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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Garden Girl in the City

Air Date: Week of

Gardening season is here again but the urban gardener doesn't need to be confined to growing plants in containers. In Boston, Patti Moreno, also known as Garden Girl, grows so much food in her backyard that she opens up a farmstand each summer. Living on Earth's Bobby Bascomb went to check out a garden that is anything but garden variety.


GELLERMAN: Well, from digging a deep hole in the earth’s crust for science, we go to the shallow kind for planting seeds. And who better than Garden Girl to help with the spade work? Garden Girl is urban gardener Patti Moreno of Roxbury, Massachusetts.

An 8 by 6 foot greenhouse was converted into a chicken coop. Patti sells extra eggs to her neighbors in her summer farmer’s market. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)

Recently she showed Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb how to grow seedlings indoors. Now - it's time for Bobby - the plants and Patti - to head outside.

[SOUNDS OF CHICKENS: “I just want to see if there are any eggs under these ladies over here…No, no eggs. Bummer!]

MORENO: They start producing eggs, actually, at 20 weeks. That will be like a few a week, then, as they mature, one a day.

BASCOMB: For the average person that wanted to have, you know, backyard chickens, how feasible is it?

Patti and her husband Rob plant potatoes in his“man garden.” (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)

MORENO: It’s so easy. It’s much easier than a dog. You never have to walk them, unless you want to. (Laughs.) They are my garden helpers - they scratch and till the soil for me - they eat all the bugs, and then, they fertilize it…


MORENO: Let’s go over to my smaller garden. We’re going to get to work a little bit over here.

BASCOMB: Are you going to put me to work?

MORENO: We’re going to put you to work. This is, basically, a demonstration garden that I wanted to put together to show what you could do in like an average size backyard. Being Puerto Rican, one of the raised beds I plant every year is a Latin-Caribbean mixture of beans and peppers and cilantro, all of the things that you would need to make this thing called sofrito, which is a kind of base flavor for a lot of the food that you would eat in Latin-Caribbean culture.

Patti has 30 raised bed gardens for growing a wide variety of vegetables. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)

[MUSIC: Yomo Toro/Roswell Rudd “Tres Cuatro from El Espiritu Jibaro (Sunnyside Records 2007)]

MORENO: I have a 4x4 raised bed that’s two tiers high. And then I have a square foot grid that I made that fits right into the raised bed, and that’s going to be basically our guide as to where we’re planting everything.

[MUSIC: “Mayor G from El Espiritu Jibaro (Sunnyside Records 2007)]

Patti placed an old skylight over a garden bed to create a mini greenhouse. Inside it is the square foot grid she uses to demarcate where to plant her seeds. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)

MORENO: We’re going to companion plant. In this whole bed, we’re going to be able to make an amazing stirfry, so we’re going to have, you know, the eggplant, the Siamese dragon stirfry mix, which just has tons of different Asian greens in them.

Arranging different configurations of raised beds is like my hobby. That’s just fun for me - Saturday night, planning raised beds! It’s a party!

[MUSIC: Johnny Pacheco “Azucar Mami” from Viva Salsa (Charly Records 1991)]

PATTON-SPURILL: Look, Asian greens are nice, it’s nice, it’s spicy, it’s a different taste… how about some potatoes and some corn and some lettuce. My name is Robert Patton-Spurill and I’m Patricia’s husband. I want a record of potato - I want to do 800 lbs of potato. I’m trying to do 200 lbs of corn.

BASCOMB: Wait a second, how big is this garden that you’re growing this all in?

PATTON-SPURILL: Pretty small. It’s that big - it’s only 4x8.

MORENO: This part is for his man-garden this year.

PATTONSPURILL: You know, a lot of people grow potatoes in trash barrels, and that’s the coolest thing ever, because basically they put the potato at the very bottom in like 6 inches of soil, and as it grows up, they keep filling soil around it. And then, at the end of the year, they dump it out on a tarp, pull all the potatoes off, and then they start it over again, and then that one trash can version, people have done really gigantic amounts of potato in it.

Patti holds seeds for an Asian stir fry mix. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)

MORENO: We, every year, manage to eat so many meals from the garden. You know, the supermarket people do not know me.

[MUSIC: Johnny Pacheco “Azucar Mami” from Viva Salsa (Charly Records 1991)]

MORENO: Urbanites, it’s our responsibility to start being as sustainable as we possibly can, because in the very near future, there’s going to be 70 percent of the world’s population that’s gonna live in cities.

[MUSIC: Johnny Pacheco “Azucar Mami” from Viva Salsa (Charly Records 1991)]

MORENO: Anything you grow and then eat is going to be the tastiest thing you’ve ever had, as long as you don’t burn it - you’re fine. And it’s a lot of fun!

[MUSIC: Johnny Pacheco “Azucar Mami” from Viva Salsa (Charly Records 1991)]

GELLERMAN: Garden Girl Patti Moreno gives green tips on the Home and Garden website. She spoke with Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb. Coming up – a bird lover goes loony over... what else? - loons. Stay tuned - it's Living on Earth!

Patti’s Video: How to Build a Raised Bed Garden



Garden Girl TV

The City Chicken

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation


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