Growing Gardens, Growing Kids

Guest post by Alison Drucker

At City Blossoms, organic gardening and environmental education meet art and community development. Founded in 2003 by Lola Bloom and Rebecca Lemos, this grassroots nonprofit builds gardens at local schools and recreation centers and uses gardening to build skills and healthy habits among kids.

The City Blossoms model is unique: develop productive, organic green spaces where children and youth are the main cultivators, using gardening to teach about sustainability, health, responsibility, and artistic expression (alongside basics like writing and social skills).

It doesn’t hurt if the project spruces up a formerly neglected urban lot, either – artistic expression and beautification are key pieces of the programming.

Spanning seven years and at least eight different projects, City Blossoms’ activities reach more than 700 kids each week in D.C., Baltimore, and Langley Park.

One of their success stories is the Girard Children’s Community Garden in Columbia Heights – in 2008, the group transformed an asphalt lot into a demonstration garden where children from community organizations now attend workshops and help grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

The garden is also home to a free monthly workshop series for families. This season’s bilingual workshops kicks off on April 3 with a session on container gardening; future workshops this year will give kids and parents a hands-on opportunity to learn about herbs, insects, composting, and garden-inspired cooking.

This spring, City Blossoms will be transforming another urban D.C. space into a neighborhood garden, this time on Marion Street in Shaw. The two lots will become home to drought-tolerant, native flowers and plants, along with herb and vegetable gardens, an outdoor classroom, and art spaces.

On Saturday, April 10th, you can volunteer your digging and planting skills to help the Marion Street Community Garden become a reality.

For the D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School and others, City Blossoms has also developed and delivered regular workshops tied to schools’ curricular goals and standards, hosted at the school, another local green space, or the Girard garden. And they create special school-wide events and after-school or summer activities that promote environmental and community stewardship.

Yardshare and Share Alike

This post was written by Going Green DC contributing writer Alison Drucker.

The rewards of yard sharing. Fresh basil!
The rewards of yard sharing. Fresh basil!

What’s a city apartment dweller with a green thumb to do? Find a neighbor willing to share some yard space.

Sharing Backyards is a national project that connects people with unused yards with others in their communities looking for a place to cultivate something. It encourages urban gardeners to make the most of limited green space, gives people a connection to the land, and expands access to fresh, local food – while uniting neighbors and beautifying urban space.

The D.C. area is full of yard-sharing success stories. One of those is the partnership between Patricia, a Rockville resident with a double lot, and Rebecca, a first-time gardener inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to reevaluate her food sources.

Patricia posted her spare space on the D.C. Sharing Backyards Web site and swiftly – within 15 minutes – received an email connecting her to Rebecca.

eHarmony couldn’t have done a better job matching the two. Rebecca found a gardening mentor in Patricia, and each found a good friend. A few patches of squash and tomatoes later, Rebecca had a new source of produce, which she happily shared with Patricia all summer. They didn’t have a formal arrangement for sharing the veggies, though some yard-sharing duos choose to lay down specific terms for who gets what and who supplies the tools, seeds, and soil.

Interested in yard-sharing? Use this online map to find a potential partner. If you’re in search of land, try to find a place close by, since tending a garden may become part of your daily routine – when it isn’t your own yard, you can’t just wander outside in your bathrobe to pull some weeds.