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What’s Growing in Baltimore? Community Gardens!

On July 21 I grabbed my umbrella and joined three UME faculty (Wanda MacLachlan, Sara Via, and Kelsey Brooks) to judge seven community garden finalists in the Charm City Farm & Garden Contest, sponsored by the UME Master Gardener program in Baltimore City. We spent an amazing day zig-zagging through the city and visiting gardens, ably guided by MGs Robert Cook and Derek Joost. We were all in awe of the creativity, skill, perseverance, and resourcefulness of the gardeners.

Here are some gardening tips and photos from four of the gardens:

Conkling St. Garden

Murals are a common sight on walls next to gardens. This garden serves Highlandtown and the Baltimore-Highlands neighborhood. There are 20 large raised beds, plus flowers, herbs, fruit trees.

A majority of Baltimore community gardens are located on vacant lots with no topsoil. Raised beds are typically filled with compost (often mushroom compost) or mixtures of compost and topsoil. High quality growing media combined with deep beds produces large, healthy plants and high yields. Electrical conduit is used to support clear plastic to extend the season.

Harwood Community Garden

Love the artwork in this Adopt-a-Lot community garden in East Baltimore. People garden collectively and share the harvest, a growing trend among community gardens.

These tomato plants, planted as a double row, are over 6 ft. tall and loaded with fruit.

They used the “Florida-weave” method to support plants between runs of heavy twine or string. Tie off on the end post and wrap around each post in the row, and then repeat on the other side, tying off where you started.

Our Community Garden

This amazing West Baltimore garden is really a series of gardens created over 25 years on vacant lots that had been a dumping ground. Hard work, community organizing and many truckloads of city leaf mold made it a success.

Garden leaders recognized on wall of the Memory Garden: Justine Bonner (center, deceased) was the garden founder and a Master Gardener. Hannah Trent (right) is a Master Gardener and the current garden leader.

Victorine Q. Adams Memorial Garden

This garden started as a project to clean up two vacant lots. It’s now a beautiful and productive garden, a source of community pride, and this year’s winning garden in the Vegetable/Ornamental category!

Mega-healthy purslane grown as an “under crop” beneath collards.
Clever use of a plastic pallet to support winter squash plants, saving garden space.

Community space next to the garden features a stage, barbecue pit, and African-American history.

We got wet on that Saturday but left inspired and better educated about community gardening in the city. I hope I get invited to judge next year!


By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist

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