The Hilltop Community and Learning Garden (HCLG) represents a new take on the traditional neighborhood community garden and will be located in Avondale at 3522 beldare ave.
The Hilltop Community Garden (as it was formally known) has been around in some form for the past 5 years, as a partnership between the Civic Garden Center and the Cincinnati Zoo. During this time period (phase 1) much was accomplished: land, soil, water access, and a small fruit orchard (10 trees) were acquired (approximately a $40,000 value). This garden was managed successfully by neighborhood members for a few years, however as some of those members moved or passed away, membership declined down to three people last summer and the garden was overgrown with weeds.
This year a new coalition was formed, still including the civic garden center and the Cincinnati zoo, but with the addition of a local nonprofit, Urban Blooms, and the newly established UC community Garden Club. These partners were brought in by myself and Carol Tyler (a neighbor and UC professor) in order to build on previous accomplishments and to realize our vision of a revitalized and evolve this traditional community garden into a new model of community gardening, The Hilltop Community and Learning Garden.
The HCLG (see figure 1) will feature: a native flower section, 14 traditional 8’x4’ raised garden beds free to community members, 4 large display 15’x5’ raised beds illustrating alternative gardening styles (square foot garden, a compost raised bed, and a German style raised bed “Hugelkulture”), an urban gardening section displaying Urban Blooms’ Urban Planters(see figure 2) made from recycled 55 gallon barrels and 2”x4”s, an encased fungus growing area, a strawberry patch, a compost area, a permaculture area(funded by the UC community garden club), a food forest(funded by the UC community garden club), and 100% wheelchair accessible Veteran’s memorial garden (pending funding from a Home Depot Grant). While this garden will feature a wealth of educational examples of alternative gardening styles, making it a destination for school field trips and interested home gardeners, diversifying it from other community gardens. The most interesting and potentially most impactful feature from a community viewpoint, will be 50 extra Urban Planters made from recycled 55 gallon barrels along with educational materials (tips on growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, and herbs) that we will distribute free of charge to any neighbor who is interested.
By distributing these urban planters to surrounding neighbors a buffer of urban farming will be created around the garden, hopefully eliminating many of the issues discussed in the next section. In addition to protecting the central garden; distributing these planters and instructions on how to grow a handful of vegetables will empower neighbors to help and educate other neighbors (as some will pick it up quicker than others) on how to grow your own food in an urban environment. Thus the HCLG will act as educational resource transforming what was a centralized deteriorating urban community garden into a decentralized flourishing community of urban gardeners.