Category Archives: Gardening

A Chat with Meredith Sheperd of Love & Carrots

Meredith Sheperd (photo credit: Hannah Colclazier)

Chances are, you’ve seen them scattered around Brookland and across the city: plots of garden space stamped with the words Love & Carrots. You’ve see the vines of peppers and tomatoes, the bushes of herbs and bursts of flowers, the raised beds and metal containers in front yards and on the roof decks of popular restaurants.

Small or large, they’re all the brainchild of Brooklander Meredith Sheperd and the organization she started in 2011. Sheperd and her team have made it their mission to “expose as many people as possible to sustainable practices and smart growing, so they can use that knowledge themselves and continue to share it with others.”

We sat down for a brief chat with Sheperd about her business and her love of the neighborhood she calls home.

Where did your passion for gardening and local food come from?

I grew up in rural Vermont on a beautiful historic farm. My parents gardened endlessly –flowers, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, and more. They instilled in me a deep love and appreciation of nature that I thank them for. After college at Notre Dame, where I earned a degree in environmental science, I became interested in the local food movement. I worked as a small-scale organic farmer in Virginia, Maryland, and around the world before eventually managing an organic farm that grew directly for D.C. restaurants.

Where did the idea for Love & Carrots come from?

Love & Carrots was born out of my own lack of garden space! I was living on New Jersey Avenue at the time and was frustrated with my shady, postage-stamp yard. I’d just returned from teaching agriculture at an orphanage in Guatemala and was applying to urban agriculture jobs in D.C. In Guatemala, the growing conditions were difficult, but I gained an appreciation for food production on any scale. Biking around D.C. for interviews, I marveled at all the sunny production potential in the city. Even the house next door had a sunny corner lot and the people were never home. The experience made me realize D.C.’s potential for transformation.

What makes Brookland ripe for urban gardening?

We’ve installed about a dozen garden spaces in Brookland and actively maintain five of them. Big, sunny yards are ideal for gardening, and our neighborhood has much larger yards than others in the city! Our homes are also more spread out, which means there’s typically more sunlight – and so more options for designing great gardens in front yards, back yards, or even side yards.

What’s next for Love & Carrots?

We just completed a 5,200-square-foot urban farm for The Pearl, an apartment building in Silver Spring, where residents can sign up to get a weekly basket of produce at low cost. In addition to our friends at Brookland’s Finest, we’re also maintaining production and/or display gardens for other popular D.C. restaurants, including Rose’s Luxury, Pineapple & Pearl, The Columbia Room, Timber Pizza, and Belle Haven DRP. We’ll also soon be company-owned. My goal is to create jobs in urban agriculture that can become long-term careers. Teaching people how to grow food is so important that we need to have people in this field not just for several years but for decades. That’s how we’ll create real experts.

Are there still opportunities for Brooklanders to garden in the fall and winter?

We install garden infrastructure until the ground is frozen and covered in snow – sometimes, that means year-round! In my opinion, it’s better to get your garden installed in the fall and winter, while things are quiet. That way your soil has time to settle, and you can be ready to plant right away in early March. (Peas and spinach can go in as early as February, even if there’s still snow on the ground!)

What do you like about life here in Brookland?

My partner and I now joke with our friends that once you move to Brookland, all you want to talk about is how awesome Brookland is. Before we moved here, we used to take long bike rides through the neighborhood to admire all the adorable houses. After searching for about a year, our dream home popped up in late 2014: a little bungalow that’s close to Brookland’s Finest. I love that I have windows on all sides of our house. I love that we love all our neighbors. I love strolling over to “the Finest” or to Right Proper or to Dew Drop Inn. I love that you hear crickets at night instead of sirens. It’s relaxed here.

