Culture Undiscovered: Gardening Made Easy at Roosevelt Row Growhouse

Time for another confession: I am not outdoorsy. The thing is, I never really feel guilty about it until it’s nice outside; even the most devoted tree huggers have trouble leaving the comfort of air conditioning in 100+ degree weather. However, it’s about that time of year again, and I have to admit that going outside doesn’t sound half bad right now. That’s why last Sunday I took the opportunity to head down to the Roosevelt Growhouse and do some gardening.

The Growhouse. Photo by Jessica Pruett.

Growhouse is a community garden that began three years ago as a vacant lot in downtown Phoenix. It has been transformed by local artists Kenny Barrett and Kelly Placke, and now not only functions as a sustainable garden, but also as an artist collective and boutique. The garden isn’t just pretty either — vegetables grown there are sold to the Phoenix farmer’s market and several local restaurants, as well as given to volunteers to take home.

The garden is a lesson in desert farming and community effort. In a city that’s notoriously bereft of greenery, Growhouse is a square acre of pure heaven for nature lovers all over the Valley. That in itself is a feat worth marveling at, but the fact that it’s kept alive by hundreds of volunteers makes it all the more amazing. While all of this is impressive, the best part is that volunteering there actually is really fun. I don’t have a green thumb by any means (the extent of my adventures in gardening as a child was the purchase of two grocery store ferns, both of which I killed), but even I felt comfortable helping out.

The Growhouse. Photo by Jessica Pruett.

Growhouse volunteers get to help out with the various vegetables that are grown and sold there, in addition to the burgeoning herb garden and many flowers that protect the garden from insects and passersby. It’s a challenge to make pulling weeds and composting them sound fun, but I can honestly say that it was. I got to feel helpful while hanging out with my friends (and making friends with Growhouse’s two cats) in gorgeous weather, and cute old people walking by complimented me on how beautiful the garden was. I know it’s not mine, but they were so nice that I went along with it anyway.

It’s rare that I connect with nature, but as I left the garden, dirty and wide awake at a time when I’d usually be sleeping or eating waffles, I was surprised to find myself feeling sad that I had to go. If that’s not a testament to the fun, welcoming environment that the folks over at Growhouse have created then I don’t know what is. Interested in volunteering? Roosevelt Growhouse is located at 902 N. 6th St., Phoenix, and takes volunteers every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The garden shuts down from June 1 to August 15, just in time for me to retreat back into air-conditioned paradise.

Email me with any cultural gems at jlpruett@asu.edu.