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Urban Gardening: one Bostonian's mission

When Laurel Valchuis first began telling us about her effort to bring a new type of urban gardening to the residents of Boston, she caught our interest. Urban farming or container gardening are trends in today's city homeowners day to day lives and Laurel is inspirational to those wanting to get started in this urban gardening style! Today we invited her to share her mission with all of you. Think she has a great idea? Help her out with a quick vote!

by Laurel Valchuis

urban gardeningLast summer, after learning of the 5 year waiting list to get a plot in the community-garden, I decided to create my own urban garden space by putting my porch and some Tanzanian wisdom to work by building two ‘sack gardens’. I was first introduced to the concept of the sack garden while volunteering in Tanzania, where this technique came in handy for those who subsisted mainly on relatively cheap ugali (maize meal), had little or no land, and were in desperate need of affordable, fresh produce. Grown in a burlap bag, this urban gardening or urban farming method takes full advantage of vertical space, and adapted beautifully to my Boston porch, providing me with fresh veggies all summer. In addition to the delight of watching my vegetables grow, an exciting twist was watching mother-nature take action on the horn worms that had found their way to my tomato plants. The worms eventually became infested with parasitic wasps a phenomenon the biology major in me (and my three year old neighbor), found fascinating, especially as it took place in the middle of our neighborhood in the South End!

urban gardeningIn addition to being a great science experiment and promoting biodiversity in an urban environment, the Landless Garden has the potential to address nutritional and economic gaps in the city. As a mentor for the Urban Improv Mentoring program, and analyst for HighQuest Partners (an agribusiness consulting firm), I have become well aware of the educational and price barriers to eating fresh foods in an urban environment.  Urbanites’ often have a disconnect from their natural environment: not knowing where and how their food is made, has also become very apparent.

With access to just 24 square inches of outdoor space, the Landless Garden can provide city dwellers the pleasure of cultivating a garden and cost-effective access to fresh foods, all while quelling urban water runoff. To spread the Landless Garden, I have applied for a $5,000 grant from Pepsi to build 500 of these gardens around Boston and  I need your votes! Funds are granted if I get in the top ten number of votes; voting only takes about 30 seconds by going here http://www.refresheverything.com/landlessgarden and signing in through Facebook or Pepsi. You can vote once every day until January 31st, when the winners are chosen.

Please help me spread the Landless Garden around Boston by voting every day!


  • Kathryn Says:

    This is such a great idea, especially for all the people in cities who have limited outdoor space!

  • Danielle Says:

    Love it! I did some gardening this summer, babysitting my aunt's garden, and I loved it! When I have a Boston porch of my own you can be sure I'll be gardening in some kind of containers. Good luck with the grants, Laurel! (I voted for you!)

  • Kate Says:

    This is awesome, Laurel! If I ever have a porch I'll know who to call for ideas and help :) Good luck getting to the Top 10!

  • Julia Says:

    What an awesome idea. I live in Brooklyn and have lost too many of my plant pots down the hole in the fire escape due to high winds or curious critters. A burlap sack would probably stay nice and squat, resisting any toppling forces. Best wishes for getting the prize!

  • Sadie Says:

    I'm LOVING and voting daily for your sack gardens, Laurel! I've been gardening in milk crates, scavenged pots & a few self-watering containers ($$$) on my porch in Jamaica Plain for 2 years and would love to volunteer for your creative endeavor to spread beautiful, affordable, low-impact nutrition and connection with gardening to others in the area! Come summer I may even have vermicompost to spare (and plenty of worms to donate to complementary worm composting bins for anyone interested). If we all spread the word for the rest of the month I know you can win this!

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