Green Street Neighborhood Garden

Description

Green Street Neighborhood Garden is the only Cambridge Community Garden that is owned and maintained privately with no input or support from the City of Cambridge. The advantages and disadvantages of this privately-owned community garden depend on the commitment and resources of the owner, and the leadership ability of the garden coordinator.

Location

The total site for the Green Street Neighborhood Garden is approximately 1/5th of an acre, 170 feet by 50 feet, located between Massachusetts Avenue and Green Street between Harvard and Central Squares. To the east is Bay Street, south is Green Street, to the west are eight two-story attached condominiums, and to the north is the back of the six-story building at 1000 Massachusetts Avenue.

History

The Green Street Neighborhood Garden was originally part of a large site on Massachusetts Avenue. In the early 1980s, a developer proposed building a large eight-story commercial building (now 1000 Massachusetts Avenue). If built as planned, it would have occupied the entire site down to Green Street, and it would have dwarfed and shaded the two- to three-story residences on Green Street.

In opposition to this plan, residents formed the Green Street Neighborhood Association and successfully negotiated with the developer to provide a continuous green open space buffer between this large, tall building and the residential neighborhood along Green Street. The developer, Arthur Klipfel, agreed that a portion of this green space would become a park, and a smaller part would be a community garden, and that both would be maintained by the owner in perpetuity.

As a result, in 1983, the Green Street Neighborhood Park and Community Garden were established. Since then, the building has been sold twice, once to Cambridge College, and recently to a management company, Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation.

The space was originally open to the public; however, since 1994, the gate has been locked and use is restricted to neighborhood residents only, due to security problems with homeless people and drug use.

Garden Description

The community garden is a small area in the southeast corner of the site, about one-quarter of the total space. It fronts on Green Street next to the main gate. The park that takes up the rest of the property is in need of renovation. It has several stone paths and sitting areas with old benches surrounded by lawn, shrubs, and trees. There is an old play area with sand surfacing surrounded by retaining walls with murals and an old wooden fountain and bench. A pergola near the entrance is a feature of the park. A black metal fence surrounds three sides of the site with a main gate on Green Street.

There are eight garden plots varying in size but they are all roughly 9’ X 12’. A few plots have recently been divided and shared. Occasional vacant plots are used communally. All the garden plots are arranged in two long rows parallel to and near the sidewalk fence. Gardeners are fully responsible for taking care of everything in their plot. There is one hose connection for water, but no tool shed as the gardeners feel they live so close by that this is not necessary.

What Is Grown

Two long-term gardeners, Mary Dill and John Vyhnanek, testified that vegetables grown in the Green Street Neighborhood Garden plots are particularly delicious when picked fresh and they are grateful for the amount of sun the garden gets that makes this possible. Examples are arugula, Swiss chard, beets, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, purple potatoes, and broccoli. Some flowers are grown as companion plants.

Gardeners

The gardeners are mostly from the Green Street area of the Riverside neighborhood. There is only one gardener not living in the immediate neighborhood, Mary Dill, who resides in Harvard Square. The garden coordinator, John Vyhnanek, has purposely tried to limit the gardeners and park users to those living within the neighborhood area.

Mary Dill is also the only one left from the original group of gardeners. Wendy Stone explained that this area of Cambridge has experienced increasing gentrification since the 1980s, as more housing has been built and more transient, younger residents have moved in.

However, there is a sense of community in the garden and the gardeners seem to know each other and get together for one or two potlucks and one or two workdays per year. Most of the gardeners are middle-aged or older but occasionally a family with children can be seen. In general the gardeners are happy working in their plots. While they help each other out when needed, gardeners do not join up for regular socializing. Mary Dill plainly stated that gardening is what they like to do.

Management

The current owner, Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation, now maintains the park and garden. This maintenance includes providing water for the hose hook up and, when needed, replacing garden elements such as wooden edging for plots. The owner pays a landscape maintenance company to mow lawns in the park and do some seasonal cleanup, but no tree pruning or other similar major work.

The park and garden coordinator is a longtime neighborhood resident, John Vyhnanek, who was part of the founding committee of residents, the Green Street Neighborhood Association. In 1994, Cambridge College asked John to take over active management of both park and garden users, a role he has continued to fill since then.

John’s management of the garden for the new owner involves handling everything related to operating the garden. One of the gardeners, Wendy Stone, referred to John as the “Garden Angel.” He selects the gardeners when plots become available; interviews all garden applicants; handles all communications with owner and gardeners; and installs and fixes most items when the need arises. Queries to the City’s Community Garden Program about Green Street are referred directly to John. Jennifer Letoureau provides contact information only.

Summary

The gardeners feel that the quality of maintenance of the garden and park has varied over time depending on who the owner is and their level of interest. Cambridge College was an attentive owner for many years and did a good job maintaining the landscape and garden. The new owner is a real estate management company that does only what is required.

The present garden coordinator believes there are parts of the park area, in addition to the garden, that need to be renovated, particularly where safety is an issue. The play areas are out of date, the benches are old, and there are tree limbs that may need to be removed. However, work in both park and community garden is entirely under the control of the owner.

There seems to be consensus among the gardeners that this is a nice small neighborhood garden to be part of. The only real complaint is that the rabbits and squirrels eat the produce. Fortunately, rats do not seem to have found this garden yet.

Story contributed by the Cambridge Plant and Garden Club. This story was originally published in "Cambridge Community Gardens Today, 2020/2021."

Photos Show

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Garden Website

www.cambridgema.gov/Services/communitygardens

Cite this Page

“Green Street Neighborhood Garden,” Community of Gardens, accessed February 21, 2024, https:/​/​communityofgardens.​si.​edu/​items/​show/​12454.​
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