JP has many community gardens, but vacant spots hard to come by

April 28, 2017
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As spring is upon us, Jamaica Plain residents are sure to be actively tending their many community gardens. Community gardening has been popular in the neighborhood, but newly interested residents may have a long wait before an available spot becomes available.

According to Chuck Collins, who has been involved in a garden at the State Lab on South Street, many of Jamaica Plain’s gardens used to be run by Boston Urban Gardeners. This group has since been absorbed into Boston Natural Areas Fund, which last year got absorbed into the Trustees of Reservation.

Today, many garden spaces in JP are stewarded either by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) or Trustees of Reservation (Trustees). Some spaces are privately owned by various companies and organizations around the neighborhood.

There are 11 community gardens that are on property owned by DCR. These gardens in the Southwest Corridor Park are run by the Southwest Corridor Park Conservancy, which is a nonprofit organization that raises and distributes resources to restore and maintain the park, its plantings, structures, play areas, and community programs. These gardens are: Braddock Park Garden, Blackwood/Claremont Garden, Follen Street Garden, Greenwich Park Garden, Hall and Boynton Streets Garden, Saranac/Newcastle Garden, Garden at McBride and Boynton Streets, Garden at Lamartine and Hubbard Streets, Harcourt/West Canton Garden, Lawndale Terrace Garden, and Garden at Anson and Spaulding Streets.

All gardens along the corridor are currently accepting Boston residents for their waiting lists, though plots are assigned on a space-available basis. When applicants reach the top of a waiting list, a garden coordinator will contact the resident and explain which space is available, and upon acceptance will collect a $20 annual plot fee. These funds go towards supporting the Southwest Corridor Park Community Garden Fund, which is made available for community garden repairs and supplies.

Another organization involved with community gardens is Trustees, a largely volunteer-based group whose aim is to preserve properties of exceptional scenic, historical, and ecological value in Massachusetts. In Boston, the organization owns and operates 55 community gardens, 12 of which are located in JP: Day & Roundhill CG, Arcola Green, Nira CG, Forbes CG, Paul Gore & Beecher CG, Southwest Corridor Community Farm, Brookside CG, Chilcott & Granada CG, Minton Stable CG, Saint Rose CG, Starr Lane Park, and Leland Cooperative Garden.

Nine of the Trustees’ gardens are traditional community gardens with individual plots, with one of them having a larger park like landscape around it (Minton Stable). Two are sitting parks with no plots, and the last is an open park-like property that is transitioning to a cooperative garden with permacultural aspects.

Other gardens in Jamaica Plain are Lawn Street CG and The Butterfly Garden, both owned by Back of the Hill Apartments; Walden Street CG owned by JPNDC; The Bromley Heath CG; The Oakdale Terrace CG, which is owned by MBTA; 60 Paul Gore CG, owned by the Boston Parks Department; The Boylston Street Community Orchard, owned by JPNET; The Egleston Square Peace Garden, owned by Clear Channel; and the South Street or State Lab garden, owned by the state. There are also some smaller gardens owned by Boston Public Schools and various churches.

According to Jeremy Dick, stewardship manager of Boston Community Gardens at Trustees, each garden has its own leadership, style, community, and rules. Some are locked at all times and are only open to the actual plot holding gardeners, while others are unlocked, and still others are cooperative in terms of how things are grown, harvested, or otherwise accessed. Dick said that the majority of gardens have individual plots with some common growing space, such as an orchard, brambles, or perennial gardens.

Annual dues for each plot can also vary for the Trustees’ gardens, running in the range of $20 to $50. Like the Southwest Corridor gardens, these funds are used to cover water use, organizational fees, communal tools and materials, social events, and other group costs.

While each garden may have its own rules or contract, there are some basic rules which are generally followed, including no smoking, no pets, no herbicides, plant by June 1, and keep up with harvesting to avoid waste and deter pests.

Most gardens renew membership in April and May during a spring meeting. Returning gardeners are welcome to continue in their plots, and any abandoned plots are filled from the waitlist, though it may be rare for a spot to open up.

“Most gardens in JP are high demand and are waitlisted,” Dick said. “Though waitlists have been decreasing in number in the last few years, it may still take a year or so to find a plot.”

Gardening enthusiasts can apply for a community garden inside Southwest Corridor Park by visiting swcpc.org. For information about Trustees’ plots, visit thetrustees.org.

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