Transforming a Vacant Lot into a New Farm
It was no small task this season to build our new urban farm site on Glenway Street in the Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester. Thanks to a lot of help from young men and women in the community who worked hard with us through the heat of summer, our newest farm project has begun to take beautiful shape.
To say that it was a vacant lot is a little misleading, since it was half-occupied by one of the most tenacious invasive plant species known to the Northeast: Japanese Knotweed. It’s root system can be up to two feet under the ground, and the plant base can be almost two feet wide and brittle, making it nearly impossible to remove. This plant can easily grow through even the smallest crack in cement. With no mulch up to the task of suppressing this weed, we invested in a super-strong permeable fabric that, once we had removed all the knotweed and sod by hand, we laid out over the whole plot to suppress future weeds and to create a barrier between the previous soil and our new soil. City soils can have high levels of toxins in them, such as lead, so we imported clean, nutrient-rich soil from Clarke Farm and spread it over the barrier as our new growing medium.
Due to the intensive nature of turning this plot into a new farm site, we’ll only grow one or two successions of lettuce and our salad mix there this season. As the organic matter breaks down and the soil becomes more fine and rich, we look forward to sculpting this farm plot into a truly vibrant place, home to a wide variety of delicious, healthy, super-local fruits and vegetables.
As we transform Boston’s un-used land into new farms, we know we must also train new farmers from those same neighborhoods to farm and care for that land. This site at 131 Glenway Street marks the fourth of many new urban farm sites and new urban farmers in Boston’s future. Happy September, everyone.