Crop Crates Help City-Dwellers Get Growing

Now that the weather finally feels more spring-like, you may be getting the itch to dig in the dirt. But it’s not always easy to find space to grow a garden in a city like Somerville. That’s where The Crop Crate Company comes in.

Crop Crates are orchard-style crates used to grow vegetables, herbs or flowers.  The company builds them in two sizes, 4-feet by 5-feet or 2-feet by 3-feet (both are about 36-inches high), then delivers them to your house, school or business and fills them with organic material.

“Living in the city, I’ve always wanted to have my own garden and wasn’t able to do that,” said Chris Nicholl, Crop Crate founder and Arlington resident. Nicholl has find memories of being a kid in Medford growing vegetables with his family in their yard. He wanted to bring that same experience to people living in the city today, so The Crop Crate Company was born.

Crop Crate inside

Nicholl builds the crates with Kurt Scheer, of Newton, and will deliver them within a 10-mile radius of Boston. When the crate arrives at your house, Nicholl fills it with layers of organic materials, like straw, chicken manure, compost and worm castings. Over time, the layers will decompose, allowing the system to feed itself and eliminating the need for fertilizer.

The large crate has about 20 square feet of growing area and the small one is about half that size, and Nicholl is also open to building custom crates. He recommends using them in driveways, yards, balconies or any outdoor space that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.

“What we really want to do is get people back to growing their own stuff, even on a small level,” Nicholl said.  “It’s something people miss. It’s great for teaching your kids how to grow.”

One advantage of using a Crop Crate over planting vegetables directly into your yard is that much of the local soil may be contaminated. The Crop Crate allows you to garden without worrying about what may be leaching into your crops. The crates are also great for people with back problems, as they come up to waist height and are already filled with heavy compost and other organic materials.

Crop Crates inside 2

Nicholl got interested in local, fresh food while working at a restaurant in Cambridge and hopes that the Crop Crates will inspire other people to care more about where their food comes from. He said his favorite things to grow are carrots, salad greens and herbs, but says the possibilities of what can be grown in a Crop Crate are endless.

“If we can get some more people gardening and on the side of the whole local thing, that’s totally positive for us and everyone in the field,” Nicholl said.

For those who want to check out a Crop Crate for themselves, Nicholl will be in Medford on Saturday, May 4 with a mobile Crop Crate doing a demonstration on how he fills it. Details can be found here and on the company’s Facebook page.

Images courtesy of The Crop Crate Company.

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