Tag Archives: DIY Citizen

Blooming Sidewalks: Greening the Urban Street

The sidewalk planter in front of our house!

The sidewalk planter in front of our house!

You may have noticed West Rockland Street has a lot of flower planters lining the sidewalk. You’d almost think you were walking along Germantown Avenue in the Chestnut Hill business district 🙂 So how did it happen?

Last year, a few households planted pots and set them out. Initially there was some fear that the planters would be stolen, broken or wrecked by kids. But, that didn’t happen.

This spring, Aine included sidewalk planters as a packaged item in the annual Grow This Block! planting day and a few more households joined the beautification effort. The idea really started to catch on as participation grew. Other residents admired the work of their neighbors and by mid-summer, more households joined the sidewalk planter club.

There are now over a fifteen planters lining the block, including five pots along the perimeter of the vacant lot at the corner of West Rockland and Greene Streets. To make the planters durable, residents weighted the pots down with heavy rocks and planted a variety of heat loving annuals. Three households also planted empty tree pits with full sidewalk gardens. Amazingly green!

Looking up West Rockland Street.

Looking up West Rockland Street.

Flower planters and sidewalk gardens are a motivating tool against blight and help brighten up the neighborhood. By setting beautiful examples and making it easy for people to get involved, we were able to get high participation. Aine purchased supplies in bulk and made a package deal (see the flyer below). For just $20, residents could purchase a planter with potting soil, plants, and rocks for the bottom. Residents then planted their own pots, which inspired people be creative and take ownership of their hard work.

Our planter packages were offered at a discount thanks to donations and support from a 2013 Philadelphia Activities Grant, awarded to the block by Councilwoman Cindy Bass. You can also reduce costs by buying in bulk, growing plants from seed and keeping an eye out for sales. If the sidewalk planter project can work on a little block in Southwest Germantown, then it can work anywhere. Get a few neighbors growing and create demand.


JuJu biking by Aine's planter.

JuJu biking by Aine’s planter. Photo by Ann Doley.

Aine and Jamir tending our flower pot.

Aine and Jamir tending our flower pot.

2013.07.19_Rockland Street Planters Flyer

Download a PDF of the flyer.

Cobblestones rescued from Germantown Avenue construction

Cobblestones rescued from Germantown Avenue construction.

A new sidewalk garden grows. In the fall, a new street tree will be planted in its place.

A new sidewalk garden grows. In the fall, a new street tree will be planted in its place.


Cleanup Philadelphia with A Litter Scavenger Hunt

On August 4, we pitched a tent and signed up about 15 kids who were out and about on the block, ranging in age from 3 to 13.

Kids worked solo and in pairs with names like Team Bomb, Cool Kids and Star Girls. Armed with a list of commonly littered items from cigarette butts to fast food packaging to bonuses like clothing, the kids set out to collect trash discarded on the sidewalk, in the street and in the block’s vacant lots.

The list!

The almighty list! See the full list up-close.

Donning neon vests and plastic gloves, the sleuths stormed up and down the block quickly filling their plastic grocery store bags with litter of all kinds.

Not before long, the kids rushed back to the tent with bags unfortunately bursting with garbage to have their bounty scanned and sorted. The organizing crew spread out the litter collection on a table and examined all the different elements while matching the items to the lists.

Displaying and sorting all that litter was the most important part of the experience. Kids got to see just what kind of trash was all over our block.

At the end of the day, the kids received prizes, temporary tattoos and hot dogs.

Game for just about anything, children play a big role in cleanups across Philadelphia and their involvement in beautifying their own neighborhoods helps change behavior. The scavenger hunt is an easy and very low cost activity that you can do on your block!

To drive home the anti-litter message with the adult set, West Rockland Street also organizes block cleanups throughout the year and participates in the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee‘s (PMBC) official district cleanups and the Streets Department’s annual Philly Spring Cleanup.

After the cleanup, the children of West Rockland Street offered these suggestions on how to keep the block clean:

  1. “When you see a piece of trash on the ground, don’t walk by, just pick it up” – Harmony, 11
  2. “No spitting” – Ahjanayah, 11
  3. “Cleanup with brooms” – Kevon, 9
  4. “Use the trashcan” – Shaquille, 12
  5. “Sweep the porch” – Khadiera, 11
  6. “When you see someone litter ask them to pick it up” – Lamont, 10
  7. “No litter” – Alan,12
  8. “Pick up stuff and put it in the trash” – Shireef, 6
  9. “Clean up once a week” – Yahmina, 7
  10.  “Sweep the sidewalks on the block” –Indiya, 8