Using Zero Carbon to Make a Local Garden

It may sound a little bit Amish but East Boston’s Neighborhood of Affordable Housing’s (NOAH)  Community Building and Environment Department’s youth crew led by Chris Marchi recently completed a ‘zero carbon’ rehabilitation of a garden and park on Border Street.

The park, that connects Meridian Street to Border Street near the former Meridian Street Library, received a complete overhaul by the youth crew.

The catch was that the crew used tools that required no emissions or fossil fuels to complete the task.

“Instead of using a gas powered lawn mower we used a push mower,” said Marchi. “Instead of using a gas operated leaf blower we used rakes. From start to finish it was done very efficiently and quickly using zero carbon. I think we have created a model of how parks around the city could be cleaned up using zero emissions.”

One day the crew had help from the Federal Reserve who sent staff to volunteer. Those volunteers, said Marchi, manually spike aerating the lawn.

“This lawn area gets full sun all day long,” said Marchi. “With the long dry spell this summer and no good source of water we needed to do a major overhaul here. By aerating the soil, water and nutrients can get down to the roots better without over using water sources.”

After aerating, the crew top-dressed the bare spots with composted manure mixed with a high traffic grass seed mix, then over-seeded the entire lawn with the grass seed.

“We then finished with an over-seeding of White Clover seed,” explained Marchi. “White Clover is a legume, which means it is a plant that has good nitrogen fixing properties. That means it is helpful to the soil. White Clover is also drought resistant. Interestingly, Clovers were a traditional part of lawn seed mixes until broad-leaf herbicides such as those used in modern commercially available seed and feed mixes were developed. Those herbicides kill Clovers. So to get around this, the grass seed companies decided to classify Clovers as weeds. How’s about that?”

The park’s concrete retaining walls had been tagged with graffiti as had the walls of the Church Building on the right side of the Park. The Youth wanted to improve the overall appearance, so they looked around the neighborhood for some cues.

“With very rare exception, the built environment in the area is brick, so we decided to ‘brick’ the park,” said Marchi. “We used sponges cut to the shape of bricks and red paint and went to work.”

In the end the entire park, which includes a community garden at the foot along border street was transformed in an environmentally friendly manner.

“It takes a little more elbow grease but we got the job done,” said Marchi.

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