Category Archives: Food & Gardening

Growing (Veggies) Together: West Chester’s New Community Gardens

Thanks to Hello, West Chester, 6/3/21, for this great description of our and other groups’ summer community gardening programs:

New raised beds at the Melton Center.West Chester offers relatively few community garden plots considering the number of renters and homes with limited acreage.

As one side of the Melton Center property on E. Miner Street is being cemented over on its way to becoming ten townhouses and a four-story, 41-unit affordable apartment complex. The other side is being subdivided into 10 4’ x 4’ raised-bed plots. Over the last year, the community fixture since 1934 has been busy maximizing its physical presence to continue its mission of contributing to “the quality of life for all people of the greater West Chester community.” Which today means trying to tackle a couple of rather lofty goals: affordable housing and food insecurity.

While every row home that sells over asking price serves as a reminder of the borough’s need for affordable housing, one might not think putting food on the table would be a problem in the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, but you’d be wrong….

read more at Hello, West Chester

Looking for garden space this summer?

Still a couple of spaces left: West Chester Green Team is matching up residents who would like garden space with community garden plots that we have located for summer 2021: one at the Melton Center, one at Barclay Friends, and one in a private garden.

We are not offering our Roots N’ Shoots gardening program for kids this summer, but kids are welcome to join family members in the 2021 Community Gardening program.

To apply, please email here, or phone 610 692-3849 or write a letter to 409 W. Union St., West Chester PA 19382 with this information:

• Your name and names of others in the family who would be gardening

• Your address

An idea what you’d like to grow

Any prior gardening experience

Please rank your preference of location in the Borough: Melton Center (East End), Barclay Friends (NE), or a personal garden (SW)

From this year’s predecessor program: gardening for children, in 2019-20

For inspiration, see our 2020 garden video series here and “Community Gardens are Good for People” here.

Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

By WCU Office of Sustainability, WC Area Transition, WC Green Team, and members of Chesco Environment Alliance

APRIL 7 at 7 pm: Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

Host:  Brad Flamm
Moderator: Joan Welch
Community Gardening:  Ashlie Delshad
Sustainable Vegetable Gardening:  Jim Hines
Pollinator Gardens:  Sallie Jones
Students in Gardening:  Elizabeth Schultz

More info and registration HERE.

Community Gardens are Good for People

by Prof. Ashlie Delshad, WCU, summarizing her research on the topic. Photo: WCU’s South Campus garden.

My findings indicate and reinforce conclusions from prior studies that community gardens offer a myriad of benefits to the communities in which they exist. These benefits include: connecting neighbors and bridging social divides; helping individuals save money on groceries and improve the desirability of their community; and increasing access to fresh produce and improving the physical and mental health of residents.

As communities continue to grapple with the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics, and other health or economic crises, gardens can serve as a safe haven – alleviating some of the social isolation, economic instability, food insecurity, stress and anxiety exacerbated by this public health crisis.

The social interaction facilitated by community gardening can easily take place while adhering to pandemic public health precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks, and it is inherently a safer activity as it takes place outdoors. Hence, individuals suffering the side effects of pandemic-derived social isolation can reap the social benefits of community gardening while behaving responsibly.

Social isolation due to COVID-19 coupled with financial pressures and worries about one’s health has led to an alarming uptick in mental health crises for many. The mental health benefits of community gardening can serve as a coping mechanism and outlet for folks to alleviate some of their woes.

Growing even a portion of one’s own produce through a community garden plot can also yield important economic savings to individuals, making it possible for more people to eat more healthy and varied diets.

WCU North Campus Organic Garden Tour

West Chester University has four organic gardens. Read about them all here. View a video tour of the North Campus Garden here with student Elizabeth Schultz, who spoke about the WCU gardens at our Dec. 11, 2020, panel on local environment activism.

If. you’ve missed the Green Team’s own garden videos, see them all described and linked to here.

Purslane

by Nathaniel Smith

As mentioned in “Summer Solstice Report“:

This is the season for my summer favorite forage food, purslane. To the left is a small patch that I was happy to find on June 27.

Purslane is a succulent related to the garden plant portulaca. It’s an annual that seeds itself very efficiently whether you like it or not. So you might as well like it and consume it! It adds a nice taste and crunchiness to salads and sandwiches, and has exceptional food and health value.

Now with 3 weeks of hot weather, more purslane plants have grown up and flourished. I find that if you keep picking off and consuming the ends of the shoots and the more developed leaves, the root keeps putting out new tender leaves. Then it forms a succulent mat (this one is over a foot across) of salad materials that you didn’t even need to plant.

Theoretically purslane can be cooked, but I prefer to do that at most for a few seconds and only to add as a sort of herb to a plate you are warming up in the microwave. Purslane, like some other fairly sturdy edibles such as bloody sorrel, does contain oxalic acid, of which you don’t want to eat a lot if you have kidney issues; so if that worries you, you can boil purslane as a vegetable or soup ingredient to remove most of the oxalic acid.

A more rustic trellis

Here’s a more rustic trellis than the one pictured earlier and made with metal supports and nylon mesh.

This one is made out of fallen branches tied together at the joints with pieces of wire or string. Pieces that fall apart are easily replaced. Very good for peas, but not recommended for heavier veggies like squash and cucumbers!

My view of composting

by Nathaniel Smith, June 8, 2020

I have never figured out how to build a compost heap that would heat up enough to kill weed seeds. The compost manuals make it sound simple, but it isn’t! (See lots of really good composting advice from the Chester County Solid Waste Authority, though.)

For me, patience is the key. I just make a big pile and turn it over every couple of months (more often is better, of course!). If it’s not turned over, pockets of wet leaves or dry branch parts can form and sit for years.

My heap is long, narrow, and tall. I leave a blank spot from which I remove usable compost, and then I move the next 4-foot segment into the gap….

Read more here.

Compostable packing on compostOf several photos in the original linked  post, here is one showing compostable packaging materials, used by Bob’s Red Mill, well on its way to returning to nature on a bed of fresh cuttings in my compost heap.

Here’s an add-on as of July 17: one of the pleasures of gardening and composting, for me, is the surprise factor, the unpredictability, as when sparse echinacea suddenly fills in an entire bed, or a persimmon tree that has produced 3 fruits in 3 years seems on its way to dozens. My experience with the patient compost method was that the pile only really decomposed into usable product in the lowest 6 to 12 inches. Today, while moving one section onto Dirt layer in compost copyanother to get to the bottom of it, I came across a good layer of compost perfect for loosening up the soil where I was about to plant potatoes. It was like doing archeology, finding a productive layer in the middle of the accumulation. It even had earthworms (look closely) in it! It was above a matted layer of leaves, which may have stopped moisture from permeating and made a wet area that decomposed faster than the rest.

Read more of the original post here.