Rock Brown grew up on Wilmington’s East side, and doesn’t remember any community gardens in the area in the 1960s.
But he does remember something else.
“In ’68 I remember the riots in the cities," Brown said. "As a matter of fact, I remember my mother and I going to Washington.”
They went to march in Washington for civil rights as the riots flared up across the country, including Wilmington. Today, those riots are portrayed on a mural that’s the backdrop to the Valley Community Garden at Eighth and Jefferson street where Brown works as the garden coordinator.
In 2004, the Valley Community Garden piqued Brown's curiosity. It used to be a vacant lot where neighbors would throw trash.
“We don’t have too many green spaces around here, most of it is just concrete and asphalt and brick buildings," Brown said. "So it’s a nice little green space like a little oasis. And it helps the community because the food we can’t eat, the gardeners, we just pass it out to the members of the community.”
Brown, who calls himself a ‘seat of the pants’ gardener, planted on the garden's most prominent features: its signature peach tree about eight years ago from the pit of a peach he ate himself.
He let the pit dry out for about a year, then simply put it in the ground.
“I didn’t do any research, I just said this is good peach and I’d like to make some more of these peaches," Brown said. "So I planted that peach seed. I didn’t do any research I planted it, and let’s see what’s going to happen.”
The tree started growing and about four years later, peaches started growing. Brown says the peaches start to ripen in July and this year the tree yielded 500-600 peaches, which he gives to community members and donates to places like the House of Joseph homeless shelter.
And Brown notes it’s a lot of fruit for relatively little work. He says compared to other plants he has to spray vinegar and hot sauce on to keep the bugs off of, the peach tree requires minimal maintenance: just pruning, fertilization and watering.
While the garden won’t be very active this winter, there are a few beds open for community members wanting to learn how to plant – and grow – their own produce in the spring.
There are also beds available in other community gardens across the First State. Contact the Delaware Center for Horticulture to learn more.