Wednesday, August 25, 2010

People, Plots, and Plants of DC

Guest Blog by Susi Baranano

I will visit every plot in all of DC’s eight wards and report back here in my guest blogs. I started with two gardens in Ward 3: Whitehaven Community Garden and Melvin Hazen Community Garden.

There are nearly 45 community gardens in DC. A few are new. Others began in the 1940s as Victory Gardens. Some are searching for a location. Some gardens are small - with only 8 individual plots – while others have more than 200 plots. Others offer communal beds. Some plots are as small as your closet - 4 x 8 - and others are as large as a 25 x 25 conference room. Some plots are for children. Some gardens charge an annual fee, and have meetings, rules and responsibilities. In some, you can plant tomorrow, but in others you have to wait several years.

The gardeners of DC’s community gardens jump start their plants, helping them regain their footing. Just down the street from their apartments, gardeners arrive at 6:30am to stay until the sun beats overhead. With visions of savoring delicious dinners, they return to the routine of clearing the weeds and ground cover, removing the crop eating bugs, turning over the soil, and saving those that survived the week’s searing sun, gale winds and muggy air. They started planting in April and harvest in August and September. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, bees, and butterflies abound. Tall wire fences keep deer away, but not rabbits and moles.

The Melvin Hazen Community Garden harks back to the 1940s as a Victory Garden on National Parks land. The Parks staff lay down the walkways that divide the plots with wood chips, which come from the downed trees they cut down and chopped.

I came upon Deon Glaser pulling out her broccoli, now withered and done. But Deon was proud of her brocolli, for they had produced a constant supply to her dinner table. She also pulled out a dozen of her carrots, ready to eat today. During her week break her garden plot had been completely taken over. But with determination and persistence, she returned to reclaim her plot, as she has done for the past 4 years. She started planting in April to fulfill her visions of savoring cucumbers, rhubarb, basil, and cherry tomatoes for dinner. Now it was just a matter time, sweat, gloved fingers turning the soil, sun and water before her crop would ripen and be harvested.

By noon, another Melvin Hazen gardener, Jocelyn, had cleared the ground cover and weeds from her garden. She lost the zuccinni and cucumber to last week’s searing heat, gale winds and inches of rain. She lost her wax beans to the rabbits living wild in the community. But Jocelyn was harvesting potatoes, red peppers, red and green leafed lettuce, beats, onions and basil.

Matt Riley, manager of the Whitehaven Community Garden was preparing new plots. He working his way 2 feet down to the clay soil below. He will mix coarse sand, horse manure and chopped leaves with the mound of soil, and then refill the ditch. His own plot had Swiss chard, leaks, string beans, peppers and parsley soon to be picked for his dinner table.

An open iron gate welcomed me to Joey and Kirstin, who were resting under the mulberry bush after clearing their plot. They posed for a photo with pitchfork in hand. They left their tomatoes on the vines, green peppers, herbs, oregano, chives and rosemary in the soil to grow a little more.

Searching for people, plants and plots!!! Contribute to this new guest blog series about DC’s community gardens, contact me at


  1. I learned a lot about the community gardens of Washington. I can't wait to read more!

  2. Can't wait to read your reviews of the community gardens all over the city!!


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