Complementary Gardening – The Energy of a Vacant Lot

© chriscondello 2013

“Clover Sunset” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

So… I am in the process of writing a book… The name of which is yet to be determined… I actually like that… Yet to be determined… The book is a gardening book… It will include original photography… Poetry… And artwork… Though I see all my gardens as art… I guess my goal in writing this book is to make you see like that… You can be the judge… This is a piece of a chapter… It is currently unedited… This is just a preview… I may post another tomorrow…

Life and the events surrounding it create energy fields that accompany those who live it. These energy fields are a physical manifestation of the metaphysical realm that are commonly misinterpreted. The overall tone of this energy is a variable based on many factors, but is typically a snapshot of an individual’s emotions and spirit in life. Many people believe that this energy goes with you whenever you die. I personally believe just the opposite. I believe the energy remains here on earth. It is never destroyed and therefore has a continuing role in the lives of those left behind.

Soil, is a product of nature and death. Living organisms must be sacrificed to make it rich in nutrients. Metaphysical energy is similar in that it needs to be created by life. It requires a human to store it within themselves, and ultimately transfer it to something else. In its most basic form, the transfer of DNA into the soil when we are working with it is a physical connection from our bodies to the earth. When a human being touches a plant, a transfer occurs that not many people even think of. Our skin wears off onto the plant, and the plant rubs off on our skin. This direct connection is only scraping the outer layer of the concept, the depths of which are only limited by your beliefs.

Vacant urban lots are interesting in that they very often contained a house at one time. A home is an energy magnet, and most people immediately feel it upon entering a home. The energy that is found is a direct result of past events and emotions. A home that is one-hundred years old has built up a massive amount of energy. When a home is demolished, the energy remaining does not go the way of the house, it is rooted in the lot. This energy cannot be destroyed, and I don’t believe it has the ability to travel. So the energy just waits for someone to come along and do something with it, and that someone is you.

To facilitate rapid population booms, our urban centers developed rather quickly. Lots that were originally intended to include one house, were quickly sub-divided and often had four houses built instead of the intended single. Neighborhoods were eventually built so tightly, green space became almost non-existent. Flash forward to today and you will notice that although many of these urban neighborhoods still exist. You will still see the scars of past bad memories dotting the landscape. A home burning down, or a bank foreclosure are not happy experiences, therefore the energy created is rarely positive. This is not a reason for despair, negative energy can always be converted into positive energy through gardening.

Urban gardening is just one method of achieving this energy change. In my own experiences, this energy change has the ability to help people forget the events that lead to the bad energy in the first place. Abandoned homes and vacant lots often sit unused for years. These monuments of negativity are a part of the reason many of these neighborhoods can’t get out of the rut they are in. Blight and abandonment carry very negative energy. A home does not become abandoned for good reasons. Likewise, an empty urban lot often has a story to tell as well… And that story is never a good one…

Gardening is one of the few positive influences an individual can have on the negative energy created by blight. Though much of the general population believes the only way to change a blighted neighborhood is through demolition and rebuilding, or remodeling. One of the most important aspects of permaculture, is the inclusion of all species. Humans always seem to feel that they are the primary element, when in fact we are just a tiny part of the system as a whole. The empty spaces that pop up in our urban landscapes are there for a reason. This reason will vary, but in most cases over-crowding is evident. When a space does open up, it is of paramount importance that we claim it for nature.

When an abandoned house is demolished, the second and third floors are stripped and thrown in a dumpster. The remaining structure is crushed into the basement, and then covered over with cheap fill. For this reason a vacant lot is something of a graveyard. The memories and energy from the original structure have not left. Although the physical material has been buried, over time it is distributed through leaching and dust settlement. A vacant lot is sacred ground, and should therefore be treated as such.

When we walk on the remains of a home, we are walking on the residual energy of everyone who has lived there. At the very least, remnants of their DNA are present in the house. Therefore by extension, you are practically walking on a grave. Now, I’m not trying to say that it should be treated with the same respect as an actual graveyard what I am saying is that one needs to consider this to understand the true magnitude of what urban gardening can be. When you take the time to look at all of the individual connections, both physical and metaphysical the true meaning of gardening will become apparent.

