River Wards greens spaces in the spotlight

Neighborhood Gardens Trust to highlight green spaces in the River Wards during citywide event

Secret garden: Sandi Vincenti and her son Nathan pose in their garden on Sepviva Street in Fishtown. STAR FILE PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

The Neighborhood Gardens Trust will host its 4th annual Community Gardens Day this weekend, and several River Wards spaces are set to be in the spotlight.
Sandi Vincenti’s garden, A Child’s Inspiration Wildlife Discovery Garden, is on that list.
Walking down the 1800 block of Sepviva Street, at first glance, one might mistake the urban oasis as an ordinary front yard with a treehouse.
But upon opening the gate and stepping inside, a world of wonder awaits.
From baby praying mantises to blue orchard mason bees, wildlife flourishes in the green space nestled among rowhomes on the city block.
Vincenti and her family created the space in 2010, which is essentially a “grassroots, one-family show for the most part, that’s passion project of love.”
Drawing on her background as a Pennsylvania master naturalist, Vincenti strives to “marry gardening and growing crops with what’s natural, focusing on the permaculture.”
While you’ll find fruits and vegetables growing with the assistance of subirrigation systems and vertical gardens, there’s also plenty of native edibles.
“A lot of the educational conferences I’ve attended have programs that focus on native or wild edibles, so we look at things that pop up that a lot of people might consider weeds as really being rich in nutrients, so we’ve started cultivating plants like that, too.”
One example of a native edible in Vincenti’s garden is burdock.
Neighbors sometimes come and help, and Vincenti stressed the importance the garden is something she wants everyone to enjoy.
This is the first time Vincenti will participate in the Community Gardens Day, but opening her garden to people beyond her block was a no-brainer.
“We just want to raise awareness. We’re almost kind of hidden,” she said. “We just want to let people know what it’s about and how they can get involved. We’re open to people coming in and trying new ideas.”
Vincenti’s motivation for being involved is the reason the Neighborhood Gardens Trust established the event — which typically takes place on the third Saturday of June — four years ago.
“Community Gardens Day was first created in 2014 as a citywide celebration that spotlights the benefits of these shared growing spaces for Philadelphia neighborhoods and the importance of preserving the gardens,” said Jennifer Greenberg, executive director for NGT.
Participating gardens will offer a wide range of activities.
Visitors who stop at A Child’s Inspiration Wildlife Discovery Garden will have the opportunity to make what Vincenti called “little bee hotels.”
There will be education kits to show individuals how to construct a simple habitat for bees to nest in and the benefits of having bees in their gardens.
“I love to teach people the skills and give them the tools to take it back to their own space and go onward with it to cultivate that environment at their own home.”
Vincenti will bring these skills and tools beyond her garden to the next generation of horticulturalists and wildlife aficionados with the return of Nature Heroes.
This marks the second year Vincenti will bring the educational summer series to Penn Treaty Park and Arcadia Commons spaces to “get kids excited about nature,” highlighting everything from arachnids to reptiles.
The first Nature Heroes, Habitat Heroes 2.0, will take place on Saturday, June 24, at 4:30 p.m. at Penn Treaty Park, 1199 N. Delaware Ave.
Through hands-on activities, children will learn the four things that animals need in nature to build habitats.
The goal of the program is to create the nature stewards of the future.
“To get these children out in green spaces, to get them excited about animals, whether they are native or not,” Vincenti said, “just to get that sense of awe and wonder and get children to understand these animals and our environment at large. Once they are excited, we can figure out ways to appreciate and save these green spaces in our world.”
Various Nature Heroes organisms will make guest appearances during the Community Gardens Day event.
Cultivating interest in preserving green spaces, regardless of age, is at the root of the NGT Community Gardens Day.
“We are celebrating Philadelphia’s rich history of community gardening, the burgeoning interest in urban agriculture, and efforts to keep these shared growing spaces blooming in the future,” Greenberg said.
For Vincenti, piquing that interest happens through discovery.
“We want people to come in and get their hands dirty and just see the space and be inspired and find ways to explore and discover,” she said.

Community Gardens Day will take place on Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rain date is Sunday, June 18. Participating gardens in the River Wards include Emerald Street Community Farm, 2300 Emerald St.; Collins Smith Barrick Play Garden, 2052 E. Hagert St.; Frankford Orchard, 2469 Frankford Ave.; A Child’s Inspiration Wildlife Discovery Garden, 1846–50 Sepviva St.; Greensgrow Farm, 2501 E. Cumberland St.; La Finquita, 428 W. Master St.; Spooky Garden, 1116 N. 4th St.; Bodine High School Garden, 1101 N. 4th St.; Seedy Acres, 912 N. Leithgow St.; Liberty Lands Community Garden, 961 N. 3rd St.; Orkney Park Project, 867 N. Orkney St.; Orianna Hill Gardens, 900 N. Orianna St.
Each garden will offer different activities from walking tours, to garden advice, to art shows, to children’s activities. For a full list of participating gardens and details about Community Gardens Day, visit
ngtrust.org.
For more details about Nature Heroes, visit Nature Heroes on Facebook.

Select gardens in Northern Liberties will be featured in a one-mile, self-guided walking tour for the Community Gardens Day on Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participating locations and gardens include:
City Planter, 814 N. 4th St. — Refreshments
Orianna Hill, 900 N. Orianna St.
Liberty Lands, 961 N. 3rd St.
Bodine High School Garden, 1101 N. 4th St.
Spooky Garden, 1116 N. 4th St.
Seedy Acres, 912 N. Leithgow St.
Orkney Park, 867 N. Orkney St.
For a map, visit ngtrust.org.