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Dorchester's largest community garden opens tomorrow

Posted by Cara Bayles  August 5, 2011 05:08 PM

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(Courtesy of the Boston Natural Areas Network)

The Nightingale Community Garden will officially open at 12:30 tomorrow.


Dorchester’s largest community garden will celebrate its grand opening tomorrow, with Mayor Thomas Menino and 134 resident gardeners showing off raised-bed gardens on 1.5 acres.

The Nightingale Community Garden, near the corner of Park and Washington streets, sits on land that was once occupied by the Florence Nightingale School, which the Boston Public School Committee shut down in 1975. After the building was demolished in the 1980’s, a group of approximately 30 residents began an unofficial garden there, according to Valerie Burns, president of the Boston Natural Areas Network, a nonprofit that develops urban open space. Her organization acquired the land in 2006. After raising $500,000 for the project, it began renovating the space last year, increasing the number of plots by more than 100.

“When the city made commitment to making the garden permanent, that’s when we were able to envision a long-term plan for the space,” she said. “Before then, it was informal and ad hoc.”

"The initial gardeners, the most hardy souls, are all still involved, but Dorchester is really going through a resurgence in community gardening, and demand is up all over Dorchester,” she said. “The Nightingale Garden now has a waiting list, which is wonderful.”

Burns attributes the spike in interest to her organization’s partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, and their Boston Is Growing Gardens project, a multi-lingual outreach and recruitment campaign. She added that in general, healthy, local food, and concerns about equity in food access, are popular issues.

The garden's renovation work was completed in June, and last month, residents began planting, so the garden is not only new, but young, according to Burns. Gardeners will continue putting in fruit trees this fall and hope to begin the next season in the spring.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com.

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