Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Exeter Gardens- soil samples

The soil samples where sent to the Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory  located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

From their website:

Soil Sampling Instructions 
"The most critical step in soil testing is collecting the sample. It is important that you take the 
necessary steps to obtain a representative sample; a poor sample could result in erroneous 
The first step is to determine the area that will be represented by the sample. Soil physical 
appearance, texture, color, slope, drainage, and past management should be similar throughout 
the area. Avoid sampling very wet or recently fertilized soils. It may be helpful to draw a map 
of the property and identify areas where you will collect samples.  Using a clean bucket and a 
spade, auger, or sampling tube collect at least 10 to 15 subsamples to a depth of six to eight 
inches from random spots within the defined area. Avoid sampling field edges and other nonrepresentative areas.
Next, break up any lumps or clods of soil, remove stones and debris, and thoroughly mix
subsamples in the bucket. This step is very important, because only a few grams of your sample 
will be used for testing. Once the sample is thoroughly mixed, scoop out approximately one cup 
of soil and spread on a clean sheet of paper to air-dry. A fan set on low will help speed the 
drying; do not apply heat.
Place dry sample in a UMass Soil Testing Laboratory carton (obtained from the lab) or a plastic 
zip-lock bag. Do not submit wet soil samples to the lab. Label each box or zip-lock bag with 
your sample ID (you create this: limit of 5 characters). Send your sample(s), completed 
submission form and payment to the address listed on the front. Enclose check payable to UMass 
for $10 for each sample plus additional fees for optional tests requested."

Kickoff Of The Mayor's Spring Cleanup- Bethel St.

2012 Clean Community Competition also gets underway
WHO: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will join Director Alfred H. Foxx at a Power In Dirt vacant lot being converted into a green space in the Oliver Community to officially kickoff the 2012 Mayor’s Spring Cleanup. Launched in August, 2011, Power in Dirt is the City’s first comprehensive plan to specifically address vacant lots by engaging residents and organizations in their sustainable revitalization.
Volunteers from the community and members of the 6th Branch, Come Home Baltimore and the Veteran Artist Program will also attend this launch. In addition, the Mayor will announce the start of the first-ever Clean Community Competition.
WHEN: Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: 1501 N. Bethel Street
WHAT: Over 200 community organizations and 5,830 volunteers have signed up to clean up on Saturday, come rain or shine! This is the 13th Mayor’s Spring Cleanup and the 25th overall citywide cleanup. The Mayor’s Cleanups started in March 2000 when over a two-day period, volunteers removed 2,500 tons of debris from the areas around their neighborhoods. Since then total tonnage removed in all cleanups has reached nearly 90,000 tons!
Following the kickoff, the Mayor will visit other Power In Dirt community cleanups:
10:45 a.m. 3800 Park Heights Avenue; 11:10 a.m. 4300 Park Heights Avenue for a ribbon cutting for a new playground at what was last year’s Spring cleanup kickoff site; and at 12 noon at 2300 Annapolis Road.

Upton Edible Garden

568 Laurens Street

 The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and The U.S. Conference of Mayors nationwide GRO1000 gardens and green spaces program sponsored the Upton Edible Garden on April 18, 2012. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave her support at the launch. The  Baltimore Community Foundation’s Upton Kids Cook Healthy nutrition program will also be involved with gardening.

Spring Trees are here!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tool Drive!

On April 10th, Power in Dirt partnered once again with the Community Greening Resource Network for a very successful tool drive! The event was at Cylburn Arboretum in the Vollmer Center and was hosted by the Maryland Horticultural Society who generously offered free admittance to the evening's lecture for donating a tool. A wide variety of tools were given such as bulb planters, knee rests, and even a pair of gardening clogs! Thank you Maryland Horticultural Society for participating in the tool drive!

For more events at Cylburn:

For more Maryland Horticultural Society events:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Benefits of Vacant Lot Revitalization

Baltimore City has roughly 14,000 vacant lots throughout its neighborhoods. Revitalizing those vacant lots has lasting benefits.

Social Benefits

There are social benefits of vacant lot revitalization. The Broken Window Theory states that “a disorderly environment sends a message that no one is in charge, thus increasing fear, weakening community controls, and inviting criminal behavior.”[1] If there is one vacant lot in a neighborhood it can send a message to everyone that this neighborhood has a disorderly environment. If a neighborhood has many vacant lots, sometimes even into the hundreds in many of our Baltimore neighborhood, it sends an even stronger message.

