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, http://tinyurl.com/aw8j2bp. 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.
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.
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.
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