A Brief Romance with a Weed

Today, EPA guides activated the urban weeds garden and engaged visitors in a range of experiences. We experimented with a new score developed by Andrea that continues her Radical Care Sitting practice asking participants to create a weedy collective plant label in response to a series of embodied inquiries. Catherine also shared three new scores developed for the garden, including one called A Brief Romance with a Weed. And Chris began to explore (Outer)Field Science Practices – experimenting with novel approaches to urban geology, plant identification, meteorology, and neighborhood mapping.

Bull thistle en vogue

A patch of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) are almost in full vogue at the EPA Weeds Garden. We can already see bright purple blooms surrounded by a thorny exterior that stands nearly 6.5 feet tall. The thistle can produce about 100 to 300 seeds per flowerhead, and anywhere from 1 to over 400 flowerheads per plant. The majority of seeds fall close to the base of the plant, while dense patterns of seedlings radiate outward from the mother. The thistle is strongest when flowering, and most resistant to chemical herbicides in this stage of its development.

We invite you to stand tall and vogue like the thistle.

Mycoremediation test patch for desert island

Today we started to experiment with mycoremediation strategies – using fungi to build and stabilize damaged soil. Using pearl oyster spawn donated by Chloe Zimmerman and Jan Mun – we’ve created a one square foot test patch in a particularly toxic area of the Urban Weeds Community Garden know colloquially as desert island. The soil is currently high in heavy metals like lead and copper, as well as oil from its past use as an auto repair shop. To provide coverage and food for our fungi friends, we also spread a layer of excess sawdust from a local furniture maker down the street. After a month we’ll test and compare soil samples from the test patch and surrounding area.

Radical Care Sitting: Offering refuge to a crown vetch and other weedy species

Artist andrea haenggi engages in her practice of radical care sitting, providing refuge for the spontaneous urban plants of Pacific Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Today we start by surveying a nearby lot that will soon be paved over with cement and asphalt. We look closely amongst the rubble for plants that need a home. At first we only see nightshade, tree of heaven, and a field of knotweed.

We then find a young crown vetch (Securigera varia) and what we think may be the humble beginnings of a devil’s beggarticks (Bidens frondosa). In the video above, andrea extracts the crown vetch to begin its relocation to the Urban Weeds Community Garden at the Environmental Performance Agency.

We hope these plants will take root and find refuge here at the EPA.

Airing Out the Mugwort + Plant-based Dye Making

At the EPA today, we’ve been caring for the Urban Weeds Community Garden by “airing out” some of the Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) that has taken root throughout the site. As a rhizomatic plant, Mugwort extends its roots horizontally and is able to develop a complex and thick network with just a small amount of soil or permeable surface. Rather than merely disposing of our Mugwort friends and mentors, we are experimenting with natural dye making – using the leaves of the Mugwort as a pigment for textiles. Above is documentation from some of our experiments. We used a recipe of boiling water for 90 minutes with the plant fully submerged. We’ll let it cool over night, and boil again for 60 minutes, and then the dye should be ready for dipping.

Urban Weeds Community Garden Mapping: day 1

EPA explores the eastern half of Pacific Street, extending the Urban Weeds Community Garden to include the MTA island and Luck Garden.

A process of Radical Care Sitting (pictured above) offers an inventory and extraction of waste so the plants can breathe and talk to us again.

radical care sitting

A field report from the EPA’s radical care sitter, andrea haenggi:

“The EPA’s neighbor Milton, who has a Truck Repair business, did not get a new lease from the landlord. After 15 years in business he was forced to move. He has found a temporary place but told us that this is not easy and he may have to leave New York. Milton loves plants and we decided to rescue one of his wild plants since we know the landlord will come with the bulldozers, as he did with the other yard, and concrete the place. We transplanted the plant to the EPA Urban Weeds Community Garden.”