Urban Agriculture Challenges and Solutions: Part 3

This is the third in a series of articles about the challenges gardeners and farmers have faced while working in an urban area, as well as the solutions they have come up with in the face of these issues. Read the previous posts from the series here and here

House of Living Stone community garden.

A Skeptical Gardener

Allison Reed was skeptical about joining a community garden. Mostly because she hates bugs. Especially mosquitoes.

But when Florida Cargill, garden leader of House of Living Stone community garden, asked her if she wanted a garden bed two years ago, Allison decided to give it a try.

She still hates bugs, but has found an enjoyable hobby in community gardening. She even calls it one of the most relaxing hobbies that one can have. Planting citronella plants in her garden beds has also helped keep the bugs off of her when she comes to tend to her plants during summer evenings.

House of Living Stone 

Garden on a hill.

House of Living Stone community garden was founded in 2011 and is part of the First Baptist Church of Webster Groves. The name, which often draws interest, is based on the bible verse 1 Peter 2:5. According to Florida, the verse is about Christ talking to Peter about how believers are the living stones of a church.

The garden’s relationship with the First Baptist Church of Webster Groves means that it is used quite often for bible studies and events. It functions as a community space where members of the church can meet while enjoying the striking beauty of the garden.

And striking it is. When I first visited the garden on a September evening, the sun was just beginning to cast light through the trees. The garden, which is set atop a steep hill, features a variety of flowers and a small orchard and seems to welcome visitors in with its many benches and picnic tables.


Colorful pavestones.

Children in the Garden

One of the unique components of the House of Living Stone community garden is the emphasis on making the space a welcoming place for children.

At one edge of the garden, there is a patio area made of many painted concrete pavestones. The pavestones were painted by children of First Baptist Church of Webster Groves and feature bright designs, names, and references to biblical stories. The paintings were designed to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary and several of the pavestones have images of large birthday cakes as a result.

The garden also has a bed for children to plant various vegetables and flowers. This past summer, it held sweet potatoes and marigolds.

Florida and other garden members work hard to ensure that the garden is a place where children can come to play and enjoy its many wonders.


Problems and Solutions 

Fence around a garden bed.

The garden is undoubtedly a haven, which is made obvious as soon as you climb to the top of the hill where it sits and take in the view around it. But, like many community gardens, it experiences both environmental and involvement challenges.

This past summer, the garden’s biggest problem has been moles and groundhogs. The gardeners tried building fences made of chicken wire around their garden beds. The makeshift fences worked at first but half-chewed sweet potato leaves made it obvious that the problem required more action. Some of the gardeners eventually built a cage made of chicken wire around their garden bed. This prevented any critters from climbing in and making a meal out of growing vegetables.

House of Living Stone Community Garden, like many others, has also experienced periods of low membership and engagement.

Florida said that she keeps an eye on the garden beds and reaches out to members to ask them if they need anything if it seems like they are having trouble making it to the garden.

She also credits continued membership to the enthusiasm of the pastor of First Baptist Church of Webster Groves.

Cage around a garden bed.

“He always tells people about the garden and how to get involved and makes sure to announce events there at church meetings,” Florida said.

The garden’s strong connection to the church has meant that excess produce has a convenient place to be donated. The church has a food outreach ministry that provides supplemental meals to those in need.


Something New

The garden is a unique entity. A place of calm in a city that teems with life. It provides both respite and a place to challenge oneself.

“Planting something new every year is fun. I just like to see if I can grow something different,” Allison said.

I entered the garden stressed from traffic and honking horns. But as I walk down the hill the garden sits on, the light slanting low, I feel a sense of calm that was not there before.

Written by Mallory Brown, Communications & Fundraising AmeriCorps VISTA

Garden to Food Pantry

If you stopped by the Demonstration Garden this spring, you may have met Myra Rosenthal, a long time Gateway Greening volunteer and Garden Leader of the Garden of Eden at the JCC. Recently, we caught up with Myra to learn more about the Garden of Eden’s unique mission: providing her local food pantry with fresh garden produce.

