June 2023–The Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden is located in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), an inner city neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. For many years, OTR was considered to be one of the nation’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But with recent revitalization efforts, it is now home to some of the trendiest spots in Cincy. It is also the place I call home—a place where my neighbors and I should feel safe. Yet year after year, when the summer heat kicks up and it’s time to plant tomatoes, it starts again—gunfire that leads to senseless murders. This week and last we have had back-to-back shootings just steps away from the garden, where children play. Yesterday’s drive-by shooting left three children hospitalized. The randomness of it all is so terrifying. I once read something that said you can fight crime like this with a community garden. Apparently, seeing the beauty of a garden and interacting with people, on a regular basis, can be a “powerful force.” So maybe it’s true. Maybe the garden serves as a place of peace, hope, and serenity for those within. But what about what happens outside the garden gates? When are we going to find a solution for the violence?
Although this month has been clouded by the recent shootings, it hasn’t all been bad. Most days are amazing. In fact, I get a natural high from the camaraderie the garden brings—even with curious passerby’s. Just recently I was in the garden harvesting flowers and I heard a woman’s voice commenting on how beautiful the flowers were that I was holding. As I began to walk towards her, I noticed she was crying. She shared that her mother recently passed away and her favorite color had been purple. When she saw me with an armful of purple flowers she couldn’t help but take that as a sign that her mother was still with her. I invited her into the garden and together we created an arrangement in honor of her mother while we talked about how important it is to love one other and to spread kindness. You never really know what someone is going through. After sharing a brief hug, she went on her way. It’s encounters like this that highlight what a blessing this garden is and how it creates so many wonderful opportunities.
On another note, the school year has come to an end and so has another year of working with the Garden Club. The year culminated with the planting of cut flowers and vegetables like broccoli and kale. We also harvested the flowers we had grown and made arrangements, while discussing potential career avenues as a grower. Also, due to a generous donation of wildflower seeds from the Civic Garden Center, we were able to “flower bomb” the cracks in the sidewalk and buildings around the garden. It was great fun! I am keeping an eye on the cracks and hope to see a substantial surge of sprouting seeds and blooming flowers around the neighborhood in the coming weeks. We sure could use some rain to help the seeds germinate!
Nevertheless, all of the beds in the garden have been planted and things are growing well despite the heat. Throughout the summer, we will continue to hold free classes. They’re open to the public, so you’re welcome to attend, even if you’re not a community gardener! Our next opportunity is this Saturday, June 3rd, from 9-11AM in Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden, 49 E. McMicken Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45202. Take a tour of the garden with me, learn the basics of planting, help with litter clean up, and watering, and you’ll leave feeling renewed, revitalized and happy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update from the oldest community garden in the city of Cincinnati! We will be back next month with more updates and stories.
Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden Volunteer Coordinator