Southeast Como plans for grow box pilot project

The portable grow box would let undergraduate student renters grow small gardens in their house.

Lolla Mohammed Nur

The Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) is a finalist for a grant that could fund a new pilot project that would allow residents to have a portable, reusable garden in the form of a grow box in their houses and apartments. The grow box is planned to be a cylinder-shaped, two-foot-tall container with soil and plant material, instructions and a self-watering mechanism. The project, scheduled to launch next spring, is designed primarily for undergraduate student residents who donâÄôt know how to grow plants or donâÄôt have space outside their rented houses to grow organic produce. However, the program is open to any Southeast Como resident. âÄúYou wonâÄôt have to bug your landlord to grow a garden outside, and even if youâÄôre moving, you can actually take your garden with you,âÄù community garden organizer Stephanie Hankerson said. SECIA has applied for $9,300 to fund 50 grow boxes through the WedgeShare grant , which is awarded annually by the Wedge Community Co-op to organizations with environmentally friendly ideas for projects or events. Neighborhood coordinator James De Sota said he thinks students will be interested in the project because âÄúthere [arenâÄôt] a ton of options in the local area as far as co-ops or places where fresh produce is sold.âÄù The grow box is unusual because it has the ability to self-hydrate, which will keep the soil moist for a week, Hankerson said. âÄúThe biggest problem with growing plants in containers is that they can require watering twice a day, and thatâÄôs a real challenge for a beginning gardener, or someone who has a lot of work or school,âÄù she said. Hankerson said SECIA is trying to attract amateur gardeners with the project, and she thinks the âÄúgrow your ownâÄù concept of the grow box will interest the renter population. âÄúItâÄôs also about decreasing your [carbon] footprint and becoming more self-reliant,âÄù she said. Todd Reubold is the communications director for the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Institute on the Environment and a resident of Como Ave Southeast. He said although the grow box is a good idea, residents can easily shop at a co-op if they have a car. âÄúIt makes sense for those who donâÄôt have a car, and it seems perfect for someone living in an apartment,âÄù he said. âÄúThe size of the boxes is great for teaching people about organics, but it seems like it wouldnâÄôt be large enough to feed a family.âÄù De Sota said SECIA may not win the grant because of the size and scope of the other finalistsâÄô projects. âÄúEven if we donâÄôt receive the grant weâÄôll pilot something âÄî even if itâÄôs small,âÄù he said.