A Gardener's Notebook:
The latest incarnation of my column detailing the trials and tribulations of my garden. Join the list and ask your own questions about gardening Subscribe
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Do you have an empty lot next door to your home that only grows a crop of weeds, old tires and other junk? Are the roadway medians in your city merely strips of asphalt or concrete? Is there a corner where a few flowers might brighten the day of passersby and give them something to look at besides the mirror glass fronts of office buildings? I was thinking about these very things this week as I drove and walked around our city.
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As you might imagine, living in Los Angeles can be a very urban experience. Despite the mountains that loom only a short way off in the distance, city life here is much the same as any other major metropolis in the world. Sure, there are sections of the city with old, large palm trees or stately pines overarching the street, but the sad truth is that there are more streets with nothing at all, not even a spindly, newly planted Carrrotwood tree to offer some respite. While we have groups here in LA who focus on urban tree-planting (the TreePeople are the most well known), there is so much concrete that even the most dedicated effort cannot hope to address it all.
Even worse, we have seen a plan here in Los Angeles to remove large portions of street trees due to their damaging effect on the sidewalks and roadways. This has caused an overall loss of natural beauty and turned some streets form park-like settings into shade-deprived dust bowls. This week, when the heat has regularly topped 100 degrees I bemoan the lack of shade even moreso.
What to do?
If you search on the world-wide web for guerilla gardening you might be surprised what you find; I know I was. While I am not the type of person to join protests, there is a concerted effort by organizations to bring nature back into their cities. This includes programs to plant trees, seed roadsides and develop community gardens where people can begin raising their own food and reconnecting with what was once an important part of everyone's life.
You don't have to join a protest action committee to brighten up your corner of the world, though. While I haven't put the following ideas into practice yet, I think that they might be a way to start brightening up your town.
Help the older people in your neighborhood to keep a garden or flower beds in their yard. Gardens that are left to themselves are usually caused more by lack of mobility than lack of interest. Let these people decide on what type of garden they want but offer your hands to do the work.
Get together with your neighbors to clean and plant the corners in your neighborhood.
Purchase a selection of native wildflower seed and plant them in areas that look promising. My thought here in Los Angeles is to simply broadcast them over a fence and into a vacant lot. The Fall rains will help them to germinate. Of course, someone will probably take a mower to them eventually, but that is a risk you have to take.
Work with city officials to have concrete and asphalt medians re-landscaped with trees and plants. I know that in LA the city will provide water to an area if a group adopts it and agrees to maintain it. The city is in the process of re-planting a median near my house right now, in fact.
I am sure you can come up with a hundred more ideas for adding a little garden greenery to your neck of the woods. Send them along to the AGN mailing list (email@example.com) so that we can all share in your successes.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant based in Van Nuys, California.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his web pages at www.welchwrite.com.