Cover Story: Growth Industry

Nic Esposito and a new generation of urban activists are starting in the garden

Answering a question about his favorite things to grow is a challenge for Nic Esposito. After a few nods to his Italian heritage—eggplants, tomatoes—he settles on a response that speaks volumes about the work he is doing in his West Philadelphia community: “I love planting perennials,” he says with a smile. “It might make me sound lazy, but I love the idea of putting something in the ground—like rosemary or berry bushes—and seeing them grow back. It gives you a stake in where you are.”

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Gardening Issue: Seed Money

When it comes to seeds, Kim Massare does the work for you 

A few years ago, frustrated by the lack of heirloom varieties available at local garden centers, South Philly gardener Kim Massare went on a seed catalogue shopping spree. She lit up her rowhouse’s basement with grow lights and brought down all those non-recyclable plastic containers she’d been collecting—Startin’ Yer Garten was born.

As any gardener can tell you, it’s easy to plant too many seeds—especially when your garden is, at best, a postage stamp with limited sun. Over-planting has an upsetting side effect: having to discard those carefully nurtured seedlings. Looking to offset the cost of her investment and rescue her extra plants from the trash bin, Massare posted an ad for them on Craigslist. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. 

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Gardening Issue: Snakes in the Garden

Gardeners, meet your new best friend: the brown snake

Don’t freak out—it’s just a snake. It’s a really tiny snake, totally harmless. The worst it can do is poop on you.

Sure, you weren’t expecting to find a real live snake in West Philly (or North Philly, or Northwest Philly), roaming the soul patch of green that passes for your backyard.

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Dispatch: Growing Pains

My neighbor is standing at my back fence, looking at my ripening tomatoes. “I wanted to ask you something,” he says. “Every year, you work so hard to grow them. So why don’t you ever pick them?”

Hmmm… I was hoping nobody had noticed. 

I could tell him I’d been too busy. I could tell him it’s my way of tithing. I could tell him I believe in leaving something for the squirrels and birds. 

But the truth is, I just don’t like to harvest.

 

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Gardening Issue: Popular Mechanics

by Alli Katz

A local company forsakes peat

All gardeners use potting soil,” says mark Highland, president of Organic Mechanics. “Why not use a local product?” Founded in 2006, the company, located just outside of Coatesville, makes a variety of soils for every level of planter—from large organic farms to botanical gardens to recreational gardeners. 

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