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The new urban green

The new urban green

(This article was first posted on the blog of Dessiree Sicilia, a botanist and analog forestry expert) Since the “Green Guerilla” movement began in New York in the 1970s, there has been a change in our conception of the urban landscape – beginning meekly in some of the more marginal areas of our cities, and now gaining a wider appeal. The current socio-economic environment has made us realize, more than ever, that we can and must take advantage of green spaces for much more than ‘beautification’. Having a kitchen garden is fashionable these days, but what does it mean? If I plant some citrus trees and rosemary shrubs, is my garden a kitchen garden? Superficially, yes, but a kitchen garden is much more than that, and we can see this in several ways: Location: The placement must be suitable for your needs, and the orientation of the land, soil quality, and water access are fundamental. Plants: What plants you choose depends on your needs and dietary preferences, on the climate, and on their function within the garden at large. Avoid potentially invasive species, those that need a great deal of water, or plants that will gradually replace the rest. Aesthetics: A visually appealing design is desirable, which allows us to enjoy the garden more fully through harmony of colours and forms. It’s also important to take biodiversity into account, seeing your garden as a mini-ecosystem. The more biodiverse it is, the more sustainable and better adapted to changing conditions such as frost, diseases, wind, and rain. In ecology, we have a word for this: resilience. From my point of view, a professionally-designed kitchen garden is impossible without a multi-disciplinary team that works together towards the same objective, bringing together professionals from agriculture, architecture, and biology who can integrate their knowledge. A well designed and mature kitchen garden is not necessarily expensive to maintain, especially when one applies the principles of Analog Forestry. Using this method we can recreate the physical and functional characteristics of a natural forest, attaining a garden that is 100% productive and well-adapted to environmental conditions. After we allow nature to do its work, we cannot forget that a garden consists of more than just the ‘higher’ vegetables, but rather that other organisms have an important role, such as mushrooms, insects, bacteria, bryophytes (mosses), and even birds and other vertebrates, grateful as they are for the green space that we have created for them. Until now, this has been very technical – but what about people? We are also a part of the garden, an important part, as our physical and spiritual relationship with the natural world is undeniable. Breathing, feeling, smelling, taking in the harmonious balance between these living beings with whom we co-existed millions of years ago. It is an enormous satisfaction to contemplate the evolution of our garden little by little, how alliances are made between insects and plants, between mushrooms and rots, between birds, trees, and seeds. We are participants in all of this, sometimes active and sometimes passive, but all within a fascinating balance: the miracle of life that is opened up passes before our eyes. Children, the seeds of our generation, deserve to grow up in a kitchen garden, living in nature with all the abundance we are able to provide for them, even in the middle of the city. There is nothing more fitting than the garden to teach understanding and respect. By Dessire Sicilia, PhD (Botany), Director of Hortus Civitatis www.hortuscivitatis.com, Official Trainer of the International Analog Forestry Network

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