Garden on Zero Land – I learned about ocean growth in the shade of 9/11

If They listen, I mean Really Listen, you will hear your garden talking to you. On the morning of September 20, my first visit to Manhattan, on the 10th floor of the World Trade Center stone-throwing, spoke to me. I had a judging duty that day and decided to travel two miles south of my home in the village of Greenwich In court in the Financial District.

But as I turned south toward 6th Street, I looked up to see an orange hole burning in the middle of the tower in front of me. A woman nearby screamed for help when the plane crashed into the road. It doesn’t seem like a good day to go downtown; But something forced me to move south. As I approached a gas station on Canal Street, a boom came and smoke billowed from behind the tower. “What was it?” I asked the taxi driver, who filled the nearby tank. “Well, look at those two buildings connected to the pipes,” said an unsuspecting official at the New York Cabinet. “When you find fire, it spreads, and in the other you find fire. It made sense, I thought and I headed south.

Paul Greenberg adjusts the lights in the garden.
Greenberg adjusts the light in the garden. Photograph – Katherine Marcus

At one point, people in uniform began running, and then they began to run in the opposite direction. Follow them with rotating office papers. I continued south. Somewhere along Walker Street, I was stopped by a police officer. “Friend, where do you think you are going?” he said.

I prepared my summons and went to court. “I have a duty to judge”

“you know?” The policeman raised his hand. “Judges Say Goodbye” The rest of the day, they say, is history. I went home and watched the towers fall in real time.

A year later, my friend Esther came up with a plan for a 1,200-square-foot[1,200 sq m]plan in a building that had been built in 1927, in the shadow of the now-defunct towers. Government grants designed to revitalize the district made it cheaper than the Hepster area in Brooklyn. The basketball court, which shared two other apartments, had a large terrace. Later we started dating. Then I went inside.

Shortly thereafter, I started gardening.

The basketball court has a large terrace, shared with two other apartments and neglected by one Liberty Plaza.
The basketball court, which shares two apartments, has been neglected by One Liberty Plaza. Photograph – Katherine Marcus

Why a garden in this very cramped, unusual place? Why would anyone want to grow up in a neighborhood where no one dares to waste even a single piece of land on a small greenhouse with the power of capitalism, the shoulders of glass, and the value of real estate? Like New York, I have a tendency to avoid spirituality like the West Coast, but I think the garden was something that told me about the world, and I believe that there was a big burning hole in the building next door. Planting. The planes that landed on the twin towers did not fall from the clear blue sky. The United States was pursuing a geopolitical strategy for oil production. That ever-expanding infrastructure seems to be part of a waste of gambling that I do not want to participate in. So, when I am on Earth, it seems natural to try to bring into the world something that is against all that.

Well, garden. Not wasted, but used for garbage. One thing is, “Stop the spread and do what you can.” But the early signs that something was blooming on my porch were not good. In the summer, the sun shines on a Liberty Plaza for three hours before the sun disappears behind a black, Mordor-like building. As the backbone of the bamboo plant rolled in one corner, Esther’s ex-lover’s photo lamp lay on a brutal bamboo window. Our neighbor hung baskets of pansies, giving a pleasant summer explosion. But after the sun rose, they did not stop drinking. That first winter, all I could do was watch the dead die.

But my first lesson in how to live was to see things die. When I first looked at the results, I realized that the best flowers were on the tops. A few extra feet of light indicates the difference between falling and prospering. It was then that I warned Simon, the Russian architect, that I was looking for good rubbish. In the Soviet tradition, Simon, who was almost indifferent to throwing anything at anything, obeyed. He soon abandoned the boards, the broken cabinets, and all the bricks that had helped him grow the garden.

Paul Greenberg with strawberry (front) and concord wine (top), one of the two grapes in the garden.
Greenberg with grapefruit (front) and concord wine (above), one of two grapes in the garden. Photograph – Katherine Marcus

To match my growing state, I found plants that went along the same vertical axis. Malabar Spinach, a green lettuce, was developed at the Manhattan highlands for heat tolerance and acrophilia. In summer two, my trellises were high with grapevines, and thanks to the salad season (flaxseed and other heat-resistant vegetables such as chard and collar greens), from cold spring to very hot summer.

Frontenac Wines - Every few years the wines produce enough for one bottle of wine
Frontenac Wines – Every few years the grapes produce enough for one bottle of wine. Photograph – Katherine Marcus

As I stood at the starting point, the garden began to tell me something else – that radiant light was as good as direct light. Around me, as the towers of the World Trade Center began to be erected, a “sunny rabbit” shone from window to window as Simeon called them in Russian. What if sunny rabbits work in my case? Many old screen doors and floorboards were sleeping. What if I make them in solar panels? It turned out to be very easy to do. Heavy-duty aluminum sheets were spread out over the door frames. Later, I switched to a more durable and efficient Miller paper. At the time, the tomato plants I bought from kindergarten were deceived. In fact, it blossomed and sunny rabbits were made to produce a few sour tomatoes.

About half a decade later, the garden was still growing. He told me that I had to grow 10 varieties from seed and choose the ones that were richer than the ones I bought from the nursery. I converted a photo booth into a kindergarten and set up overlapping lights. Electricity bills have increased. I changed the bulbs to LDs. The bills are down. And now I’m switching my electricity supply to a renewable energy provider, hoping to deliver the carbon footprint to Neil. All of my energy-saving, nearby Mendelia tomatoes experiments worked wonders. Two varieties – egg yolk and black cherry – are excellent. I have worked with their descendants ever since.

A glimpse of a garden designed by Paul Greenberg on the porch of New York
Ecology began to grow around my garden. Even snails have appeared. ‘ Photograph – Katherine Marcus

This same method works with other options. One of the eight fruit trees (unfortunately, I don’t remember which one) is now planted on a fence that protects the plant from strong winds from the East River. In early 2010, four grapes were harvested. They produced only two plants during the year – Granak and Concord. These two wines are the mother of countless cutters scattered around the porch. Every few years, the grapes produce enough grapes for what I call cheetah null.

I created a fertilizer system. Two large garbage cans were placed in the far corner where no one could smell them. Below, two aluminum trays sit down to collect the “rotten tea” that is spread all over the body. This elliptical stopped the yellowing of my crops – and I finally had time to grow fully on my hands.

Tuscan Cale.
Tuscan Cale on the porch. Photograph – Katherine Marcus

As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, construction on Earth Zero is nearing completion, thanks for the brief morning light. For me and Esther, and for our teenage son, this was a special blessing last year. The increased light and heat caused thousands of people in New York, including our beloved Russian engineer Simon, to occasionally be welcomed out of the house, away from socializing with friends.

Now, as we try to restore the foundation of life, I notice how ecosystems have begun to form around my garden. Bumblebees harvested and defiled my crops, and swallowing and sparrows became home to feed on caterpillars trying to crush my tomatoes. I even saw wood. There are a few too many pigeons, but I think I could find a suitable shelter for golf. I’m sure such a bird would not enjoy the simple pigeon breakfast I could give her. Even snails have appeared this year. When I asked the ecologist Carl Safina how to get to the 10th floor, he replied, “Very slowly.”

And that, in short, is how they build a garden on ground zero. Very slowly, when you feel your way, you feel the way to nature. Nature finds its way, even in the realm of the living. You just have to listen to him.

Paul Greenberg’s latest book is climate nutrition, published by the Penguin Press.

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