Growing food

Collective Space: Community Gardens and Yardsharing

The Boston Natural Areas Network keeps an updated map of community gardens around Boston, an annual Gardener's Gathering event, and all kinds of information about gardens and greenspace in the city.

Yardsharing elegantly fills a need co-opers have expressed at our Assembly meetings, and does so without limiting the benefits of cooperatively sharing garden space to those who already cooperatively share living space. Co-op houses that welcome a new gardener or two onto their land can act as ambassadors to their other collective projects and better integrate their co-op into their neighborhood. Meanwhile, big collective houses full of hungry housemates can work as gardener teams on large gardening projects, helping to maintain the momentum that has a tendency to dwindle as dog days and busy summer nights set in.

My City Gardens organizes yardsharing in the Boston-area.  The goals of My City Gardens are simple: match prospective gardeners with landholders in their neighborhoods. To do this, they’ll soon be launching an interactive map of yard space and gardener profiles in the next few weeks, allowing prospective yardsharers to talk it out and match themselves up (don’t worry– they won’t release any addresses publicly). In the meantime, they’ve already begun connecting folks who sign up on their website with gardens or gardeners in their area.

Learn to garden

Join up with other Boston-area homesteaders in the Urban Homesteaders' League.
  Check their Meetup Calendar for events and skillshares, and their resource page for book ideas.

Some great books for your cooperative homestead:
  • For the punks & community organizers: Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community by H.C. Flores
  • For the busy & ready to start: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
  • For the big picture people: The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times by Rob Hopkins
  • For the tinkerers: Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew
  • For everyone: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway and The Backyard Homestead: Produce All the Food You Need on Just a Quarter Acre! by Carleen Madigan

The City of Boston's compost website has simple instructions on composting your household organic waste, as well as how to buy one of those big, black, city-subsidized composters.

If you can't compost at home, consider having Bootstrap Compost do it for you.  In their words, "
Bootstrap Compost is Greater Boston's only year-round kitchen scrap pickup service. We use bikes, trains, hand trucks, and the occasional vehicle to collect and transport compostable material from houses, apartments, dorms, co-ops, and condos. Additionally, we'll happily collect scraps from farmer's markets, cafes, restaurants, concerts, festivals, cult gatherings - you name it. And the coolest thing is this: all active Bootstrap customers receive a portion of super rich compost 10-15 weeks after their initial deposit to the Bootstrap Compost bank. The second coolest thing is this: We donate finished compost to urban gardens in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain."

Sources for Seeds & Plants

We are in luck, living as we do in New England.  We actually have several small, local, and sustainably-minded seed sources in our region, including some co-operative businesses and non-profits. 

Bay State Organics keeps an updated list of organic seeds and seedlings suppliers in The Northeast.

Not sure what to grow?  Consider
native edibles!
  • Brandeis University's Guide to Edible Plants and Fungi of New England
  • Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards by Sara B. Stein
  • Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy