On one side of the fertile lot stands an abandoned house, stripped long ago for scrap. On the other side, another abandoned house, windows boarded, structure sagging. And diagonally across the street, two more abandoned houses, including one blackened by a fire maybe a year ago, maybe two.

But on this lot, surrounded by desertion in the north end of Flint, the toughest city in America, collard greens sprout in verdant surprise. Although the broccoli and turnips and snap peas have been picked, it is best to wait until deep autumn for the greens, says the garden’s keeper, Harry Ryan. The frost lends sweetness to the leaves.

His is not just another tiny community garden growing from a gap in the urban asphalt. This one lot is really 10 contiguous lots where a row of houses once stood. On this spot, the house burned down. (“I was the one who called the fire department.”) On that spot, the house was lost to back taxes. (“An older guy; he was trying to fix it up, and he was struggling.”)

Garbage and chest-high overgrowth filled the domestic void of these lots on East Piper Avenue until four years ago, when Mr. Ryan decided one day: no. After receiving the proper permission, he began clearing the land.