The Rapidian

[MIDTOWN] Midtown resident harvests crops grown in his truck bed

Eric and his truck, just hanging out in <a href="">The Woods</a>.

Eric and his truck, just hanging out in The Woods.

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Eric's spring crops included garlic, radishes, broccoli and leafy greens.

Eric's spring crops included garlic, radishes, broccoli and leafy greens. /Michael Binstead

Bell peppers are among Eric's summer crops.

Bell peppers are among Eric's summer crops.

On any sunny evening in Midtown, Eric Kehoe's truck is probably basking on the corner of Grand NE and Hawthorne NE. Arranged neatly in the bed are tomato plants, bell pepper plants, herbs, garlic and salad greens. Crops have been sprouting out of the 3-by-6 feet space since spring.

"When I got the idea, I just thought I should just go for it. I never use it that often, so I thought I'd just put it to better use," Eric said.

Eric has lived in Midtown for two years. His apartment has the perfect amount of shade for a backyard cookout but is too shady for growing vegetables. Eric searched online for similar projects but did not find much advice on how to plant. One day, he headed to the hardware store to pick up roughly 200 pounds of top soil and caked his truck bed in seven inches of soil. Including seeds, the cost came to around $60.

Since then, Eric guesses he has harvested about eight pounds of organic produce. He keeps careful track of his gas mileage and has not noticed any significant difference from the additional weight.

Eric is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University. He works for Arbor Circle; coaches the Kellogsville High School boys' varsity soccer team; helps to organize Meatless Mondays, a community potluck; and plays for Valentiger, a local indie folk band. Everywhere he goes, he gets similar reactions and comments on how "green" his truck is.

"I just like to be able to know where my food came from," Eric will explain.

Despite parking his truck on public streets, theft has not been an issue.

"If people really want to take vegetables from there, that's OK. I feel like they might really need them if they're going to take them from a guy's truck."

There are limitations to what can be grown out of a truck bed. Eric wanted to maximize the return for his space but had to take other considerations into account.

"Right now, I'm trying to grow tomatoes, which is kind of hard because they grow so high. Stuff like carrots, I couldn't grow; it's not deep enough," Eric said. "The smaller vegetables work out. I need stuff that grows kind of wide and doesn't grow too high."

He has also learned that after a heavy rain, water can puddle up near the cab. He plans to address drainage next year by mixing in packing peanuts and gravel. As far as Eric knows, his harvests are comparable to other gardens his size.

"Since it's kind of so small, it's more like a meal-by-meal basis," he said.

He expects for the garden to pay for itself after this first year.

"I think everyone should try to garden at least a little bit," Eric said. "Once you get it going, it's really not that hard. A lot of it is trial-and-error. That's even what more advanced gardeners say."

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I have the same problem in my backyard and have been searching for ways to grow a garden in the shade.  Can I share your truck?  I might have purchase a truck soon. 

On, there are two guys doing something similar, but they have turned their truck into a 20 person CSA, and now are raising funds for a doucmentary about their journey, called Truck Farm.  So cool to see the same type of thing happening right in our backyard!  Great story!

Does this effect your gas mileage at all? I worry that consistently driving the vehicle at a higher weight would make the engine work harder thus cancelling out the potential environmental good of the project?

That was one of the first questions I asked Eric. He keeps track of his mileage and hasn't seen much of a difference since the additional 200 pounds. If you think about it, that's the weight of a grown man.

That being said, there are projects and products out there that parade around as green chic by strapping a garden to their vehicles. They call for at least a half-ton of soil, which would certainly make a difference on gas mileage and carbon footprint.

 this is the most awesome thing i have heard of in a long time!