Pre-kick-off Work day — Mar. 22nd

Pre-kick-off Work Day, March 22nd @ 5:30pm

In order to prepare for the spring kick-off, we’ve organized a pre-kick-off work day for Wednesday, March 22nd, starting at 5:30pm. During this time, we’ll be turning over our cover crops, pulling up weeds, fixing the wheelbarrows and the fence, organizing the tool shed, and preparing to build our new SW-inspired flower garden. We’ll be helped by a group of volunteers organized by Mercy Hill Church, which is a new church in the neighborhood that will have teams of people coming to town regularly between March and August with the sole goal of serving the community.

Garden update

We visited the garden last weekend to see how it was doing, and, as you can see from the photos above, it’s looking great! The cover crops, garlic, kale, and collard greens are all doing well. A note about cover crops: cover crops are great for growing over the winter, as they prevent soil erosion, and help provide valuable nitrogen to the soil for future plants to consume.

It was especially exciting to see the success of the collard green experiment we tried last fall. To summarize, here’s what we tried: we noticed that the collard greens we planted last spring were becoming a popular hang-out spot for the aggravating harlequin beetles during the summer months. There are no natural predators for the beetles, so the only way to thwart their growth is to manually remove them. We decided that our approach would be to decrease their habitat — thus, we cut the collard greens down to about 2 inches above the soil. The hope was that the greens would grow back, but by the time they had, it would be too cold for the beetles. And now, we see the result — the collards are almost as bushy as before!

The SW Community Garden Beet 📝

If you’re new to the SW neighborhood, and even if you’re not, I recommend following, or picking up our local newspaper, The Southwester — it’ll keep you updated with all things SW. Including, of course, the garden. Our goal for this year is to submit an entry every month. The above photo is from our March entry regarding the spring kick-off. Speaking of which…

*Reminder* 4th Annual Spring Kick-off: April 8th

Just a reminder that our spring kick-off will be on Saturday, April 8th, from 11am to 3pm. You can RSVP via Facebook, if you like.

  • We’ll be planting the communal beds; 
  • creating garden signs;
  • amateur face-painting will be available (emphasis on amateur 👩‍🎨👨🏽‍🎨);
  • there will be a workshop on companion planting;
  • and we’ll be creating a new SW-inspired flower garden. The new garden will be in the shape of the letters S and W, with a heart in between — S ❤️ W.

If you’d like to help with any of the planning, or have suggestions for additional activities, feel free to get in touch!

4th Annual Spring Kick-off, Sat. April 8th

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Date set for our 4th Annual Spring Kick-off: April 8th

Thanks to everyone who came to our get together last Saturday! We had a great discussion, and it was refreshing to see both new, and familiar faces.

The kick off will be on Saturday, April 8th, from 11am to 3pm. You can RSVP via Facebook, if you like. We’ll be planting the communal beds, creating garden signs, amateur face-painting will be offered (emphasis on amateur 👩‍🎨👨🏽‍🎨), and we’ll be creating a new SW-inspired flower garden: the garden will be in the shape of the letters S and W, with a heart in between — S ❤️ W

If you’d like to help with any of the planning, or have suggestions for additional activities, feel free to get in touch!

Time to start planning for Spring 2017


Celebrating Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, consider reading this piece written in 2005 by Juan Williams and published by National Public Radio on the history, and current status of Black Farmers in America.

Getting Ready For Our 4th Annual Spring Kick-off!

Are you ready to get your hands in some dirt again? Well, spring is getting closer and closer each day, which also means it’s time to start planning for our annual, spring kick-off. The kick-off marks the beginning of the communal section’s growing season, and the resumption of regular workdays.

In previous years, we’ve held cooking demos, compost workshops, planted potatoes in buckets, painted garden signs, and of course, planted seeds in the communal section (photos from previous years can be found here: 2014, 2015, 2016).

So… what have we got planned for this year? We don’t know yet, but if you’d like to help us figure that out, please fill out this Doodle poll by Sunday night, February 12th. The next day, the 13th, via this newsletter, the most convenient day and time will be shared for anyone to attend.

Building On Last Year

Our goal for 2017 is to continue the momentum we’ve created over the past couple of years. In 2015, we grew 65 pounds of produce and averaged about 10 people per workday; in 2016, we grew 140 pounds and averaged almost 14 people per workday. Please feel free to share with us your talents, ideas, energy, and any other unique attributes!

Composting 24/7/365

Oh, and hey, the brothers at Urban Farm Plans built us a new compost bin that will be accessible all day, every day!

That’s A Wrap For 2016!

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Thank you!

