The Sprouts Container Garden Program is a unique program that started in 2016 through the collaborative efforts of AmeriCorps VISTA, the Billings Parks and Recreation Department, and Healthy By Design. Initially, a BMVP AmeriCorps VISTA member was assigned to find a new garden site for the current project. With two community garden sites already established, it was determined that the Parks and Recreation Department did not have the capacity for another large-scale project. With the common roadblocks that discourage people from participating in community gardens in mind, the idea for a “container garden” program surfaced.

Sprouts was designed to give community members all the benefits of a community garden, while addressing the accessibility issues that can arise from traditional stationary community garden sites. With container gardens, there is no need to travel or extensively landscape in order to grow fresh produce. These gardens allow access to individuals who might not be able to participate in a traditional community garden due to limited vehicular transportation, limited mobility due to a disability, time constraints, or an inability to leave their home regularly.

The project piloted in 2017 with a grant of $3,000, and an additional $1,000 was provided later that year for storage purposes. As of 2020, Parks and Recreation is working to partner with a variety of organizations and nonprofits, whose missions align with increasing community well-being and food security, to distribute container gardens each season and care for the project moving forward.

Overall, this program is working to increase food security in Billings, Montana by providing the materials and resources necessary for citizens of Billings to grow food at home, increasing both access and autonomy!

How do I qualify and apply?

If your household is located within Billings city limits and you have an interest in gardening, you qualify for this program!

Our collective goal is to increase food security in areas that are classified as food deserts. Previously, this project was only available to the South Side Triangle, but due to success in previous years the container program has expanded to all of Billings. We, however, want to give priority to low-income community members and/or community members with mobility issues. Keep this in mind when applying.

There is no cost to participate in the program.  However, you must fill out an application and entrance survey. For more information on the Sprouts Container Garden Program contact Paul Reinhardt at reinhardtp@billingsmt.gov, or 406-657-8308.

Picking up the Container Garden

If you have been accepted to the Container Garden program, you will receive a call or email confirming this information. Upon acceptance, you will need to pick up your container garden at a designated spot on a certain day. This will typically occur on or after May 10th.

The container garden will typically come with soil, and, if need be, nutrient replenishments. Seeds and starts will be your own responsibility, but you will be provided with an orientation guide that contains great resources for finding free and affordable supplies.

Setting up the Container Garden

You can find the instruction manuals on container garden set-up and recommendations on earthbox.com. 

Mid-Season Updates

The organization you rented the container garden from will reach out once or twice per season to check-in and see how everything is going with the container garden. This is an important way for us to gauge the success of the program and to offer you support or point you to additional resources if need be. Please be responsive to these check-ins.

Returning the Container Garden

Prior to returning the garden, please cut down and discard the plants. Remove and discard the used mulch cover, and place any additional mulch cover black side up, over the system. Be sure to empty the water reservoir completely by tipping the gardening system towards the overflow drain.

Even though there is no fee, please think of this as a rental system; we expect you to return the container garden (in good condition) no later than the last week in October. If you enjoyed and benefited from the container garden, we strongly encourage you to reapply the following year!

About the Container Gardens

The container gardens come with a self-watering system and planting soil to make the garden experience as easy as ever!