Nestled among maple and holly trees, with the National Cathedral supplying a postcard-perfect backdrop, the Newark Street Community Garden provides an urban oasis for locals with a green thumb.
I essentially stumbled upon the organic garden about a week ago, during a walk around my neighborhood. With a French Bulldog at home, I was searching for a nearby dog park, and came across the Newark Street Park, a conglomerate of tennis courts, a children’s playground, community garden plots and that sought-after off-leash dog park.
The four-acre space is bookended by 38th and 39th streets on Newark, and provides a serene escape for city folks looking for respite from the honking horns and exhaust-oozing buses of Wisconsin Ave., just a few blocks away. Although the Northwest portion of the District offers some of the most neighborhood-y parts of town, it feels like the garden most concisely exemplifies all of the leafy, community charm of nearby Macomb Street or Woodley Road.
With colder weather upon us, most of the 220 plots featured herbs and greens. Kale, red leaf lettuce, broccoli, thyme and lavender dotted the well-kept spaces, as did a few rosebushes, clay sculptures, outdoor chairs and small birdhouses. During the weekend, many gardeners were taking advantage of the surprisingly warm weather, pruning bushes and hoeing fresh soil.
One woman I spoke with travels to Newark Street from Adams Morgan to tend to her garden patch. She got her plot in the summertime — too late in the season to yield good crops — and had a wheelbarrow full of organic goods for the compost pile, located toward the back of the park. The people who rent plots have access to the compost when it is “cooked,” gardener-speak for when the organic material has decomposed and is ready to be used.
As the woman made her way past two sheds that house tools for gardeners to use on the property, she expressed disappointment that the newest addition — honeybees in two hives, located at the front of the garden — didn’t make it through Hurricane Sandy. The Urban Forestry Administration had added the hives in April.
The garden was established in 1974 by area resident Anne Chase as part of National Food Day, a nationwide celebration of sustainable food growth and consumption. And since 1995, it’s been completely organic. But the community garden may be proving too popular for its own good. The governing association recently closed the waitlist, since it currently stands at about two years.
But District dwellers needn’t despair: Walking trails run throughout the garden, so you can get your nature fix without the wait — or even without a green thumb.