Category Archives: Food & Gardening

Hillsdale School food gardens, 2022

New garden beds at Hillsdale. Photo Hillsdale Facebook.

From Hello West Chester by Cara Corridoni, 4/4/22

Last weekend a group of Hillsdale parents, students and community members erected eight garden beds on the backside of the elementary school’s property. Once the build and mulching is complete, the beds will be filled with plants provided by the Chester County Food Bank. Students across all classrooms will take part in a school wide planting day on Earth Day, April 22. The gardens will be tended by Hillsdale families over the summer and students will then get a chance to help harvest the bounty when they return in the fall. The majority of which will be taken to the Chester County Food Bank for distribution into the community. The remainder will be used for teaching purposes (and probably some light snacking).  

The mulching phase of the project is planned for Saturday. If you find yourself with some free time this weekend, volunteers are still needed. Sign up here.

Looking for free garden space this summer?

Our coordinator Dave Lorom at the Barclay

The West Chester Green Team is again matching up residents who would like free garden space with community garden plots that we have located for summer 2022. Our garden plots are usually 4 X 4 or 4 X 8 feet (we might be able to help), tools, and your time. To the left: beds at the Barclay before planting, 3/17/22.

2021 at the Barclay

We particularly want to help area residents who wish to grow some healthy food, for themselves or to donate, but who lack space of their own. Children are very welcome to join family members in the garden areas, and we also are planning a regular program of readings and events to introduce kids to the environment.

The West Chester Green Team believes that gardening and growing food offer us all good ways to get in touch with the natural world, give us a feeling of acting for the good, and are educational to all concerned.

One bed left here (2021 late summer)

If you are interested, please act expeditiously, as some early crops can be sown as early as March, and we will assign beds as soon as we have a good match with interested people.

To apply, please email here with this information:

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

• Your address

An idea of what you’d like to grow

Any prior gardening experience

Any other remarks that would help us assign you to a garden.

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

For inspiration, see our 2020 garden video series here, a report in Hello, West Chester about our 2021 community garden program here, and “Community Gardens are Good for People” here.

2021 Recap: West Chester Tree Team and Living Landscapes

by Courtney Finneran

Even in the midst of the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 turned out to be a successful and dynamic year for the West Chester Tree Team and the Living Landscapes Committee. Our community chose to prioritize spending time outside, gardening in the soil, and educating themselves on the benefits of native planting. Below is a recap of some of the highlights. Stay tuned next month to learn about some exciting things that our committee has planned for 2022, including several native planting volunteer events at Goose Creek and Chestnut Street Garage. If you are interested in supporting our group, please email WCTreeTeam@gmail.com and let us know! 

Street Tree Plantings in 2021

Over the spring 2021 and fall 2021 planting seasons, the West Chester Borough Arborist planted a total of 190 new trees in street right-of-ways and parks across town. We are still counting on our Tree Team volunteers (that’s you!) to keep an eye on our street tree canopy in your travels across town. Remember that in the Borough, a permit is required for any tree work performed on street trees as well as use of a preapproved landscape firm. 

Goose Creek Invasive Removal Project (April 2021)

WCGT partnered with the Tree Commission in organizing a volunteer invasive removal and native planting project. On April 17, 2021, approximately 20 volunteers showed up to remove invasive vegetation from a 200-ft length of the banks of Goose Creek near Greenfield Park.  Once the area was cleared, volunteers laid down a thick layer of wood chips provided by the Public Works Dept. Invasive species removed include: Multiflora Rose, Porcelain Berry,  Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, Knotweed and more. 

Following the removal, local Borough residents Linda Glaum and Woody Lathbury have continued to care for the project area by showing up regularly to continue to remove invasive species, and planted native perennials and grasses alongside the native riparian trees planted by the Borough Arborist. Native plantings donated by the Glaums include Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a PawPaw, Virginia Willow (Itea virginica), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), and false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides),

This project was led by the West Chester Green Team in partnership with the Public Works Department, the Borough Arborist, and the Borough Tree Commission.  

Lawn to Native Pollinator Garden Conversion (May 2021)

In May 2021, members of the West Chester Transition Team’s Living Landscapes Committee created a publicly accessible native pollinator garden located in the 500 block of South Maryland Ave in West Chester Borough to showcase an affordable DIY project to convert a monoculture lawn into a gorgeous and ecologically beneficial native pollinator garden. 

Accessible from the sidewalk, the new 200-square-foot native pollinator garden provides nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and food for caterpillars. Native plants have evolved to act as hosts to our native insects and therefore provide a highly valuable resource that cannot be provided by non-natives.

