Mount Auburn Streets Three Gardens: 2010

This morning I decided to ride my bike down Mount Auburn Street to see how spring was faring in three gardens; the Harvard Community Garden, installed on April 17 outside Lowell House; the Longfellow National Historic Site, which has had its historic 1904 garden restored in 2000-2006; and the Mount Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1831. Today, I’ll talk about Harvard’s garden, such as it is.

The Harvard Community Garden’s 25 raised beds look a bit spartan at this point. It’s strange to see boxes of unfinished lumber filled with dirt sitting in front of a venerable dormitory for the wealthiest university on the planet. This serious food-growing venture apparently didn’t have the budget for a few pansies or alyssum sprigs for onlookers to admire while the peas refuse to sprout. Can’t Harvard support bread and roses?

The Harvard Gazette article on the garden doesn’t indicate that any landscape architects or designers of any kind were involved in this project, and it shows. It’s also strange: Harvard has a school of landscape design three blocks away. Didn’t anybody tell them a new garden was going into one of the most visible sites at the college outside Harvard yard?  At a minimum, the site could have used a more interesting geometric layout like this rooftop garden — or how about this garden at Villandry?

Frankly, the garden looks like a nice little sandbox for students to play in. I’m sure Harvard plans to sweep it up in a few years and reseed the lawn when students have moved on to less labor-intensive concerns.

As I was photographing the garden, a maintenance worker walked through and picked up a few soda cans off the grass. What does it mean for a “community garden” to be cleaned up by a professional staff every day? The Boston Natural Area Network’s community gardens don’t get that kind of service.

  One Reply to “Mount Auburn Streets Three Gardens: 2010”

  1. Christina
    May 19, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Hi Meg, I’m an architecture student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and I just did a project for an MIT art class that involved building mobile, module planters in our backyard. The mobility was mostly due to the fact that I wanted this design to be a pilot test for a system that could be moved anywhere around school (especially bc I don’t think my school will let me keep them out there after the summer), also so that I could construct them in the shop and have them wheeled out easily, but also since plants are sometimes like humans and fare well better next to others, this mobility allows for different configurations. Anyway, I still need to drill some drainage holes, throw in a soil mix, and plant, but would love to have you come check it out since I’m sure you know more about gardening than me. I wish the project could’ve been bigger, but I pretty much built the whole thing by myself with a couple sporadic helpers (finding help during finals week was close to impossible!) and those who said they’d help out couldn’t in the end…in response to your observation about the lack of community involvement in the “community” garden, I must admit, it is close to impossible to get students to participate — wonder how to break through that tendency? My idea is, once I have the garden set up, I plan to distribute individual seed packets to the neighborhood in hopes to have the community more involved in the effort. Each individual who plants a seed would then have a vested interest in checking up on their plant. Now I have to figure out the watering situation (there is a hose bib nearby but I need to now get access from the powers that be…) Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts…as I feel as though I am figuring out all of this on my own.

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