The natural screen growing along the West End store parking lot.

One of many small gourds growing in our urban garden.

Joy in front of the sunflowers by the classroom building.

There is a gentle trickle of water in our West End store eating area. It’s coming from a delightful water garden, with little fish and plants, that was created by Joy Matthews, our groundskeeper.
Joy has worked at GreenStar for 16 years. She started in the Deli and went on to work in Bulk, Produce, Grocery, and Receiving. For the past four years she’s been in our Facilities department, improving the landscaping around our West End buildings.
GreenStar has occupied its current West End home since the 1990s. Around 1995 the green areas around the parking lot were planted with trees and shrubs, using an experimental structural soil mixture created by Cornell University for use in urban environments.
Four years ago, when Joy began evaluating the gardens around the store, she discovered overgrown areas covered with dead shrubs and trees, the result of being sprayed with herbicide by the railroad company along the tracks’ right of way. She began developing a plan to clean up the areas, building soil and creating a greenscape in an otherwise not-so-green part of town.
The process started with removing all the dead vegetation from the areas around the parking lot and the two existing garden beds. Because the area bordering the tracks is now maintained, the railroad no longer sprays to keep down overgrowth. The alkaline soil was remedied with a mixture of nutrients and compost. The two existing garden beds were replanted with hardy perennials that thrive in sunny, dry conditions. In the summer drought of 2016, Joy set up an irrigation system of drip lines that used water collected in rain barrels and from the store’s air conditioning units to water the gardens.
A new feature this year at the West End store is a green screen along the parking lot by the railroad tracks. Joy chose broom corn, sunflowers, and ornamental corn because they are tall and narrow plants that create a nice barrier between the store and roadway. Crimson clover was planted beneath to help add nitrogen to the soil.
The sunflowers in the green screen were grown from seeds collected from last summer’s Classroom garden. Those large garden boxes on the north side of Buffalo Street are filled this year with volunteer sunflowers from last year’s plants, ornamental gourds, broom corn, sorghum, and a multi-colored ornamental corn. All of the plants were chosen to provide food for birds and butterflies. Joy worked with local garden supply company GreenTree to create bio-char-rich living soil in the planters.
For the next few years, Joy’s plan is to continue to build up the soil and green plantings around the grounds. Look for improvements by The Space @ GreenStar — another area left high and dry for years, but now being transformed into a beautiful green habitat.