East Falls group selects potential site for community garden, seeks neighborhood input and support

With the selection of a potential site, plans to bring a community garden to East Falls are moving forward.

As reported by NewsWorks in September, a group of local volunteers are seeking to establish a neighborhood garden in time for the spring planting season. Subsequent to their formation in the fall, the 17 members of the East Falls Community Garden Committee have selected a site, located at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Scotts Lane, as being the optimum location for their efforts.

According to representatives of the EFCGC, the Scotts Lane site was selected for several reasons, chief among them being the size of the lot and amount of direct sunlight that it receives. In addition, the East Falls Community Council holds a ten-year lease on the property.

Lastly, the proposed location for the community garden will serve as a highly visible entrance to the neighborhood for Ridge Avenue commuters.

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“It’s a nice little gateway coming into East Falls,” said EFCGC member Drew Montemayor.

Assessing soil conditions 

To augment their site-selection efforts, members of the EFCGC have also conducted soil samples of the Scotts Lane property. With lead levels in the soil being in the “extreme low end of the ‘medium’ category,” the EFCGC is taking the precautionary step of installing raised planting beds – typically six feet by eight feet – with landscaping providing a barrier between the existing and imported soil.

The alkalinity of the soil is reported to be slightly high, which can be amended with a sulfur treatment. Conversely, phosphorus levels are low, but both can be mitigated.

“If anyone has ever gardened before, the soil is not perfect anywhere,” quipped EFCGC member Laura Muller.

The acquisition of water will also be an important factor, but with community approval, the EFCGC will be allowed to tap into one of two nearby fire hydrants. In addition, this approval will allow the committee to avoid a $4,200 fee imposed by the city for use of the hydrants.

However, as the city utilizes chloramine in the treatment of its municipal water, committee leaders may opt to utilize a rain barrel-based water catchment system.

Securing EFCC approval, soliciting participants, and seeking donations

In order for the garden to take root, the EFCGC must secure permission from both the EFCC and from the owner of the site, and begin to solicit willing participants, who will pay an estimated $25 plot fee.

A vote to approve the community will take place at March’s EFCC meeting.

In the interim, volunteers are working to arrange for a variety of donations, including seeds and various planting materials. Soil will be provided free of charge by the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center.

While reaction to the proposal was largely favorable at a recent EFCC meeting, committee members were instructed to verify that their plans would conform to the terms of EFCC’s lease on the land prior to their formal presentation in March.

EFCGC members expressed enthusiasm for the potential of the garden – and for the neighborhood.

“There are so many opportunities,” said Erika Morey, “and this is a great community to be able to do something like this.”

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