Where are Kensington’s plant enthusiasts and gardeners?

Hannah Riotto waters some seeds in preparation for her backyard garden at her home on Clementine Street in Kensington on March 23, 2019. (Photo by Maggie Loesch)

Where are my fellow gardeners and plant enthusiasts? That’s what Kensington resident Hannah Riotto texted Kensington Voice earlier this year. She wanted to connect with neighbors who share her passion for gardening.

So we decided to start an ongoing list of places where we can find what Hannah is looking for: the green thumbs in the neighborhood.

You can help us make it longer by telling us what we missed.

Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, via email or text (215-544-2379), or at one of our neighborhood events.

Here’s what we have so far:

Arcadia Commons
2555 Kern Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125 (Kern Park)
2309 Emerald Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125 (Emerald Park)
1941 East Huntingdon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125 (The Huntingdon Emerald)

Arcadia Commons formed in 2012 as a community group that tends for three green spaces in East Kensington. Their name is derived from Arcadia Street — a tiny, approximately 100-yard street in the area where the group initially planned to plant a garden before it was seized by developers — and the Greek concept of “Arcadia,” which represents harmony with nature and “golden possibilities,” said Jeff Carpenter, one of the Arcadia Commons’ founders.

The gardens include flowers and vegetables, which are planted in raised beds and are free for neighbors to pick. Neighbors also tend to the gardens.

The garden serves to “provide a bit of nature and open space where they [neighbors] can unwind from the very aggressive environment the city provides,” Carpenter said.

(Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Barrio Kids Garden
2800 Block of Kipp Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134

This spring will be the first season of the Barrio Kids Garden, after Pastor Cookie Sanchez of the Iglesia Del Barrio church added gardening to her after-school program’s curriculum this past year. The garden is a collaboration between the after-school program and Impact Services and will give kids the opportunity to plant and care for the seeds as well as educate them on greening processes and benefits of healthy eating.

Sanchez hopes to integrate lessons on cultural foods into the program, which could include the addition of a sofrito garden with vegetables such as garlic, green peppers, red peppers, and cilantro — staple ingredients of Puerto Rican cooking.

“Our garden brings hope. It brings beauty into the neighborhood,” Sanchez said. “It brings a different outlook — everything isn’t bleak and dark. Our neighbors, as well as our kids, are getting excited about it.”

The program is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. and open to kids in grades K-8.

(Photo courtesy of César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden)

César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden
425 Arlington St., Philadelphia, PA 19122

Created through the efforts of the Philly Socialists and community members, what was once tax delinquent vacant land is now the César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden. The garden is home to various plant life and has hosted block parties and other events that serve the neighborhood. A spring clean up will take place on April 6 starting at 10 a.m. For more information about the César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden, visit their Facebook page.

(Photo courtesy of Emerald Street Community Farm)

Emerald Street Community Farm
2304 Emerald St, Philadelphia, PA 19125

The Emerald Street Community Farm, founded by Elisa Esposito, is a community effort that supplies the Kensington neighborhood with fresh produce and herbs. Unlike other urban gardens where individuals rent and maintain a plot, the farm is maintained collectively by neighborhood volunteers. The farm’s growing season kicked off on March 23. For more information about Emerald Street Community Farm, visit their  Facebook page.

(Photo courtesy of Frankford Avenue Garden)

Frankford Avenue Garden
2616 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125

The Frankford Avenue Garden has occupied vacant public land since 2004. The space is open from sunrise to sunset. The first workday of the season was March 17.  For more information about the Frankford Avenue Garden, visit their Facebook page.

(Photo courtesy of Greensgrow Farms)

Greensgrow Farms
2501 E. Cumberland Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Greensgrow is a nonprofit garden center with two locations — one in Kensington and one in Philadelphia — where people can buy supplies for their gardens and visit their animals. According to Meg DeBrito, the executive director, an important distinction between Greensgrow and other garden centers is that when you shop there, you’re supporting an interconnected food system.

“We grow food in the local community, and most of our soil is sourced locally, within 150 miles of here,” DeBrito said.

DeBrito also said that gardening does need to be an expensive process, and they have plenty of staff to steer customers on a budget in the right direction. They also accept some government assisted payments such as EBT (SNAP), FMNP checks, and Food Bucks, which makes gardening more accessible to the community.

For more information about Greensgrow, visit their website.  

(Photo courtesy of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful)

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful
230 S Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, which is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, is not in Kensington, but it works with neighborhood associations and residents to connect them with city resources they need to beautify their communities.

“We try to serve as a kind of liaison between residents and community-based organizations to city government,” said Kelly Offner, the executive director.

