Community gardens are spreading like weeds throughout Philadelphia. These beautiful green spaces ensure sustainable, fresh produce in a concrete jungle and provide a refreshing feel to a metropolitan area.
Not only do these open spaces equip their communities with healthy food options, they also improve the daily quality of people’s lives and give them opportunities to learn about technical gardening.
The Temple Community Garden is a new, student-run organization located on Diamond Street in North Philadelphia. Their mission statement is to “combat the issue of food insecurity within the urban environment by providing the local North Philadelphia community access to sustainably grown produce.”
DJ Robinson (pictured above) is a local community member and enjoys the tranquil oasis that the garden provides on a sunny day.
The community garden acts as an agent to enlightening members and students to the basics of gardening techniques, as well as providing a bedrock for enriching and enlivening the local urban community.
This former run-down vacant lot has been revitalized by a socialist organization called Philly Socialists, creating a magical atmosphere filled with artwork, flowers and verdant produce. Located on Lawrence Street near Norris Square, this hidden gem provides the local community with an open space to convene and form neighborly relationships.
Tarique Jamal (pictured above) said he appreciates the unique beauty the Cesar Andreu Iglesias garden brings to the district.
A multitude of events are held here through the socialist organization which strengthens the morale of the neighborhood and the surrounding area.
Located on the corner of West Girard Avenue and North 20th Street, the Girard Garden has an array of devoted members from all walks of life that ensure its continued success and sustainability. The numerous events held at the garden throughout the year cultivate a community atmosphere.
Jerald Laws (pictured above), has been a community member for many years and has seen firsthand the immensely positive effect of the garden. It has acted as a catalyst, spurring change throughout the neighborhood.
These engaging events are featured on the organization’s friendly, easy-to-use website. There is even a community blog to document the comforts and struggles of gardening, and how it has real positive life impact on an individual’s personal circumstances.
The Spring Gardens, located on North 18th Street, was created from a deserted city block laden with drug use and an influx of crime. Founded in 1995 by community locals, these activists started the garden to protect the land, vowing it would never be that way again. Today, The Spring Gardens allows 180 neighborhood families to gather and grow together, maintaining this bountiful space for the interest of the greater good.
Rosemary Schwartz (pictured above), explains the myriad of plants growing in her plot.
“I like to grow edible flowers to garnish my summer cocktails,” Schwartz said.
The garden serves as an outdoor classroom hosting cooking workshops, gardening classes, school education tours, farm bike tours and provides hands-on learning for student interns, visitors and volunteer groups. Spring Gardens also has plots designated for the City Harvest in Philadelphia every year.
The South Street community garden is one of three community gardens in the Washington Square West Civic Association. To join, members must be a resident of the neighborhood and pay a membership fee of 30 dollars per year. There may be a waiting list for plots depending on demand, but sometimes plots become available during planting season.
Roberta Camp (pictured above) is the current administrator and has been a garden member since 2003.
“I’m 75 years old – I’m trying to create successors to take over running the garden so that it can survive,” Camp said. “Successors are necessary for every institution. My grandson helped me plant my plot this year.”
Ardent, passionate members like Camp safeguard the future for this meaningful sanctuary and protect its legacy, securing South Street Garden’s coveted location.
-Text and images by Helene Blau and Savannah Pukanecz.