United States of America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia
Aspen Farms Community Garden (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
This 28,362 square-foot site dates to 1975 and was established under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's community vegetable garden program (the forerunner of Philadelphia Green, created in 1978). The garden, located over the stream bed of Mill Creek, formerly held a row of residences on Aspen Street and a dry cleaning company, which were demolished in 1965. The initial garden size was 3,600 square feet. The society's program supplied turkey-wire fencing, soil, tools, seeds, and technical assistance to a group of 10 people. In each of the next two years, the garden doubled in size with Philadelphia Green assistance. By 1979, the garden filled the entire lot of more than 28,000 square feet. In 1980, the garden underwent its first renovation when Philadelphia Green sponsored the development of a central walkway with planting beds and benches. In 1983, the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service's Urban Gardening Program sponsored a wood frame greenhouse. The most significant improvement to the garden occurred in 1988-89 when it was the focus of a design project jointly sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, the West Philadelphia Partnership, and Philadelphia Green. During that time, the garden received a new chain link fence, several newly constructed raised beds with new plantings, and a gazebo.
Located in the Mill Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia, a moderate income community, the garden is organized and managed by the Aspen Farms Community Garden Club, originally called "Our Club." This well-organized and efficiently run club has as its mission to "foster relationships, community pride, aesthetic value, and provide a social spot for the gardeners of the community." The club consists of approximately 40 members who are responsible for planning, developing, and maintaining the garden plots and common areas of the site. The gardeners range in age from 13 to 104, including many school children who participate in the garden as part of formal school programs. Each member pays an annual fee of $10 [as of 1996] and additional income is generated through fund-raising projects and donations. The club's annual budget is approximately $1,000. The money is used to purchase plants, supplies, and other materials for the garden. Except for occasional soil and wood chip deliveries from Philadelphia Green and technical assistance from the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service's Urban Gardening Program, there is no other ongoing significant support for the garden club. The club continues to maintain the garden well and it has become the central feature of the Mill Creek community. It consistently wins top awards in the City Gardens Contest and Harvest Show. It has also attracted national attention through network television coverage and an article in National Geographic. In 1997, Aspen Farms hosted tours in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Garden Club of America. In the spring of 2004, the Philadelphia Green crew built a bridge over the ponds connecting the site to the new butterfly garden to installed next year. The ultimate goal for this garden is to create an outdoor classroom for use by Sulzberger middle students, who have been involved with the garden for many years.
Persons and organizations associated with property include: Redevelopment Association of Philadelphia (former owners, 1950s-2004); and Neighborhood Garden Association (owner, 2004-present).
The folder includes a work sheet, a detailed description of the garden, copies of articles and awards, and an abbreviated garden plan.
Garden featured in Paul Bennett, "Landscape Organism," in Landscape Architecture, March 2000
Garden featured in Anne Whiston Spirn, The Language of Landscape (Yale University Press, 1998)
Garden featured in William S. Ellis, "The Gift of Gardening," in National Geographic, Vol. 181, No. 5, May 1992