Growing Home Launches its Third Season

chin woman greens May 2013 -AF

Growing Home Gardens is transitioning into its third growing season! Throughout the winter our gardeners and garden manager have been busy preparing for a new year. Last fall, we set a record 6,000 lbs of produce with 84 families gardening. We were able to extend our second season well into November by distributing special translucent fiber nets that kept the soil temperature of the beds 4-6 degrees warmer than the outside temperatures. As winter settled in and growth stopped, the Growing Home community did not fall into hibernation. On the contrary, we have had a busy winter.

Throughout the cold winter months, our garden manager Adam Forbes continued to pick-up a 750 lbs donation of healthy, fresh, organic produce from The FruitGuys, a produce distribution company, and deliver it every week to newcomers and neighbors who reside within a two-block radius of Growing Home. This donation helps support nutritious diets and is very popular among gardeners and their neighbors. Even on the coldest of days, over one hundred guests would line up to receive two grocery bags of healthy fruits. We are thankful to The FruitGuys and to Adam for keeping this needed support going. Emma Jacobs from WHYY visited one of the fruit distributions in February which aired on Newsworks. You can listen to the story here, In addition to supporting healthy diets, a few employees from The FruitGuys spent a rainy April morning building a retaining wall for one of our garden plots! One employee dressed as a banana handed out fresh produce to passersby.

This winter we have also watched as the Mural Arts Program muralist Shira Walinsky, working with newcomer communities, designed and erected a beautiful new mural just south of Growing Home. We are waiting with excitement as they prepare for a second mural that will go along a house marking the western border of Growing Home gardens. These murals are designed as portraits of the newcomer communities establishing roots and will share the immigrant narrative with the large south Philadelphia program.

April 2013 Community Work Day

Back in April, Growing Home had its first community workday of the new season. Over 92 gardeners and their families came out to transport nearly two truckloads of nutrient-rich dirt to the garden beds. The dirt was generously donated in-kind by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society- a donation they have made each season and which has been vital in supporting our gardeners. During the workday volunteers and gardeners also mulched some of the pathways and built new raised beds. Also in April, 45 volunteers from the Comcast Cares program, participating in a larger South Philadelphia cleanup day, volunteered at Growing Home by spreading a truckload of mulch donated by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, weeding and doing regular maintenance-getting the gardens in shape for spring.

Spring greens May 2013 -AF

This past Saturday, May 19th, we had our first mandatory gardener meeting of the year where plot assignments were given and each gardener received three tomatoes plants, three chili plants and two cucumber plants for their beds, in addition to what has already been planted. Many of these were seedlings that our Garden Manger had been patiently tending to in green houses since early February. The beds now look amazing and are full of greens. Each day brings new growth, excitement and a chance for our gardeners and friends to come together to work towards positive social change. As we go into the summer, we and our gardeners are thankful for all of the support we have received from members of the business community, our non-profit partners, the city of Philadelphia, local artists and storytellers and the immediate neighbors of Growing Home. If you have time this summer, and are in the Philadelphia area, we do hope you will stop by and visit us.

Follow for regular summer updates!


Winter Reflections

Winter Reflections 


Despite some of the weird warm weather over the past few weeks, winter in really upon us. The gardens have been put to rest and its time it take a step back, enjoy all that we have done, and keep planning for the future.

It has been an incredibly successful second season with Growing Home. Naturally, the energy of the space changed a bit, as it was no longer brand new. There were not as many large workdays to bring everyone together. This year most of the basic infrastructure was in place, so there was less need for huge community times. However, we have kept our block parties and celebrations alive as a way to inspire and celebrate. Many families still talk about Mayor Nutters’ visit in the spring to our garden party.

This year we employed three garden managers from the community part-time to help do outreach and organize the project. This worked out very well and they took leadership roles, made sure everything was interpreted adequately, and really took in to account community input.  Working with so many families  (there are over 80 with plots now) is very complex, especially given all of the language and cultural divides. We continued to have meetings throughout the year to go over rules, organize committees, and work to train families in taking over all aspects of the garden management.

