What’s the Best Way to Turn a Parking Lot into a Garden?
Photo: OSU scientist Joe Kovach’s test site in Wooster, with his parking-lot plantings in the center and his polyculture plots on the lawn at the left.
Ohio State University Urban Farming Study
By Kurt Knebusch
Ohio State University Extension
Dec 22, 2010
WOOSTER, Ohio — An old asphalt parking lot might not seem like a good place for a garden.
But in urban areas it can be. It tends to be cheap open land. And an Ohio State University expert on intensive small-scale horticulture has started a three-year study on what works best there.
Joe Kovach, who specializes in maximizing fruit and vegetable production in limited spaces, is comparing three ways to do it in empty, abandoned parking lots: in giant-sized pots and in raised beds on top of the blacktop, and in trenches cut right through it.
“There are a lot of vacant parking lots in places like Cleveland and Youngstown,” said Kovach, who works at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster and holds a joint appointment with Ohio State University Extension. “We’re hoping to learn if the trenches work, if the pots are worth it and of all three techniques, which is the best?”
His work could boost the use of abandoned urban land. It could help people who live in urban food deserts — areas having little or no access to affordable, nutritious foods — grow more of their own tomatoes, spinach and other fresh produce. And it could help them do it more easily.
Turning blacktop green isn’t new. It’s part of the growing wave of urban farming. But Kovach wants to see if there’s a better way to do it.