Last Sunday, August 19th, we welcomed volunteers from all over New York City to our monthly Clean & Green event.  We were lucky enough to have friends from New York Cares join us this month too!  We had a great turnout.  There was plenty of mucking around by the Gowanus Canal, and we topped it off with delicious barbecue and beverages!

The main feature of this month’s Clean & Green was the launch of several “Floating Garden” experiments.  The Floating Gardens project is a small scale attempt to provide habitat for marine life, as well as remediate the waters of the Gowanus Canal through the creation of inventive floating gardens made of recyclable materials (such as plastic bottles).  We had three “garden” experiments…
1. Han’s Heron Platform

Volunteers built floating wooden platforms that herons can land on while passing over the Gowanus Canal.  The platforms have a nest of sticks underneath to harbor young fish, and the slatted platform allows the herons to snack on a few if they’re hungry.  Long ropes hang in the water under the platform, a perfect invitation for mussels to latch on… it’s communal living space in true Brooklyn style!

Constructing wooden bases

Styrofoam for flotation

Branches for fish to hide in

Open for visitors!

2. John’s Floating Tessellated Bottle Garden

John’s team constructed small floating planters using recycled plastic bottles, plastic netting, and zip ties.  Each “basket” cradles a small native plant (one we’ve found thriving on the banks of the canal).  The bottle planters are held together with rope and tubing, creating a floating garden anchored in the canal!

John instructs his team on the details of construction

Finished bottle planters–complete with plant!

Prepping for the final launch into the canal

It took a dedicated team, a canoe, and plenty of mud… but the garden was launched!

3. Alex & Arthur’s “Spills” Bucket Garden

Alex & Arthur came up with a garden designed for plastic buckets.  The upper part of each bucket had a plant in soil, and they used styrofoam partitions to created a pocket of air in the lower half of each bucket to keep it floating.  They bolted all the buckets together to keep them upright and stable in the canal.

Alex & Arthur discussing bucket strategies

Bucket garden is now afloat!

We were delighted to have Lila from Brooklyn Urban Garden School… she volunteered for the day, but she also gave a wonderful demonstration on testing the pH balance of the soil along the Gowanus Canal.  The results were surprisingly positive!

Lila explains the importance of soil pH measurements

Not only were volunteers working on the floating gardens, but we also had plenty of help in our ongoing compost project!

Sifting compost

Chipping wood and leaves for compost “lasagna”

Of course, what we always enjoy most about the Clean & Green days are the smiling faces of our many volunteers… we couldn’t do any of this without you, and we can’t thank you enough!!