Volume 4, Issue 7
Phyto reviewed by Brian Thompson
What is phytotechnology?
Kate Kennen and Niall Kirkwood define it in part as “the use of
vegetation to remediate, contain or prevent contaminants in soils, sediments
How is this done? Kennen
and Kirkwood use their new book, Phyto: Principles and Resources for Site
Remediation and Landscape Design, to answer this question. They specifically target landscape
architects, urban planners, and others who are interested in applying the
lessons of the relatively new field of using plants as problem solvers in design,
construction, and maintenance.
This book is superbly organized and very detailed, but the
reader is not expected to have a deep understanding of the science or
engineering of phytotechnology. Instead,
the emphasis is on results, particularly on properties that have a significant
history of degradation and are in close proximity to urban development,
including active industrial, commercial, and residential neighborhoods.
There are many case studies. The examples are typical to any city, but some of the at-risk properties
are surprising, and include community gardens and cemeteries – humans have a
significant impact on almost any development. Once the hazards of a site are identified, solutions are suggested and clearly
illustrated. This excellent book
concludes with guides to additional resources and an extensive bibliography.
From the Gardening Answers Knowledgebase:
What is this tenacious spreader on poor soil?
by Rebecca Alexander, Plant Answer Line Librarian
Q: Slowly but surely,
what's left of my untended lawn is being overtaken by a small weed with
fan-shaped leaves. It reminds me of a tiny Lady's Mantle. What is it,
and is there any hope of getting rid of it without herbicide?
A: Your description sounds like Aphanes australis,
whose common name is slender parsley-piert. The common name derives
from the plant's leaves which resemble parsley, and the French
'perce-pierre,' meaning 'break (or pierce) stone.' It thrives in dry,
exposed, or barren soils. North Carolina State University's Turf Center
describes cultural control methods:
"Winter annual broadleaf weeds germinate in the fall or winter and grow
during any warm weather, which may occur in the winter, but otherwise
remain somewhat dormant during the winter. They resume growth and
produce seed in the spring and die as temperatures increase in late
spring and early summer. They quickly invade thin turf areas especially
where there is good soil moisture. Shade may also encourage growth. Many
have a prostrate growth habit and are not affected by mowing. A dense,
vigorous turf is the best way to reduce the encroachment of winter
annual weeds. First, select adapted turfgrass cultivars for your area
and then properly fertilize, mow, and water to encourage dense growth."
It sounds like lawn renovation might be a good idea. If the
parsley-piert has intense competition from a happily growing lawn, it
will not thrive. Seattle Public Utilities has good resources on lawn care.
Summer spotlight on urban farms
Susan Lally-Chiu's exhibit Drawings from Our Edible Gardens continues at the Miller Library through July 29. To complement her vivid work, we will be featuring library resources on urban farming. Practical topics like market gardening, raising livestock in the city, and student farming appear presented along with more theoretical works exploring everyting from the history of allotments to case studies in urban landscape design for agriculture. There is something for everyone!
New to the Library