harding which will shortly be sprinkled over the land to aid growth.   It was difficult work, and I think we all left with a greater respect for those working outdoors–those seven miners included.
Wildflower and Urban Agriculture Working Together to Clean the Land

Minerals to be Sprinkled Over the Land

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Turn the Tables, or the Signs!

This week the Urban Agriculture group started to contact organizations within the city about the maintenance of the garden during the summer time. On Thursday, two of our members met with the director of the Youth Connection Association. Kenny Gbadebo said he was really interested in our project and willing to help us, but the only thing was the students would not be there during the summer time and would come back in September. He is hoping to hold a summer camp in August, but gave us his contact information and encouraged us to keep in touch. Therefore, this organization could be one of our options to help the maintenance of the garden.

On the other hand, the design of the sign for the garden was still on the way. On Tuesday, after a small meeting with Rod, we decided on the title name for the sign which was “Visual Arts Community”. We wrote the brief introduction of the uses for the land between the two eco-houses, which would be posted on the sign. During Thursday’s class, we discussed our write-up and new designs with the professors. A new suggestion was made for the sign, involving the idea of making a large sign without any wording on it. The sign would act as an eye-catcher, to attract individuals to the garden. Another suggestion made was to add a rain barrel to the sign, or site. The rain barrel needed to be aesthetically appealing and also have high technical skills; therefore it could water the flowers automatically and also be sensitive to the amount of water needed by the flowers. This led us to change our direction completely from the original sign project. Consultations were made with the Wildflower Group to keep their plans for the design of the land in mind, while also fulfilling our requirements of the location and size of the sign. The tasks for the completion of the new sign were separated among group members and work was to be started immediately during the weekend. In the end, we planned to have a finalized sign for next week so that preparations for construction and assembly could be underway.

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To Till or not to Till, THAT is the Question!

Starting a project fresh and excited, our group couldn’t help but picture the final product that our toils would eventually bring us to: a beautiful, butterfly-filled wildflower garden in all its splendour—but it’s the word eventually that quickly put this image on hold.  It wasn’t until we attended a lecture by Master Gardener Joan Jolin, that we realized the amount of TLC soil required before a single seed could even touch it.  As we explained our intention to have the plot of land tilled to revive the patchy, hard (as soil in Windsor means clay) lot, Joan, horrified, responded with a, ‘BIG mistake.’  Ideal soil is obtained by covering untilled grass with 8-10 layers of wet newspaper covered with topsoil/compost, and leaving it for a year.  Unfortunately, time was not something we had; thus, we were forced to use her next option: combating the army of weeds that would grow as a result of the tilling by placing a tarp over the earth.  The lack of sunlight and heat generated kills the unwanted plants and leaves us with useable soil for gardening.

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‘Digging up’ Information on Windsor’s Aboriginal Roots

In an attempt at uprooting almost forgotten knowledge on Windsor’s Aboriginal heritage, the Demonstration Wildflower Garden Group is researching the symbolism and medicinal purposes of the local plants used at one time by the Ojibway Tribe.  The First Nations are the ideal versions of green living as they recognized and used every part of a plant without waste.  By incorporating these traditional practices and plants into a modern wildflower garden it is the hope of the group that it will connect Windsor on a deeper level with its original roots while inspiring green living through the creation of wildflower gardens.  Trips to Ojibway Park Nature Centre (top image) revealed a collection of wildflower seeds for sale which are native to the land along with information regarding proper conditions for the growing of each plant.  As well, the University’s own Turtle Island yielded a vast library of Aboriginal knowledge (bottom two images).

 

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Wild about Wildflowers!

Image above: mindmap for Demonstration Wildflower Garden Group

It was during the first week of the Green Corridor class that the Demonstration Wildflower Garden group consisting of students excited about gardening was formed.  Through the combined efforts of everyone involved, a mindmap was created which allowed us to track our thoughts and reach a final decision about the main idea of the project and how it would be accomplished.  The intention is to have wildflower gardens planted in areas of urban decay to symbolically heal them using the local Aboriginal knowledge on medicinal plants while at the same time teaching others in the community about the ease of creating their own wildflower gardens.  The location of the first garden will be at the University of Windsor’s Ecohouse on California Avenue.

