From The New York Shitty Inbox: Special Earth Day Edition
On April 16, 2009 Kat wrote:
I’m a fellow Greenpointer who has been reading your blog ever since Gawker linked to it back in 2006-ish. I always wished I could send you a tip, but I didn’t have any good ones — until yesterday morning, when I saw that the students of PS 110 had launched their very own environmental awareness campaign in McGolrick Park.
It is… interesting.
I took a couple pictures and wrote about it here, if you are interested in either reading it or sharing it with your devoted audience.
Warmest regards from the GPT…
Naturally I pointed and clicked my way over to Pink India Ink. I would recommend you do the same. For those of you who are disinclined to do so the crux of my colleague’s editorial was as follows:
- The placement of this sign is not conducive to getting the word out.
- In the battle between dog piss and the trees of McGolrick Park the trees do appear to be winning.
- There are other, better ways to get children engaged in the environment.
Today I decided to swing by McGolrick to see this sign and the tree it graces for myself.
In my guesstimation this missive is located approximately six or seven feet from the ground— well out of eye shot of even the most statuesque dog owner. And any breed of dog— no matter how large— that comes to mind. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter as I have yet to encounter a canine however bright, that can read. Or can they?
The sign appears to have received a little “water damage”. Was it at the behest of an April shower or a golden shower from a particularly well-endowed pup? Only the tree knows for certain and it does not appear to be talking. If it could, however, I suspect it would say that it doesn’t care much for having four thumb tacks stuck into its body. But this is only an educated guess.
Regardless, it did get me to thinking about how bad dog urine is for our leafy friends so I did a little Googling. Here’s what The Straight Dope has to say about the subject:
…It’s hard to believe you’ve gotten through life without noticing that dog urine can cause grass, shrubs, and other plant life to turn brown and wither. This charming phenomenon is called “urine burn.” It’s caused by the ammonia and urea contained in doggie water (and, for that matter, in the urine of all mammals). Urea and ammonia are both good sources of nitrogen, an important fertilizer. But they’re simple compounds and they break down so quickly that the lawn, hedge, or whatever basically ODs on the stuff. Similarly, if you use too much inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, you’ll get “fertilizer burn.” The urine also makes the soil too acidic. The only cure is to dig up the ruined patch and reseed.
Well, you say, will just one dose wreck the local flora? It depends. One dose is certainly enough to do strange things to the grass. On a lawn where dogs have had free run you’ll see numerous funny-looking tufts where the grass is much taller and greener than elsewhere, having been fertilized by a passing canine. No big deal, you say–mowing the lawn will level things out. Here and there, however, the tufts may consist of a brown patch with lush growth around the fringes. The lush part got the optimum dose of fertilizer while the brown part got too much of a good thing. Mowing is not going to help this problem; time to get out the spade.
Chances are the tufts are the work of female dogs, which like to do their thing out in the open. Male dogs, by contrast, prefer some vertical landmark, such as a tree or shrub. These are generally hardier than grass, and one jolt won’t kill them. But you seldom get just one jolt. Male dogs use urine to mark their territories, and they like to return to the same spot again and again. In addition, when other dogs smell a freshly irrigated canine boundary marker, they often feel compelled to make a contribution of their own…
Ok. So we have established dog urine is in fact very bad for our leafy friends. But as Cecil Adams also points out trees are a lot hardier than grass. It takes more than the occasional gold shower to kill them. And taking into account that I have yet to see 101 Dalmations employ McGolrick Park as their pissoir of choice I have to confess: while hardly indifferent, I am not terribly concerned.
But it does make me wonder about numerous bipeds I have seen who have pressed this public space into service as an al fresco commode/vomitorium. Hows does human waste affect plant life, you ask? I did a little research. What I found was surprising. Per an article from EZine @rticles entitled “Using Human Urine As Liquid Fertilizer”:
OK, so are you over the shock now??? In the not so distant past, we didn’t have the luxury of having a small room in the house where we could flush away our number ones and twos. But did you ever wonder how we managed before the water closet? Not that I want to get into the history of it, but let’s just say that before the times of our current throw-away society, people thought of multiple uses for just about everything.
Well maybe you didn’t know that human urine is the fastest acting, most excellent source of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and some trace elements. Not only that, but we all have a constant, year round supply of it and it’s free! There’s not a lot of effort involved in creating this wonderful organic liquid fertilizer.
Some men I know are more than happy to oblige a tree, bush or lawn (out of view, of course)…
What are the advantages of using urine as an organic liquid fertilizer?
- If you’re not flushing this valuable liquid down the loo, you are reducing your water consumption â€“ good for the environment and your pocket
- You’ll be reducing the amount of sewerage runoff
- There’ll be less nutrients in our waterways
- Urine as a liquid fertilizer is available in an ideal chemical form for plants to use
- Gardening costs are less as your liquid fertilizer is free
- It is readily available all year round and there are no transportation costs
Just so that you know, fresh human urine is sterile (unless there is a urinary tract infection: this urine should not be used) and so free from bacteria.
I recommend that you dilute urine to 10-15 parts water to 1 part urine for application on plants in the growth stage. Dilute to 30-50 parts water to 1 part urine for use on pot plants as they are much more sensitive to fertilizers of any kind.
Trees, shrubs and lawn should cope well without dilution. Withhold the use of urine liquid fertilizer on all food plants at least two weeks before harvesting. Apply under fruiting plants, not directly on foliage.
Don’t use urine older than 24 hours (t…t…t…TWENTY FOUR HOURS?!? — Ed. Note) on your plants as the urea turns into ammonia and will burn your plants. If it’s not fresh (*shudder* — Ed. Note), add it to your compost heap. Adding undiluted human urine to your compost heap will help heat it up quickly as it is an excellent activator and will add to the final nutrient value.
As far as antibiotics, vitamin supplements and other medications go, yes they will end up in your urine, but in such minute quantities that I believe to be negligible especially when it is diluted.
So put this excellent source of free liquid fertilizer to good use in your garden, rather than add to the burden that we as humans cause to our environment.
So there have you. It just goes to show you learn something new every day.
Before reading the aforementioned article I thought the above chap was merely a drunk dude taking a piss in a plant bed on McGuinness Boulevard. Now I know better: this man is, in fact, an eco-warrior. What’s more, knowing all too well the commonly-held affection for public urination here in the 11222, Greenpoint could arguably be the “greenest” neighborhood in all Brooklyn! Who knew? In any case I suspect I speak for many when I say that I can only hope P.S. 110 will incorporate my new discovery into their curriculum.
Happy Earth Day Weekend!