This double planting features winter leaf vegetables and spring tulips. There’s red leaf lettuce, mizuna, and shungiku, an edible chrysanthemum. My mother-in-law reports that the balcony shungiku tastes “better than Rainbow Grocery vegetables in San Francisco.” I found the leaf vegetables at the Aoyama UN Farmers market stall that sells heirloom starter plants for 100 yen.
Walking down a large boulevard in Higashi Koenji, I was surprised to see these potted vegetables on the sidewalk. In addition to ginko trees, this street has many azaleas between the vehicle lanes and the pedestrian sidewalk. In this spot, there’s a semi-permanent row of pots. But these eggplants and tomatoes are an extra row that someone temporarily set up.
I love how seasonal and impromptu this vegetable gardening is. And, after almost two years in Japan, I am still startled that people can place plants they love on the street, and no one eats the vegetables, vandalizes, or steals the plants. A city that’s safe for vegetables and plants is one that also welcomes people.
This year I am experimenting with many types of vegetables and fruit in my balcony garden: kiwi, eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, bitter melon, corn, and lemon. Plus I have two types of thyme, parsley, rosemary, and basil.
These photos are from May when I planted the starter plants in these soft fabric pots and coconut husk soil. I added marigolds for color and possible bug and pest repellant. I am not sure what will happen with some of these vegetables: will they produce food? help shape the summer green curtain?
I like to think of these vegetables as experiments, as fun, and equal parts food and decoration. Almost all vegetables and fruit provide greenery, flowers, and, in the case of lemons, fragrance.
Rebar, an art and urban planning project in San Francisco, has just unveiled their first prototype of a street-side “walklet.” Rebar became famous for converting parking spots one day every year into inventive urban parks. The event grew, and drew more and more people around the world who changed the streetscape for one day. Now, Rebar is putting in semi-permanent “walklets” with benches, tables, bike parking, and planters on top of parking spaces. The project has been OK’d for six months, and can be continued if well received.
This is genius!
To quote from Rebar’s site:
Inspired by Rebar’s PARK(ing) Day and other efforts to convert parking spaces into people places, cities around the United States are transforming excess roadway into public plazas, pocket parks and experimental sites for new forms of urban infrastructure.
To help support this growing trend, Rebar has created “Walklet”—a modular, flexible sidewalk extension system designed to create new public spaces for people by extending the pedestrian realm into the parking lane.
The installation at 22nd and Bartlett in San Francisco is part of a pilot project supported by the City. The collection of benches, planters, bike parking, and tables, sheathed in stained bamboo and red wood, will be in place for six months, and if it’s well-received, could remain in place indefinitely.
The prototype has been arranged to suit the needs of that neighborhood’s site, but Walklet are incredibly adaptable. Each three-foot wide Walklet module provides a single, specific program that can be mixed and matched with other Walklet modules to create the right design combination for each unique site. Walklet extends the sidewalk surface into the street but provides much more than just a place to walk—it creates an adjustable, flexible, full-scale laboratory for developing and refining the perfect combination of user programs.
Like Flora Grubb Gardens, I, too, wonder what will they plant?!
Update: Here are photos of the planting.
The Saipan lemon tree I planted on my balcony last year is full of blowers: what a great scent, and hope for future lemons. I have been doing a lot of gardening now that the weather has gotten warmer: planting seedlings, buying vegetable starters, trying out a new coconut husk soil, purchasing a few large flowers and shrubs, and generally filling up the balcony with plants, flowers, and dreams. I’ll be posting more photos soon.
An interesting video from CNN about one Kawasaki family’s choices in constructing a house with minimal environmental impact: passive daytime lighting, low flow faucets, double paned windows, solar water heater, and a roof garden for cooling the home and providing vegetables. There is also discussion of Panasonic’s Eco Idea House with an energy management network and fuel cells.
Panasonic projects a 66% reduction in carbon emission levels from 1990 to 2010 in the house of the future. And it also envisions “universal design” principles to allow for optimal usage by the elderly and disabled.
The floor plan shows the existence of “grandmother’s room” and a home theater room, along with a “wellness corner” and “energy corner.”
In Japan, all corporations have “Corporate Social Responsibility” groups, and most of them focus on the environment. Some corporations have grant-making foundations (such as Coca Cola Japan), and others have green businesses (Japan’s largest car company Toyota and largest beverage company Suntory both have green roof subsidiaries).
Starting on April 1, 2008, nineteen large companies formed the Japan Business Initiative for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (JBIB). Members include major electronics, construction, housing, insurance, food and telecommunication companies. I am hoping to learn more about this group, and its efforts to become corporate leaders in advocating for biodiversity.
Shortly before it closed for renovations, I visited an unusual basement farm set up by one of Japan’s largest staffing agency Pasona. Named Pasona o2 (a summary in English here), this underground farm aims to raise popular awareness of agriculture, provide relaxation for nearby office workers, and attract media attention: