Soon Lorain County residents will be bringing in a harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and other fruits and veggies. Thanks to the Filtrexx Foundation of Grafton, 750 urban gardens were planted throughout the county on May 21 during Lorain County Pride Day.

These gardens are possible because of GardenSoxx, two-foot mesh tubes filled with compost, in which seeds or plugs can be planted. They can also be used for stormwater filtering and sediment control.

Filtrexx International, which began in 2000 as a small compost consulting company, developed the innovative planting mechanism after working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2004 to research compost as a growing medium.

“We started working with compost out of our CEO Ron Tyler’s business,” says General Manager Alex Marks. “Compost is weed free [and] has a lot of fertility to it. Plus, it’s disease-free, disease suppressant, so it’s a really simple growing system. We learned it outperformed most systems, [so we] started growing 150 or so fruits, vegetables and herbs.”

Because the GardenSoxx don’t require soil, they can be used to create gardens virtually anywhere — there are even GardenSoxx on the roof of a storage shed at Filtrexx’s Grafton headquarters. The versatility of the GardenSoxx makes them a great choice for urban gardens. Even if a family only has space on a patio or porch, the Soxx can be used to create a home growing system.

The potential impact of the product led Filtrexx, which now specializes in creating organic solutions for gardening, construction, pollution control and agriculture, to create a non-profit organization. The company formed the Filtrexx Foundation in 2009 to bring GardenSoxx to families who couldn’t afford fresh produce or didn’t have access to fresh produce.

“We’re used in urban farms in downtown Cleveland, but there’s still a monetary transaction. We didn’t want to have to go into a low-income neighborhood and say, here’s a system, but there’s a cost to it. We wanted to find more ways to do that,” Marks says.

So, last year the foundation and the Church of the Open Door in Elyria held Serve Lorain County a Garden. Together with local volunteers and help from the Agriculture and Natural Resources program at The Ohio State University’s Lorain County Extension, the program brought 300 urban gardens to the county in one day. This year, Serve Lorain County a Garden 2011 is providing 750 gardens.

Families applied to receive a GardenSoxx through many local organizations including Church of the Open Door, OSU Lorain County Extension, Lorain County JVS and a variety of other social service agencies and childcare centers. Some local groups, such as the YWCA, Faith House and Haven Center, are also receiving gardens.

On May 21, volunteers visited the families and organizations to install their gardens. Each family also received a garden guidebook created by Filtrexx and the OSU Lorain County Extension. The books include recipes using the fruits and vegetables growing in the gardens, as well as instructions on caring for the garden. Later in the year, Filtrexx and representatives from OSU will follow up with the families to make sure their gardens are flourishing. In this way, Marks and his colleagues hope to provide families in need with fresh, healthy food.

“It was a collective passion of all of ours to say, ‘Well, we have a great system and it’s not where it’s needed most. So let’s find a way to develop an entity that we could run and use to facilitate and start projects in inner-city and urban environments,’ ” Marks explains.