February 16, 2011

Raising the roof!!

The weather is giving us a little taste of Spring this week, and we’re looking ahead into a bright season to come. In particular, our green thumbs are starting to itch!

In the next couple months, we will relaunch the container garden built last year on the roof of our Southeast Center -- and we’ll also build a largescale vegetable garden on the roof of our Northwest Center! The garden will feature up to 40 raised beds on the roof of our new building, with up to 1,000 plants total in about 3,500 square feet of space.

We’re excited for these new spaces, and not just for the fresh produce they’ll bring to our pantries and clients’ dinner tables. These gardens will function as spaces for community building and education.

Initial soil layer of the green roof.
Photo courtesy of Xi Wang. 

Just last night, a group of Bread for the City clients gathered in our Northwest Center to share their vision for the garden. Lots of gardening experience was at the table, but even more prominent in the discussion was the role that food itself plays in community. We talked about how these gardens can be nourishing spaces that themselves encourage healthy diets. And we talked about what kinds of skills and knowledge people have to share with each other -- and how working and eating together can provide a foundation for learning together and building our community’s strength.

The 3,500 square foot garden is looking like its going to take a lot of work to care for and maintain, though. We’re going to need all sorts of help. Luckily, a few organizations are giving us a jump start.

DC Greenworks, local organization that promotes green rooftop development, is currently helping us to design the garden, and they will guide us in the construction and maintenance of the raised beds. They’ll be watching over us, especially during this first season, to make sure everything grows strong and healthy.

And I’m pleased to announce that just last week Bread for the City received the help of another great partner: tool manufacturing giant Fiskars awarded us a generous grant through their Project Orange Thumb. Project Orange Thumb supports the development of gardens across the country into sites for “creative expression...civic and community collaboration, healthy hand-grown food and sustainable living.” This grant will provide Bread for the City with many of the tools and supplies our volunteers are going to need to care for the garden. Trowels, shovels, hand-rakes, knee-pads, mulch forks, pruners and loppers--they’re giving us the whole kit and caboodle. Thank you, Fiskars!!

We’ll need a lot more support from the community for this to become a truly vibrant space. You can make the dream a reality by donating to the green roof project: sponsor a plant (at an approximated $5/plant) or an entire raised bed (at $200 a bed). Garden donors will be invited to special events held in the space during spring, summer and fall. Please give today!

One last note: you can join our conversation about this project this weekend at Rooting DC, the annual gardening conference in DC (a free event! Saturday Feb 19th, Coolidge High School, Armory Room 6315 5th St NW - Takoma Station on Red Line, 62 & 63 buses). At 12pm, there will be a conversation about green roof agriculture hosted by Michael Lucy from the Anacostia Watershed Society; immediately afterwards (at 1pm), we'll facilitate a visioning session about our gardens and how to make them great. See you there?

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