The end of November also marked the end of the 2012 season of the PHS Green Machine program. We’ve posted about The Green Machine before, but in case it’s new to you, here’s an overview:
The Green Machine program provides horticultural assistance to train community groups to better sustain and manage plantings in neighborhood parks. Working collaboratively with community volunteers, this program revitalizes gardens, brings cohesion to greening groups, educates communities about sustainable greening, and makes neighborhood green spaces more beautiful.
Nicolas Esposito spearheaded The Green Machine effort this year, representing PHS and coordinating the revitalization of garden beds at six parks. He also drove the neon green Subaru that is the namesake for this program.
Nic leads the groups through a four-phase system he has dubbed the “community integrated design process.” Phase one is a site assessment and survey. Nic says that community input is invaluable from the offset because no one understands the needs of a park more than its users. “How does the site fare in rainy weather? How do people interact with it? These are the questions only the neighbors can answer.”
The next phase is a brainstorming session about design options and plant selection. In phase three, the resulting plan is finalized, and in phase four the installation gets underway.
For Pretzel Park in the Roxborough-Manayunk neighborhood, participation in The Green Machine resulted in a lush garden bed in what used to be an underpass entrance beneath train tracks. An overgrown triangle garden at Pennypack Park is now an attractive meadow. The other sites are Star Garden, Jefferson Square Park, and the Lutheran Settlement House. Watch the video below to see the time-lapse installation of the latter park’s spiral garden.
The transformations speak for themselves, but Nic insists that getting plants in the ground is the easy part; it’s maintenance that takes work. “One of The Green Machine’s goals is to empower the volunteers to keep the sites looking great in the months and years ahead. It’s the ‘teach a person to fish’ principle in action,” he says.
One way to ensure continued success is to build an “alumni group” so that the various park volunteers can help one another. Through workshops and meetings the groups get to share best practices.
Beyond a testament to the power of collaboration, The Green Machine also shows that great design can happen on a dime. Volunteers drive the work, so the primary expense is the plants. Nic thanks PHS Meadowbrook Farm and Primex Garden Center for supplying quality plants at a discount, and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation for supplying mulch and other materials.
“The Green Machine method is a cost effective way to make lasting change,” Nic says. “Parks are our shared backyard, so we have to take care of them.”
Settlement House Gardening Work Day – Building an Herb Spiral from Jeremy Chrzan on Vimeo.