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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.

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“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.

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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