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Beautiful and Bountiful Gardens of Cedar Park

This post–with pictures!–originally ran in the September 2012 Cedar Park Neighbors newsletter.  Didn’t receive a newsletter?  Consider becoming a member of Cedar Park Neighbors by clicking here.

by Andrea Saylor, CPN member and newsletter reporter

Summer provides a beautiful opportunity to observe one of Cedar Park’s great resources: gardens. Usually grown on once-vacant lots, often tended by groups who collaborate or individuals who share their crops with the community, gardens create green spaces and provide fresh food. Here’s a sample of some of Cedar Park’s gardens.

Warrington Community Garden, 47th & Warrington

The Warrington Community Garden began 40 years ago, on a large vacant area that once held a factory that burned down. The gardeners didn’t own the land, and their efforts were threatened in the early 1990’s when developers expressed interest in the lot. With porch sales, donations from neighbors, and a private lender who helped them with a mortgage, the gardeners raised enough money to buy the land. The Neighborhood Gardens Association, a Philadelphia land trust, holds titles to 29 community gardens in the city, including Warrington, and now the garden can’t be sold to developers.

Nearly 65 gardeners build and decorate plots here, often in unique ways- notice the Cambodian theme on one plot the next time you walk down Warrington. Gardeners contribute annual fees based on plot size, participate in workdays to keep common areas tidy, and attend a harvest dinner together in October. There is a waitlist for plots.
The garden also dedicates space to the City Harvest program, a partnership between the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and others, including 45 city gardens. PHS donates seedlings, grown at other locations, and volunteer gardeners plant them, tend them from spring to fall and harvest and donate the crops. Warrington Community Garden’s City Harvest crops go to the food pantry at the nearby Paradise Emmanuel Tabernacle, where 30 families benefit from the food donations. So far this year, the garden has donated over 600 pounds of fresh vegetables. Carol Bowers and Mary Wallman, who run the City Harvest plot at Warrington, say that other gardeners often donate some of their personal produce, too.

Garden at 50th and Baltimore
Last fall, Vanessa Jerolmack began a private garden on a Baltimore Avenue lot she’d purchased with her husband. The land borders their back yard on Catherine Street, and the garden’s first full season started this summer, thanks to a PHS grant. Vanessa joined the City Harvest Grower’s Alliance, part of the City Harvest program that supports individual gardeners. PHS provided soil, hay, manure, raised boxes, and seeds, and in return, Vanessa sells her produce to neighbors at an affordable price. You can find her at Chester and 51st on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30, at the farm stand called Farm 51, another City Harvest grant recipient.

St. Bernard Community Garden
This community garden has 47 plots and is over 15 years old. Near 49th Street and adjacent the train tracks, the garden sits, often unnoticed, several feet above street level. Gardeners can tend up to three plots per household, pay annual dues of $15, attend workdays, and water their plants with water donated from a next-door neighbor. They have access to a shared tool shed, compost pile, and a shared plot of herbs and berries. Community members began the garden after the house there burned down and the lot stood vacant. The garden has formed a task force to explore how the Neighborhood Garden Association might help them purchase the land. Individuals on the waiting list can expect to get a plot in about two years.

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