Green Man Garden Tour (June 2021)

In June of 2021, the WCGT developed a self-guided walking tour of 10 home gardens across the Borough. The tour included a scavenger hunt where each of the home participants hid a green man/woman in the landscape of the garden area. The WCGT website contained all the details including the sample walking route.  The tour focused mostly on showcasing native gardens including lawn conversions across various scales, including some established, some new, and some in process. This may be an annual tradition, so reach out if you are interested in supporting this effort in 2022! 

Chestnut Street Hellstrip Garden (September 12, 2021)

The WCGT Living Landscapes committee organized a native planting project for the “hellstrip” along East Chestnut Street at the Chester County History Center.  This strip of dirt between the curb and sidewalk now includes a 7 ft long x 3.5 ft wide strip of native plants — all donated by WCGT members — including “shorter” perennials, grasses, and cover.  

E. Prescott Alley / Chestnut St Garage Garden (October, 2021)

The West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) reached out to the WCGT to help beautify one alleyway in downtown West Chester in an effort to achieve an important goal in the BID’s five-year plan. Members of BID and WCGT together recognized the urgent need to install a native pollinator garden which would provide an educational component with informational signage, an ecological oasis providing habitat for pollinators, and a beautiful landscape component of the urban environment. Phase 1 efforts completed in 2021 included planning and design, and a volunteer-led work day where approximately 20 individuals removed the original mature invasive shrubs, installed a new garden path, planted several redbud trees and 12 native shrubs. In Spring 2022, volunteers will be asked to help plant over 2,000 perennial plugs to help complete the project. This new garden is located at the base of the Chestnut St Garage (on the East Prescott Alley side) and serves as a highly visible entrance point for visitors to the West Chester Borough business district. 

Gardening and Food

What do we learn and achieve from gardening?

Exuberant butternut squash vines

Many of us in Chester County celebrate Earth Day every day. Earth herself is being mistreated, but we can work hard to mend our human ways toward her, and at the same time mend our own life styles and diets.

One way of making things better between ourselves and Earth is enjoying the thrill of seeing seeds wend their way into flowers, vegetables and fruits… and healthy food on the table.

If squash wants to grow twenty-foot vines, should we interfere? It’s a question of philosophy: some of us would give it free rein, even at the expense of other plantings being submerged; others of us would severely restrict it to its appointed space.

Flower or vegetable?

Sometimes the distinction between the esthetic and the edible isn’t clear. The tomato, imported to Europe in the 16th century, was originally grown there for decorative use and the fruit was considered toxic!

When we garden, we install plants in a hybrid environment, neither in the state of nature nor protected by four walls and a roof; and in return, they enter into a state of symbiosis with us: we give them a place to grow; and they offer us satisfaction, beauty, and food.

It is a particular pleasure when we see desirable plants seed themselves or resprout another year. Many flowers do this, of course, from one year to the next, such as the invincible annual cleome; and some, like foxgloves, are on a savvy two-year cycle (with perennial tendencies). The attractive white and yellow flowers and glossy leaves grew from a potato that lurked in the ground over the winter.

Gardening also teaches us some valuable life lessons:

Bloody sorrel, a distinctive chard-like plant

• It takes time for plants to grow, and like people they go through recognizable stages. Pea or squash vines, starting as small seeds, develop fast in their infancy, move along to maturity, weather permitting, and produce what can be, if we save seeds, the next generation.

• Consider remaining open to surprise and giving unknown plants a chance to declare themselves before we weed. Plants can unexpectedly overwinter or self-seed, or appear from unknown sources. This bloody sorrel, a red-veined spinach-like leaf crop with an unfortunate name, must have been carried into the vegetable garden by a passing bird.

• Good results depend on patience and continuous effort. If we stop weeding for a few weeks we will spend more time repairing the damage than we saved by taking a vacation; if we stop watering when our plants are drying up, they will not come back.

• Let’s learn our limits! We can collaborate with plants but we can’t control them, or their needs, or the weather; we can amend the soil, but only within limits: it would take generations for clay to become loam and lawn will always be reluctant to grow under trees.

• We need to pay attention, look for facts and evidence about what is going right and wrong, and remain in touch with something outside ourselves: the reality of the garden.

Kitchencycling made easy

• There are no good shortcuts; compost and mulch, our friends, take time to produce. To the right: unusable organic matter from the kitchen returning rapidly and aerobically to nature, under a strong wire mesh, bordered with stones to keep rodents from feasting.

• But pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers destroy soil organisms, beneficial insects and worms, and ultimately the soil itself.

• Peace of mind and inner relaxation — qualities not easily acquired in today’s busy life — do dwell in the garden for us to gather in to ourselves along with what grows there.

