Sickels Street Garden – A Hidden Treasure

The Sickels Street Garden at the corner of Haverford Avenue and Sickels Street

One of the things I love about working at Sickels Street Garden is the way in which the plantings are arranged so that you are always presented with a “surprise” of color from the different blooms throughout the year. It’s almost like a timed energy injection for your eyes, so that as your eye leaps from one bloom to another, a surge of excitement is released, resulting in endless visual pleasure as far as your eye can reach.

Poor maintenance in the past made it difficult to enjoy this experience, but after a year (well maybe more) of planning and lots of work, It is great to see the results of all the effort that went into this space, and to make this exhilarating experience more tangible.
Purple asters


The asters we transplanted last summer along the back wall are now in bloom, showing off their bluish/purple daisy-like flowers. We started with 7, but the big, floppy-leafed plants have now almost doubled in number, and will need to be divided come next spring.

For the first time since I’ve worked on this site, we have been able to successfully disrupt the morning glory vine’s weedy growth enough to enjoy the purple blooms of the Russian sage throughout the entire garden.


Our crop of mums are still forming buds, but you can still enjoy some of the purple echinacea floral blooms, against the yellow backdrop of some late-blooming daylilies.

Along Haverford Ave, nested below the trumpet vine, you can spot a single hidden Kniphofia with its flaming blooms of orange & lime green.

And if you go a little further, the deep pink color of the turtlehead stops you in your tracks.



As you can see, there’s more than meets the eye at this small seemingly plain site. Hopefully you can get your shot of exhilaration before the season is out!

– Awinda Otieno-Pala

An update on those peppers

A few days ago at the Farm we discovered that one of those Chapeu de Frade peppers, growing in great abundance on several huge plants (well, huge for pepper plants!), had turned an bright orangey-red.  Que politely refused a taste but Skip, Raheem and I, curious to see if it differed from the lime green ones, divided it up.  It was definitely sweeter but as we ate the flesh close to the seeds and stem, it was fairly hot!

Skip holding the remaining stem with seeds after the pepper tasting. “Whoa, this is hot on the inside!”

Chapeu de Frade pepper looking like a UFO

I think we figured out where these plants came from, too. Eric Blasco, professional gardener and friend of UTC, helped us out with seed-starting this spring. He is a seed saver and is especially interested in heirloom vegetable varieties.

Let’s hope we don’t have a frost too soon.  The plants are loaded with peppers that are still green and we’d like to see a bunch of those turn red!

Memorial Garden Club: We’re Buggin’ Out!

The weather was cloudy on Thursday but that didn’t stop the brand new Memorial Garden Club from having fun!   Meeting for our second week of the club, the group went over to the Community Garden beds when we first arrived to check on the lettuce we planted the week before. The plants are appreciating the rainy weather and growing strong! We looked around to see if we could tell what was growing in the other beds, finding onions, mustard greens, and zucchini to name a few! Destiny and Mikai also checked on the watermelons they helped Ms. Alicia transplant last week.

After spending time in the garden we went back to the stage area to talk about bugs in the garden. Building on last week’s activities where we searched the garden for helpful and harmful bugs and insects, this week we had a chance to imagine our own garden critters. Some kids also filled out worksheets to come up with a “scientific” name for their bug and describe its habitat and diet. Check out the colorful and crazy results!

Mikai’s bug was cute enough already, but with a curly tail this little guy is complete!

Ameenah’s bug had big eyes and a colorful feather. Its wild-cherry tail is from one of Memorial Garden’s trees. Destiny made an “Ice Cream Cone Head Bug” with 5 legs and a long pink tongue for grabbing its food.

These imaginative creations drew some real bees to our worksite and inspired a conversation about the way flowers use bright colors to attract good insects and bugs. Ms. Awinda taught that while this is true, flower’s colors are also based on genetics. Afterward, Destiny made a nest of eggs (full of baby Ice Cream Bugs?) and Ameenah made a fancy pot!

Meanwhile, Haneeyah was inspired by slugs in her backyard to create a carnivorous masterpiece. It may look cute but the pink feather is really a trick to attract other bugs that it will eat with its blue fangs. Its habitat is the woods or other places with lots of plants where it can find a tasty snack!

After describing our bug’s habitats and diets, we were all pretty hungry. Mikai, Dvay and Ameenah helped cut up tomatoes and green, red and purple peppers from the farm and we tried them all. While no one was a big fan of raw tomato, we mixed the tomatoes and peppers together to make a make-shift salsa to dip our Cheese-Its in. Ms. Awinda’s horticultural expertise came to the rescue while we debated the age old question: “Tomato: Vegetable or Fruit?!” – turns out the answer is both! Botanically they are fruit, but in cooking it’s considered a vegetable.

After our snack some of the kids who arrived late got to make bugs and the rest of us headed back to the community garden beds to spruce things up before the day was over! We weeded out a bunch of big plants growing in the wood chips, talked about what makes something a “weed” and how important it is to get roots out so they don’t grow back.

Equipped with brand new kid-sized gloves, Destiny won a tug-of-war with a bright red root. She wanted to play pretend that she was the gardener and Ms. Addie was the kid, but to anyone who’s seen her attack stubborn intruder plants it’s clear Destiny is the real deal!

While digging up weeds Ameenah (an aspiring archeologist) started a Memorial Garden Club rock collection. Haneeyah ended the day by having us hold our trowels in our right hands and recite her “Garden Pledge of Allegiance” and we all promised to keep the garden beautiful and protect our plants.

 – Addie Ansell