Gardening on wheels




Donated punk Shopping Carts

Burlap coffee bean bags for liners

Best soil I can get


Ground up coconut shells leftover from local hydroponic

Organic seeds



Stella Marrs, artist and creator of shopping cart victory

Abandoned shopping carts are a well-known feature of urban
living, but I wonder if as many intriguing uses of them have been made in other
cities? Here in Buffalo I have seen a photo-documentary project in which they
were scientifically catalogued (this became an Abrams-published book and a successful Chelsea gallery show), a garden furniture repurposing project, and
this, in which 50 of them have been filled with edible plants (vegetables,
herbs, and flowers) and distributed throughout the downtown residential area.

They are tethered to parking meters (made obsolete by new
systems, for the most part), porch railings, fences, and so on. The ones I have
seen look as though they’ve been watered, and all the plants are alive and
producing. I am not sure if all the plants are being harvested; some of the
herbs I saw have gone to seed. Whoever lives/works in the nearest
storefront/residence is responsible for its shopping cart garden.

They are particularly useful where there is no gardening
area whatsoever,  but they are also attractive next to larger
conventional gardens (top). I think it’s a neat idea.

Note: The link I have given goes to an older website for Marrs's postcards, for which she is best known, and which predate her move to Buffalo. It does not mention the shopping cart gardens; there is very little online about these. 

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Hmmm…. I could see a whole series of these lined up in abandoned parking lots. Broken shopping carts all lined up and brimming with food.

    What’s the name of that Talking Heads song? Nothing But Flowers?

    “This was a discount store,
    Now it’s turned into a cornfield
    you got it, you got it”

  2. I can see where this good intention could cause more urban blight and garbage in the long run.

    Ask yourself how many times you haven’t had the time to replant a section in your own backyard garden and it sat fallow for a season. This too will happen to the shopping carts and what the public will be left with is decomposing abandoned shopping carts chained to whatever blighting the streets and neighborhoods with more garbage.

    It seems like a well intentioned noble green recycling idea but if thought all the way through one can see the obvious problems.

  3. Michelle, I honestly don’t see that happening. All of these are located where there are active property owners who will remove the carts if they have to. All it takes is a pair of bolt cutters and wheeling them to the curbside recycling pickup.

    The Buffalo projects I mention on Rant now and then are run by people who are practical and plan for contingencies and know city services and statutes. Else I would not bother to publicize them.

  4. I think it’s a great idea and should be given a chance — at least a couple of growing seasons at a minimum. Then there will be plenty of time to criticize it if it doesn’t seem to be working and causing problems instead.

  5. Excellent idea! They are big enough to be used for some serious veggies, like a full sized tomato plant! I could see trying to line them with something like coir, rather than creating a smaller container inside them. In my 4th year of forced veggie container gardening (on a dock, of all places, where my only sun is), I have learned bigger is better where containers are concerned!
    And for those uninterested in harvesting, some simple annuals would certainly beautify the area.
    Michelle D. – I doubt they look worse in the winter than a patch of dirt, which is what most of our gardens look like then anyway.

  6. Part of me says, “Cool! Innovative container gardening. And on wheel too!” The other part of me says, “Urgh! Reminds me of gardening out of abandoned tubs and toilets.”

    My neighbor stuck his old toilets when he remodeled in his side yard and stuck succulents in them. A certainly would fine it hard to find palatable veggies grown in an old toilet.

    I do see one problem is that when the veggies start to die out/go to seed, people may treat them like trash containers. And if they are in bloom, you have people sticking their cigarette butts in them, which is problematic is you have anything of the nightshade family growing in them: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes. Tobacco mosaic virus anyone? Yes, some people are that careless and inconsiderate.

    If they had a drop down front, it would be great for growing potatoes. Would make harvesting easy.

  7. As the bumper stickers said when Kinky Friedman ran for Governor of Texas –“Why the Hell Not?” It’s so crazy, it just might work. How totally old school 70’s era punk rock these shopping cart gardens seem: pure, stripped down, wild, rebellious, radical, a bit arty, a bit nihilistic, with an underlying social critique inherent to their very nature. I adore this idea.

  8. No one grows annuals in Buffalo in winter. In winter, these will be removed. And then they will reappear in late spring. Such is gardening in WNY.

  9. I’m all for reusing cast-off items and for gardening in every nook and cranny, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about chained shopping carts. They look ugly to me and don’t they block the sidewalks?

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