Walking West Philly’s Community Gardens

Story by Walk leader Jeff Barg | Photos by Ashley Hahn

Although Philadelphia has roughly 400 community gardens, most of them are too spread out to cover any critical mass on foot. But West Philly, with its longstanding history of greening (it started as an agricultural haven outside the city), has a unique density that allowed us to hit six or seven gardens in just two hours. (We also covered related spots of horticultural interest, like stormwater management and smart tree care.) After the walk, one participant remarked, “I never would have known to walk this route and see these gardens.”

We also got way deeper into policy discussions than I expected, but I was thrilled to go there. I brought up issues of land preservation, community engagement, water management and gentrification, and the walk participants eagerly engaged with thoughtful, informed questions that extended well beyond the gardens we saw. Through the lens of greening, we got to explore the history and future of a changing neighborhood and a changing city.

The gardens varied in scale, from tiny rowhome-wide community planting beds on small side streets, to quarter-acre urban farms, to one very public Pop Up Garden. The walkers enjoyed seeing not just the beauty that these gardens brought to neighborhoods, but the diversity of ways that residents have worked to green the city.

Outside the Sloan Street Community Garden.