My Garden Experiment: Season 3 - Passive Design in Security 

In season two of this gardening blog post, I discussed our extreme enthusiasm for having access to this hidden gem, the Bronx Community Garden. It was an incredible opportunity to grow our own organic vegetables and have a direct link from our garden bed to our kitchen table. We babied it by visiting, watering, pruning, and de-weeding daily or several times a day.

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My last post was an effort to learn how to evolve and grow better stronger plants, now that I understood the space and its environment a bit better. Having had the experience of studying for the Architectural Registration Exams, I learned all about passive design. I took those ideas and created methods for better gardening. I made a presentation to the entire Bronx community of gardeners to share these ideas in an effort to empower gardeners to dig deeper, understand their own beds and environment, and learn to evolve their techniques based on facts.

From my last post (Our Own Little Garden Experiment) you can see I reorganized my plants according to their natural growing seasons, maximum height, and need for sunlight. After studying the effects of this experiment, we ended up with a more hearty and fruitful bed of vegetables and colorful flowers. When the season of some plants ended, it was timed so that the next one was flourishing. 

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As this new growing season is beginning, I have decided to take my passive design strategies a bit further.

My experiment this season is how to deal with issues of security. I cannot afford to install cameras or other advanced methods of technology to prevent theft or curious hands, so the alternative is to look towards passive strategies.

I know the above paints a picture of flowers and vegetables galore, but not without lots of hard work and even more loss. We are lucky that our garden bed is 8' x 4’. It's a hefty amount of space for a two-person household. We had experience with theft by various means. The garden is required to be left open by the rules of the botanical garden. In those instances, people from within the community pass through and children run wild, things are picked, and plants are touched and often harmed. Another infuriating problem is gardeners themselves taking fruits. We also experienced entire plants being uprooted and taken, or rearranged because people thought they knew better.

Lastly, we have now come upon our latest and probably biggest problem: kitty cats! The garden recently had a family of cats move in. Their babies have now had babies. While our rat problem has been fully solved, we now have cats without the proper litter box, so, as you can probably imagine, our bed has fallen victim to some pungent new fertilizer. Now with all that being said, how do we passively design and arrange our garden bed to eliminate or lessen this threat? 

Having two cats myself, we have learned that they hate spicy things so much that we decided to coat everything with jalapeño juice. I also read up how they hate citrus, peppers, or prickly things. We have decided to do a few things this year: 

  1. Coat the surrounding wood frame with jalapeño juice. Sprinkle and mix red crushed pepper into the soil. Because of the high heat drying method of the manufacturing process of red crushed pepper, there is no threat of these seeds becoming plants.

  2. Infuse the garden soil with a mixture of the natural soil we get yearly, gravel, and mulch as a cover. This will make for a prickly sensation for any animal that decides to walk on it. It also helps plants grow better and retains the moisture from watering and rain. The summer months can be rough on plants with soil typically drying out quickly.

  3. I have a deep love and curiosity for all things cacti. I have them all over my apartment and had them as centerpieces at our wedding. They are resilient plants that surprisingly do need love and the right kind of attention. They also require lots of sun. Most people know them for having spikes or prickly things that get in our skin. I have rehoused our cacti into the garden bed for the summer season with the intention of moving them back to my apartment during the cold months.

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My apartment only maximizes natural sunlight for about 2 hours a day. This means that with the right amount of water, they will never stop growing, but they will most likely never thrive. By moving them to the garden during the peak heating months, we benefit from full access to sunlight, and (bonus) curious adults and children who decide to poke around may learn their lesson after rubbing against one. 

Our goal at the end of this season is to have learned how to eat healthier by understanding where our food came from and the hard work it took for them to get to our table. All we want is a peaceful environment with a little patch of land that is ours.

In the fall, we will see if any of this works. 

Olga Anaya, Associate AIA

Olga Anaya, Associate AIA