Community gardening is about to expand in Southwest DC. Southwest Community Gardens, one of the local organizations for which the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) serves as fiscal sponsor, has received a national garden makeover award from Fiskars Brands, Inc. which will allow the group to build a community garden in Lansburgh Park (on Delaware and I Streets SW) with a budget of $50,000. The so-called “Garden Makeover” is a program of Fiskars’s Project Orange Thumb, which is dedicated to supporting and developing community gardens throughout the United States and Canada. Southwest Community Gardens was the only garden to be selected for this makeover out of over 400 applicants across the US.

The Fiskars Garden Makeover will take place on one day in the summer of 2013, much like popular television shows that remodel houses. The community garden is expected to be built in late July or early August. Because of the tremendous neighborhood support that the garden group and SWNA have received from the Southwest community, both organizations pledge to keep their neighbors and other community-based organizations up to date on the progress of construction as well as community partnerships that will create important educational and other activities in the garden.

Lansburgh Park has been the focus of renewed investment from the city and from local organizations, in order to enrich community activities in this large city park that has been underused for decades. Southwest Community Gardens has ambitious plans to introduce a variety of unique programming into the garden. The group has reached out to community organizations, including veterans groups, youth activities groups and local schools, to formulate partnerships that will develop the garden into a space of learning, connecting and healing. Gardening has been shown to have positive emotional benefits, especially for those who have experienced trauma. It has also been demonstrated to be a tremendous learning experience for youth, particularly those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, by encouraging them to explore where fresh food comes from and how to grow it. The garden’s participants will also aim to promote better community relationships among families living in the diverse neighborhoods of Southwest DC, and will support similar efforts to bring our neighbors together.

Plans for the garden’s layout include both an area with individual garden plots, which will be rented on an annual basis by community members; as well as a communal section which will be tended collectively by any people who wish to get involved. A portion of the garden will be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those using wheelchairs.

Southwest Community Gardens was established in 2011 with the mission to create gardens throughout Southwest DC that are accessible to all members of the community. To keep abreast of the group’s activities, including how to volunteer on day the garden will be built, visit their website at swgardens.org.

By Bernice Boursiquot and Kamilla Kovacs

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