Gardening also fosters a whole consciousness and understanding about the Earth and how we relate to it:

• The climate is changing; many areas are more subject to drought and floods, heat and cold, than they have been for many centuries. Large areas in Australia and California have been burning due to record hot and dry weather; the prospective 2021 grape harvest was destroyed in France by hot weather followed by freezing; one of the prime wine regions, the Jura, is becoming inhospitable to the grape. We can think “It can’t happen here,” but it will.

Honey bee, West Chester

• Because native plants have adjusted their needs to our climate and soil, they do a lot better than exotics when adverse weather strikes. And, of course, they evolved in symbiosis with native pollinators, which depend on them.

• The amount of water that soil can hold depends largely on the amount of organic material in the soil. This would be a good time for American gardeners and farmers to depend less on chemical fertilizers and more on treating soil as a living organism that also takes carbon out of circulation.

• Nature has evolved as one great system in each location. When we add in chemicals, we are not only changing plant and animal life but subverting the natural order with consequences we can’t foresee. But we do know that if we want to eat healthy food, it must be grown in healthy soil.

By gardening in our own yards, we show our appreciation of nature; and also we can give away some of our produce to those who need it, and we can encourage others to garden… and in turn to spread the satisfaction and knowledge of feeling in harmony with nature.

Many of our neighbors have been working hard to bring us programming, both online and in person, about how we live on and with the Earth. Please find the large array of locally accessible events in our calendar at the bottom of our home page; and join in!

“Nature’s Best Hope”: Doug Tallamy’s visit, Sept. 13, 2021

tallamy

Doug Tallamy, a widely acclaimed professor in the Dept. of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, gave a talk at West Chester University on Sept. 13, 2021, to an in-person and online audience of over 200. (See the video here; he starts at 15:34; Closed Captioning recommended; don’t miss our board member Courtney Finneran’s preceding 10-minute illustrated introduction to our work. You can also view a talk by Tallamy elsewhere here; he starts at 5:37).

The reception before Dr. Tallamy’s talk was attended by Chester County political and business leaders, and the dinner following allowed Green Team and WCU leaders to network about ways to spread Doug’s message and work throughout the County.

Nature’s best hope, he explained, is at this point… ourselves! We, the human race, have disturbed the symbiotic balance between insects and plants, between those and birds and all other vertebrates. We destroy inter-species interactions at our peril, and if we continue to impoverish the living earth, our own food supply will perish.

What can we do as individuals? Welcome biodiversity to our own properties, by turning lawns into meadows, choosing native plants, shunning pesticides and herbicides, and nurturing organically rich soils.

The Green Team, through our Living Landscapes project, strongly supports Dr. Tallamy’s call for a “Homegrown National Park” in our collective back yards (and, of course, in the properties of businesses, non-profits, schools, and municipalities). We can all be part of restoring nature to the healthy, symbiotic state that evolved into the world around us.

In a promising sign of forward movement, the Environmental Advisory Committees of northern Chester County have been conferring with each other on such initiatives and will be meeting next week at the Welkinweir preserve with Chair of the Chesco Board of Commissioners Marian Moskowitz. The WC Green Team will also be represented there and it is hoped that countywide networking of all Chesco EACs will ensue.

As an organization determined to reassert the essential importance of nature and environment, the WC Green Team will strongly support a countywide initiative to reclaim natural areas, plant native pollinators, and create… a “Homegrown Chester County Park”!

Curbside compost coming to you

Good sustainability news from West Chester Weekly News Roundup by hellowestchester , 9/17/21 (sign up there for weekly emails with the latest on West Chester)

Brace yourself. You ready? West Chester is moving forward with its long awaited community composting option.

“We’ve tried to do this a couple of different times,” said West Chester Sustainability Director William Williams at this month’s Borough Council working session.  “We’ve gotten grant funds. We’ve built these programs. The grant goes away. The program goes away.” Well, not this time.

After reviewing four different options from purely educational to 100% Borough-run, Will and West Chester’s Sustainability Advisory Committee think they have come up with a solution that just may stick. One that puts a little bit of the onus on each of the stakeholders – Borough, resident, private sector.

The plan? partner with a private curbside collection service, in this case, WasteWell.

How it works

All members of the program get a big 5-gallon bucket at sign up. You fill it with fruit, vegetable scraps, eggshells, cut flowers, shredded newspaper, etc. (don’t worry, they’ll give you a list). Then every two weeks you put it outside and WasteWell comes to collect it, but that’s not it…

“I almost forgot the best part,” Will said. Every sprint you can get 40lbs of a compost delivered for free. The service normally costs $18/mo but will be offered to Borough residents at $15/mo or a 17 percent discount. WasteWell is also offering to collect from one low-income resident for only $1/mo for every ten West Chester residents that sign up.  

