Friday, April 24, 2009

The Median

On a perfect spring day, we started to dig. At last it was time for the neglected, ugly East Houston Street median to be dressed in the new clothes I'd designed for it. What better than flowers, for bees, for butterflies, for all of us green-derived Noo Yorkers?

The crew - Viki, above - had been working for a while before I arrived. So I tried to dig extra fast.

Spontaneous volunteer Ricky, from the 'hood. He found a real earthworm. The combination of digging teenager plus earthworm was a happy one.

Das Boot. Sort of. These are my serious action boots: gardening, mud-sliding in Lynn Canyon, and horse riding on long sandy, wet beaches.

Looking better and better.

I think we'll put the cones in the street when we plant next Thursday. I swear I felt a side mirror shaving my jeans as I bent over.

There were the predictable Hoo baby catcalls: we had three girls on the crew - very hard working girls...but many of the comments from cars and trucks surprised me: good job! what are you planting! thank you! can you plant sunflowers? It felt good. They felt good.

The UPS guy said, Someone's getting their money's worth...

One lady stole our soil, scooping it up furtively into a little bag as we worked the other end.

You're stealing our dirt! I yelled at her: Why???

Because I don't have my own, she said...

What could I say to that.

Then she said she had 6 cats , 1 hyacinth and was dying of AIDS. I told her to help us plant next week. She said she would.

We took off several inches of soil and bagged it to allow for the added soil from the 400 perennials we'll be planting. Kim, one of the gardeners, asked if she could have the bagged soil, and said she knew a guy who could take it to their community garden in Bushwick.

Below, Kim and the "guy": who turned out to be Rodrigo Gonzalez, who paints murals and makes beautiful art.

Off goes the extra topsoil. I warned them that it might be salty, from winter roads, but right now they are contending with lead-tainted soil and consider this an improvement.

Then we added some organic Vermont compost.

At last. Soft and fluffy soil the way I like it. Greenstreets will one day live up to its name. It has been brownstreets for too long.

It's going to feel good to lie flat tonight.

So this is Phase One.

9/12/09 Update: for follow-up and Things Growing try here, here, here aaaaaand here!


  1. Looks fun. You guys are good with the shovel, I'd expected some clay in there. I'll call HWV next time I get asked to plant a tree or two.

  2. Seeing a new/resurrected garden always gives me hope. I'm impressed at how quickly it all came together. (and I'm feeling slightly jealous over here)

  3. I am not a weepy woman, but my eyes misted as I read this...

  4. it's wonderful to see the progress you made already, and hear about the challenges (and rewards) of digging in a new york median. such a different world from my secluded plot.

  5. Marie, you're my hero!


  6. Way to go! You need to add a soundtrack of drums. This is all very exciting... It would make a great TV show, wouldn't it? Ideas?

  7. This is amazing. I'm so glad you're documenting it.

  8. wow! and goosbumps!! :) pritha


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