Organic Beginnings

“You know, it wasn’t difficult [to start a garden] and it evolved organically (pardon the pun).  Many people have gardens in their homes and bring excess produce to the pantry.  For years my husband has always taken his extra tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers there.  Jewish congregations in the St. Louis area have donation bins solely for the purpose of collecting food for the pantry.” – Myra Rosenthal, Garden Leader at the Garden of Eden

Volunteers and garden members building new raised beds and planting berms at the Garden of Eden as part of their Gateway Greening Garden Expansion Award in 2014.


Founded in 2011 with the goal of providing fresh produce to the local Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, the Garden of Eden has grown considerably from its humble beginnings.

Open four days a week, the Garden of Eden is located on a corner of the St. Louis Jewish Community Center property and currently has more than 4,000 square feet of growing space in the form of raised planting berms and beds. A portion of the garden is reserved for the use of nearby Covenant Place residents, many of whom are immigrants or refugees.

With the combined effort of long-time gardeners, individual and group volunteers, and even a few cheery day camp participants, the Garden of Eden was able to grow and donate more than 3,700 pounds of food to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in 2016 alone.

Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry

Garden of Eden
Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry during a 2017 tour given to Gateway Greening staff.

Started in 1991, the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, originally operated out of a single room on a shoestring budget, serving no more than 40 families. Since then the food pantry has grown considerably. Today it is a designated USDA food pantry affiliated with the St. Louis Area Foodbank and Operation Food Search, and serves more than 6,500 people each month, making it one of the largest food pantries in the region.

During a recent visit to the food pantry to learn more about how community gardeners can support their local pantries, Gateway Greening staff Erin Wood and Mallory Brown were deeply impressed by the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry’s commitment to alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. The staff and volunteers of the pantry make every effort to accommodate special dietary needs, providing kosher, halal, gluten-free, and diabetic friendly options for their guests as much as possible.

When asked how the Garden of Eden decides what to grow in the garden each year, Myra’s response was candid: “Well, we got smart.  Eventually.  When we first started, that is, in our first year, we went to a local gardening store and we thought, ‘Oh, this plant looks good.  We’ll buy it.’  ‘Oh, look, this is interesting.  Let’s get it.’  ‘Oh, this herb is soooo cute.  We’ll grow this.’  Then somewhere in the middle of the summer, I remember thinking, ‘Is that what the clients of the food pantry want?’  So the next time I went to the pantry I asked.  I was stunned when I was told the clients in the pantry had no use for herbs.  They wanted simple, sustainable food.  They didn’t want anything fancy.  That’s when I learned we don’t grow what WE want.  We grow what THEY, the clients of the food pantry, want.”

Garden to Food Pantry - fresh harvest ready for donation!
Harvest from the Garden of Eden, cleaned, weighed, and ready to be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (2014).

Visiting the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry is much like visiting a corner grocery store, as the pantry has moved to a “Client Choice” model. Using this model, guests are encouraged to explore the items and select foods which their families will use at home, up to a certain amount based on the number of people in their household. Judy Berkowitz, Director of the food pantry, explains that this model is more flexible than the traditional ‘bagged’ method, allowing individuals to meet their dietary needs while still embracing differences in food culture among their diverse guest base.

Myra shared that it is sometimes challenging to grow for such a diverse community, but most of the time – it isn’t. Despite not being familiar with crops like okra and collard greens, Myra chose to grow them because they went over well with the clients. “We are a multicultural country anyway and we should try other’s foods.  Come to think of it, the clients at the food pantry are multinational.  Some are from Asia, Russia, the Ukraine, and the Middle East.  What’s odd or unusual to us may not be to them and they gladly take.”


Community Garden Challenges

When asked about challenges faced by gardening, Myra states: “Gardens are gardens.  I’ve never met a productive vegetable garden that looks like a set for a magazine or a tv show.  Even the vegetable garden in Orange Is the New Black looks a zillion times better than ours.  And there’s a dead body buried in it!  I have had to deal with dismissive comments of people who think we should look weed free, lush and beautiful.  I think we spend an inordinate amount of time on weeding and other tasks so that the garden looks at least decent to ordinary passersby.  But, then, to be fair, we chose not to have a fence.  That was deliberate.  In the Bible, farmers are commanded to leave part of their fields for the poor to glean.  We do the same.”

Beyond the weeds, the Garden of Eden faces other challenges that many St. Louis community gardens can relate to: the struggle to find continuous funding, engaged volunteers and new garden members, as well as materials being stolen or vandalized. And perhaps the most devastating of all – the occasional crop failure.

