Gardening as a method of dust control
In 2019, an "Anti-dust program" was launched in Yakutsk. The level of dust in the capital of the republic often exceeds sanitary standards. Fine dust (PM2.5) which enters the vital human organs through the respiratory system is especially dangerous. The project “Sinet Spark” is aimed at identifying the main factors of dustiness in Yakutsk in the warm season and developing a set of measures to reduce the problem through scientific research. To monitor air quality in the summer of 2021, 10 IQAir sensors were installed.
The results of the first major study of this issue in 2019 were summed up by the Institute of Permafrost Studies. The researchers recommended minimizing open and loose sandy-dusty soil since it is one of the main causes of increased dustiness in Yakutsk. The wind constantly carries dust around the city from such sites. It is also spread by people and animals, moving on open ground.
As one of the main methods of cleaning the city air from dust and gases, the Permafrost Institute proposed mass planting of trees and shrubs along the streets. According to scientists, up to 72% of suspended dust particles and up to 60% of sulfur dioxide settle on the leaves, which are then washed away by precipitation to the ground.
The climatic conditions of Yakutsk require a thoughtful approach to landscaping. The most accessible and effective method for the capital of the republic will be chosen experimentally. To do this, the partners of "Sinet Spark" Arctic State Agrotechnological University (AGATU) and the company "Green Paradise" planted seedlings on Petra Alekseyeva Street next to the building of the Ambulance Station at the end of September.
Birches, hawthorn, and rosehip from AGATU
AGATU has experience in landscaping not only its campus, where apple trees, lawn, and acacia trees are planted, but also planting green spaces in the city center. In 2020, students and teachers greened Lenin Square in Yakutsk.
The university also decided to replace the soil near the ambulance station.
"Plants are demanding of the land cover, so we replaced it with more fertile land. We densely planted plants that belong to deciduous species in two rows: birch and hawthorn. We also planted rosehip, which belongs to ruderal plants, that is, it withstands anthropogenic pressure - trampling, exhaust gases, and mechanical damage. This is a very good experience for us in terms of greening the city with perennial plants. Next year we will conduct a study of the dust retention ability of plants," said AGATU acting rector Konstantin Krivoshapkin.
According to AGATU, the wrong tree planting technology is generally used in Yakutsk.
“I often see that they take tall plants with a small lump of earth and only with lignified roots. They are not watered or cared for, and naturally, these trees die. Planting is only 10% of the work. The rest of the success surely depends on the plant care.
The presence of permafrost in Yakutia does not allow the roots to grow deep into the soil, so the roots spread horizontally. Accordingly, when transplanting a tree from one place to another, you need to make sure that the earthen lump is large. The bigger the plant, the bigger the roots, so it is advisable to take plants of low growth." Krivoshapkin noted.
As part of the "Sinet Spark" project experiment, the university also plans to sow a lawn, plant a rockery (rocky garden), and annual flowers.
"Green paradise" and the improvement of the earth with organic fertilizers
A completely different approach to leave the soil layer was offered by the "Green Paradise" flower shop. As the authors explained, the city does not have an official soil mixture landfill from where it would be possible to take land for landscaping. In addition, the budget of Yakutsk does not include the cost of a complete replacement of the soil. Therefore, the idea of the "Sinet Spark" project partners is to heal the existing soil with the help of organic vermicompost.
"Sinet Spark wants to give Yakutsk a new landscaping technology that would be effective. The project is being held in the city for the first time, so we decided to participate in it. We have been engaged in organic farming for the third year, its main idea is to completely abandon chemical fertilizers and use only natural resources. The technique that we have proposed is to use vermicompost — an organic fertilizer that we produce ourselves," said Anna Tikhonova, director of the flower shop.
Old, dried-up willows grew on the experimental site. The company's employees sawed them off and uprooted the root system. Usually, such material is taken to the landfill. On the site of the "Green Paradise", sawn trees and bushes were laid in large pits that were dug for planting.
"This is the method of the Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer, who recommends laying all plant residues in the ground on the lower tier. This organic material, when decomposed in the future, will be a good compost, it also has a drainage function. In addition to nutrition, as the wood is watered, it will collect moisture and gradually give it to the roots of plants. That is, the plants will not suffer from under-watering or drought, they will always have a source of moisture nearby." Anna Tikhonova said.
In total, 90 acacias have been planted along the road, this is the future hedge. Coniferous trees spruce and pine were planted. Spirea, a small flowering shrub, was brought from the suburban forest. The company grows rowan, acacia, and apple seedlings in its own nursery.
Within three years, the company will water and feed the plants, and its employees will be engaged in the formation of hedge bushes. In the spring of 2022, it is planned to sow a lawn, which will also need serious care.
