As part of New Orleans' recovery from the damages caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the city's Redevelopment Authority (NORA) is helping residents turn blighted properties into greenspace.

The Growing Home Program started last year as an offshoot of another city initiative, called Lot Next Door, that gives homeowners living next to blighted properties the first right of refusal to buy the lots. If they pledge to turn the lots into gardens and yards within nine months, residents can get discounts of up to $10,000 off the cost of the lots, depending on their landscaping plans.

Since Growing Home launched in February 2009, hundreds of residents have participated, creating community vegetable gardens, flower gardens, rain gardens and backyard retreats, and generally beautifying once-neglected land.

The city contracts with locally based landscape architecture firm Heavy Meadow to manage the program, help design projects, set schedules, and organize volunteer labor for residents who need help completing their projects.

Homeowners are encouraged to consider using environmentally friendly landscaping tools and materials — such as rain barrels, native plants, permeable surfaces and compost bins — as part of their plans.

New Orleans started Growing Home with funding from a Community Development Block Grant, and the $250,000 annual program now is funded by the Louisiana Land Trust, which manages the abandoned properties with NORA.