"Yards to Gardens" Matches Gardeners to Land Owners

Yards to Gardens (or Y2G) might just the most benevolent site in the web universe. Essentially, it functions as a matchmaker between people who want to garden but don’t have the space, and those who have the space, but not the time. (It also puts people who want chicken manure in contact with those who have it, and gives room to shout to those who are trying to give away extra seeds and clay pots, but more on that later.)

I say it’s benevolent because the founders of Y2G know that it’s just not right to let someone suffer with an unfulfilled primal urge to dig in the dirt. (They just want to grow things!) The purity of their sentiment is matched by the other side of the coin: people who have yards and gardening space and just want to see it put to good use.

Y2G is a relatively new project. It was founded last year by three friends — Jesse Eustis, Jonas Goslow, and Donovan Walker — who, as they biked or drove around the Twin Cities, began to see all of the plots of grass as lost potential. Like many people, they envisioned a city where available urban spaces were filled with plants that give a little something back to the community, whether that’s food, beauty or a little CO2.  They could have started a community garden, but they decided to take the project to the people: they created a website based on bartering, with gardening as its currency, with the hope that growers meet up with the empty yards. Smart guys. This system increases the potential of converting a greater amount of grass to garden.

This year, they have about 80 listings, mostly concentrated in and around the Twin Cities, although a few have popped up in Chicago and a few other cities, as well. Community gardens have found the site, too, and are using it as a way to find new members.

Reading through the listings feels a bit like standing in front of the co-op bulletin board, although it’s focused on horticulture. And it’s not all just “I need ... ” The people who want to donate their lawns to gardening number just as high as those who need space. (Sometimes you get the feeling that the homeowners are just darn sick of mowing and are looking for a way out.) Here’s a smattering:

"Just bought a post-hole digger. Willing to lend it for a day or two."

"You can garden here! We’re willing to till up about a 20’ x 30’ section of our yard for gardening."

"I’m looking for a yard in Seward or Longfellow to plant the tasty and beautiful Three Sisters Polyculture. Thanks!"

"Backyard needs less lawn, raised beds would be great."

"Chicken poop/straw available. Our chickens produce about a yard bag full a week. We’re not using it all, but maybe you can?"

"Free evergreens to anyone willing to remove them."

The wealth of hope and generosity in these postings! It almost breaks your heart. If you believe that gardening should be democratic, beauty should be free, and food should be purchased with calories expended, then get thee to Y2G.

Amy Thielen worked in New York for 8 years, cooking with chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. She also developed recipes for Country Living Magazine, tested recipes for Martha Stewart, and worked on two cookbooks. Now, she lives with her husband and son in Park Rapids, Minnesota, in a house so lodged in the woods that the wolves' howls are louder than her neighbor's barking dog. She teaches cooking classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill, writes food stories for the Star Tribune, and keeps a blog called Sourtooth. Her last post for Simple, Good and Tasty was Heartland's Lenny Russo and His Love Affair with the Mangalitsa.