Documents: Special Interest: In The Kitchen:

Community Gardening - More Than Green Beans
by Charlotte Kidd
by Charlotte Kidd


Charlotte Kidd, M. Ed., is the owner of In The Garden Design, Care & Workshops in Flourtown, PA.

An organic gardener since the 1970s, she brings environmentally harmonious techniques to ornamental gardens in Southeastern Pennsylvania. She's studied horticulture at Temple University and Longwood Gardens and teaches at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Main Line School Night.

Charlotte is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Charlotte gardens in Zone 6b.

November 21, 2004

A community garden is more than Brandywine tomatoes and kaleidoscope peppers, even if they are started from seed by enthusiasts like Susan and Mark Hauck of East Falls in Philadelphia, PA, USA. A community garden grows friendships, cooperation, patience, and problem-solving.

A community garden is hard work AND celebration. In this their fifth year, gardeners from the Brewery Garden, Conrad Street and Indian Queen Lane, in East Falls shared their bounty and more at a Harvest Pot Luck at Debbie McIlvaine and Harold Brubaker' home. Tippy plates in hand, about 25 chatty adults flowed back and forth from kitchen to backyard to dining room. Four or was it five? children nibbled, then ran to and around the yard and wooden play set.

All took a few moments for a group photo though - to celebrate winning second place in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's (PHS) City Garden Contest.

With initiative and persistence, these community gardeners have transformed an abandoned acre plus strewn with rebar and concrete chunks into a mostly vegetable garden surrounded by a perennial border and flowering crabapple, dogwood, honeylocust, redbud, and Japanese maple trees. The gardeners, who each contribute $10 toward supplies and permits, number about 35 depending on how many children you count, Susan calculated.

This garden is exceptional for its "nice balance between production of vegetables… and asthetics in general," Susan explained. "We've tried real hard to make it as attractive as we can….One thing we'd like to be able to do is to get a water source. The city now gives us yearly permission to use the nearby water hydrant. But it is difficult."

Success at the Brewery Garden has moved it up the ladder to a PHS priorty, said Paco Verin, PHS program coordinator. "They've gone beyond being a startup garden to being a larger scale Keystone garden," he explained. That could translate into more funding for a project such as water access. So far PHS has provided significant support including fencing, soil and wood chip delivery, plants and seeds, Paco said.

"We've really had good support from businesses in the area," Susan added. The Home Depot donated wood for 28 raised beds.

Bringing us back to the youngsters darting like fireflies, a community garden is about love - like when young Megan Flanagan's eyes flashed with joy at thoughts of picking raspberries fresh off the bush with her dad. "There's lots of them!" she recalled, eyes wide and sparkling.

And a community garden gives perspective. "It's an important life lesson - Nature is not instant," noted Eileen Flanagan, Megan's mom. Megan, 7, and her brother Luke, 5, have been gardening with their parents since Megan was 3, she added. "It's just so great for kids who don’t have big yards to plant beans then eat them a couple months later." In a culture of video games, fast food, and computers, "I think there is something valuable about planting a seed, watering it, and having to wait before you can eat the beans."

Blossoms up!


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