These giant planters were designed collaboratively by me, Jess Hobbs, and Brandi Hugo as part of an art and alternative energy project called Mechabolic. Jess was the visionary gardener, Brandi was art director, and I took care of design, building, and volunteer wrangling. There are six of them, each one is eight feet long, and they fit together to make two twenty-four foot terra preta hot rod gardens.
Terra preta, "dark earth" in Portuguese, is a type of soil found in parts of South America. The native people of the Amazon have practiced controlled burning of the forest for thousands of years. Somewhere along the way, they discovered that incorporating char from incomplete burning into the soil improved its fertility and resistance to nutrient loss dramatically.
Mechabolic is a giant vehicle that eats trash (we've used walnut shells and coffee grounds, but any dry biomass works), partially burning it in a low-oxygen environment to yeild a useful fuel gas and, as a byproduct, char. By mixing up our own terra preta with the resulting char, we're directly sequestering some carbon, and the increased plant growth that results pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere, further reducing the net carbon footprint of the fuel cycle. Terra preta and Mechabolic warrant more detiled articles of their own, but for now I'm just going to post a few pictures, and links to these others found on flickr. I'll host them all here if I get permission from the photographers. (links open in new windows)
Jess and Brandi on Mechabolic
Jen in a framed-up planter