Garden to Food Pantry - donation day!
Garden of Eden garden leaders Myra Rosenthal and Linda Kram donating fresh produce from the garden to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in 2014.


Guide to Growing for Food Pantries

Interested in sharing the bounty from your personal or community garden with a local food pantry? Myra shares a few insights:

  • Food pantries are as varied and unique as the communities they serve. Some will have refrigerators and freezers available for storing excess food, and some will not. Although most will take fresh foods that will last for at least a few days, some pantries will only accept boxed and canned goods.
  • Open Hours: Learn when the food pantry is open, and call ahead to see when they accept donations. Many rely on volunteers and may only have the capacity to accept and process your gift on certain days.
  • Visit your food pantry! Knowing how a pantry operates, and what its specific needs are, will empower you to make informed decisions about what will and will not be helpful to the food pantry.
  • Always respect the privacy of the guests of the food pantry. Ask the food pantry staff if there are any guidelines you should be following when making a donation.
  • People who are food insufficient are reluctant to try new items, and many do not have measuring cups, baking equipment, or easy access to the internet to search for recipes. When possible, keep your food donations simple and basic. When growing for a pantry, always ask what foods will be most helpful.
  • Always clean the food before making a donation! Food pantries have a lot of work to accomplish and often have limited manpower to do it all. Food safety is paramount when providing food for others, and providing clean food ensures it ends up on the shelves quicker.
  • Call ahead and let the food pantry know that you are harvesting for them or plan to make a donation on a certain day. This simple courtesy is anything but, as it allows the pantry to make changes as needed to meet the needs of its guests.


The Garden of Eden was a veritable bounty of diverse crops during a mid-summer visit in 2017, all destined for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.

Urban Agriculture Challenges and Solutions: Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles about the challenges gardeners and farmers have faced while working in an urban area, as well as the solutions they have come up with in the face of these issues. Read the first post from the series here.

Botanical Heights Community Garden

The Botanical Heights Community Garden was established more than a decade ago and has been an integral part of the Botanical Heights neighborhood since its creation. One of the larger community gardens in the city of St. Louis, it has over 50 beds and currently counts around 30 people as members. The garden has a large orchard as well which it won in 2010 from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation of California, which was underwritten by Edy’s Fruit Bars.  

I visited the garden in late July when its many beds were overflowing with vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The garden is a beautiful example of the amount of produce that can be grown on a small city lot. But it has always experienced challenges that have threatened its long-term success.

A Botanical Heights gardener grows herbs in an innovative fashion.


Struggles With Involvement

Nicki Bergmann, one of the garden’s current leaders, comments that the garden has struggled with involvement and interest.

“We do regular work days, but we noticed that the same few gardeners were showing up every time.”

Nicki says that she understands that for some people it is not always possible to make the work days. They decided to institute a rebate system last year to encourage involvement and reward people who were putting the most work into the garden.

They have annual dues for belonging to the garden that they increased this year. However, those dues can be decreased if gardeners come to work days, mow, or trim the trees in the orchard.

Nicki says this system benefits both the garden and members.

“Members who can’t participate in work days pay their dues which helps us keep the garden running. And members who were already coming to work days are rewarded by being charged less for their garden membership.”

She also commented that the rebate system has helped with recruiting more garden members. Members that want more beds and have time to commit to maintaining the garden can get more beds inexpensively, as a result of the rebate system.

Flowers bloom in the beds of the garden.

Communication Problems and Solutions

For the Botanical Heights Community Garden, organization and communication has also been an issue in the past.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to ensure that people are informed about what is going on in the garden and how they can be involved,” said Nicki.

They use Google calendar to schedule work days and have used Sign Up Genius to get head counts for work days and happy hours. They also use word of mouth and email.

Gardeners have also worked on planning ahead for volunteers.

“Planning some big projects for volunteer groups to work on ensures that their time is going to be beneficial to the garden and fulfilling for them,” said Nicki.


Environmental Problems

Botanical Heights Community Garden has had some issues with bugs damaging their plants, particularly aphids.

Recently they have bought and released ladybugs, which Nicki said has helped with the aphid problem.

To prevent the spread of diseases such as powdery mildew or mosaic virus, which are highly contagious, they have created a policy that works to protect the garden as a whole.

