Friday, May 31, 2013

Nurture Nature Center Kicks Off Urban Garden Project

By Christina Georgiou

Donors for the Nurture Nature Center's Urban Recycle Garden gathered
for a celebration party at the Downtown center Thursday night.

Nurture Nature Center topped its Kickstarter goal only a week ago, but the organization is already working towards making its Urban Recycle Garden a reality.

Inviting the 107 donors who gave a total of $9,500 toward the project, along with a number of other donors who contributed approximately $1,500 more, to a celebration party Thursday evening at its Downtown Northampton Street educational center, NNC director Rachel Hogan and master gardener Kate Brandes said the garden will be a reality this summer.

And, with $3,000 more than NNC's original goal of $8,000, along with an offer from local engineer Rich Herschlag to do a formal structural analysis of the building's back roof to ensure it's strong enough to bear the weight of it, the project will not only encompass the small back parking lot of NNC, but extend up along the wall and over it to the roof itself.

A mock-up of what the new garden will look like behind Nurture Nature
Center, from Pine Street. The green space will extend up and over the roof too.
Contributed photo.
The wall that leads to the roof will be resurfaced by Rob Wozniak of Preservation Works, NNC's next door neighbor, who also offered to donate his services, Brandes said.

Giving a tour to some of the donors during Thursday evening's celebration party, Brandes described the project in detail.

The current parking lot against the back wall of the building will be transformed, she said, with a fence and gate, along with raised garden beds. A trellis will be added along the building's back wall, and an existing one near a back entrance to the building will finally get use.

Nurture Nature Center master gardener Kate Brandes
describes what the new garden will look like to donors on a
tour of the space Thursday evening.

"A lot of it will be a container garden," Brandes said. "The garden is meant to demonstrate how people can grow things in very small spaces, even fire escapes."

She added the center is looking for both input on the types and styles of containers to be used, as well as donations of various types of containers themselves.

"We can use anything--old garbage cans, pots, whatever," Brandes told guests, noting NNC has a wish list of items to be donated on its website.

While the project will bloom this summer, completing the roof garden may take a little longer, though the center plans to begin work on it immediately.

"What the roof will exactly look like, we're not sure yet," she said. "The engineer coming to us was a bit of a surprise."

The ground level garden will feature all sorts of plants, with an emphasis on those that are edible.

"We want to do themed gardens, like a salsa garden," Brandes said.

The instructional and inspirational nature of the project will be highlighted too, for both in-person and on-line visitors.

"Everything we do...we're going to have instruction worksheets," she said. The sheets will be available as handouts to those who visit NNC, and as downloadable copies via the web.

An automated watering system that will make use of runoff from the center's expansive roof  will ensure plants are optimally watered at all times, "so that when we're not here on the weekends, things will still get watered."

The garden's produce will flow with the seasons, and the center hopes to keep it running year-round, as the weather allows. Hardier plants, such as kale and maybe some herbs, will be cultivated in the colder months, she said.

A garden board has already been appointed to oversee the project, and it will convene for a meeting next week. Members, all chosen from the local community are:
  • Lynn Prior Director of Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local
  • Emelie Swackhamer, Horticulture Educator, Lehigh & Northampton Co. Cooperative
  • Barbara Hinkson, owner of Compost (an urban garden center located in Easton)
  • Joe Judge, Master Gardener and Bushkill Stream Conservancy representative
  • Sarah Edmonds, Garden Manager and Metzgar Environmental Projects Coordinator at Lafayette College
  • Kristin Jasionowski, Owner, Lunaria Gardens, a Permaculture consultation, design, & education service
  • Pat Janssen, Easton Environmental Advisory Council
  • Sophia Feller, West Ward Community Gardens

One of the board's first tasks will be to discuss what will be done with produce from the new garden. Suggestions include donating it to local food pantries and/or using it for further instructional opportunities, such as holding canning workshops.

Plans for the garden's first full season next year, are already forming too.

"We are in touch with a beekeeper about putting a hive on the roof next year," Brandes said.

About 90 of the donors were on hand for the party celebrating the garden fundraiser's success Thursday evening.

In addition to enjoying refreshments donated by local restaurants and shops, including Two Rivers Brewing Company, the Philadelphia Pretzel Company, Sweet Girlz, Weyerbacher and the soon-to-open coffee shop Briva, the Easton School of Rock's Bank Street Band filled the air with some blistering rock-and-roll tunes.

Guests were treated to packets of organic seeds to help green their own gardens, and were invited to offer suggestions for the space, as well as vote on a number of container gardening ideas that will be utilized in NNC's new space.

A raffle for a Trek bicycle donated by
Genesis Bicycles was won by local artist
and Urban Recycle Garden donor Patricia Delluva.

A raffle for a Trek bicycle donated by Genesis Bicycles was won by local artist and Urban Recycle Garden donor Patricia Delluva, whose work is part of one of NNC's current painting exhibits.

"With your help, we've successfully funded this project and are already working on first steps to get the garden built," NNC Director Rachel Hogan Carr told guests.  "We're really grateful for the community support. Thank you."

To learn more about Nurture Nature Center's Urban Recycle Garden, click here.

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