Moving to the city doesn’t mean you are destined to only be able to grow herbs in your window boxes. With an estimated 400 active places around the city designated as community gardens, you can find somewhere to grow your summer flowers and fall root vegetables.
This Saturday, June 15, is the 6th Annual Community Gardens Day in Philadelphia. Organized by the Neighborhood Gardens Trust (NGT), over 50 community gardens celebrate the day by opening their doors to the public, offering tours, workshops, and food grown from the gardens. It’s a great opportunity to explore the different plots around you, their benefits, and learn how you can join. You can even sign up for a biking tour or walking tour online.
Each garden can vary between a large professional operation and a small area that is just getting its start. Some of the gardens have an extensive waiting list, and member dues, as they are in high demand. If you can’t get a place in the garden nearest to you, an alternative is to split your time between two smaller gardens that need more help. We’ve picked a few neighborhood favorites to highlight.
Glenwood Green Acres, 1801 W Glenwood Ave.
This 3.5-acre lot has been thriving ever since 1984 when the community took over the land, after a fire caused a complex of warehouses to be demolished. The garden has won numerous prizes and has hosted intergenerational projects on the heritage of southern agriculture.
Spooky Garden, 1015 N. Leithgow Street and 1116 N. Fourth St.
If you love both Gardening and Halloween, then this might be the one for you. This Northern Liberties garden has been in existence since 2002 and was finally preserved in 2016 after a decade long campaign to save the space by the NGT. The garden has communal garden beds used to grow everything from herbs to raspberries and, of course, pumpkins. During the annual Halloween event, thousands of people come to see the seven-foot werewolf and haunted house created in the gardens by local artists.
Capitolo Community Garden, S. 10th St and Federal St.
This community garden spawned from a neglected baseball diamond and sits adjacent to the Capitolo Playground at 10th and Federal. The 40+ plot garden is a stone’s throw away from Pat’s and Geno’s and plays host to various flea markets. PHG Realtors Allison and Christian Fegel have been members of the garden and broke ground at its inception in the summer of 2009.
Mercy Emily Edible Park (MEEP), 500 block of Mercy St.
Located between the 5th and 6th block of Mercy Street in South Philadelphia, this community garden has been active for nearly ten years. The land ownership has changed hands a number of times in the past. It has been used to grow food to feed Philadelphia’s vulnerable/ homeless population. As of 2018, the garden has switched to being run by a committee of community members and regularly donates food to people who live on the surrounding blocks.
Summer Winter Community Garden, 3223 N Natrona St.
Named after the nearby streets, the Summer Winter Community Garden is one of Philadelphia’s oldest community gardens. It’s located close to Drexel University in West Philadelphia and is run entirely by volunteers. The garden regularly supports Pennsylvania Horticultural Society City Harvest, which grows food for the homeless.
Carousel House Farm, 4300 Avenue of the Republic.
Located in Fairmount Park on the grounds of a recreation center, this farm was founded in 2010. It offers programs for the local community including its Teens 4 Good summer internships, aiming to employ 10 teenagers. The main goal is to improve access to healthy food, regularly donating fruit and vegetables to local programs with over 1,500 lbs of fresh fruit and vegetables every year.
For more information about community gardens, check out the Neighborhood Gardens Trust (NGT) and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). These organizations play similar roles in helping support the spaces and supply necessities through their network of members, such as tools, soil and trucks when needed. The NGT also helps secure land rights for the gardens so you won’t turn up one sunny Saturday and a high-rise apartment block has been built on top of your asparagus. It’s important to know if your garden has been protected by NGT and if not who owns the plot of land.
If you have a green space or an empty lot you think would make a fantastic community garden, you can contact the NGT for help. In order to be protected, you have been active for a minimum of 3 growing seasons but they will advise you through the process of getting started. Information can be found here.