Thursday, October 22, 2009


The Greenhouse Project at Gardens of Troy uses the shadehouse for several purposes: seed propagation, storage of materials, and it serves us as a classroom for teaching TROY students about botany, science and organic gardening. In collaboration with the Miami Dade College Architecture Department, we are fortunate to have Professor Maria Zabala take an active role in redesigning TROY's shadehouse/greenhouse. Under her mentorship and for class credits, Professor Zabala's students are engineering an energy-efficient and ecologically-sound building structure where TROY students will continue to learn, grow organic plants, and experiment with gardening projects. With the help of MDC's Architecture students, the younger students at TROY Academy will benefit from having an improved state-of-the-art environment from which to become inspired. The new shadehouse will surely improve not only the aesthetic of TROY's grounds, it will undoubtedly give the Greenhouse Project a shadehouse structure to match our vision. This collaborative effort of MDC and TROY is yet another example of a community that comes together to form a path to a better future for our at-risk youths.

October 7th, 2009 was a special day for the Greenhouse Project as I had the privilege of joining Professor Maria Zabala's Architecture 2023 class for their Mid-Project Review. Our panel, Professor Zabala, James Jiler, Professor Jaime Correa and me, Maggie Arias, were so pleased to see the students' design presentations. Equipped with models, bulletins, tons of research and innovative approaches to sustainable designing, these MDC students displayed their talents as well as their abilities to be unique, innovative, artistic and efficient. Thank you!!!
Jaime E. Correa, Professor of Architecture at the University of Miami for over 20 years, added some pointers for enhancing design features in the MDC students' presentation, Professor Correa is seen with Michel, our first presentor of the day...additionally, we were joined by reknowned Horticulturalist and Community Organizer, James Jiler, author of the book, "Doing Time in the Garden" --- the book upon which our Greenhouse Project at Gardens of Troy was based!
Miguel's design inspiration was based on soil topography - the concept of linear and curvilinear components of soil and sediment; he also did a great job researching and analyzing sun exposure at TROY and the best possible locations for planting vs. bldg structures; his design also had a section dedicated to a meditation/recreation area equipped with benches and a water pump
Kathleen's designing inspiration was the concept of “dissolving boundaries,” incorporating windchimes, water, and vegetation to her detailed design
Though it's hard to tell from her model, there's a water catchment system as well
Rochelle's design inspiration was from the development stages of an embryo as well as waves like from the ocean; her model was spacious and provided for secure storage for materials and garden tools
Tuyet's design inspiration was her own son and the stages of growth, from infancy to adolecence to adulthood...much like the seeds, seedlings, plants and fruit trees at the gardens of troy :o)
Though she had 3 separate models (a greenhouse, a teaching area and a sitting area), her design's strength was in water conservation and ventilation

Humberto's inspiration, the ylang-ylang flower, with its fragrant and inviting scent, was a simple design with a breath of fresh air...the design was spacious and included "retractible screens" for the shadehouse, allowing for additional ventilation in the hot summer months and sporadically hot days here in Miami
Kevin's design based on the concept of "connection" expanded the size of our current shadehouse/greenhouse; while the entrance way was a bit complex, Kevin's research into different colored mesh used purposefully for the growth rates of different vegetables was innovative and provided us with a unique and efficient method for protecting seedlings from harsh heat that could otherwise penetrate the regular black mesh
Stanley's design inspiration was derived from the art of music and the movement between beats going up an down...his design also allowed for a water catchment system
Japanese architecture plays a role in Jesus' redesign of the shadehouse, using movable pods and modules that can form larger structures...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Change is Good!

This garden bed contains two different varieties of basil, some lemmon grass, a pineapple and some an effort to diversify and refertilize the soil, we will soon be making changes to this for it!

Elizabeth, star volunteer, weeds the butterfly attractors!

Our very first baby papaya!!! YAY!
MULCH MULCH MULCH!!! It is important to mulch: 1) It keeps weeds down, mainly by blocking out light they need in order to germinate, 2) It conserves soil moisture by reducing evaporation, 3) It Moderates the temperature in garden beds; keeps them cooler in the summer and reduces the risk of damage to plant roots in the winter, 4) It keeps the soil from splashing onto loeaves when garden bed is watered, 5) Organic mulch adds all-important humus to the soil as it decomposes, and keeps the top layer of soil loose and airy.

After tilling the soil, adding compost and a mixture of elephant dung, Troy student, Thomas (left) and Volunteer, Luis, plant some new tomatoes carefully into our very first garden bed. These plants are no more than 6-8 inches tall. They pack the soil tightly, to prevent air-pockets in the ground; air-pockets would prevent the tomato roots from making contact with the nutrient-rich soil.
Troy Gardeners know the basics of planting new additions to the garden; here, a tomato plug purchased at Home Depot is contained in a cardboard-like pot which can be planted directly into the ground; we first remove the bottom portion, so that the roots make contact with the mixed soil inside the garden bed.
Every now and again, a garden bed needs "changing", after noticing that the blueberries were not doing well in the soil, we decided to re-pot them and plant two tomatoes instead; here, Elijah's getting ready for planting the new tomatoes.