Houston: oil, sprawl… and container gardens

Having grown up a couple of hours from Houston, Texas, I have pretty set associations of the city… and they mostly involve the oil and petrochemical industries (and the smell that comes with them), and ugly traffic resulting from massive suburban sprawl. Still, the city has its bright points — Hermann Park, for instance, is a gorgeous hub of green space and cultural institutions – and, now, a partnership between the city government and local non-profits has added another: container gardens around the 25-story Bob Lanier Public Works Building in the city’s downtown.

A brainstorm of landscape architect Keiji Askura, the idea was accepted and implemented quickly: according to the Austin American-Statesman, “Within three weeks, seeds, plants and container pots had been donated, city officials had hopped on board and a nascent garden had sprouted…” Local non-profit Urban Harvest took the lead on making the project a reality, hosting an early June event to collect plants, and get them into containers.

These small gardens aren’t just positioned outside the government building: they’re also tended by people that work there. According to an announcement sent from the City to government employees, “Each floor will be provided a large pot, soil, and plants… Each floor will select two representatives to manage their floor’s planter. The pots will have a design applied that compliments the plantings inside and a sign to identify the participating floor.” Employees now spend lunch hours tending the gardens, and receive weekly training from Urban Harvest’s Mark Bowen, a trained horticulturist. The gardeners can choose to keep any produce themselves, or donate it to local food banks.

Though only a few months old, the project seems to be working: not only are plants flourishing, but owners and residents of nearby commercial buildings are considering their own gardening projects.

Inspiring…! Of course, Houston isn’t the only city adding edible green space to its urban core… let us know about efforts in your town or city.