“We try to monitor it and require gardeners to pull any infected plants as soon as they show signs of infection,” said Nicki.

Overflowing garden beds.


In Summary:

To address problems with involvement, Botanical Heights Community Garden has a rebate system that rewards gardeners that come to the work days or do tasks for the garden.

In order to tackle issues with communication, the garden leaders have used Google Calendar and Sign Up Genius in addition to other avenues to keep gardeners informed about events.

To address environmental issues, the garden has released ladybugs to combat aphids and adopted a strict policy to avoid the spread of disease.


Treated Lumber in the Garden

Mayberry Community Garden, 2003.

Over the years, many people have expressed their concern over Gateway Greening’s decision to use treated lumber for gardening purposes. Today, we would like to take a moment to address those concerns and to provide information on the different types of treated lumber available in general and the materials Gateway Greening uses in particular.  

What is Treated Lumber?

Treated lumber is wood that has had compounds added to it in order to prevent wood-decaying organisms (bacteria, fungus, and insects) from decomposing the wood (1). Treated lumber is typically “pressure treated,” meaning high pressures are used to force preservative compounds into the wood. This provides more protection long term than a simple surface coat would.

Unlike untreated lumber, which will quickly start to break down when left exposed to the elements and wood-decaying organisms, treated wood remains usable for many years (1).


The History – CCA Lumber Treatment

Throughout much of the 20th century, lumber companies relied on a lumber treatment that utilized Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic (CCA). Studies found that arsenic could be leaching into soils that came into contact with the CCA treated lumber. However, arsenic is a compound found naturally in soils and the leaching was considered to be within safe limits.

Although CCA treatments were not found to pose an “unreasonable risk to the public” (2), the EPA decided to reduce Arsenic exposure, (3) (2) leading companies to cease manufacturing CCA lumber for residential use (4) in December of 2003.

After the 2003 EPA decision1, horticulturally focused authors and agriculture enthusiasts began to warn gardeners of the risk of using CCA treated lumber for gardening purposes. Similarly, Gateway Greening does not use CCA treated lumber for its gardens, urban farm, or other civic greening projects.


Lumber after CCA

Volunteers installing raised beds at the Grant’s View Library Garden, 2016.

In the aftermath of the 2003 EPA decision1, the lumber industry developed several alternative treatments which provided the same level of decay resistance as CCA treated lumber, without using arsenic or chromium.

Gateway Greening uses the Lifewood brand of lumber which is treated with micronized copper azole. According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory, Lifewood’s copper azole treatment “is comprised of 96-percent copper and 4- percent tebuconazole,” a fungicide (5) (6).  

The Lifewood brand was the first lumber treatment brand to be certified by the Scientific Certification System (SCS) as an “Environmentally Preferable Product,” meaning that it meets qualifications for this environmental certification based on an independent life cycle assessment (7). (The qualifications to receive this certification can be explored on the SCS’s website (8)). Products that receive Environmentally Preferable Product certification have been independently assessed to verify that the product is better for the environment than the prevailing, similar products (8)). Products that receive Environmentally Preferable Product certification have been independently assessed to verify that the product is better for the environment than the prevailing, similar products.

The copper azole lumber treatment is considered to be a safe choice for raised vegetable beds. University of Missouri Extension states that copper azole is as safe for raised beds as a similar type of wood treatment, known as ACQ, and confirms, “exposure to copper from contact with ACQ-treated wood is not expected to have adverse effects on the health of adults or children” (9).  

While it is a known fact that some amount of copper and the fungicide tebuconazole will leach from the lumber into the soil over time, this happens at such low levels it is not considered dangerous. In fact, copper azole treated wood is actually suggested by Iowa State University Extension for use in raised vegetable beds (10).   


The use of Copper in Lumber Treatments

Copper is a common component of treated lumber because of copper’s antifungal properties (2)(9). Copper’s antifungal nature helps to prevent fungus from colonizing and decomposing wood, allowing treated lumber to last longer than untreated lumber.

Although there is a fair amount of copper in Lifewood brand lumber, the life cycle assessment of the product states,

Wood products treated with the Osmose MicroPro process result in the release of 90% to 99% less copper into aquatic and terrestrial environments when compared to standard treated wood products. The very small amount released bonds readily to organic matter in the soil and becomes biologically inactive, thus effectively eliminating eco-toxic impacts (11).

