My name is Christian, and I serve as the Nationalities Service Center’s coordinator for Growing Together Gardens. Our garden has made tremendous progress over the last month. If you have driven along 26th street in-between the intersections of Reed and Dickinson streets recently, you have likely seen Growing Together Gardens. If you have driven by along 25th street you may have only seen weeds, but through the month of September we have welcomed over 700 volunteers from Villanova University, Boeing, Fuel The Cure and gardeners worked hard to remove most of the weeds, leveled the ground and build 15 new raised garden beds. We will be plowing over the unused area once we clear the rubble, which will help keep them down and under control as we move forward. We are thankful to all the volunteers and PHS Staff who came out this past month.
In case you may be unfamiliar with Growing Together Gardens, I would like to provide you with a brief overview. We began building on the empty lot at 2500 Reed Street in August 2014. The gardens are the result of a new partnership between Nationalities Service Center (NSC), a leading refugee resettlement and immigrant services organization, and Church of the Redeemer Baptist Church, who is leasing the land, along with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society as our technical assistance provider. The primary goal of the gardens project includes bringing together neighbors with recently arrived refugees who now call Point Breeze and South Philadelphia home. We also aim to provide a safe space for neighbors and newcomers to come together in growing healthy, nutritious produce.
This past year has been very busy, as groups of volunteers and our partners worked hard to transform the site. We have logged over 10,000 volunteer hours since last August, clearing debris from the old factory that previously stood there and leveling the land for raised garden beds. We have also made major site improvements. By working with our partners, we secured funds to build about 300 raised beds (each bed costs approximately $175 to build, with resources to build an additional 200 soon), installed a $45,000 waterline and trucked in about $30,000 of fresh dirt and compost to fill the beds. Each gardener who signed up this year also received free starter seedlings, seeds and protective nets. These starter kits are something we would like to continue to provide in the future.
If you have time to visit the gardens, you will see a healthy variety of fall crops sprouting, including kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, collard greens, scallions, radish, basil (a summer crop that snuck in) and more. We have 3 growing seasons in Philadelphia: spring, summer and fall, so we will be able to grow from April through November.
We currently have 51 households now gardening with plenty of room to expand. If you are interested in signing up for a plot, we will be opening this process again this coming April, so stay tuned for updates. We have invested a lot of time, sweat and funding into this project and are excited to share space for growing fresh, healthy produce and strengthening ties between newcomers and their neighbors.
NSC’s Growing Together Gardens is one of two gardening projects that we operate. Our other site, Growing Home Gardens, is also in South Philadelphia, at the corner of 8th and Emily Street (1 block north of Snyder Avenue).
What Are We Currently Growing?