Having lived around a lot of vacant lots in Baltimore and seen many that were tinkered with and then abandoned again, this story from Andrea Appleton about a researcher trying to find what grows best, absorbs toxins, and retains stormwater is fascinating:
Several researchers in other cities are looking at what to do with such under-utilized urban land, but very few are actively experimenting on them; they might be assessing the species that are already there, but not those that could be. Nationally, as much as 15 percent of the land in some large American cities is vacant: Many older Rust Belt towns that have experienced major population loss are also exploring innovative ways to green these dead spaces. In Detroit, philanthropic dollars are helping community groups transform vacant lots into miniature parks, urban farms, and stormwater retention areas. In Philadelphia, the local horticulture society has been planting trees and grass in vacant lots for more than a decade. Cities often launch greening projects with environmental aims—like reducing polluted run-off—despite the lack of experimental research into what method works best. “Nobody’s taking a scientific approach, doing the proper controls,” Swan says.