One of the problems of landscaping in Yakutsk is the inefficient use of the budget
For more than six months, Sinet Spark has been actively developing a landscaping project, says the head of the "Anti-dust Program" Nyurguyana Efremova.
"We talked a lot with experienced experts in Yakutsk and from other cities and decided to work with organizations that have extensive experience in landscaping urban areas in the cryolithozone. Our goal is to reach an affordable and effective landscaping technology for transfer to the Yakutsk City District Administration for its further use. The main problems in the city in the issue of landscaping are insufficient funding and inefficient use of the existing budget. A very small amount of money is allocated for landscaping the entire city, which globally cannot affect the change in the current situation. There is no attention to perennial plants, there is completely no care, watering is not carried out enough. The city needs structural units with experienced experts who will purposefully engage in greening the city," she said.
During the landscaping on Petra Alekseeva Street, the project participants discovered another problem. It turns out that in Yakutsk, in areas not covered with asphalt, construction debris is often buried in the ground.
"After road repairs, the workers plant branches in the sand that do not take root at all. And when I was digging holes for seedlings, I made sure that road workers hide their construction waste under a layer of sand! I pulled a pile of paving bricks out of one hole," Nyurguyana Efremova says.
Concurrently, Sinet Spark will develop a scientific and practical manual for landscaping the territory of Yakutsk with AGATU scientists based on a green area.
"The significance of this research work is that the experience described in the manual will be used by organizations engaged in landscaping the city. This will be a significant contribution to the development of Yakutsk. Taking this opportunity, I want to thank our partners for their support in the implementation of the project, for their indifference to the improvement of the city and the environment," said the head of the "Anti-Dust Program".
We urge citizens to take care of seedlings not only on our site but also throughout the city. Only through joint efforts, we will be able to transform our beloved city!
Yakutsk needs the city gardener
In 2020, a project office for landscaping appeared in the city, it was headed by the chairman of the Civic Chamber of Yakutsk Andrey Vysokykh. He noted the relevance of the proposals of "Sinet Spark".
"I am proud that we have organizations like Sinet Spark ready to take responsibility for unpopular work. This is the example that needs to be shown and talked about. If every company with super-profits, for example, the alcohol markets that flooded the city, would do the same, then Yakutsk would change for the better," he said.
According to him, the situation with the greening of the city leaves much to be desired. The municipality allocates money to the districts for planting trees, there are municipal enterprises that mow grass and cut dry trees, but as a result, no one is responsible for anything.
"When you start asking how many trees have been planted, how many of them have taken root, nobody knows anything. In addition, there is an incorrect approach to working with soil in Yakutsk, it is unclear where it is taken from, most often it is purchased from private owners.
The Project Office proposes to create a soil mixture landfill, without it the city will not develop. For mountain-ash, you need soil with clay, for pine trees - another soil, the same applies to grass and flowers. It is also necessary to create nurseries for growing such trees as rowan, cherry, apple, lilac. We can buy pine and spruce at the forestry. Then everything will be right and transparent. It will be clear where the tree came from, who planted it, and there will be demand for how it should grow," says Andrey Vysokykh.
In the spring of this year, the Project Office proposed to recreate the Soviet "Zelenstroy". This structure could work according to the type of municipal public institution "Glavstroy", which nowadays is responsible for the improvement of all yards and roads, distributes budget funds, and announces all auctions. The Project Office advocates transferring responsibility for planting and caring for plants in urban districts to private companies for three to five years. Another way is to appoint the city gardener, who would be responsible for all the green spaces.
This year, after a trip to Kazan, Evgeny Grigoriev agreed that the city needs to change its approach to landscaping, but it requires a lot of money.
"Sooner or later we will come to this. Giving flower plots to residents is an existing initiative in the city. The Project Office works as a public organization, we have voiced our recommendations to the Mayor's office, we just need to reach out to the decision-makers and the population," says the chairman of the project office for landscaping of Yakutsk.
According to him, the Central District Administration plans to conclude an agreement with a private company for landscaping and plant care next year as an experiment.
Residents of Yakutsk: we need more trees!
While the participants of the experiment were planting trees at the walls of the Ambulance Station, passers-by took an active interest in their work. A small survey on landscaping once again confirmed that citizens are acutely aware of the shortage of green spaces in the capital of the republic.
Svetlana Tamila, senior citizen:
I think gardening is a necessary thing. The situation is really bad in the outskirts of the city. Sometimes there are weeds almost as tall as a person. I warmly welcome the initiative to set out more plants. Now there will be a beautiful corner in this area of our city.
Alexander Monastyrtsev, senior citizen:
The more plants there are, the better it is. This is an urgent problem for Yakutsk. The whole city is not green at all. I would like more and more trees.
Nyurgun Uzorov, citizen:
There are not enough trees in our city at all. I would like more pines.
Photo: Vadim Scriabin, AGATU
Author: Ksenia Gabysheva