In short, although there is more copper in the copper azole lumber it actually leaches less copper into soil than the CCA treated lumber over time. The small amounts of copper that do leach are soon trapped in the soil, meaning it cannot be taken up by vegetable plants.  

Did you know? All of Gateway Greening’s raised beds are pre-built by volunteers and Dig It STL crew members. The effort of these individuals is a tremendous help to the local gardeners who receive beds through our Bi-annual Expansion Award.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have also studied copper leaching while studying CCA treated lumber for use in gardening, and discuss some of their findings in a publication. When discussing potential leaching of arsenic (As), chromium, (Cr) and copper (Cu) from the old CCA lumber, the researchers found that:

When trace elements such as these three are added to soil, most of what is added is not available for plant uptake. Chromium and copper are bound very strongly by soil particles, especially by soil clays and organic matter. They are most strongly bound in near-neutral soils (pH 6–8) and become more soluble in acidic soils (pH less than 5). As a result, Cr and Cu tend not to move in soil, and only a small fraction of what is added to the soil can be taken up by plants (2).

The publication later emphasizes this by stating that gardeners can avoid potential plant uptake of these nutrients by “Maintain(ing) soil pH in the near-neutral range (pH 6–7). Solubility of Cr and Cu is greatly reduced in neutral soils,” and, “Maintain high soil organic matter levels by adding compost or manure. Organic matter strongly binds As, Cr, and Cu and thus reduces their availability to plants,” two things that gardeners typically do as part of their regular gardening efforts (2). Even if some copper is absorbed by plants, Pennsylvania State University states that:

…the human body can tolerate relatively large intakes of Cr and Cu and is also able to excrete excess amounts of these metals.  Furthermore, plants are less tolerant of Cr and Cu than humans are. This means that Cr and Cu would kill plants before plant tissue concentrations could get high enough to cause a chronic toxic effect in humans from eating the plants (2).  

In summary, research shows that although the copper azole treatment is 96% copper and is known to leach into the surrounding soil:

  1. Leached copper is quickly bound up in clay and organic matter so that it is highly unlikely that garden plants would absorb it.
  2. Copper is far more toxic to plants than humans, meaning that garden plants would die before carrying harmful levels of copper to the dinner table.
  3. Copper is actually an essential nutrient for humans, and our bodies are able to absorb the needed amount, then safely pass any excess.


The use of Fungicide in Lumber Treatments

Like copper, the fungicide tebuconazole is added to copper azole treated lumber in order to prevent fungus from rotting away lumber. More specifically, the fungicide is needed to control certain wood-rotting fungus that copper cannot kill (12).

According to a study done for the European Union, “An accumulation of tebuconazole in soil is not anticipated when tebuconazole is used as a wood preservative” (13). It further states that, “Tebuconazole has a low mobility potential” (13) meaning that the fungicide is unlikely to leach from the treated lumber and into the surrounding garden soil to any significant degree.

Two different studies where tebuconazole was sprayed on the soil surface found that it was readily locked up by the soil during experiments, with most of it staying within 2” of the surface (14). Further research revealed that tebuconazole’s mobility in an agricultural field (as opposed to a controlled laboratory setting) is similarly immobile, though when organic matter is added it becomes more mobile in the soil with most of it remaining within 1-4 inches of the soil surface (15). However, the organic matter also speeds up tebuconazole’s decomposition in the soil so that it has a half-life of only 8-12 days when soil has added organic matter (15).

Although these results are not a perfect analogy because the studies relied on applying tebuconazole directly to the surface of the soil rather than being bound to wood, they do provide a fairly accurate idea of the movement and leaching capabilities of the tebuconazole fungicide used in treated lumber.


Lumber used by Gateway Greening

Shaw VPA Elementary School Garden Expansion 2016
Gateway Greening also uses treated lumber to build compost bins; something that is especially important when it is in constant contact with decomposers.

The treated lumber Gateway Greening uses to build raised beds is only treated with copper and a fungicide tebuconazole. This type of treated lumber results in far less leaching than alternative lumber treatments. The components that do leach are mostly locked up by clay and organic matter in soil meaning it is harder for the plant to absorb it.  

