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.

The Mud Dance Comes to SW!

Below, is an event that is being implemented by sculptor/artist, Michael Koliner. Michael has become a regular at the SW garden, helping maintain the space, work with our young SW Farmhands, compost, and plant.

Washington Project for the Arts Presents: Mud Dance
Saturday, August 23, 2014 (Rain Date: Sunday, August 24)
12:00 to 10:00 PM
Location: 990 4th St. SW Washington DC 20024 (Metro Green Line to Waterfront)
Cost: FREE

Members of the Southwest community are invited to a picnic and art-making event to eat, dance, listen to music, meet neighbors, and stomp with us to create a mixture of mud, straw, and recycled materials (called “cob”) that will be used for making outdoor seating designed by artist Michael Koliner for Lance Fung’s Nonuments Park.

Part of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ citywide 5×5 public art project, Nonuments will create a temporary park in the empty lot at 4th and I Streets SW during the months of September and October. Nonuments seeks to challenge our community’s understanding of the word “monument” and the cob benches will help to create a park space where the SW community can reflect on ideas, people, and personal struggles that are not the subjects of the traditional monuments that occupy our city.

Mud Dance participants are asked to wear comfortable shoes and clothes that can get muddy. There is no cost to attend or participate and all ages are welcome! Food will be served at 12pm and 6pm in-between cob making sessions.

WPA would like to thank the organizations who partnered with us to help ensure the success of this project: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Community Forklift, Fung Collaboratives, and Chapel Valley Landscape Company.

WPA is an independent, nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for contemporary art. WPA supports artists at all stages of their careers and promotes contemporary art by presenting exhibitions, issues, and ideas that stimulate public dialogue on art and culture.

Funky Friday Farming: Pass The Peas

On June 6, 2014, we had our first ever Funky Friday Farming event called “Pass the Peas.” This was our way of celebrating peas, and funk music, through a James Brown classic. As the video above demonstrates, it indeed got a little funky in the garden.

In addition to getting down, we also harvested 6 pounds of sugar snap peas. We then proceeded to follow the godfather of Soul’s instructions to “pass the peas” – we passed them to volunteers, kids, and folks in front of the Waterfront metro station.


Distributing what is grown in the garden to people at the Waterfront metro station seems to be a popular and engaging way to share our produce, interact with neighbors, and promote the garden itself. Those who have helped with this, think we should make this a regular feature of our harvests. We’ll put out a call to harvest, distribute some to volunteers and kids, and then give the rest to people in front of the metro and Safeway. If you’ve got ideas, or would like to participate, just email us at swgardensdc at gmail.com


Build Raised Beds at Southwest Library

Come out for more gardening in the neighborhood on April 12!

The Southwest Library is building some raised beds for a library garden–and they need your help! SW Gardens is helping out with tools, we just need the man- and womanpower to make it happen.

Here are the details:

Who: Southwest Library and neighboring community–and hopefully you!
What: building 2 raised beds/filling them with dirt and compost/perhaps doing some planting as well?
WhenSaturday, April 12, 2014 2pm4pm (rain date TBD)
Where: Southwest Library, 900 Wesley Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024 (nearest Waterfront metro on Green line; also near Federal Center SW station and V7/8/9 bus lines
What to bring: your energy and enthusiasm and a pair of gloves

*There is off-street parking behind the library if you are driving.


Garden with Kid Power DC in Southwest

Kid Power DC is starting the VeggieTime program at our neighborhood schools this year–Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Jefferson Middle School. They organize school gardens, healthy eating education, after school and summer programs.

Here’s the current volunteer opportunities:


Get down and dirty with students in the garden. Whether you are an expert gardener or want to learn how alongside the kids we would love to have you assist our students with garden tasks like planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. (weekly or monthly commitment)

Weekend Gardening

Sometimes our gardens just need a little TLC. If you have a few extra weekend hours a month and know your way around a garden we would appreciate your help keeping our school gardens healthy. (This opportunity does not involve working with students and can be done on your own schedule.) !

Summer Garden Watering

Assist our program with maintaining all of our garden beds during the hot summer months. When school is out and our staff are on vacation the plants still need someone to tend them. Our gardens are located at 8 different sites in various neighborhoods throughout the city. We are looking for people to help between one and three times a week mornings or evenings. All ages and gardening levels welcome! (1-3 days a week, one week – whole summer)


Are you an expert? Have you had an interesting life experience? Do you have an innovative job? Come out and talk to our students about it in a 3 lesson series. You can introduce yourself and your idea/experience and work with students to build a service learning project around that idea. (once 3-5 visit commitment)

Working at Farmer’s Markets
Help students run their own Farmers’ Market produce stands at various locations around the city. This is a weekend opportunity for you to see the business side of our gardens. Assist groups of 2-5 students in bettering their public speaking abilities as they engage customers and increasing their math skills by getting the opportunity to handle real money in a real world situation. Our markets are run from 10am to 12:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. We provide all the materials and a brief training. (once a month) !

Cooking Nights/Demonstrations
Do you like to cook? Come help Kid Power share nutritious recipes with student families and community members at our Family Cooking Nights and Farmers’ Market cooking demos. We need everything from sous chefs to head chefs to waiters. (once a month) !

Contact Katie Harvey katie@kidpowerdc.org or veggietime@kidpowerdc.org

Spring Planting


We’re less than a month away from the March equinox (March 21st), the unofficial start of spring, and the SW Community Garden is getting ready!

With the input of voters, who either stopped by the garden and dropped off their suggestions, or voted in our online survey, we came up with a planting plan that we hope will cater to SW stomaches. For the spring, we’ll be planting: kale, lettuce, carrots, spinach, peas, broccoli, beets, cabbage, radishes, strawberries, peanuts, and a variety of onions. Once these crops have had their fun in the sun, we’ll replace them with others with the goal of growing something all year.

To preserve the health and balance of the soil, and to deter pests and diseases from getting too comfortable in the garden, we will be rotating the crops on a semi-seasonal basis. We chose to do this because plants have a variety of appetites, some feed on nutrients in the soil more than others, and others (legumes) add nutrients (nitrogen) to the soil, so it is important to cycle through the different crop varieties for sustainability purposes.

An example cycle to follow is: fruits->roots->legumes->leaves. (Fruit examples: cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, crops with seeds inside them; Root examples: beets, radishes, turnips, carrots; Legume examples: peanuts, beans, peas; Leaves examples: lettuce, mustards, arugula.) An important note to consider within this cycle is that fruits do best when grown during the summer months.

We hope to make the garden as sustainable as possible, and are working with the urban composting company, Compost Cab, on being a local drop-point for food scraps so we can start producing our own compost. To stay in the loop with this project, and other activities we have planned, check out our Facebook page, Twitter, or website.

And don’t forget about the spring kick-off in the garden on March 22nd, from 1-5pm! (address: 1098 Delaware Ave)