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Vegetable Gardens at City Hall

The next time you pass by City Hall, you may notice an unusual smell…rosemary, sage, and oregano. With help from the City’s Sustainability Office, the Houston Department of Public Works is now maintaining a vegetable garden on Walker Street. They hope their greenery will encourage other Houstonian to plant some seeds. From the KUHF News Lab, Melissa Galvez reports.


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“We have basil, we have rosemary, we have Anaheim peppers, marigolds for the bugs…”

It sounds like Minnie Aguilar is planting a vast vegetable garden behind some country cottage.? But she’s actually just standing by a large pot outside 611 Walker, where she works. This pot belongs to the 20th floor, Right of Way Maintenance division.? They’ve got great plans for the harvest.

“We’ll probably have peppers for us to eat. Rosemary for the Thanksgiving holiday, I don’t know.”

About a month ago, Houston landscape architect Keiji Askura emailed the City an idea: why not set up vegetable gardens near City Hall to promote community and sustainable living?? The City’s new sustainability director Laura Spanjian jumped on the concept, but she was surprised by the very positive response from the staff at the Department of Public Works.

“I think people are really starting to understand that local food is great and sustainable, and that they can do it. The minute we brought this idea up, people said ‘Yes, I want to garden, I want to eat my local vegetables, I don’t want things coming from Brazil, or Mexico.'”

Each floor in the building is taking care of one or more pots, with workers volunteering to water them at lunch time.? They’ll also decide if they want to eat the produce, or donate it to a local food bank.? Mayor Annise Parker joined the planting festivities, saying she hopes this project will inspire others throughout Houston.

“I hope that not only City facilities will continue to do this, but that we inspire other Houstonians to grow herb and vegetable gardens. Edible gardens can be beautiful, but they’re also wonderful for how easy it is to eat healthy and have a great time.”

Mark Bowen is the Executive Director of Urban Harvest, which, along with Keep Houston Beautiful, donated soil and plants.? He hopes this project sparks interest in Houston’s over 150 community gardens.

“It’s also a great way to meet new friends and there’s a lot of community development that’s an offshoot. People start working together, and helping each other with their houses, or looking out for neighbors that are homebound. Community gardens are tool to really help foster healthier communities.”

Some might worry that passers-by will pilfer a tomato or two from the City’s new gardens, or that the heat will be deadly.? But Minnie Aguilar says she and her colleagues will find a way to make it work.

“We wanna show everybody that a garden can be grown in the middle of downtown Houston, even with the heat, with the wind, we can learn to take care of it and it can strive, you know, just like we are.”