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The Window Farms are almost complete!

The hydroponic window farm is almost complete. I’ve painted the bottles and installed a row of three bottles in order to test the pump system and the structural integrity of the structure.

So far there are no leaks, it’s holding up well and the water is flowing properly. I used weeds found outside to put in the clay pellets until we get plants.

Next, the team will be assessing what works within the design and move on to complete the rest of the farm, including: getting plants, hydroponic solution and possibly a temporary light system in order to keep plants alive in their current locaiton.

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Urban Agriculture At Its Best

Isometric view of landscape

Through out the week our group has made many preparations on how to go about preparing the garden and the main necessities needed to complete this task. We have been in steady contact with Rita Hasse on what we should be looking at and how to go about preparing the land. We have contacted the Greenhouse and processing crops Research Centre in Harrow and we are also waiting on contact information on the student from environmental studies to see if they would be able to assist us in testing the soil. Collectively as a group we have put together a final plan of what we would like to have done for the period of time we have. Within this list of things to do we have:

1. Clean up the yard space

2. Test soil

3. Start seedlings

4. Garden Plans- map of plants and locations

5. Maintenance plan and seed collection

6. Purchase order for plants and equipment

7. Use of irrigation drip lines and rain barrels.

Rod has also suggested to contact Dr. Graniero for more assistance on our project.

In all we have been consistently researching and finding more information on permaculture, water irrigation, and plants that are able to grow in our garden.

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EcoHouse Group: Putting the ‘Eco’ in ‘EcoHouse’

The EcoHouse Group, which consists of: Stephen (Bachelor of Fine Arts), Jason (Mechanical Engineering), Vincent (Mechanical Engineering) and Gabriel

(Mechanical Engineering), will be working on one of Green Corridors long term projects  called “EcoHouse.”

“A demonstration project that examines and illustrates environmentally-responsible living. An existing house is being converted so that it utilizes innovative solutions for energy efficiency and environmentally-sustainable living.”     -Green Corridor

One of our most promising projects for the house is the Window Farm initiative, a project that creates “suspended, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield light-augmented window farms using low-impact or recycled local materials.”     -Windowfarms.org

These planters were designed by Rebecca Bray and Britta Riley, an artist collective that have “set out to start a window farm craze in NYC. Britta and Rebecca will work with agricultural, architectural and other specialists to create high-profile prototype window farms and means for sharing design ideas to meet varying local situations around the city.”

Here’s a video on this exciting new project.

Window Farm Project

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Art & Urban Agriculture: Building a Sustainable Future

As part of The University of Windsor’s “Green Corridor” winter 2010 class 6 different students, from varying academic disciplines, have assembled into a group that will research, develop, and implement the foundations for what will eventually become a community garden utilizing the vacant space available at the site of the Eco-House, another project by the Green Corridor providing a prototype for an environmentally friendly and self sustaining residential home. This garden will be self sustaining, organic, and provide vegetation that will nourish not only the community but the environment as well.

The team is comprised of an interdisciplinary mixture of students: Mike, Brad, and Kyle from Mechanical Engineering, Roel from Sociology, Megan from Visual Art & Anthropology, and Chris from Visual Art & Communications.Hopefully the combined skills of critical thinking, innovative problem solving, and technical know-how provided by our group will result in a vibrant and effective collaboration.

The community garden is a new project proposed by the artist run collective Green Corridor and our group is the first to tackle the project. In the few classes we’ve had thus far we’ve created a basic plan of attack: we need to determine the quality of the soil that is currently available at the site figuring out the toxicity and nutritional levels, research viable solutions for enriching the soil, design the most effective layout possible for the garden, and map out possible areas on campus the project could be extended to in the future.

Luckily we have the help of Dr. Rita Haase, a professor here at the University of Windsor who works with a local activist group “FedUp”. She has interests in developing the garden as well and our group will be meeting with her on a semi-regular basis and will hopefully be able to assist her in developing ideas while utilizing her experience and knowledge to enable us to make more effective decisions in relation to our sustainable garden.

As a group we’re excited to see where we can take this project and look forward to the process of developing it.

The Team

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