Pepco Green Wall On 12th Street Finally Completed

Long time readers know that building DC’s largest green wall in Brookland has been an ongoing project of ours. The idea started back on January 15, 2013, the day I first contacted Pepco. I had the crazy idea to ask if they would be willing to invest in beautifying the 12th Street substation #133. The bare brick wall of the substation stretches along 3/4 on the west side of the 3100 block of 12th Street NE (between Irving and Jackson Streets, NE). Those who are familiar with the wall know it is not a pretty site for the residents across the street and for all neighbors who walk up and down the street.

Finally, on Friday May 19, 2017 the project was finally completed when the native vine, Carolina Jessamine  (which were recommended by the Greater Brookland Garden Club) were planted in the new, recently expanded cut outs alongside the substation wall. Here is slide show of photos which document the transition of the wall from 2013 until today. (You need flash to see the photos, if you can’t see them, click here.)

Four years and four months of careful negotiating, meetings. research and lobbying for support in the local community required a lot of patience and waiting. Many of you will remember when I called out for support with a petition here on the blog to support our project. The overwhelming response from the community for sure made it much easier to make a strong case talking to Pepco.  With that said, I need to mention 2 key players in this process, without whom this project would have never succeeded:

Casey Trees

Mark Buscaino, Executive Director of Casey Trees, stood with our efforts unequivocally from the very beginning. He provided the (sometimes necessary) weight and pull of his well respected non-profit organization, as well as his experience in negotiating with large corporations like Pepco. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Casey Trees. After all, their mission is to restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital.

 Donna Cooper, Pepco Region President, learned about our request and agreed to meet to learn more about our ideas. The nature and size of our inquiry is clearly not within her usual realm of responsibilities. We owe Ms. Cooper a lot of gratitude in that she spend quite a bit of her valuable time on this project. Unfortunately, we experienced some delays in the process with the team she delegated the project to. But every time we contacted Ms. Cooper she was extremely helpful and made sure the  work on the project was kicked back into gear.

Shani and I have committed to ensure the plants get watered, especially through the hot summer months. Neighbors have asked me, if there is anything they can do to help. There are a few things that could help the “Green Wall” to thrive and become a beautiful feature in our Brookland neighborhood – it will be the collective little things, that will make the difference. First, ever since the first planter boxes were created, we noticed that they tend to “attract” litter. If you are passing by and see any trash in or around the boxes it would be great if you  picked it up. Also weeds need to be pulled whenever they pop up. The more of us keep an eye on the space alongside the trellis, the less effort it is for each individually to keep the space clean, appealing and flourishing.

Save The Date – Franciscan Monastery Plant And Herb Sale

The Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild Annual Herb & Plant Sale has evolved into a very popular neighborhood event. This year the sale will take place on  Saturday, April 29, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday, April 30, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. The sale is located at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, at 1400 Quincy St., N.E. For more information, check out the  Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild’s website here.  From an email:

Buy local, monastery-grown herbs and vegetables, take a tour of the historic Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land gardens and enjoy food and craft vendors at the annual Franciscan Monastery Plant and Herb Sale…Sponsored by the all-volunteer Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild and held in the monastery’s century-old gardens, the sale features herbs, flowers, roses, plants and shrubs, many of them grown in the monastery’s greenhouse. The monastery-grown plants include lavender, basil, rosemary, kale, carrots, lettuce and lots more.

The sale benefits the preservation and care of the gardens, which were designed by Franciscan friars over 100 years ago, as well as newer initiatives of the Garden Guild, including its vegetable donation program.

Since 2014, the Garden Guild, in partnership with parishes, universities and other non-profits, has harvested and donated over 13,000 pounds of food grown at the Franciscan Monastery for area residents in need of healthy food.

Greater Brookland Garden Club Plant Sale Saturday

Flower Garden 6The Greater Brookland Garden Club will host its 9th annual plant sale this Saturday. From a message from Mary Pat Rowan, the President of the GBGC:

…the Annual Greater Brookland Garden Club Plant Sale is the Saturday before Mother’s Day and the same day as the Great Brookland Yard Sale. It is on May 7th from 10 am until 4 pm and we will be located in the Long and Foster parking lot at the corner of 12th Street and Newton. We do not have “fancy” plants; we sell plants of Brookland gardens. They have done so well in a Brookland garden, they are being shared with the rest of the community. First 200 people who visit us that day will receive a free native perennial.

