This post is part of our @PhillyH2O at Home series: fun at-home science and learning activities from our Fairmount Water Works educators and other partners to help your family stay engaged with water issues.

The Philadelphia Water Department is a big advocate of gardens, whether they are public or private rain gardens, community gardens, or just backyard raised beds greening a little patch of concrete because gardens hold and help filter rainwater.

We support community gardens in a number of ways.

We help these neighborhood green spaces get safe water access, provide discounts for water use, and waive stormwater fees. We created a special guide to give you detailed information about these initiatives: Guide for Urban Gardens & Farms: Getting Water 

We also advocate for gardens at home because a well-maintained garden on your property will soak up and clean water better when it rains compared to a lawn. Lawns don’t add as much to our city’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity. They have to be mowed, which can hurt air quality; they often require fertilizers and chemicals, and they need to be watered frequently in the summer.

Gardens provide beauty, food, habitat for important pollinators like Monarch butterflies and native bees, soaks up an incredible amount of water, filters groundwater, cools the land, and helps alleviate stress.

Whether you have a garden or a lawn, we encourage Philadelphia residents to only use organic materials when it comes to fertilizing the soil. Whenever it rains, there’s a good chance that some of what you put into the ground will get washed into local waterways.

The less bad stuff that gets into our water through stormwater runoff, the better it is for the wildlife and people depending on our rivers and creeks.

If you are starting a garden, a great way to get organic fertilizer and save money is to create your own compost using kitchen scraps from fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, and other non-meat or protein foods. It takes some time and some practice, but in the end you get great food for your plants, and it doesn’t put chemicals or excess nutrients in our water.

You'll even reduce the waste our Streets Department friends have to cart off—a big deal during a time when the pandemic has increased at-home trash and impacted the waste workforce!

Less waste means less use of energy, so the carbon released to the air is less as well. Win, win, win.

As a stay-at-home project with her daughters, @PhillyH2O blogger and social media team member Saterria Kersey started her own compost bin and documented it on video.

Check it out:

Here are some more resources from the Philadelphia Master Gardeners program and others: