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Growing Gardens and Community in Franklin Park


The biggest misconception about gardening, according to Bill Dawson? The work is too hard.

The dirt and digging turn off many, but it is Dawson’s job to convert folks using his green thumb and the Growing to Green program at Franklin Park. A 5-acre campus on Columbus’ East Side with garden plots, tools and professional helping hands make his job a lot easier.

Franklin Park is home to one of the largest public edible gardens in the country, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus. It is home base for Dawson. Here he oversees Growing to Green, a Franklin Park Conservatory program that engages residents of the surrounding neighborhood through gardening and urban farming. When he’s not working the dirt, Dawson is visiting nearby churches, community organizations and schools to find those “green” to gardening.

“Everyone thinks the work is so hard, but with two or five more people it not only gets easier, it gets fun!” Dawson says. “In the process of working, you connect with those around you. You get to know people and get the work done.”

These connections made in the garden bring people of diverse cultures, incomes and ages together and physically transform neighborhoods. Abandoned lots have become lush green spaces, like the Four Seasons City Farm on Bryden Road, and participants take ownership of their communities.

“We take the dark spaces and change them,” Dawson says.

Interested residents can get down and dirty at the community garden campus in one of the 44 plots available for free use, or at one of the “Dirty Dozen”—12 neighborhood garden hubs sponsored by the Growing to Green program.

Take a tour through the community garden campus as well as one of the garden hubs in the slideshows below.

Courtney Gilbert

Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus at Franklin ParkSt. Vincent de Paul Community Garden

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Heading East Preview

Next time on Columbus Neighborhoods, a look at the migration of people moving East in Central Ohio. We’ll tour the Franklin Park neighborhood, remember Ameriflora ’92, meet the mayor of Whitehall and learn the history of Buckeye Lake. Watch at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13 on WOSU TV.