The nutrients required to sustain life come from the decomposition of living organisms. Although soil can be created by the weathering of objects like rocks, the soil never truly becomes rich in nutrients unless decomposing organic material is added. This occurs naturally, and over time can turn even the most inhospitable soils into healthy loam.

Vacant lots are similar in that the soil used for fill is commonly the cheapest material available. The plants that do initially grow, are designed to thrive in inhospitable conditions. Many of these weeds flourish in recently disturbed clay soils. These plants are typically extremely fast growers, and although they are perennial almost always die back in the winter. The resulting plant material decomposes, and the following year the process repeats until enough nutrients have built up to allow a different cycle of vegetation to take its course. This process can take years, and if left to its own devices will eventually culminate in a forest… A small forest… But forest none the less…

As gardeners we can interrupt this cycle at any point. Although it is possible, I personally believe the best results are attained by letting a lot rest for a number of years before any kind of gardening is concerned. Any time food is to be grown, a settling out period of a minimum of ten years is what I recommend; followed by a rigorous round of soil tests and the proper remediation. If your intention is to grow only ornamental plants, you could probably skip the settling period and go straight to planting beneficial plants and trees.

It is very important to take note of what stage a lot is in before you begin working. Oftentimes, if you are working immediately after a demolition, the soil will be very hard and compacted from being run over by heavy equipment. You see, it takes time for nature to work through this type of soil. Although we can quickly power through it given the right tools and money, it can be done with a lot less effort if we just let nature do its thing.

Time or the availability of vacant lots will not always allow us the ability to wait for nature. In which case we just have to roll up our sleeves, and dig right in. If organic material is not available on site, then you will have to bring it on site from elsewhere. Leaves, grass clipping, kitchen scraps, hell even newspaper can be utilized to begin adding organic material. The bad energy created by a vacant lot wont ever go away, but it can be changed. This change always begins in the soil, in order to heal the energy of the lot we must first heal the soil. Everything that grows in this lot will grow from the soil, it should be treated as you would treat your own home.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Practical Permaculture – End of an Era – Complementary Gardening

YellowClimber

“Climbing Higher” – Yellow Tulip against an abandoned house… Ivy climbing out of the litter covered ground… Reaching for the top… Looking for clear skies…

So after a year of consideration, I have decided to stop promoting permaculture. Although I will still study and reference it, my focus will no longer be centered on a movement that I see as not being a very accepting group of those looking to bend the rules. Now, it is not that I think permaculture is bad. In fact, I think just the opposite believing that the ethics and principles could do a lot of good in this world when applied properly.

I first heard about permaculture during a stay in the fabulous Western Psychiatric Bed and Breakfast circa 2007, a fellow patient was nice enough to let me borrow her yoga magazine. Tucked neatly in the middle of the magazine was a small article about permaculture, it just touched on the subject but was more than enough to spark my curiosity. The entire article was only a page long, but while reading the article I was blown away with the idea of gardening in harmony with nature. I still remember getting goose bumps while reading the article, it was such a mind opening experience that writing about it now is giving me chills.

Permaculture seemed perfect for me, it was essentially a low investment style of gardening that promised yields equivalent to, or greater than conventional methods. Even more interesting for me was the fact that many of the solutions to common problems were solved using nature. Although these methods are much slower, they accomplish the same goals using less harmful methods than conventional agriculture.

This journey through permaculture has sadly left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So much so that I have decided to drop the “Practical Permaculture” name in my blog posts. Permaculture does not sufficiently describe what I do, in fact… It does not describe what any of us do… Nothing we do in this day and age is permanent except the records our governments keep of us. It doesn’t matter if you plant a one-hundred acre food forest, if the right person decides they don’t want it… It will be demolished in less than a day…

None of us are creating permanent spaces, and there is absolutely no such thing as permanent-agriculture… Or permanent culture for that matter… There are trends… And I personally believe permaculture is just that… A trend… People are always looking for maximum output, using the minimum amount of input possible. This promise of permaculture is one of the aspects that seems to draw people in, the reality is what will ultimately chase them away.

