Growhouse looks to continue old ways in new garden

Irrigation lines lead to the Grow House shipping container. (John Spevacek/DD)

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds raked dirt and moved mulch despite 90 degree weather at the Roosevelt Growhouse community garden’s new location Saturday morning.

Artist Kenny Barrett founded the Growhouse in 2008, inspired to start the garden so he could learn more about where his food came from.

“I felt that disconnection with food that we all have nowadays,” Barrett said.

Barrett wants to improve the area around the Growhouse’s original location at the intersection of Sixth and Garfield Streets, where a house on the property served as a boutique store, the GROWop, specializing in vintage clothing and jewelry.

The garden had to move to a new location last year after a real estate developer bought the property. The garden was moved to the grounds of the Knipe House on Second Street, where it currently resides.

Within the next two years, Barrett would like to reopen the GROWop store now near the garden’s new home.

“It’ll probably change a little bit, we might focus a little bit more on garden, retail and sustainable lifestyle products,” Barrett said.

Barrett said this move required a temporary break in regular operation of the garden, as the new site had to be prepared to plant vegetables. This preparation included planting a patch of sunflowers for a special job.

“We got a field of sunflowers growing to help cleanse the earth,” Barrett said.

Garden volunteer Shirley Dieckman said the sunflowers absorb toxins harmful to plants from the soil, creating a more suitable environment for growing vegetables.

Dieckman said she has been volunteering at the Growhouse for about two months. She learned about the garden through her son, who is getting married at the garden next week.

Dieckman said she was surprised to learn the food grown at the garden is donated to charity instead of being sold.

“I was curious where the food went, and he (Barrett) said, ‘We don’t sell it,’” Dieckman said. Most of the food is donated to UMOM New Day Centers, a Phoenix shelter for homeless families.

Dieckman said she likes working in gardens, but is not good at keeping them herself. She was inspired to volunteer by gardens her father kept when she was younger.

Dieckman was joined Saturday by many other volunteers led by Matthew Roman, an ASU student who interned with Barrett. Before work began for the day, Roman instructed the volunteers on what to do. He demonstrated the proper technique for moving dirt and mulch, ensuring no damage to the delicate water piping system running through the garden.

Roman said he enjoys volunteering at the garden, but the actual gardening is only part of the appeal for him.

“Probably my favorite part is just working with the other people. I’m big into community and things like that, so I love meeting new people,” he said.

Barrett agreed that his favorite part about running the garden is the aspect of community.

“I think that’s a really good way to get to know people, is working hard together,” Barrett said.

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