Community Gardens Day

June 17, 2019

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

This weekend Owen and I went to visit community gardens in Philadelphia as part of Community Gardens Day. The annual event is sponsored by the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, a nonprofit land trust that works to protect the lands on which these gardens are built so that they don’t disappear from the community. NGT is affiliated with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society which promotes gardening in the city and beyond. (Natural Lands is also a partner and this represents a part of our mission to protect open spaces in cities where people enjoy them daily.)

What I discovered on the tour was that permanent protection is not only what ensures a community garden’s long-term success—it’s what makes the creation of a community garden possible. Gardens need access to city water, for example, and it isn’t worth investing in a city water connection without knowing that the garden will be there in the future. There are community gardens on lands that aren’t protected which are still valuable community assets, but they exist without the benefit of a known future.

Neighborhood Gardens Trust organized the tours with several partner organizations, one at each location. The garden tour we attended at the Bouvier Community Garden was cosponsored with Green Philly, co-founded by my friend Julie Hancher whom I met through the Environmental Leadership Program. There are lots of network links here, it’s a small world!

One of the things that struck me on the tour was that for the gardeners who call this garden home, it was a typical Saturday in the garden. The garden wasn’t primped to perfection ahead of time—neighbors just showed up and tended the gardens as they normally would on a summer weekend morning. Families came and weeded their individual plots, chatted with each other, and tended the communal plots and the paths in between raised beds. People just knew what needed to be done.

Which brings me to the other significant thing about community gardens (as opposed to individual ones, themselves beautiful and meaningful). That’s the shared knowledge that occurs when gardeners get together. Don’t know how to grow a particular plant? You will soon!