Permaculture has become the go-to excuse of the lazy gardener. Now, I’m not saying all permaculturists are lazy people, in fact I think just the opposite, but I do see an alarmingly large number of people trying to use it as an excuse to not pull weeds. Permaculture propaganda is also often sold as a style of gardening that is virtually work free, the common misconception being that after the system is installed… It needs no further maintenance ever.

Sadly, this is so far from the truth that it often hurts unsuspecting gardeners when they realize the 25 dwarf fruit trees they just put in their yard actually do require an enormous amount of annual maintenance… Even worse is the fact that very few homeowners are willing to pay for an unorganized orchard… No matter how much you have invested…  I can’t even begin to convey how quickly a dwarf fruit trees production will decline when it is not pruned and maintained on a regular basis. I have seen dwarf fruit trees with so many branches and leaves that the tree barely has enough energy to produce even a single fruit… When I inquire as to the lack of maintenance… The answer is often “permaculture”…

WaterTulip

“Morning Light after an Evening Rain” – Spring 2013 – Simply because it is a beautiful shot…

Permaculture teaches that biodiversity solves all problems… And yes… It does help… But it is not the silver bullet it is made out to be… Problems will regularly pop up, it makes no difference whether you have one of every tree in the forest growing in your yard. Likewise, a healthy perennial guild, (though pretty) is not guaranteed to accomplish anything other than looking nice. We can speculate that specific plants will serve an intended purpose, but there is no guarantee. This stuff often gets sold as “fact”, when in reality… It is nothing more than theory…

So where do I go from here? Well, I have decided that the term permaculture is too limiting for me. After receiving countless emails and comments from snooty permaculturists around the world pointing out the fact that since I am an ornamental gardener… I have no business calling myself a permaculturist… Likewise, I receive an equally alarming amount of comments and emails telling me that since I do not have a permaculture design certificate… I have no business writing this blog…

I can safely say I have been a gardener my entire life or 32 years, I have always just had a way with plants. Even when I was deep in the depths of addiction, gardening was the only positive influence I made time for. Over the past three years, I have written about permaculture in a public forum (this blog) on a regular basis. My permaculture posts have reached tens of thousands of people around the world, which is more than many of the people bashing me online can say. Throw in the little fact that I do this for free, and I personally believe I have paid my dues in the permaculture (and gardening) world.

So the big question for me has been where to go from here. Given my current and past dissatisfaction with the permaculture world, I no longer find it “personally beneficial” to support a movement that ultimately considers me a nuisance because I refuse to fully conform to their ideals… Reminds me of religion… Or a cult… This got me thinking, what is it that I actually do?.. What is it that I actually believe…

I garden because it makes me feel good… What I do in my garden affects everything around me… My ultimate goal is to compliment myself and my surroundings… Whether nature or human through the gardens I create… Because of this… I have decided from this point forward I will no longer write my articles under the heading of “Practical Permaculture”… But will now call them “Complimentary Gardening”, followed by the subject of my post…

I feel Complimentary Gardening is a much better term for what I do… I mean… The urban nature of my gardens alone makes the permanence of them somewhat of a mystery… Urban property tends to either be worthless… Or ridiculously valuable… Some day… The value of the land to a homeowner could very well be worth more than the tiny community garden that currently occupies this space… And if it comes down to the court system… The gardens will surely lose…

I now recognize that what we are doing is not permanent… It doesn’t matter how many trees… Or how many perennials you incorporate… Nothing is permanent… At the very least… The gardener moves on to another place… And unless someone with an equal appreciation of permaculture takes over… The system is ultimately doomed… For this reason… And many others… I am done promoting permaculture… I am now promoting myself… And the individuals I personally believe are on the right track… The style of gardening makes no difference to me… But the beliefs and intentions of the gardener do…

This new format I am exploring will allow me to write about any style of gardening without feeling the need to relate it to food or the movement. I am interested in all styles of gardening, not just the types that fall under the term permaculture… I want to be able to write about a flower just because it is pretty or I like it… I no longer want to have to figure out a way that you could use it productively… In my mind… If a plant makes me feel good in any way… Well then… That is all I need to personally believe a plant is beneficial… I want to explore beyond food… So I will…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

I also accept Bitcoin donations… My digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.