Well, friends, yesterday, was the garden’s last workday of 2016. The cover crops are in, and the gates are closed. It’s been a fantastic year in the garden — we grew, and distributed more fruits and vegetables than we had our previous 2 years, and had a record number of visitors to the garden.

The Stats

Last year, we grew 65 pounds of produce, and this year, we stepped up our production and reached 140 pounds! We also took another step forward in our pursuit of creating a true “community garden” rather than a “garden in a community” by connecting with more of our SW neighbors (and honorary SW residents).

In 2015, we had 364 total visits to the garden, with 58 new visits, and an average of 10 people per workday.
This year, we had a total of 655 visits, 80 new visitors, and an average of 13.5 people per workday!
Overall, from 2014-2016, we’ve had a 180% increase in visits during our workdays!
More isn’t always better, but whoa!

The future

While the garden is closed, we will recharge, take time to reflect, and start thinking about what we can do to continue becoming a valuable component of the community. If you have ideas, suggestions, feed back, or want to get involved, feel free to get in touch with us. If there are items that you think we should purchase, let us know!

We’ll start preparing for our spring kick-off in February, so you can expect to hear from us then!

Enjoy the rest of the year, and see you in the spring!

Spring 2016 Kick-off!

Art project during our last year's spring kick-off

Art project during last year’s spring kick-off

Spring Kick-off Less Than A Month Away!

Our 3rd annual spring kick-off event is about a month away. Mark your calendar, April 2nd, from 11am – 3pm.

We’ve got a great schedule planned for the day:

11 – 11:30am: Stretching, warm-up led by M Street Yoga.

11:30 – 11:45am: Biosolids demo by DC Water.

11:45am – 1:30pm: Planting! Vegetable beds + expanding the pollinator garden

1:30 – 2pm: Lunch / Healthy food + bike blender demo

2 – 3pm: Finish planting, clean-up

For those that don’t want to get their hands dirty, or want to take an artisitc break, there will be a painting activities throughout the event as well!

The spring kick-off represents the reopening of the garden’s communal section for the year. After this, we’ll begin having our regular work days again. Remember, our work days are open to anyone to help out and volunteer in. No prior gardening experience is needed, and all suggestions and input are welcome. If you’re interested in staying in loop with our communal section, you can join our newsletter here.

Hope to see you in the garden!

Spring Review; Heading Into Summer

Happy first day of summer!

Today, June 21st, is the summer solstice — the day when the sun sits in the sky for the longest period of time. From this point forward, the sun will begin appearing in the sky for an increasingly shorter period of time, until its climax, the winter solstice in December.

Now that we’re over half-way through the year, let’s take time to reflect on what has been accomplished in the garden this year:

The food

Compared to 2014, the health and vibrancy of the crops we’ve grown in the garden has been excellent. We’ve followed a crop rotation cycle, used cover crops, have added compost, and have surrounded our seedlings with straw. All this seems to be working nicely, as there have been few pest issues, and we’ve already harvested a little over 31 pounds of produce. Just last week, at our #BeetTheHeat event, we harvested 9 pounds of beets! (For more information about what we’ve planted, how much we’ve harvested, and who’s visited the garden, check out our Garden Journal)

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We’ve also kept to our #FoodIsFree mantra by setting up a table outside the Waterfront metro, offering free produce to passersby. We offered kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, and thyme, all for free. In the process, we received $10 in donations, and help spread the word about the garden, and what we’re doing there.

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The friendships

There has been a steady number of regular, and new visitors to the garden this year. So far, there have been 200 visits, 43 of which have been newcomers.

It’s been great to see some of the original neighborhood kids that visited the garden when it first opened, still showing up, applying what they’ve learned, and then teaching their peers how to take care of the garden.

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In addition to the kids, we’ve had other residents of the community stop by to help out, pick up some produce, or just explore. It’s exactly why I initially became interested in urban gardening: food brings people together, regardless of race, age, class, sexual orientation. Once together, we can see and discuss our similarities, and talk about the visions we’d like to see in our communities.

We’ve witnessed neighbors interacting with others, with food being the catalyst for conversation. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I hope this trend continues.

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The flowers

The garden was able to expand a little outside of its fence, and start a habitat garden on Earth Day. The plants were provided by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) as part of a city-wide effort to “attract and support hummingbirds, butterflies (including Monarchs), bees and other creatures that are important players in a healthy ecosystem.” DPR selected a site in each ward for the project, and the garden was selected to represent Ward 6! (For additional info on the project, you can check out this document)

In addition to the habitat garden, we’ve also planted sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, cramer’s rose, and snapdragons.

