Eat This, Real Gardens

Baltimore’s City Hall Garden Feeds the Homeless

Baltimore
NOT just a Photo-Op

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon will have you know her veg garden was in the works long before Michelle Obama's garden was announced – no copying!  And oh, by the way, it's 2,200 square feet, twice as large as the White House garden (but who's counting?) 

But here's what's really great about it:  It supplied 1,500 pounds of food to Our Daily Bread in this, its first season.  And its designer, Angela Treadwell-Palmer, says she spent the first year just figuring out what would grow there, so next year will be even MORE productive.  All this food was grown where for decades nothing but annuals were planted and tossed, planted and tossed, and so on.

A Teaching Garden, too
Master Gardeners tend the gardens every Thursday and chat up the public as much as possible, teaching veg-gardening to workers lunching in the square (which to me looks very Tuilleries, with those cute tables on gravel.  Tres charmant!). 

Angela also gets her share of questions from passersby and lunching city workers.  The question that blows her mind because SO many people ask it?  "What's that?" pointing to not some rare variety of something but regular old CORN!  (No comment.) The city hort workers who do the routine watering are also learning a lot about growing food.

More learning opportunities are provided via printed veg-growing
information available for the taking in cute mail boxes (the info on
how to cook greens is the most popular item).

IMG_6858

There Were Concerns
Changes like this to large public spaces don't come without concerns and the City Hall project was no exception, so how'd that work out?  The best news was that there's NO rodent problem.  Turns out the worst pests here are regular old songbirds, who apparently really like lettuce.  (As Angela said, "Even birds are eating more salads these days." )

And what about food being stolen?  Just a few zucchini, some whole herbs, and more than a few tomatoes.  But the culprits are probably the homeless who frequent the park after work hours – exactly the intended beneficiaries of the garden, so what the heck.

More Info and Photos
I posted a few more photos of this wonderful civic space here on my blog.   And for more info about the garden visit Susan Reimer's update on her Baltimore Sun blog.  Don't miss the short video with a 70-something Master Gardener who looks like Santa Claus.  He points out that the meals at Our Daily Bread were previously made from processed foods, so vive la difference! (Okay, no more high school French.)

IMG_6889
Designer Angela Treadwell-Palmer and Baltimore Sun reporter Susan Reimer.

Posted by on October 12, 2009 at 5:08 am, in the category Eat This, Real Gardens.
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16 Responses to “Baltimore’s City Hall Garden Feeds the Homeless”

  1. gardenmentor says:

    wow – kudos! A community garden after my own heart. Keep it up!

  2. Niall says:

    we have a similar project, on a smaller scale, outside our city hall in Durban, South Africa. More about it here http://www.imaginedurban.org/index.php/Imagine-Durban/Update-City-Hall-Food-Garden-Project.html

  3. Thanks for the great write up. For once Baltimore is in the news for something good!

    I am a Baltimore Master Gardener, but have not had the chance to work on this project. I know that my colleagues have really enjoyed it. This summer, we heard a rumor that the project would not be continued next year. It is great to find out that that rumor was false.

    I would love to connect with any other Baltimore area (or really, any Mid-Atlantic) gardeners/bloggers. As you can see from my blog http://2greenacres.blogspot.com/
    I am paticularly interested in vegetable gardening and native plants. Would love to meet some like minded bloggers!

  4. susan harris says:

    Hey, Two Green Acres, here’s a bunch of Mid-Atlantic gardenbloggers for your perusal.
    http://www.sustainable-gardening.com/sites/blogs.html
    And Niall, I’m going to check out what’s happening there in Durban – and nice to meetcha.

  5. greg draiss says:

    Hope it works. Baltimore needs a good push.

    The TROLL

  6. Troll – as opposed to what US city that doesn’t?

  7. LauraBee says:

    Good going Baltimore !!! Perhaps you could come teach the powers-that-be out here what a real public garden is about. Here in Sacramento, we have 36- acres of parkland surrounding California’s Capitol. You’ll find memorials to war veterans, every tree native to the State, a lovely rose garden & a fabulous camellia grove. And grass. More grass than anything else. Earlier this year when First Lady Maria Shriver announced the creation of a public veggie garden I was so excited. With so much land, surely it would be huge, right ? And in a highly visible area, too, to demonstrate commitment. Disappointment was swift. I can step across the planted area in less than five strides. And the site is hidden behind a row of yews & a wall of bamboo. Actual veggies were easily outnumbered by flowers & herbs. Yes, I understand the usefulness of both in a veggie garden, but I got the feeling that it was done to make the garden symmetrical ( indeed, it was perfectly so ), instead of to make the best use the space. But I still have hopes for the coming year’s garden. Maybe Maria will learn from this experience … or from Baltimore’s !

  8. greg draiss says:

    EXCUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSEEEE ME
    Wash DC Gardener the post was about Baltimore………
    Had it been about Detroit I would have said same about Detroit.

    Problems in most cities are caused from too much government!
    Glad to see grass root action getting involved

    The TROLL

  9. sarahammocks says:

    Go Baltimore!!! And for those who don’t know, the downtown farmer’s market is just around the corner from City Hall on Sunday mornings, and it’s HUGE.

  10. What a great way to help those in need. It must have really helped out this year with the amount of people out of work. This is really helpful to other that they can have something to eat

  11. So nice to see that this is FINALLY catching on! When GARDEN YOUR CITY first came out folks thought I was wacked. Well, some still do – LOL – but the fact that gardens thrive and are so appreciated in urban areas should not be a shocker!

  12. What a great job they are doing there. That city can use all the inovation they can come up with and this garden is a GREAT start!

  13. Paul Hughes says:

    Awesome leadership, inFARMation & Cropaganda! Thx!

    Calgary Food Summit
    http://www.calgaryfoodpolicycouncil.ca/PSustainability.aspx

  14. Holly says:

    I planted my tomato plants (among other veggies) right out by the road for several years. I had NO trouble with vandalism and the plants did marvelous well in the full sun. I’d do it again if I thought I could take care of it!

  15. Pam says:

    This is wonderful! I hope many other cities follow suit.

  16. Your readers with late season herb and vegetable gardens may well find that they will grow more than they can use, preserve or give to friends.

    They may want to visit http://www.AmpleHarvest.org – a site that helps diminish hunger by enabling backyard gardeners to share their crops with neighborhood food pantries.

    The site is free both for the food pantries and the gardeners using it.

    More than 1000 food pantries nationwide are already on it and more are signing up daily.

    It includes preferred delivery times, driving instructions to the pantry as well as (in many cases) information about store bought items also needed by the pantry (for after the growing season).

    AmpleHarvest.org enables people to help their community by reaching into their back yard instead of their back pocket.

    Lastly, if your reader’s community has a food pantry, they should make sure the pantry registers on http://www.AmpleHarvest.org. Its free.

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