With last year’s launch of the New Kensington Community Development Corp.’s Sustainable 19125 initiative, the organization made a pronounced statement that this community cares about the environment and would support and invest in neighborhood greening.
And, since then, thanks to the continuing efforts of residents, NKCDC organizers and volunteers from throughout the area, Sustainable 19125 has made a visible impact on the neighborhood.
The initiative lumbered ever forward last week when residents attended the first meeting of the new Compost Coop, a collaboration between the NKCDC and Philly Compost that allows locals to compost refuse as a community and use the resulting nutrient rich soil in their home gardens, community gardens and other areas.
“This is a high tech tub,” said Toby Altman, Compost Coop project coordinator for the NKCDC, as he unveiled the large, three cubic yard capacity compost bin, donated to the project by Philly Compost.
The electric powered tub — which Altman said organizers are hoping to soon hook up to solar power to make the tub “carbon neutral,” — breaks down various household waste and yard debris to create compost that is high in nutrients and great for gardening.
“This is actually a very efficient way to compost,” he said.
Also at last Thursday’s unveiling, a group of neighbors working to build several vertical gardens in Kensington and Fishtown met to discuss their project.
Tom Potts, neighborhood advisory committee director for the NKCDC, joined a number of volunteers at a seminar held in Kentucky last October, and the idea for the vertical gardens grew out of that gathering.
Held by the Community Leadership Institute — a program presented by NeighborWorks America, a national community development corporation based in Washington, D.C. — Potts said that as part of the four day program, the NKCDC obtained a $2,000 grant to be used for community greening.
Those funds will be used to create a series of vertical gardens throughout the community.
“I wanted to make sure the whole community got involved,” he said.
So far, Potts and a number of volunteers have three vertical gardens planned in the area.
Two of these gardens will be flowers. One flower garden will be at Fishtown Jewelers, 1615 Frankford Ave., and another will be on Eileen’s Hair Salon, at 2574 Memphis St.
“I volunteered for the same reason everyone else does,” said Eileen Spross, owner of Eileen’s Hair Salon, when asked her reason for participating in the vertical garden program. “I want to make the neighborhood more beautiful.”
The gardens are intended save space when growing in tight urban environments.
The third garden, to be grown at 1900 Huntington St., will be hops, which will — when fully grown — be collected and used in Philadelphia Brewing Company’s small batch of the “Harvest from the Hood,” an American pale ale made with hops grown in the city.
“These gardens will enhance the beauty of a house and prevent vandalism (on the walls where they grow),” said Mark McGee, a volunteer with the program and regular tender of the orchard at Livingston Street and Susquehanna Avenue.
“We are making everything from scratch. Flower boxes and everything else like that,” he said.
McGee was joined by fellow volunteers, Maureen Burke and Holly Logan as the group discussed plans for the gardens.
“We came to the conclusion that this would be really good for the neighborhood,” said Logan. “To be a part of this is really a gift.”
The gardens are expected to be in place and flowering by mid July, but gardens alone aren’t the end of the project.
Potts said that the volunteers will be working with students in area schools to teach urban gardening and sustainable land use to the next generation of gardeners.
Students, he said, would be invited along to help plant the gardens and clean and green the areas where the vertical gardens will be planted.
“There’s definitely an educational element to this,” said Potts.
Joining the Compost Coop
Want to be a part of the new Compost Coop? It’s easy to sign up for membership. Annual memberships run $25 for working members and $50 for non-working members. Coop members can bring a wide selection of items to be composted and can get compost in return. For more information, check out The Compost Coop on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.