Also note that the GBGC has a new website, you can check it out here.

DPR Offers Free Summer Urban Garden Workshop Series

While these events don’t take place in Brookland, we know Brooklanders love to garden, and would be interested in the Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Urban Garden Workshop Series.  There will be over 40 workshops, with topics like Intro to Urban Beekeeping, Rooftop Gardening 101, and  Vertical Gardens and are being offered now through September 28th. All workshops are free, however registration is required. Resister for workshops here.

Franciscan Monastery Open House Saturday – Greenhouse, Urban Beekeeping, And More

Franciscan Monastery Brookland NE Washington DC
Brookland’s Franciscan Monastery. Photo courtesy of RANdom Walkway Tumblr.

Our neighbors at the The Franciscan Monastery will be having an open house event this Saturday April 30th from 10:00 -12:00. The open house is hosted by the Monastery’s Garden Guild, whose mission it is to preserve and promote the gardens at the Franciscan Monastery. From the Garden Guild website:

Experienced and new gardeners are welcome. Tour the greenhouse, the vegetable, herb and cut-flower gardens, plus our honey bee apiaries. Ask questions about gardening and beekeeping and learn how you can volunteer…The FMGG volunteers also cultivate vegetables and herbs – last year, over 6,000 pounds were donated to families in need in the District of Columbia – maintain beehives, offer workshops, lead garden tours and organize special events. Questions? Contact us via email atgardenguild@gmail.com.

Meet up with the group  at the greenhouse behind the Monastery. The Monastery is located at 1400 Quincy Street NE. For more information check out the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guildwebsite, Facebook page or give them a call at (703) 967-0958.

Franciscan Monastery Plant And Herb Sale This Weekend

Franciscan Monastery Brookland NE Washington DCThe Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild Annual Plant & Herb Sale has evolved into a very popular neighborhood event. This year the sale will take place on  Saturday, April 23rd, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday, April 24, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. The sale is located at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, at 1400 Quincy St., NE. For more information, check out the  Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild’s event page here.  From their website:

Plants will include:

  • Herbs and vegetables
  • Roses, annuals and perennials
  • Shrubs and fruit trees
  • Camellias and azaleas
  • Monastery-grown plants

Plus food and craft vendors – and more! Questions or interested in volunteering to set up/take down? Email us.

Thanks To The Greater Brookland Garden Club For Sprucing Up 12th Street

We want to send out a big thank you to the Greater Brookland Garden Club for sprucing up the tree boxes on 12th between Quincy and Randolph Streets, NE, in front of Petals Ribbons and Beyond and San Antonio Bar and Grill. Before the tree boxes were really sad looking with lots of weeds and dead trees. Now they are nicely mulched, with six new redbud trees, accent grasses and herbs. Check out the makeover in the photos below.

Greater Brookland Garden Club Membership Time – (Re)Join Now Online

GBGC House and Garden Tour Party 2013. Photo Courtesy of Tom Bridge's Bit Bucket.
GBGC House and Garden Tour Party 2013. Photo Courtesy of Tom Bridge’s Bit Bucket.

The Greater Brookland Garden Club (GBGC) is a great way to meet your neighbors and share/learn about gardening, not to mention the awesome parties! Membership  is from March to March, so the time renew or become a new member is now – and its super easy -you can pay your annual dues online at their membership page.  Dues are $15 for the year, and get you invited to garden parties every other month on Sundays and gardening events on the Saturdays of alternate months. The GBGC also plants and maintains public gardens in Brookland,  holds a Mothers’ Day plant sale in May and sponsors one of the premier neighborhood events, the Brookland House & Garden Tour in June.