- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - People are playing Tetris in backyards throughout Lafayette. They’re playing with fruits and vegetables, however, instead of the traditional, brightly colored Tetris blocks.

Gardeners around the city are making use of small backyards and plots of land to grow food for their families and the community.

Justin Henry said planning out his garden was kind of like playing the beloved ‘80s video game.

You have to figure out what grows well in the space, how to fit in beds and trellises and what will grow best where based on the arc of the sun, and shade patterns from nearby buildings.

“You can see it’s 3:30 (p.m.) and already there is no direct sun. A big farm out in the south county, they’re still drenched in sun for another four hours,” Henry said.

But you can’t beat having fresh produce growing within sight of your kitchen, Henry added. He is a professional chef and the former co-owner of Lafayette’s Heirloom restaurant.

The amount and variety of produce that will grow in an Indiana summer, regardless of yard size, is astounding and evidenced by Ian Thompson’s backyard.

In addition to some standard vegetable varieties, Thompson grows gooseberry plants, raspberries and apple, pear, peach and cherry trees.

He’s been cultivating his backyard garden for around 6 years and said there are a lot of benefits to urban gardening.

“I haven’t really ever had what I would consider a large space to garden, so I can’t say definitively if it’s easier or harder. But, in my view, gardening in tight spaces is better because you have to be more mindful,” he said.

Additionally, you don’t have serious weed problems, and it doesn’t require a lot of equipment to care for your plants.

Mary Lehmkuhl Lutz, who has a tight network of raised beds in her yard, added that in the city you don’t have to worry as much about insects and diseases.

“In the city there are these little microclimates and microspaces that don’t have a buildup of disease and bugs,” she said.

Not all bugs, however, are harmful, and all three urban gardeners do keep bees to help with pollination.

While a lack of space may seem like a detriment, urban gardeners are finding ways to maximize what they have.

“I do a lot of things vertically,” Thompson said.

Henry pointed to a trellis where he’d trained a cucumber vine to grow along the wall, freeing up the space underneath.

“I was able to plant bok choy there, instead,” he said.

Lutz, who grows on about one-twentieth of an acre, added she dreams of larger plots of land but urban gardening offers a better opportunity to provide food and education about growing. Lutz’s business, Sun and Moon Farm, sells produce to locals and businesses like Bistro 501.

“I love being in an urban location, because one of my goals is to show people how much food they can grow in a small space,” Lutz said. “Being urban is dear to my heart, but I can’t do it forever because I also want to feed my community. . It’s a crazy balance to try and stay small and keep growing more.”


Source: (Lafayette) Journal and Courier


Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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