Parkwood community garden a go, volunteers sought

A community garden is in the process of becoming a reality for Parkwood residents.

With support from Councilman Brian O’Neill, R-10th, an 18,000-sq. ft. garden located next to the Community College of Philadelphia along Townsend Road can now happen. O’Neill has dropped an amendment to the zoning code that would have required Zoning Board approval for community gardens.

The real leg work, however, has been done by resident Rita Varley, who brought her idea to the Parkwood Civic Association. She and fellow green-thumbed resident Jim Coffin have hopes of making a permaculture garden.

What is a permaculture garden?

The term is shortened for permanent agriculture, which goes beyond organic gardening. It allows for things to grow all year long instead of just for a short time. The garden sustains itself. Some examples of year-round gardening include strawberries and asparagus.

“We want to try and get native plants,” Coffin said. “Stuff that’s going to grow naturally and come back every year.”

Plans in the works

Parkwood Civic Association Treasurer Joe McCarthy said he thinks the garden can be more than just something nice to look at, and said he hopes the college and the garden volunteers can work together.

Varley said she hopes to start working on the garden once Spring rolls around. Right now, she and Coffin are working to get more volunteers and more people knowledgeable in gardening. She is also working with the Philadelphia Water Department to have water for the garden close by.

A number of other things need to happen to get the project off the ground, starting with a blueprint. The soil will have to be tested, then plowed and turned for planting.

Change of tune

O’Neill said he has recently learned a lot about community gardens and their benefits, and that he plans to get more active in the idea of having community gardens in the whole city — not just in Parkwood.

The amendment he originally introduced would have required zoning approval for gardens in CMX-2 and CMX-2.5 commercial mixed-used districts. That change would have made the process more costly and more time-consuming.

“I have no problem with them,” O’Neill said. “They are a very positive thing. There’s still room to do a lot more to get a lot more community gardens in the city.”

Varley is in the process of getting as many volunteers as possible. Currently, around nine people are interested in having their own plot on the garden, and about 30 people are interested in just volunteering to help out. She can be contacted by phone at 215-632-3867 or by email at NEGardenGroup [AT] She urges people to contact her by March 31.

 Steven Mitchell is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.


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