As we kick off our spring season at the garden, excitement is in the air (and mud is on the ground). Our connection with the Philadelphia organization Urban Tree Connection has brought us under the new management of Terrence Topping-Brown. Originally from nearby Upper Darby, after studying biology (and particularly plant science) at college, Terrence worked on an organic farm for six months, and now has been hired to come work on the garden full-time — that is, when he isn’t coaching track at the local high school. His presence and dedication are allowing the garden to grow in ways that would have been impossible with us college students only being able to work on the weekends. Terrence has big ideas for the garden — he has a seven part plan that involves planting an orchard, getting rid of invasive weeds and restoring the patch of woods at the back of the garden, furthering community engagement through programming, and much more.
These may sound like far-off goals, and Terrence is the first to admit that there is an incredible amount of work to be done, but there have already been some exciting changes — mainly, after some struggles with groundwater, the structure of the hoop house has finally been built! Once some plastic is thrown on, we will be well on our way to being able to sprout our very own seedlings in the garden. Terrence also expressed an interest in meeting with an engineering professor at Swarthmore to discuss how to use the hoop house and other structures to collect rain water.
Last week, we worked on preparing our many new beds (and some of the old ones) for planting by filling them with dirt. This was a pretty labor-intensive process that involved a lot of shoveling and moving around of heavy, dirt-filled wheelbarrows, but it was made much easier (and more fun) by the help of a lot of volunteers. We had several adult volunteers from a bank in West Chester, as well as 15 high school students, each of whom were paired with a student from the Chester middle school. Our helpers, both young and slightly less young, were unflaggingly enthusiastic and moved soil around like nobody’s business. We filled up all of our beds and reduced our enormous pile of dirt to almost nothing, as well as clearing away a lot of invasive reeds in the back of the garden. Some of the kids were so into the shoveling that they shoveled right through their lunch break, despite the fact that the volunteers had brought some truly delicious sandwiches (which, incidentally, they were kind enough to share with us sad, lunchless individuals staring on hungrily).
Once the volunteers left, we focused mainly on weeding and prepping the beds in the older part of the garden, which has now become known as the Children’s Garden. Some of the regular kids who live in the Bennett came to join us — our old friend TayQuan came by, and, true to form, found a lot of worms. Before we left we planted some pea seeds and discussed plans for the summer — excitingly, starting in June one of our members, Tyler Huntington, will be working at the garden with Terrence five days a week. All in all, a great day!