(Editor’s Note: Big Easy Magazine has learned that the scarecrow in the garden was made by local New Orleans artist and costume designer Julianne Lagniappe)
In an Uptown street off Magazine stands a tiny little scarecrow sitting atop a traffic cone. Surrounded by greens, a place has been made to grow both corn and watermelon; the city has generously provided a pothole for gardening. Big Easy Magazine, as part of their Uniquely New Orleans series, interviewed two pothole farmers, Desiree Bezuidenhout, and Ronnie Mackay to get their insight into pothole farming.
Ronnie Mackay is one of the main farmers involved in this project. “When we walked up to Magazine, eventually, a giant pothole showed up. And now it’s turned into a mini-sinkhole. It’s been there for about a couple years now. I guess it wasn’t too important because it wasn’t in the middle of the road, it was on the side of the road, next to a catch basin, and so we’re like, ‘that’s huge.’ Like a full-grown man can like jump in and squat down and hide in it. Kids can fall in it. Every time we pass by, we’re like, ‘this thing needs to be filled up.’” Eventually, that’s exactly what he did saying, “…I’ll just bring two giant bags of potting soil.”
The other pothole farmer is Desiree Bezuidenhout, a local elementary school teacher. “So basically the pothole has been our street a long time, and we’ve always just talked about how dangerous it was, and so Ronnie decided to plant these seeds in the pothole to kind of fill it up a little. And Jonathan (my husband) and I would keep an eye on it. We harvested the vegetables.”
Asking Desiree about her current second career as a pothole farmer, she says, “It started as being, you know, this funny, creative way to fill up a dangerous pothole. I mean, urban gardening is definitely a thing. We’d walk the dogs down a mile every day to see how the vegetables are growing out of the pothole. It makes me feel proud.”
As far as techniques for pothole farming, Desiree says, “We weren’t really sure what the situation was down there when we started. We weren’t sure about the drainage, what soil to use, and we really wanted to keep it contained, so instead of using just any type of soil, we used potting soil, because we kind of wanted to treat it like it was in a pot. We needed to have a little more nutrients like that, and that’s it. The sinkhole’s pretty deep too. So that helps.”
Will pothole gardening become the newest trend? Can we expect the whole city to be soon filled with healthy GMO-free pothole gardens?
Or, you know, the city could just fill them…
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you like this piece, you can read more of his work here.