We are delighted to introduce Ms. Jeanette Bell, lifelong gardener, founder of Garden on Mars, and People’s Health Champion. A resident of New Orleans, Ms. Bell has gardened all her life, and more than a decade ago she bought a neglected vacant lot and turned it into a lush, productive urban garden. Before long one garden had become four, including one on Mars Street – the inspiration for the name of her organization, Garden on Mars. And after Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Bell added garden workshopping to her work, showing urban residents how to raise their own vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Ms. Bell sees urban gardening as a win-win proposition for city dwellers: they can grow fresh food for their families while beautifying some of the many empty and blighted areas of the city. Another benefit is making additional income: Ms. Bell sells her produce by the pound to the thriving restaurant industry in New Orleans, as well as flowers to a local perfumery. “People here could use a little extra money,” Ms. Bell observes, “and you can grow a pound of basil in not very much space.”
Garden on Mars conducts workshops that show residents how to build a garden box in which 10 different varieties of herbs and vegetables can be grown. Portable and compact, the garden box can be placed even in tiny urban yards. Total cost of the project? $70 in materials.
Garden on Mars has become a model for how to grow inner-city gardens, leading to Jeanette Bell being named a People’s Health Champion for 2015. But prizes and awards aren’t Ms. Bell’s concern: bringing the pleasure and profit of gardening to urban communities is her focus. “I’m interested in growing the economy of Louisiana,” she explains.
And in New Orleans’s semitropical climate, year-round gardening is a reality, making edible crops a nonstop industry. Gourmet fruit trees such as the pomegranate grow readily, and quick flower crops like zinnia can be harvested for beautiful fresh bouquets many months of the year. And Ms. Bell’s own personal favorite plant? That would be the medallion rose, which she has grown for decades. There is always room for more beauty and fragrance in the city!