Copper becomes even harder for plants to absorb when the soil is a neutral pH, a goal most St. Louis gardeners strive for in order to grow the best possible vegetables.

It is also harder for plants to absorb copper if organic matter (compost) is added, which gardeners in the St. Louis region typically do in order to promote healthy vegetable production.

If a plant does absorb copper, the plant would die before it could absorb enough to be dangerous for human consumption. Even if someone were to eat a plant that has absorbed copper, and the copper had moved into the edible parts of the plant, the human body is adapted to get rid of excess copper – an essential element in the human diet.

Lumber treated with tebuconazole is not expected to release worrisome amounts of the fungicide into the soil given that it is found in the wood and in the soil immediately next to it only. Even when the fungicide was sprayed on the soil surface during testing trials, most of the fungicide only moved 1-4” down when soil was properly amended. However, amendments sped up the breakdown of the fungicide.


Why not use Untreated Wood or Cedar?

Many ask about “natural” alternatives to treated wood, or ask why we do not just use untreated wood or naturally rot-resistant wood like cedar.  While we technically could use “natural” alternatives, there are several key reasons why Gateway Greening recommends the treated option instead.

The main reason we do not use untreated lumber is because the most readily available untreated lumber is pine, which is a softwood and rots very quickly. Researchers at the University of Georgia report that, “pine has almost no resistance to rot or insects and has a very short life when used in direct contact with soil” (16).  

Untreated hardwoods like oak are more rot-resistant but have their own drawbacks.  Firstly, only the heartwood of lumber is resistant to rot, with the sapwood of even rot-resistant species being just as susceptible to rot as the sapwood of the more rot-prone softwoods (1).  So for woods like oak to be longer lasting than pine you need to make sure you are buying lumber that doesn’t contain sapwood.  It is also generally difficult to find those harder woods in sizes good for raised beds and they are significantly more expensive than treated pine, and “based on most research, provide only slightly more rot and insect resistance than pine” (16).

By far the favorite wood material for those trying to avoid all treatment processes is western red cedar.  Although cedar is a great wood if you are trying to avoid all treatment it is still not ideal for Gateway Greening’s school and community garden programs.  The biggest reason is cost. Cedar boards usually cost four to five times more than treated pine. This much greater cost would reduce the number of gardens  Gateway Greening currently serves by 75%.  

In addition to the upfront cost, despite cedar’s rot-resistant nature, it still has a shorter lifespan than treated lumber when in contact with soil (17).  Researchers at the University of Georgia report that fence posts made of treated pine can last up to twice as long as western cedar. Even comparing the best case for cedar to the worst case for treated lumber, the treated lumber still lasts longer (17).  Although a fence post isn’t exactly the same as a raised bed it does give a good idea of how the different woods will respond to being in constant contact with soil and regional weather conditions.


Final Thoughts

We hope that we have been able to address and alleviate many of the concerns gardeners often voice at the use of treated lumber in local community garden projects. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to our staff to ask questions!


  1. In 2002, the U.S. registrants of CCA wood preservatives voluntarily proposed the withdrawal of certain uses, including virtually all residential uses, for their products. The Agency approved these changes effective December 31, 2003 and effectively restricted the use of CCA to the treatment of wood used primarily in industrial and agricultural applications. In addition, effective May 28, 2003, all non-pressure treatments for arsenical products (e.g., brush, dips) were also voluntarily withdrawn by registrants.


Sources Cited:

1. https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/landscaping/selecting-preservative-treated-wood/

2. http://extension.psu.edu/plants/crops/esi/treated-lumber

3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzL6gLKUq_4

4. https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/chromated-arsenicals-cca

5. http://agriculture.mo.gov/plants/pdf/wood.pdf

6. https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf06772809/pdf06772809dpi72pt03.pdf

7. https://www.scscertified.com/products/cert_pdfs/Koppers_2017_SCS-EPP-01699b_s.pdf

8. https://www.scsglobalservices.com/environmentally-preferable-product

9. http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6985

10. http://www3.extension.umn.edu/sites/default/files/download/PM870B.pdf

11. http://www.culpeperwood.com/images/uploads/mplwpreservativetreatmentspec.pdf

12. https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch-beta/pubs/21521

13. https://circabc.europa.eu/sd/a/ac8b201b-9872-4675-978e-0a11ceb13a5a/Assessment%20report%20tebuconazole.pdf

14. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227160346_Leaching_of_oxadyxil_and_tebuconazole_in_Colombian_soil

15. Field scale dissipation of tebuconazole in a vineyard soil amended with spent mushroom substrate and its potential environmental impact.