The takeaway In terms of immediate savings, it won’t mean much for the Borough. Once they subsidize the savings, they are looking to net a whopping $3/year per participating customer. Should they hit their year-one goal, that would mean $300 in savings but this isn’t about the short game. It’s the long-term impact and the right thing to do environmentally, that make it compelling.

According to Will, the Chester County landfill currently has less than 15-year capacity. When it’s full we’ll have to start shipping our waste to distant locales at, of course, a cost. “We should do everything in our capacity to extend the capacity of the landfill,” said Will Williams and this would definitely be a step in the right direction. 
Soon West Chester alleys may be lined with grey WasteWell buckets.

Famed natural gardens expert Doug Tallamy to speak at WCU Sept. 13

Please let us know you are coming at Eventbrite.

Dr. Doug Tallamy will describe his plan for a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity through native plantings in your backyard. Dr. Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, best-selling author, and an international expert on restoring health to the planet through plants, will visit West Chester University on Monday, September 13.

Prof. Tallamy will spend the day speaking to University classes and will offer a 5pm lecture to the community. Dr. Tallamy is the co-founder of Homegrown National Park, with the purpose to regenerate biodiversity, one person at a time, though a grassroots call-to-action that focuses on native plantings.

Please join West Chester Green Team and WCU Office of Sustainability, which are co-sponsoring Doug’s lecture, at 5:00pm in Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall at 700 S. High Street in West Chester Borough.

THIS EVENT IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC BUT REGISTRATION IS REQUESTED

Download the below flyer here.

Mondays at Melton, August 2: A Glimpse of Japan

by Cara Corridoni

With the Tokyo Olympics just underway, last week Melton Center students got a juicy glimpse into Japanese culture.

Reiko and Misaki reading Momo Taro-san

As part of their Mondays at Melton series, the West Chester Green Team partnered with the Japan Foundation to tell students the story of Momotaro, a child born from a giant peach. The only son of an elderly couple, Momotaro leaves as an adolescent to protect his village from a band of ogres. With the help of some friends he meets along the way, Momotaro is able to convince the ogres to repent of their misdeeds and returns to his homeland a hero. Momotaro is an oral story that may date back to the 14th century.

Boy eating peach at Momo story

The story helped to illustrate the importance of oral storytelling in the Japanese culture while celebrating peach season locally. After the reading, students enjoyed delicious peaches from Barnard’s Orchards, sampled some Japanese candy and got to try their hand at the Japanese art form of origami.

Special thanks to Japan Foundation volunteers Reiko Yoshida, her daughter Misaki and husband Taka Nagai (our stalwart photographer) for making the evening one that students won’t soon forget. 

Type “Melton” in the Search box in the right sidebar for earlier stories about Mondays at Melton.

Jessica Nagle shows how
Reiko instructs in origami

Mondays at Melton covered in Daily Local News

DLN reporter Bill Rettew was with us on July 19, at the weekly Mondays at Melton program presented jointly by the West Chester Green Team and the Melton Center. His photo shows Nora Ziegler reading a book on tomatoes to the children.

Read the full article “West Chester students get lesson on growing, harvesting fruits and vegetables” at the Daily Local News site. Excerpt:

“A lot of kids are not exposed to growing,” said Green Team president elect Margaret Hudgings. “They see it comes from a package in the supermarket instead of from a garden.”

The students plant and watch veggies grow from seeds.

“I gives them an appreciation of fruits and vegetables,” Hudgings said. “If involved with growing themselves, they will eat it.”

What’s Growing in the Borough

Please check out a great article by journalist and professor in WCU’s Department of Communication and Media Jesse Piersol, “What’s Growing in the Borough: the bounty of West Chester gardens,” in the July issue of the very attractive publication The WC Press, pages 33-41. You may receive or pick up a copy, or you can subscribe online for free when you look at the article here.

The article features interviews with:

• Our own gardening activists Ashlie Delshad, Margaret Hudgings, and Sallie Jones;

• West Chester University’s Joan Welch, Kate Stewart and Tyler Montgomery, about the four WCU campus gardens (see our new video featuring them here; scroll down to “The Gardens of West Chester University” and follow the link);

• Also Christina Wilcomes of Hackberry Hill Flowers and Ben Rotteveel of DutchGrown Flower Bulbs.

The article, beautifully written and illustrated with 5 garden photos, including kids gardening at the Melton Center in our community garden program there (see more here and here), ends with thoughts about how, even in difficult times, gardening can bring us a sense of tranquility and escapism.

Thanks to Jesse Piersol and The WC Press for such a great job of presenting an important local trend. May it inspire many more gardeners!