Vacant Lot on N. Lime starting to grow
Slowly but surely things are starting to take off at the In Feed garden located on the 500 block of North Limestone next to the liquor store on Sixth Street. The bush beans planted by seed in the early days of June have begun to come on. People are already picking them. Two of the tomato plants succumbed to blight. The others, planted as small seedlings less than two months ago at the same time as the beans, are still small, but they’re all starting to set flowers, and some are producing fruit. An Italian heirloom zucchini and an avocado squash have been added, and both are prospering. Wood mulch now fully surrounds the growing plants.
The vacant-lot garden here was established less than two months ago as one of a series of garden projects for the group In-Feed. The group is one of a growing number of local gardening activist organizations that have begun to form during the past couple of years. In-Feed uses gardening as a tool for making under-used urban spaces more productive. It wants both to viscerally point out how little of urban space is used and to offer productive models for putting all that waste—private residential green space, vacant lots, business properties, church grounds, alleyways, sidewalk easements and city parks—back into use.
As an outgrowth of that viewpoint, the gardens In Feed tends represent a diversity of different types of urban spaces. The group uses a private residence on Mack’s Alley near Dudley Square for a market garden, splitting profits as a type of coop, and in the process making an under-used bit of private property a bit more socially, environmentally and economically productive. A patch of land behind Woodland Computers on High Street provides a seed garden and employs unused business property. Church plots and a contribution to the new North Limestone Community Garden represent other types of urban space put to use for the production of food.
“In-Feed’s mission is much more singular than other garden organization models,” In-Feed head Bob McKinley confesses. “Our mission is to grow as much food, on as much in-fill as possible. If every vacant lot in town was worked, no one would ever want of a fresh tomato or head of lettuce.”
“There is so much potential for gardening on urban in-fill. From the small vacant lot, to the grassy easements beside businesses and the typically huge pieces of greenspace many churches have for no other purpose than to be mowed. Even the asphalt parking lot of an abandoned warehouse could support temporary raised beds.”
The garden at the 500 block of North Limestone has had its ups and downs. A late planting and a strange summer pattern of intense rain coupled with periodic heat blasts has not been kind to the plants. With gardens located all around town, it’s tough to get to the gardens as much as one needs, particularly during brutal summer conditions. McKinley and fellow In Feed member Jennifer Barricklow both work full time jobs and have other lives, so time is at a premium. Finding volunteers to take an interest in some of their garden spots has yet to come. (That’s you, people.)
But still, all in all things look good right now, even if a little small. James Maxberry, who owns both the liquor store and the land on which the In Feed garden is located, has been impressed. “It’s looking good,” he says. Though things are small right now, the lady who rents above his liquor store has already told him that she plans on picking from the garden once things come in. In this neighborhood, Maxberry says, food for free will be much appreciated and used appropriately.
A resident of the north side for the first twenty years of his life, McKinley doesn’t hold any specific hopes for the space beyond its ability to provide food to nearby residents for the present year.
“We want it to be a neighborhood garden rather than a ‘community garden.’,” he says. “It’s simply there for residents to come pick anything they want for free, anytime they wish. And while we hope to engage some of those same folks to help out, participate, and claim communal ownership of the Limestone plot, it’s not contingent upon their ability to access the produce.”
Like most of the community gardening initiatives here, In Feed could use help: volunteers—you. Contact Bob McKinley at email@example.com and offer some help. Nobody likes to work alone.