Together we grew thousands of pounds of fresh, culturally appropriate produce, which was all taken home free of charge. This year, using nearly the same space, we were able to increase our harvest by over 2000 pounds. This was a result of learning from past lessons and planning better. In our first year we were able to see what works and what doesn’t. Now, we know how to produce the most out of small raised beds. We have seen how much more mustard greens can continually produce than cabbage or other brassicas. Instead of just taking whatever plant donations we can get – we made every attempt possible this year to find and grow the varieties that our families really want. We are still learning as some need a very long season or are really susceptible to pests here.

As a result of our trainings and planning, our fall plantings still continue! We have used remay row cover to protect the greens and amazingly even into December greens were growing in the gardens and families were coming out to water and enjoy the outdoors together.

Our season officially ended with 4 hours of meetings with gardeners to again reflect on lessons learned and begin to plan for next year. It was inspiring to see everyone come out on the cold winter day and express their passion for continuing the gardens and working together to organize them as a community. Gardeners are already talking about what to plant for next year, so we will start right away to order seeds and dream of lush spring ahead!

Happy New Year to everybody!

Growing Home Fall Recap

A Full Fall

This fall Growing Home continued to thrive in every way possible. We worked hard in the later summer to plant fall greens and as a result were able to continue harvesting large amounts of mustard greens, bhok choy, and collards all through the fall. Gardeners worked to dry and ferment the greens to store for the winter. Gundruk is a traditional Nepali dish centered on fermented mustard greens. It is surely an acquired taste, but very nutritious and a way to preserve the harvest for months to come.


We continued our tradition and hosted the second annual Growing Home Halloween Party. It was a stunning success. This year instead of a freak snowstorm, we got lucky with a beautiful crisp fall day. Over 80 adults and their children came out. Fifteen different families cooked an amazing feast – ranging from Nepali curry to Karen noodle soup and much more.

Painting an art was a major theme of the day – kids painted pumpkins to bring home as volunteers from Nationalities Service Center painted the children’s faces. Many of the new youth were able to connect to garden families who have been here longer through this day. Mural Arts worked with our teens to paint stunning maps of Burma and Bhutan. It was an incredible day that reminded us all of the importance of food and community celebrations. We even got to teach some refugee youth the American tradition of bobbing for apples!

After two years now, it is inspiring to see how our high school students step up and volunteer to organize the food serving, kids activities, and even clean up.


Apple Picking


Fall has become the favorite season for many of our families as the weather cools, harvests in the garden are abundant, and vibrant activities continue.

This year we went on our second annual apple picking field trip. With nearly 100 refugees we boarded buses to a local, no-spray apple farm in PA. Families were overjoyed as we pulled up and came pouring out o the bus. Many have not experienced anywhere in America outside of the dense urban sections of Philly. These trips are very important to get out, breathe fresh air, and enjoy natural beauty that is so lacking in our community.

The farm was gracious enough to let us glean excess, fallen produce. We spent hours collecting fallen apples that were still fine to eat. Kids ran excitedly and screamed with joy at each apple they found. Half of what we gleaned was donated to NJ Farmers Against Hunger and the rest we got to take home.

After picking we had a large picnic filled with jump rope, soccer games, and much more. Everyone was sad to leave this truly picturesque fall day.






Summer in the Gardens


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The dog days of summer are upon us. With weeks of intense heat the gardens have become quieter during the day but burst with a flurry of activity in early morning and evenings. Harvests continue, plants must be watered all the time, the aggressive weeds push their way back up and of course the are always kids playing.

In our second season, the gardens are more productive than ever and many families have really learned lessons from last year and figured out how to maximize each small bed by growing up and out, pruning things, and choosing the right plants. Some of the same problems still linger, for instance when too many tomato plants are put in one garden and they get huge and overcrowded. But, with our translators this year we are more equipped to teach gardeners and continuously train them throughout the season. Over 85 people came to our Summer Garden Meeting to learn and discuss issues as a whole group. 

Our next featured crop will be bitter melon as we are starting to harvest these now!