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Year Established: 1992
Local Leader: James (JW) Glass
Community Group: Neighborhood Gardens
NeighborSpace Partnership: 1998
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Greenhouse Garden is that it lacks any sort of fence or barrier around its perimeter, giving the message that the garden is open to anyone who wishes to enjoy its refuge. It is a fitting testament to the garden’s origins. “About 20 years ago the lot was basically a garage – neighbors parked and repaired their cars there,” says community leader James (JW) Glass. “The City owned it, then one day they installed some railroad ties around the perimeter to keep the cars out. Once the cars were gone some unknown neighbor ventured out there and planted some tomatoes and tended them in the weeds and trash.” The efforts of that unknown individual eventually evolved into a neighborhood-wide endeavor to clean up the lot and establish a “real” community garden, open to anyone.
NeighborSpace became involved in 1998 when the City put the lot up for sale and an alert neighbor saw the listing and contacted the organization about purchasing the land. The community rallied around the effort and not long after, Greenhouse Garden officially belonged to the neighborhood. The garden is as diverse as the West Town residents who gather every Sunday afternoon to work in it – literally every available space is occupied by something growing, from vegetables and fruit trees and bushes to flowers, herbs and towering prairie grasses.
In JW’s Words: “Having the garden here is an opportunity for everyone. If you want to make an impact in your neighborhood, come help pick up the trash. You want to just enjoy this space…well, there are so many ways. Where else can you go and pick cherries and eat them right from the tree? Yellow finches frolic in the prairie plants – not a bad place to bird watch. You can eat lunch under the grape vines and pretend you’re in Greece. Need some fresh herbs for dinner? Yeah, we got that!”
Best Practice Idea: JW abides by two core ideas to help keep the Greenhouse Garden flourishing. The first is to establish a regular weekly meeting time to work in the garden – “You can get people there if they know when to come.” The second is to provide space for families or individuals to have their own garden plots within the larger community space – “The helps build a core group of community gardeners who will help take care of the public areas.”