Edible Backyards is re-creating the spaces of olde-time homesteaders coming into Philadelphia. We are sharing a life-style sought by ourselves. By incorporating objects built from reclaimed wood into your backyards for the planting of fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, medicinal and culinary herbs and artist gilds, and for the caring of chickens and bees &c, we hope to help you create a life-style of self-sufficient living, a slowing down, and a home.
"Let every house be placed, if the person pleases, in the middle of its plat, as to the breadthway of it, so that there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards, or fields, that it may be a greene country towne, which will never be burnt & always wholesome." William Penn
Along with a growing gardening section in Peg and Awl, Edible Backyards offers reclaimed wood garden boxes for the ground or raised in a variety of sizes.
Gardening is one of the oldest skills of mankind. It has manifested itself in many ways throughout history from civilization cultivation, scientific exploration, food provision and moral regeneration. Philadelphia has been an important contributor to this metamorphosis. From the city’s founding till present day the fulfillment of growing plants flows strong in the city's blood. Whatever the motivation or impact on history, the act of watching things grow, to sow a seed and have it turn into a flower, fruit or vegetable has had an enduring legacy that rejuvenates and sustains.
Pre-Columbian American landscape was largely untamed; a wilderness. Europeans began to migrate in numbers in the 1600s bringing with them plants for food, many of which have become known to the present day gardener as weeds. This infiltration of foreign species swept the Americas and changed the landscape forever.
In 1681 William Penn founded Philadelphia with gardening and the growing of plants and trees in the forefront of his vision and plans.
"Let every house be placed, if the person pleases... so that there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards, or fields, that it may be a greene country towne, which will never be burnt & always wholesome." William Penn
In 1728 John Bartram, widely known as America's father of botany, started his gardens on the Schuylkill River. Traveling along the east coast he gathered, recorded and grew his plant findings. With his father’s extensive collection, Bartram Jr. created the first ever nursery catalogue of plants and sold them worldwide, kindling the desire to cultivate localized plants globally.
In 1784 David Landreth moved his seed company from Montreal to Philadelphia. With the establishment of a seed company that carried plants native to Europe, America and Asia, Landreth furthered the trend of food globalization. By the early 1900s in Philadelphia, seed companies had such an expansive catalogue that it became increasingly easy to source limitless seeds and plants from anywhere around the world. This industrialization of gardening changed the mindset of gardeners. Anyone could plant virtually anything without the practice of sustained gardening or seed saving.
WWI began, the depression hit and up until the end of WWII gardening became more of a necessity than ever. With many farmers sent off to war and enveloping poverty, the US government established Victory Gardens, encouraging and educating people to maintain gardens in their yards. Instructional videos, pamphlets and incentives, (seeds, tax breaks, &c) were created by the government and the gardens flourished.
In the mid to late 1900s Americans lost touch with gardening. As consumerism grew and grocery stores sprouted up across the country, the necessity for home gardening dwindled. The separation from garden to table grew and grew until people had no idea where or in what condition their food was grown.
With the present day food culture being ravaged by the monsters of food processing and globally-scaled agricultural production and shipping, there has been a moral regeneration to know how and where our food is cultivated. Growing one’s food, or buying from smaller scaled local farms and gardens is a good way to assure we know what we are eating.
With many factors all pointing to one common answe, people of cities and suburbs all over the world have begun a revival of gardens, orchards, and farms. Here in Philadelphia, we have a vibrant network of organizations and individuals at work.
Some of note are Greensgrow, Emerald Street Urban Farm, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, the Urban Tree Connection, Philly Food Forests and now, Edible Backyards!