The garden is becoming a beautiful place to spend an hour or two, and we hope to see you in there!

Work days:

Wednesdays: 6-7pm

Saturdays: 4-6pm

Spring kick-off & Beyond

At the 2015 spring kick-off, we held an intro workshop to bokashi composting, and planted the communal beds with the most popular vegetables voted on by SW residents.

DSC_1836For those that are interested in learning more about bokashi composting, here is a starter:

Bokashi, which means fermented organic matter in Japanese, is a way of creating composted soil through the use of microorganisms and fermentation. The process works anaerobically (without oxygen), and requires the mixing of “Bokashi Bran” with a pile of food scraps in a sealed container. Over time, the microorganisms within the bran break the food down into soil. The process suppresses stench, and is protected from rodents since it occurs within a container.
The materials are mixed together, placed in a sealed container in a space where it will receive heat, and left to sit for two weeks. During this time period the microorganisms will come to life, feeding on the molasses, and will then be ready to break down the food scraps. The bran looks like sawdust, and is spread on top of the food scraps.

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The planting of the communal beds followed a “do-it-yourself” style. Groups of volunteers were given markers, a tape measure, seeds, and directions to plant the appropriate seeds in the correct beds. Then, they were free to learn and apply the square-foot gardening technique. For a copy of the directions we used, check out this document.

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In addition to all this planting, there were also artistic activities to liven up the garden:

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As the photos from the kick-off show, the garden opened with great energy and participation. This has continued into our regular work days (which are: Wednesdays 6-7pm, and Saturdays 4-5pm).

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Join us!

SW Vegetable Vote!

Hard to imagine spring is a little over a month away with all this snow coming down.. but nonetheless, it is! In preparation for its arrival, it’s time for our annual vegetable vote!

This survey will help determine what we’ll grow in the garden this year. Please take a minute to vote for your favorites — feel free to suggest others as well!

Urban Vignettes: SW Community Garden

3Food Demo

The following was written by Coy McKinney and Julia Thayne, and was originally published on Urban Vignettes

The SW Community Garden sits in the southwest quadrant of Washington, DC, in a neighborhood known as Southwest Waterfront. Southwest Waterfront is a primarily residential area, bounded to the north by federal government offices and to the south by the Anacostia River, once considered the most polluted river in the whole country. While the city has experienced massive gentrification during the past 20 years, Southwest Waterfront is one of the few neighborhoods that not only has remained surprisingly mixed in both racial and socioeconomic terms, but also continues to feel like a community. A vibrant cultural and commercial scene, including an arts center, several parks, and the city’s only fish market, contributes to the convivial atmosphere, with newcomers to the neighborhood often greeted with warm “hellos.”

The SW Community Garden both feeds from and perpetuates this strong community feeling. It opened on July 31, 2013 – the culmination of a year-long effort by a group of green-thumbed residents that had a common idea, and worked with the local government and local businesses to bring it to fruition. The garden consists of 34 raised-beds: 2 are wheelchair accessible, 4 are specifically reserved for residents of the 4 surrounding public housing complexes (council estates), 10 can be used by any member of the community, and the rest are individual plots.

When talk first began about developing a local garden, a neighborhood group met monthly to discuss location, lay-out, and purpose. Two goals were established: making the garden a true community garden, and not just a garden in the community; and making the garden an inviting space to the public housing residents nearby.

To meet the first goal, the group decided to set aside one section of the garden as a communal space. It would have regular work days where anyone could volunteer, and participants would learn about gardening, maintain the garden, and come up with other activities to integrate the garden into the community.

The idea for a communal section grew out of a frustration in the way traditional community gardens operate. Generally, community gardens have a set number of plots that are assigned to individuals for a fixed number of years. Although this provides a great opportunity for the plot holders, it does very little for those outside the fortunate few. With the importance of improving access to local, organic food becoming an essential component of advancing social health, the communal garden represented one step towards building an inclusive space.

To meet the second goal, the group discussed the diversity of the neighborhood, future development, and the social issues entangled with gentrification. It was important to make sure the gardening group understood the social context in which the garden existed, and why it was critical to keep that in consideration. Groups of gardeners not only canvassed the area to talk with neighbors, longstanding community groups, and community centers, but also attended neighborhood meetings, making an effort to integrate themselves into already existing groups.

The Garden is 1 year old, and there is already much to celebrate. There have been events, plantings, harvesting, and distributions of more than 30 pounds of free produce. During community gardening hours, kids from the neighborhood are always around to help; curious neighbors stop in to grab kale, snap peas, and whatever else has been harvested that day.

So far, I think our motto suits us well: Food, flowers, and friendships.