Gardening for Recreation, Food and Fitness

Posted: October 18, 2011

When she’s not working in the nursery at Primex Garden Center in Glenside, PA, Master Gardener Carolyn Booker, a trained draftsperson, can be found volunteering at community sites where her talent for garden design and skill at plant selection are key.

The newly installed, raised bed vegetable garden at the Nicetown Boys and Girl Club, is a prime example. When she heard the Club needed advice and assistance, Carolyn volunteered to help and to involve the Philadelphia Extension Master Gardeners.

The Nicetown Club building and grounds have undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, funded in part by Philadelphia’s own Phillie, Shane Victorino and his Foundation. Now there are state-of-the-art science and technology labs, a well- equipped gymnasium, and a game room that is filled with incredible light from the huge, fully preserved arched windows of the 1890’s building.

There were many other partners involved. The front entrance is surrounded by ornamental shrubs and flower beds, donated by Primex Garden Center and planted by the Boy Scouts. KABOOM, a non-profit which designs and installs playgrounds, did it in one workday day with the help of over 300 volunteers who came from the Nicetown neighborhood and the Disney and Verizon companies. There were volunteers from the Shane Victorino Foundation, many Boys and Girls Club member families and a group of Penn State Extension Philadelphia  Master Gardeners.

Next to the playground is the vegetable garden, an integral part of the recreation and education plan. It consists of five raised beds: four 3’x12’ beds surrounded by lumber which flank a large central bed which is surrounded by a dry stone wall. This was probably the hardest thing the volunteers built that day.  This center piece of the garden is planted with perennial red raspberry bushes and edible flowers. Colorful loose leaf lettuces, cabbage family plants and more flowers fill the other beds. These were also donated by Primex Garden Center, a partner and supporter of the Philadelphia Master Gardeners.

So thanks to the Shane Victorino Foundation and all of the other partners, kids can get fit exercising at the playground or at the garden and eat well too. What a great idea!

Carolyn Booker and the Extension Master Gardeners will make sure this garden thrives by teaching Boys and Gilrs Club members how to maintain it and keep it going. They will also learn how to grow more food next season and in the future by following Carolyn’s education and maintenance plans.

Doris Stahl