Posted June 4, 2012

Portable gardens are growth opportunity for Temple senior

Joseph V. Labolito
Tyler School of Art student Dylan DeVlieger designed a portable garden as a solution for space challenges inherent in urban gardening.

How does an urban-dwelling vegan quench his desire for home-grown vegetables? By building a portable garden on wheels, of course.

When Dylan DeVlieger, a senior painting major, decided to grow his own vegetables, he first investigated the possibility of starting a community garden near his apartment at 12th and Spring Garden streets. But the logistics proved too daunting and he dreamt up the idea of building portable gardens on wheels instead.

DeVlieger parks the gardens — one is 4 by 3.5 feet and the other is 5.5 by 4 feet — outside of Tyler School of Art, where his mini crops of peas, beans, tomatoes and, soon, squash can get good sun. He has easy access to a water source and, when he started in March, he could wheel the gardens inside on cold nights.

“It’s a practical solution to a couple of obstacles,” said DeVlieger. “I wanted to have fresh vegetables, but I live in an apartment and have no yard or land to garden on. It is also difficult to start and maintain a garden as a college student, as we tend to move around relatively frequently. I figured that if the beds were on wheels I could move them wherever I went.”

DeVlieger sees the gardens on wheels as a good option for all community gardeners, most of whom don’t own the land on which they till. If the land ends up getting sold, he said, they can just cart their garden off to another spot.

The gardens also give Dylan the real-life, hands-on experience he wants to build for a post-college career in farming.

“I could research growing vegetables and knew a lot about gardening already (his mom and uncle are big gardeners), but actually knowing what part of the season to plant what crops, how deep the soil has to be for what kind of vegetable and where to get soil and composting are skills I’ve been figuring out through this process. I think they’re useful skills to have,” said DeVlieger.

The wooden boxes of vegetables have brought lots of smiles and curious looks from passersby, and DeVlieger reports having made some new friends thanks to the project.

Fresh vegetables, new friends and marketable skills — can’t beat it.

The Ridley, Pa. native plans to move to Georgia after graduation to pursue farming opportunities alongside friends who now live there. His gardens on wheels? They’ll be donated to one of Philly’s community gardens.