Turning a city lot into a farm site

Transforming an abandoned lot into a productive farm site can take more than clearing the soil and planting seeds.

Through the City of Boston’s Pilot Urban Agriculture Rezoning Project, City Growers obtained use of a quarter-acre lot at the corner of Glenway and Bradshaw streets in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood. The former school site had been vacant for more than three decades.

“The school foundation was still there,” says Greg Bodine, one of the two full-time growers with City Growers. “And more than half the plot was covered with the most tenacious weed we know in the northeast, Japanese knotweed.’’ The weed looks a little like bamboo, but its powerful roots spread 20 feet out and 10 feet deep, breaking up pavement and concrete and choking out other vegetation.

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A Department of Correction team helped City Growers clear debris — trash, pipes, old metal bars — and excavate the knotweed as much as possible in the spring. Then City Growers laid down a cloth barrier to slow root growth and covered it with 12 to 18 inches of topsoil.

Working with a team of six young men from the ABCD summer jobs program, full-time grower Bobby Walker took on much of the task of reshaping the lot.

“It was a real learning experience,” says Walker of his crew of assistants. “I had them five days a week. They were digging trenches every day.”

Walker and Bodine were not able to plant the Glenway site until the end of July, but it still produced a late crop of salad greens. They plan to add tomatoes and other fruiting plants to the plot
this year.

PATRICIA HARRIS AND DAVID LYON

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