Thursday, December 1, 2016

Passyunk Gardens

A view of Passyunk Gardens from across Wharton ST.
Still productive in late October. 
By Stephanie Rukowicz

In addition to the productive edible food demonstration garden at the Horticulture Center, a second MG edible demonstration garden was added to the project list in Spring 2015: Passyunk Gardens. Located in South Philly at the corner of Wharton ST and East Passyunk AVE, this demonstration vegetable garden is maintained by volunteers.

Established in 2011, the garden is all container. It began with high-raised beds that have no contact with the ground and, over time, additional tub containers have been added to maximize the use of space. Increasingly, perennial plants have also been added around the containers to develop a permaculture.  It is an interesting experiment in what's possible with these true urban conditions.

Passyunk Gardens is a community garden yet different from a typical community garden. All beds and containers are tended and harvested collectively. This togetherness allows for more community interaction, rather than the traditional community garden where individual plots are assigned and the majority of time spent at the garden is by individuals working in and harvesting from individual plots. Produce is shared with neighbors, gardeners and partner organization United Communities. In 2016, the garden donated over 200 lbs of produce to United Communities' food pantry.

A view inside the garden in July 2016.
Photo from garden's Facebook page

One of two murals that brighten the garden space.
PHS City Harvest program provides plants and gardening supplies which are supplemented by neighborhood donations and the support of Passyunk Square Civic Association. Plants are selected with community member interests in mind and experiments are encouraged. The garden has an established bed of hops (which are turned into beer for the annual neighborhood holiday party), grape vines, berries, horseradish, sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes), and a variety of perennial pollinator plants.

Trials have included store bought garlic vs. seed garlic, growing tomatoes in woolly pockets and hay bales, experimenting with sorgham from the Experimental Farm Network, a three sisters garden in 2015 and a four sisters garden in 2016 (sunflowers, corn, pole beans, squash), and testing different methods of planting potatoes and sweet potatoes in containers.

There is an extensive herb garden that features flavors from the diverse cooking traditions of its neighbors including lemongrass, papalo, and basil. The garden has also coordinated with neighborhood chefs from East Passyunk Avenue to feature plants of special interest to seasonal menus. Garden leaders are always ready to make bed or container space for new and interesting growing projects.

Make Music Philly Event at Passyunk Gardens in June 2016.
Photo from garden's Facebook page

Workshops and demonstrations are held at the garden during the growing season. Topics have included: seed starting, companion planting, seed saving, organic pest control, wintering the garden, cooking with an herb garden, and sauerkraut making and canning. The garden also hosts nearby schools and youth organizations for tours and hands-on workshops. Art and music events, potlucks, barbecues all play a role in the success of community involvement in this demonstration garden.

During the growing season, workdays are scheduled the first Saturday of the month. All Master Gardeners and trainees are welcome to join.

The garden hosts open hours throughout the growing season on Sundays from 4:00-6:00pm and all who pass by are encouraged to stop in and enjoy the space: an oasis in South Philly.

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