The organization also works closely with Mayor Kenney’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet to advance environmental education. Keep Philadelphia Beautiful provides support in goal setting for cleanups and creating green spaces, micro-grants for neighborhood projects, and waste reduction. For more information about Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, visit their website.

(Photo courtesy of Las Parcelas)

Las Parcelas
2248 N. Palethorp St., Philadelphia, PA 19133

Las Parcelas is one of six green spaces that are a part of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP). Each garden is themed around and celebrates Puerto Rican and other Latinx cultures. Las Parcelas covers over 30 lots and has more than just community garden plots. It also showcases Puerto Rican history and art through murals and donated objects such as instruments and homemade items. For more information about Las Parcelas and the NSNP’s other gardens, visit their website.

(Photo courtesy of Lillian Marrero Branch Library Garden)

Lillian Marrero Branch Library Garden
601 W. Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19133

With its building renovations last year, Lillian Marrero Branch of the Free Library system was also given a grant by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s “Get Healthy Philly” program to provide the community health and wellness programming, said children’s librarian Tuesday Chalmers.

Chalmers and the other after school leaders used the funds to start a youth garden club, creating lessons on soil, plants, composting, ecosystems, and healthy eating. The garden also hosted adult programming such as the “Edible Alphabet,” which uses cooking to teach English to Spanish speakers, and partnering with Greensgrow to host adult gardening workshops.

“It started out as a garden club idea that turned into a much bigger project,” said Chalmers

This year, the garden continues to grow fresh food and host programming such as weekend meditation.

(Photo courtesy of NKDC Garden Center)

NKDC Garden Center
2513-15 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125

The New Kensington Development Corporation (NKDC) Garden Center has been a part of Kensington for over two decades. Created by a massive effort between multiple groups and residents, it turned trash-strewn lots into an area for greenery and environmental education. Today, it serves as a space for NKDC and other neighborhood events. It can be rented out for private events, and non-profit and community groups can rent the space at a discount. For more information, visit the NKDC website.

(Photo courtesy of The Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden)

The Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden
2251 N. Philip St., Philadelphia, PA 19133

Created by Columbian-American artist Pedro Nel Ospina, the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden encompasses seven lots in Kensington. The garden is a unique home to various sculptures, artwork, plants, and greenery. It’s grown with the support of individuals and organizations has been host to events such as pot lucks, DJ sets and dance parties, yoga, and more. The garden re-opens for the spring in April. For more information about the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden, visit their Facebook and Instagram pages.

(Photo courtesy of Philly Tree People)

Philly Tree People
2771 Jasper St., Philadelphia, PA 19134

Philly Tree People is a grassroots effort started in 2007 by three Kensington residents who wanted to see more trees on their blocks. Since then, the group has planted over 1,600 trees in the 19125 and 19134 zip codes. They also educate residents on tree tending and pruning.

“Because we’ve been doing this for 12 years, it’s really exciting to me to be able to walk down the street the and see one of our original trees that’s mature,” said co-founder Jacelyn Blank. “[The trees] are providing amazing shade in the summertime, and there’s an impact that it makes on the beauty and overall aesthetics of the whole block.”

Residents interested in having a tree planted on their property or learning more about tree upkeep and plantings can visit the Philly Tree People website.

(Photo courtesy of Raices Garden)

Raices Garden
2217 N 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19133

Raices Garden is another green space by the Norris Square Neighborhood Project. This space is centered around youth education and aims to educate children on nature. It features gardening plots and a mural that depicts Puerto Rican history and present-day culture.

(Photo courtesy of Tusculum Square)

Tusculum Square
2713-19 Kensington Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19134

The beautification of Tusculum Square, a project coordinated by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, Penn Design, Hinge Collective, and Shift Capital sought to answer the question, “What is your wish for Kensington?” through greening initiatives.

The groups worked with residents on Tusculum Street to reclaim the space for the neighborhood by cleaning the lot and painting and planting planter boxes. Neighbors also created a welcome sign to place on the lot.

“We chose this lot because it’s at this crucial intersection,” said Jessica Hoffman, an Americore Vista in the community engagement department with NKCDC who worked on the lot. “Kensington Avenue is a major corridor for us, and the viaduct makes it a gateway into the neighborhood. We saw [Tusculum Square] as a vital part of the gateway to start beautifying.”

What did we miss?

Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, via email or text (215-544-2379), or at one of our neighborhood events, to tell us what we missed, and we’ll add it to our growing list.


What did you think about this story? Send a note to editors@kensingtonvoice.com, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

Editor: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Story Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte

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