Revitalizing a vacant lot can have a strong effect in changing that disorderly message. From a study done in Lowell, MA, the Boston Globe reports that cleaning up the physical environment in crime hot spots had was very effective on crim rates. The Boston Globe writes, “…changing the nature of a place had a stronger effect on crime than misdemeanor arrests.”[2]

One thing to note is that if you have more people out on the street doing positive activities - such as cleaning up and working on a vacant lot, you have more eyes outside and less of a chance of crime. A couple examples from Baltimore's own streets exemplify just that. The Duncan Street Miracle Garden in East Baltimore used to be a site of dumping and rape, and now it is safe enough that people feel comfortable working there alone on their garden plots. The Memory Garden in Sandtown Winchester was on a corner where there had been a number of shootings, and there have been none since.[3] Homestead Harvest community garden had drug related debris on the site which has since disappeared due to the garden's presence.

Mental Benefits

There are mental benefits that come with working outside. Many of the neighborhoods with lots of vacant lots do not necessarily have access to outside recreational areas. However, revitalizing a vacant lot can be that access to nature. “…contact with nature is supportive of healthy child development in several domains – cognitive, social, and emotional.”[4] Working outside can be a way to introduce children to nature, as well, as they help to revitalize a vacant lot.

Studies have been done that show how Nature's effect on your mental state is extremely positive. “University Professor Robert Ulrich found in…1984 that recovering surgical patients with a tree view had shorter postoperative stays, received fewer negative evaluations from attending nurses, used lower amounts of analgesic drugs, and had slightly fewer postsurgical complications. In subsequent research he has found that views of natural landscapes positively affect heat rate, brain waves, blood pressure, and muscle tension.”[5]


There are many physical benefits to vacant lot revitalization. Not only are you outside being active, but what you can produce on the space is good for you as well. For example, community gardens or urban agriculture. Did you know that urban agriculture is three to five times more productive per acre than large scale farming.[6]

Many of the areas in the City where there are a lot of vacant lots are also the sites of some of Baltimore's many food deserts. Raised beds on a vacant lot can provide access to nutritionally rich foods otherwise unavailable in Baltimore's Food Deserts. Studies show that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.


The environmental benefits of vacant lot revitalization are many. It effects our water: “Stormwater Management: Open Land, particularly spaces that easily soak up rain such as gardens turn stormwater from a pollutant to a resource. Rain absorbed into the soil is water that is not washing trash and toxic particles into the sewers and Chesapeake Bay.”[7] And our air quality - plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. And it reduces excess heat in the city – paved surfaces and roofs contribute to heat in cities and open spaces help balance this effect.


Finally, there are economic benefits. Low-wage Baltimore residents pay up to $704 more in groceries annually than wealthier Baltimoreans.[8] Low-income families tending to live in neighborhoods where there are more vacant lots could help this fact by growing a portion of their produce in revitalized vacant lots.

Housing is effected by vacant lots in an area as well - “It is estimated that a house on a block with vacant lots loses 4 to 11 percent of its value ($1,120 – $4,370) depending on the percentage of vacant lots, and that houses near maintained greened lots rose in value by an average of $13,000 (more than 13%).”[9]

If we took the time to revitalize vacant lots - the benefits are countless. When will we stand up and begin the change?

Thank you the Baltimore Green Space for many of the above factoids.

[1] Johnson, Carolyn. “Breakthrough on ‘Broken Windows’.” The Boston Globe, February 8, 2009.

[2] Johnson, Caroyln.

[3] Avins, Miriam. “Benefits of Urban Community Managed Open Space,”

[4] Taylor, Andrea Faber and Frances E. Kuo, “Is Contact with Nature Important for healthy Child Development? State of the Evidence,” in Children and Their Environments: Learning, Using and Designing Spaces. Cambridge University Press; 2006.

[5] Kirby, Ellen, and Elizabeth Peters. Community Gardening. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 2008.

[6] Community Gardening.

[7] Avins, Miriam.

[8] Overpriced and Underserved: How the Market is Failing Low-Wage Baltimoreans, Baltimore: Job Opportunities Task Force, 2007, p 93.

[9] Avins, Miriam, pulled from Susan Wachter, “The Determinants of Neighborhood Transformations in Philadelphia – Identification and Analysis: The New Kensington Pilot Study,” Wharton School, 2004.