Eyesore lot to lush garden

Nehemiah Project youth lend a hand to bring life to a once barren lot in downtown Milwaukee.

St. Michael’s Green Committee received permission to beautify a corner lot that adjoins our property and which had become an eyesore in recent years. Once permission was granted, parishioners trimmed trees and brush, picked up garbage, tilled the ground and prepared it for planting. Nehemiah Project youth helped. The Green Committee chose to work in conjunction with Milwaukee Urban Gardens (use of rototiller), the Victory Garden Initiative (installation of three raised beds), the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (donation of one 55 gallon rain barrel), the Milwaukee Community Service Corp (installation of said rain barrel), and the Nehemiah Project youth and four parish families.

With the help of Nehemiah youth, a parishioner disconnected the downspouts so they no longer send the water from the roof of the Samaritan House directly into the sewer system and installed a rainwater collection system. Two totes and one rain barrel have the capacity to collect and hold 485 gallons of water from the downspouts on the north and west sides of Samaritan House. A hose connects to the spigots for watering the garden. Future Activities: The community garden will provide for the Green Committee’s role-modeling goals. Anticipated future projects include a seed-starting event, a composting workshop, rain barrel installation with teams of volunteers at parishioner’s homes, and workshops on permaculture and companion planting. Environmental Impact: The rainwater collection system promotes the use of rainwater rather than city water for watering the garden plants. It keeps the relatively clean roof water out of the sewer system where it would become more contaminated by mixing with combined sewage and possibly overflow to Lake Michigan.

In addition to protecting the lake, this is also a cost-savings for the city of Milwaukee because it means less water going through the city’s treatment plant. Instead, this water naturally infiltrates the ground, helping to sustain ground water levels. Community Impact: The community garden provided a positive gardening experience for urban youth who had no previous experience of gardening, and allowed for fresh food, as well as a healthy and productive place to spend time.

This Cool Congregations story was submitted by St. Michael’s Parish, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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