Balcony Gardening Time!

Balcony Gardening Time!

The exceptional warmth in May has given a good kick-start for our balcony garden. Peas and chives are already well on their way to our dinner table. Unfortunately the strong early spring sunshine was too much for our balcony apple tree, but maybe we’ll plant a new one. We are yet to see how our carrots, peppers, corn, lemons, various herbs and local meadow plants will flourish but the start has been fantastic!

Bilberry Pad & Portable Farm Exhibition @ JHL

Bilberry Pad & Portable Farm Exhibition @ JHL

An exhibition showcasing the Bilberry Pad and the Portable Farm projects is now open at JHL in Helsinki. Thanks to the generous supporters Kone Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Association, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, Messupuu and Piiraisen Viherpalvelu. And a big bow to everyone involved with the projects, we had a blast!

The Green Train – The Turntable by Dodo

The Green Train – The Turntable by Dodo

The environmental organization Dodo has built an interesting urban farming laboratory called Turntable on top of an old train turntable in Pasila, Helsinki. The Turntable has a greenhouse, an urban farm, a cafe and even a bouldering wall. The Turntable hosts all sorts of open events from urban farming workshops to punk concerts. Places like this really make cities worth living in. Let’s hope the city is clever enough to not destroy it when central Pasila is redeveloped in the near future.

Hiding Behind the Leaves – The Growroom

Hiding Behind the Leaves – The Growroom

At this year’s Helsinki Design Week we stumbled into this mesmerizingly green urban hideaway. The Growroom is designed by SPACE 10 and architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum. The structure of the Growroom consists of 17 sheets of plywood that are CNC-cut to form and connected by wood joints and metal screws. On top of this wooden structure you can start your urban farm. The Growroom can also be used as an urban meeting place. And the best part is that since the design is open source, you can easily build one yourself by following these instructions.

The installation and its luscious plants certainly brought a fresh breath of life to the sealed stone & concrete street of Keskuskatu. It was really nice to sit and relax for a while surrounded by all the beautiful plants. It would be nice to see biopods like this invading the whole city!

Update: The Movable Bilberry Pad – Berry Picking Time!

The Movable Bilberry Pad is now ready for action as the bilberries have grown ripe and tasty. As promised, we organized a bilberry picking event with the residents of Maijala Service Center in Kangasala.

The Pad brought a taste of Finnish fresh heath forest and wild berries to people who can not necessarily go berry picking in the woods anymore. The array of plants in the Pad includes bilberries, lingonberries, crowberries, different ferns, mosses, bunch grass and spruce. They all add to the haptic experience: the pad can be seen, smelled, tasted and interacted with. Also fauna had found its way to the pad and people were interested to see ants and long legged spiders climbing on the plants. The event was a warm occasion with lots of discussions about old berry picking memories.

The Pad modules were designed to be quite high for accessibility: the picking can be done sitting or standing. The module size was intentionally kept rather small for better portability and the modules proved to be easy to move. The modular system allows different layouts for every occasion. After the event the modules were taken to the central yard for everyone to enjoy during the rest of the summer and the fall. Thanks to all the wonderful people involved!

The project could not have been realized without the kind funding by Kone Foundation and The Finnish Cultural Foundation. Also Messupuu and Piiraisen Viherpalvelu were essential for generously providing the Siberian larch for the containers and the bilberry heath transplant. Hats off for all of them! And a bow you to Jussi & Marja-Liisa Manka who provided their yard for the heath transplant and the pad construction project and helped in transporting the goods! The wonderful people at Maijala Service Center and at the Services for the Elderly in Kangasala were also a joy to work with, thank you all!

Update: The Portable Farm – In Full Bloom

The Portable Farm has flourished during the summer in Kangasala. Flowers, herbs, vegetables and berry bushes are now in full bloom thanks to the gentle care by the residents of the Maijala Service Center. Some residents whisperingly confessed they had pinched some peas and berries from the farm. Not that alarming since the whole installation was specifically made for them to enjoy. It was also delightful to see the number of butterflies, bees, bumble-bees and flies buzzing around the plants. A bow to the wonderful people at Maijala!

