Growing Potatoes in a Vacant Lot

The story of how one Nebraska family without land obtained the use of a vacant lot and fed itself by growing potatoes.

| March/April 1972

For many years, nothing but weeds grew on a vacant lot near our home, so we finally called the owner of the property and asked permission to garden there in return for our care of the land. It wasn't as hard to persuade him as we had thought it might be, which left us with the problem of deciding what to plant.

We soon concluded growing potatoes would give our family of six a maximum return on a minimum investment of time, money, and energy. That free land now provides us with big, creamy, delicious potatoes which—properly stored—last almost year-round.

Here's how we did it:

Getting the Land

The free use of land is readily available for natural gardening in and around almost every village, town, and city in this country. All you have to do is ask. Property owners are usually quite pleased to find someone willing to relieve them of the costly burden of controlling weeds on their vacant lots, and many appreciate the contribution that organic culture can make to the soil. Once you point out that your activities will be building, not depleting or polluting, the land and actually increasing the lot's value, you're usually home free.

I now garden on several "borrowed" lots and I never enter into a formal agreement for the privilege. I find it sufficient to simply check with the property owners each spring before I plant. At season's end, I inform my "landlords" that I'm through with the plot for the year but that I'm interested in using it again the following spring. Once you've shown the property owners that you really do care for a lot, you're almost automatically assured free use of that piece of land year after year.

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