The Virginia Avenue Community Garden (VACG) was started in Southeast Washington, DC in 2004 in the Virginia Avenue Park. Since its beginning, the VACG has expanded to full membership capacity, providing local families the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers in a completely organic setting. With over 80 community garden plots, gardeners are assigned plots on a first-come, first-served basis, and commit to providing garden clean-up support throughout the year.
Location: 1098 9th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Since the garden’s beginning, the VACG members have engaged and benefited the community in a variety of ways, including:
- The members planted and maintain over 15 fruit trees, all planted along the fence so that the community can pick fruit from outside of the garden;
- The garden has made plots available to schools, scout, and other organizations, without charge, and members have taught classes on gardening and assisted in starting gardens at various schools;
- Excess fruits and vegetables have been provided to community organizations, such as SOME (So Others Might Eat) and to the homeless; and
- Funds have been raised by the garden members and donated to SOME on an annual basis.
Initially conceived in 2003, the garden officially opened in 2004, with support from the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) funding (dues) from the garden’s members. As the site had been neglected in the past, the soil was filled rock and residual trash – the community gardeners purchased tools and soil supplements (top soil, compost, etc.) and then purchased and built the shed for security of the tools and supporting equipment. The surrounding Virginia Avenue Park was also in disrepair and in concert with our agreement with DPR, the garden committee organized a community clean-up day, brought in horticulturalists, removed all the scrap brush, cleaned the entire park and planted flowers throughout the park. This event brought together the community, schools, the marines from Barracks Row, and others to revitalize this important communal park.
The following year in 2005, the City doubled the size of the garden, installed a fence for security, and eventually connected the garden to the City water system. During this year, the community garden members began teaching school classes in gardening techniques and the ability to grow fruits and vegetables in the hear of DC.
In 2006, the City and the DC Building Industry Association developed a site concept, landscaped the park, planted trees and flowers, put in walks and picnic tables, and placed bird houses around the park. A sign was added to identify the garden and inform the community how to apply for a plot. Community involvement increased and the park was well used.
In 2007, the garden community provided a school garden plot to KIPP Charter School students and assisted in teaching the students techniques of managing the soil, planting vegetables and flowers, and tending to the garden; and continued the following year.
In 2008, the garden community added a pergola to the garden with a grant contribution from Capitol Hill Community Foundation (CHCF). The pergola plan was created by a community garden member, and he and other community garden members purchased the supplies with the grant money and built it. The pergola now has grape vines growing on it and provides shade and a gathering place for community gardeners and the community.
In 2009, we once again received a grant from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which was used to construct a new composting bin system to recycle the vegetation and supplement the soil. We also received a grant from Washington Parks and People to plant 9 additional fruit trees around the perimeter (cherry, apple, and plum trees).