Fresh Chamomile at the Manhattan farmers market for Active Citizens Project. Erika Aponte

A Path to Healing Through Growing at Home

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By Erika Maria Aponte

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When I started my first garden, it was outside my high school in The Bronx with a group of other students. None of us really had experience growing, and we had not been taught to question where the food in the supermarket came from or how it was made. We built garden beds on some asphalt outside our building and learned what it takes to grow in the city. Connecting with people over a labor of love and learning what it means to grow food and medicine from a seed opened my mind to the possibilities of growth I had never imagined for myself at the time.

Many natural remedies passed down through generations have been lost alongside shrinking greenspaces. After years of learning, working, and teaching in agriculture, I started to feel like there was nothing I could do to fix things. After COVID, I was let go from my job and reflected on whether I wanted to continue to work in agriculture. It felt like my efforts would never be enough to preserve the traditions and land we were losing so quickly. I decided to leave New York City, and along the way, I came across an amazing book called the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies by Shealy C. Norman.

Kadeesha Williams with Farm School NYC Students at Taqwa Community Garden. Erika Aponte

I spent the next couple of months combing through this book, learning about my ailments, expanding my knowledge about the benefits of growing plants and the tradition of natural healing. This was one of the most restorative times of my life, and it helped me strengthen my beliefs that growing is for connecting, healing, and nourishing, not just for profit. I believe we reflect the beauty that exists naturally in the world. If we would like to see more, we must cultivate the abilities that are needed to create and sustain that beauty. Then, we will always be able to grow and thrive, no matter what community or land we find ourselves in.

There are many ways one can create a home garden that will support their needs. This is truly a restorative way of healing in community because you will reflect the natural beauty that exists everywhere. In New York City, whether it’s in the rare apartment backyard or a small fire escape, allow the scents, colors, and textures you love to guide what you would like to see in this oasis that will support you, your friends or neighbors.

Bed of watermelon seedlings at Morris Campus Farm. Erika Aponte

Envision your plant list as a reflection of your personality and needs. Some lemongrass in the fire escape could be a hint to your friends of your sweet and patient nature. I know so many people back home in The Bronx struggling with stabilizing their blood pressure. Plants like basil or parsley added to one’s daily diet can help with circulation and heart issues. Let this garden be a way to give to yourself, to the soil, and to your neighbors, sharing cuttings or dishes with what you’ve grown.

Below is a guide that will help you come up with a plant list and design your garden using the space you have been given.

Planting a Tree
A GUIDE TO STARTING A SMALL
HEALING GARDEN
This guide will help you in starting a garden in your
small yard or fire escape that will support some of
your physical and mental needs. By the end, you’ll
have what you need to start setting up your space
for some plant babies that will reflect your care
through their natural medicine and beauty.
1.
WHAT’S THE SPACE LIKE?
Amount of growing space: (eg.: 2ft by 5ft fire
escape?)
Sun Exposure:
(full sun or part shade?)
2.
WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR
SUPPORT?
List your symptoms and whether you’re
looking to welcome pollinators to your
community.
3.
LIST YOUR PLANTS
Start with a small list of plants so you’re leaving
room for gradual growth. Shoot for 5-10 plants that
will be remedies for your symptoms or bring more
birds and bees to the neighborhood.
4.
WHEN/WHERE TO PLANT THEM
Practice companion planting so plants can
thrive collectively. Group your full sun plants
that need daily watering in the same spot.
Get those needing some shade and drier soil
together in a darker space.
SEED SITES!

Planting a Tree
A GUIDE TO STARTING A SMALL
HEALING GARDEN
This guide will help you in starting a garden in your
small yard or fire escape that will support some of
your physical and mental needs. By the end, you’ll
have what you need to start setting up your space
for some plant babies that will reflect your care
through their natural medicine and beauty.
1.
WHAT’S THE SPACE LIKE?
Amount of growing space: (eg.: 2ft by 5ft fire
escape?)
Sun Exposure:
(full sun or part shade?)
2.
WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR
SUPPORT?
List your symptoms and whether you’re
looking to welcome pollinators to your
community.
3.
LIST YOUR PLANTS
Start with a small list of plants so you’re leaving
room for gradual growth. Shoot for 5-10 plants that
will be remedies for your symptoms or bring more
birds and bees to the neighborhood.
4.
WHEN/WHERE TO PLANT THEM
Practice companion planting so plants can
thrive collectively. Group your full sun plants
that need daily watering in the same spot.
Get those needing some shade and drier soil
together in a darker space.
SEED SITES!

Erika Maria Aponte is a mixed media artist and farmer born and raised in The Bronx, New York. She received a certificate in agroecology and sustainable food systems from CASFS. Her work examines sustainable agriculture through community, while exploring self expression through music, fashion design and food.

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Plantings Print Annual 2022

World Sensorium Conservancy is pleased to announce our first Plantings Print Annual.

Our Plantings print magazine is available in our store.  Help us celebrate this notable step in strengthening our conservation communication with a purchase.