St. Philip’s Episcopal Community Garden: Durham, NC

Originally published 8/10/2010

My second adventure to a community garden was in downtown Durham to meet up with Elizabeth Newman who co-manages the community garden at St. Philip’s Episcopalian Church. They have several outreach programs and the garden is a part of their overall fellowship to improve the life for their immediate church neighbors. Early pictures of the garden’s humble beginnings can be found on the church website.

The garden started with a border fence and a large gate, but the fence was never completed all the way around. Neighbors can enter from different points to gather food and the purpose of the fence has become more of a visual barrier to the busy street corner and a functional support system for tall plants.

During the hot summer months, the garden is tended several times a week by student interns and volunteers who come to plant, weed, water and mulch. Early expectations were that neighbors would come together and help tend the garden and harvest vegetables. What really tends to happen is that one or two people stroll in and clean up rotting vegetables and fruit before or after the students arrive.

Later in the day, others come and harvest what they need after the volunteers have left. There is little interaction between the church volunteers, students and nearby neighbors. The vegetables are being eaten on a regular basis by neighbors or taken to local housing projects.

For the church, its ministry goals are being met. The garden is providing nutrition for the neighborhood community, if not in the exact way they thought, then in a respectful and understated way. Interns are learning how the food cycle works by starting plants from seeds.

Students also tend to the needs of maturing plants that are producing squash, tomatoes, herbs, greens, and flowers. Along with the adult volunteers, they are planning crops for upcoming years. They have started a blueberry bush hedge and are thinking about locations for  fruit trees and berry patches.

There are already several large trees that provide shade seating on the perimeter of the garden area. There is a slight incline that creates a water drainage issue onto a sidewalk on one side of the garden so volunteers are planning to add more fruit bushes to soak up the excess water this fall.

Volunteers always consider the best way to provide access to healthy snack foods for people using the bus stop. Plants are selected for disease resistance and hardiness. Chemicals are used on this garden. The goal is for people to be able to walk right up and eat whatever they like when they are hungry.

The church ministry wants local residents to feel totally comfortable and safe coming into the garden for whatever harvest they need for their family. They are happy to provide for their neighbors.

The church is in need of volunteers to help maintain the garden in the fall and through the winter. They also need several large blueberry bushes and might consider some fig and apple trees. If you can help in any way with larger plants that would come into maturity a little quicker for them, please contact one of the Community Garden Co-managers:

Bob Kellogg or Elizabeth Newman at 919-949-7258

403 East Main Street, Durham, NC 919-682-5708 main number

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