The Project was funded by Kone Foundation and The Finnish Cultural Foundation and generously sponsored by Messupuu and Piiraisen Viherpalvelu. A big thank you for all of them!

Urban Herbs – Chives
ChivesUrban chives growing on a rock

Urban Herbs – Chives

Just found chives growing and flowering on a rock nearby. It doesn’t seem to need all that much soil. Wikipedia tells us that in addition to spicing up foods, chives can be used in pest control. Apparently the sulfur compounds in chives are repulsive to insects, although the flowers still attract bees. A solid choice for a balcony garden, then?

Jätkäsaari – Waiting For The Green

Jätkäsaari is a 100 hectare (250 acre) new neighbourhood in Helsinki, Finland. In the area that used to be the Western port of Helsinki, the construction of a 18 000 resident, 6 000 workplace new urban neighborhood is currently on the way. Thousands of people already live in Jätkäsaari, but the green areas and green elements in the public spaces are conspicuously absent.

Jätkäsaari will eventually get 20 hectares (490 acres) of public parks, including a large central park. But right now most of it is just a dusty fields reminiscent of Wild West imagery. Even the children’s playground is covered in rubber rather than anything living. When a large new area like Jätkäsaari is built in phases, the new residents often have to live years without proper green areas, surrounded by construction sites. In the Finnish urban development culture, the parks are usually built last, after the streets and buildings. That is because the city (that is responsible for building the parks) wants to gather a maximum amount of funds from the land sales before the construction of the recreational areas.

I like the relatively high urban density of the area but I really think there should be a much higher density of green spaces and structures as well. Bicycling around Jätkäsaari I could not help wondering if a bit more could be done to add green elements and spaces to the urban structure. Maybe the parks could be built in smaller phases? Why could there not be more trees on the streets and squares? Maybe small, movable green elements such as the ones featured on Nature Cots could be installed in public and private spaces?

Fortunately most of the block courtyards are quite green with vegetation since the car parking is mostly below grade. And there are a couple of trees and small vines on the streets as well. So at least the residents have some green spaces to resort to. But for the first residents the wait for the public green spaces has really been ruthlessly long. Let’s hope the city of Helsinki will speed up the construction of the green layer, add intensity to it and make Jätkäsaari become truly alive!

Update: The Movable Bilberry Pad – First Modules Ready

The first modules of The Movable Bilberry Pad are now ready. The Siberian larch container modules were planted with wild bilberries, lingonberries, crowberries and some other forest floor plants such as mosses and calluna.

Thank you for our sponsors Messupuu and Piiraisen Viherpalvelu and the project supporters Kone Foundation and the Finnish Cultural Foundation!

Update: Movable Bilberry Pad – The Heath Has Arrived!

The heath forest floor transplant that we will use for the Movable Bilberry Pad has arrived! Piiraisen Viherpalvelu delivered and installed the transplant swiftly. The forest floor transplant is shipped in a 2 m (6 ft) wide roll that contains 5 meters (16 ft) of heath ”carpet”. The transplant contains bilberry and lingonberry shrubs, various mosses, heather, crowberry and some other forest floor plants. For our installation we received 20 m2 of transplant that will be watered and cared for during the summer. In the fall we will move the healthiest plants to movable containers and take them to Maijala service center for the elderly in Kangasala.

Thanks a lot for our sponsors Piiraisen Viherpalvelu and Messupuu and supporters Kone Foundation and The Finnish Culture Foundation!

The Bobbing Forest in Rotterdam

In Rotterdam we saw this fabulous Bobbing Forest installation by the Dutch artist Jorge Bakker. The installation consists of floating buoys that have live trees planted in them. In the winds and waves of the Rijnhaven bay, the trees bob and sway around beautifully. The Bobbing Forest creates an interesting, new type of forest close to a very concrete-jungle part of Rotterdam. Kudos for the people who have made this happen!