17. http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=C1027-5

Urban Agriculture Challenges and Solutions: Part 1

13th Street Garden
13th St. Garden has individual beds and collective rows.


13th Street Garden

This is the first in a series of articles about the challenges gardeners and farmers have faced in an urban area, as well as the solutions they have come up with in the face of these issues.

13th Street Garden was established eight years ago and can be found in the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis. It is unique in that it is a resource garden, one that lends tools and knowledge to other gardens. It is also special because of its longevity. I met with garden leaders Jason and Jessica to talk about the unique issues they face as garden leaders in St. Louis.

13th Street Garden
A street side view of 13th St Garden.

The garden has historically been supported by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, but it is managed by longtime, dedicated neighborhood volunteers. They hold a weekly farmers’ market on site where they sell extra produce that is collectively grown in the center rows. The money from the market goes back into the garden to keep it running with seeds, plants, tools, and other materials. When asked what their biggest challenge is, both agreed lack of time and volunteers keeps them from reaching all of their goals.

“In an effort to keep weeds down, we decided to try having people sign up to weed just a single row each week, which is much more manageable than trying to tackle everything at once,” Jason said when explaining the solutions they’ve found to increasing involvement with more neighbors.

They also do outreach, such as going door to door in their neighborhood and speaking to market customers about how they can join the garden. Jessica says their market especially creates a sense of community, bringing in people from across the area who may not be members of the garden.

Jessica holds this sense of community very dearly.

“I moved here from Chicago where I lived in a mid-rise building and didn’t know anyone. Here, I know many of my neighbors. We have potlucks for almost every holiday and people come to our farmers’ market just to hang out and talk.”

They both agreed that Old North is a tight knit neighborhood, but that the garden makes it even closer.

“That’s the magic of this neighborhood. People know each other and they care about each other,” said Jason.

However, they are concerned about gardening in an urban environment.

“Lead exposure is a concern, even though plants don’t absorb much into their roots,” said Jason.

This concerns many urban farmers and gardeners. Lead is often left behind in the soil from demolished buildings.

Many gardens, including the 13th St. Garden, use raised beds and rows with fresh soil and compost to avoid lead exposure. Washing one’s hands after gardening and harvested vegetables before eating them also helps cut down on the risk of exposure. They are also experimenting with low till practices and mulching to reduce direct contact with the soil and skin.

13th Street Garden
13th St Garden has individual beds and collective rows.

They’ve also faced some theft.

“We’ve had a couple incidences of plants being pulled out of the ground and taken. Whole kale plants just disappearing. The majority of our garden-grown seedlings disappeared at the beginning of the season.”

And while they feel disappointed when theft happens, they remind themselves that it only happens occasionally. Neighbors and other urban farmers reached out to donate money and seedlings to replace those lost, getting the garden back on schedule for planting.

“Everyone is really supportive. Even if they’re not part of the garden,” said Jason.

Looking forward, both Jessica and Jason are primarily concerned with how best to increase fresh food access in their neighborhood. They want to be a resource for their community, whether that means sharing knowledge or assisting people in setting up a backyard garden.

“If a backyard garden is going to work best for them, then we will try to support them however we can,” said Jason.

In summary

To address lack of time and volunteers, 13th St. Garden does outreach door-to-door and at their on-site farmers’ markets. They also have interested people take responsibility for smaller tasks such as weeding a row, instead of expecting everyone to tackle the whole garden.

To address the risk of lead exposure, they use raised beds and rows with fresh soil and compost to prevent contamination. They also remind volunteers and members to wash hands and produce after coming into contact with soil. They are also trying low till practices.

When it comes to theft, they remind themselves that it is an infrequent occurrence that does not reflect the attitudes of the majority of the community.

To increase food access in the community, they focus on providing the best resources for each individual, in addition to increasing production and growing their farmers’ market.


-Written by Mallory Brown, Communications & Fundraising AmeriCorps VISTA at Gateway Greening


To read about other community gardens, check out the links below:

Fresh Starts Community Garden

Meet the Central Reform Congregation Community Garden