Tuesday, 17 June 2014 15:58

Urban Garden OR What To Know Before You Throw In The Trowel!

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What exactly is an Urban Garden? I asked several different people and got surprising answers. It's a community garden, it's a neighborhood flower garden, a garden where you can plant your own organic vegetables.  It's a way for schools to teach urban children responsibility, how things grow and give them something fun to do to keep them off the streets. Well, I'll make it easy for you. It's ALL of those things! Yes, you, your neighborhood, your community, your block, you and your spouse, anyone or any group located in St. Louis, Missouri can decide. And the starting cost? It's only $1 a year ($5 for 5 years)!

"The Garden Lease Program" allows residents to lease LRA lots for a five year period for $1.00 a year ($5.00 total).


 Garden Lease Program

This is the LRA's mission statement: "The garden lease program is beneficial to both the LRA (Land Reutilization Authority) and to the lessee for a number of reasons. Some individual lots are not for sale because they are needed for a larger, planned development." Until that development happens, a garden lease gives the lessee site control so that they can fence it to prevent foot traffic, build a community garden or a vegetable garden, etc. In fact, if your house is next to an empty lot, you can lease it, and just fence it off and enjoy the space. It's a win-win deal. Schools can lease them and teach kids the responsibility of growing a garden. Neighborhoods can fix up that one empty eyesore lot and make it beautiful. Groups can gather together and start planting vegetables or flowers and trees.


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What do I do first?

I spoke with Ms. Wyvonia Warfield, Maintenance Coordinator and Contact for concerns and issues related to maintenance of LRA property. The first thing you should do is this:

Apply for the Garden Lease program:

(Click on, or cntrl-click on "application" above to download it)

  • Mail it to:

Land Reutilization Authority of the City of St. Louis

1520 Market St., Suite 2000

St. Louis, MO 63103

Attention: Wyvonia Warfield, Maintenance Coordinator

*Don't send in your $5 until your application is approved.

Only one person needs to sign this. If it's an individual, neighborhood, school or community project you need to only pick one person who will be the responsible party to sign. The approval board meets the fourth Wednesday of each month, so get this in before then. It will be decided faster, usually in less than a week after the meeting. Once you get approved, then send in your $5 and you're covered for 5 years! You can fence it and lock it to prevent foot traffic; people can look, but not enter. Or you can just put stones or landscape rocks around it. Anything you like! Your only obligation is to maintain the parcel of land!  What you do with it is up to you and your group, neighborhood or school! Here are some actual examples and different garden ideas:

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 Can you lease the empty lot next to your home? Yes, if it's available! Expand your home yard area!

Are there many available lots left? Yes, the LRA has over 8,000 lots; 500 are leased so far, leaving plenty from which to choose!

 Is it easy to find a lot? Yes, in fact, just click here: LRA Property Lookup or copy and paste this address in your browser's address bar:  https://stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/sldc/real-estate/lra-owned-property-search.cfm. You can look up available properties by street address, street name, select a street from drop-down, neighborhood by name, neighborhood by drop-down, ward by name or ward by drop-down!


The Finish Line

Once you're done, you'll find several places on the internet that will help you plan and maintain whatever type of garden you've decided on. Some places are totally free, they even give away free seeds and plants, while others can help you analyze your soil, plan your garden, decide what plants or vegetables are in season and what to plant when. Some will even show you how to rotate your garden year to year. Extensive plans like these usually cost a fee, but produce great results. I'm told that once you have an approved lot, that police in that area will be aware of it and will help patrol it for unauthorized foot traffic on an occasional basis. Sending a photo of your garden in with a neighborhood, community, or dedication sign on it is likely to get it used on the internet and in other publications. Do more with your summer and fall this year! The choices are almost endless!


This article was written with the help and permissions necessary from these outstanding St. Louis government officials: Otis Williams, executive director, St. Louis Development Corporation, Laura Costello, director of real estate, St. Louis Development Corporation, Ivie Clay, Director of Communications/Marketing, and Wyvonia Warfield, Maintenance Coordinator and Contact for concerns and issues related to maintenance of LRA property.


Last modified on Friday, 20 June 2014 10:32
Roxie Russell

Roxie Russell owned an advertising agency, St. Louis' first "acoustically perfect" audio recording studio and several video studios over the past several years. During that time he has been responsible for selling lots of Budweiser on TV, producing "The Adventures of Whistling Sam" for "Extra" TV, plus writing and recording the sound track for the St. Louis Science Center's most successful show. But his real love is St. Louis and its incredible history. Join him as he draws on his past and present discoveries to take you through our city's latest trends, or back into St. Louis' colorful history.

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