A gardeners’ WPA?



For example, this Olmsted park in South Buffalo could always use more care than it gets.

One British paper called it an “army of Titchmarshes” to be unleashed in the UK’s parks systems. I do like this moderately-scaled apprenticeship program where unemployed Brits can work and learn gardening skills in their public parks and gardens. The program is costing £1 million.

Former Ground Force/Gardeners’ World star Alan Titchmarsh claims that “the practical skills provided by apprenticeships are every bit as important as university degrees, especially those involved with the landscape and environment,” in his endorsement of the government-sponsored project. I would love to see some money spent to employ and train gardeners in America’s public green spaces-maybe just a bit could be spared from the billions we’re pumping into the financial industry.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Love the idea. Maybe this could be tied in to the problem of birds nesting early somehow; the apprentices could help develop insect-rearing plantings or even monitor the insect populations that will feed the birds. Crazy maybe; just a thought.

  2. Every night I pray for someone to inject a gene to create rabid horticulturists. We’re just a tad too passive to get people’s blood boiling. Maybe we need to enlist the help of chlorophyl-feeding zombies. Hmmmmmm…good plot line for a Steven King novel.

  3. Hear ! Hear ! Not only would it get the immediate job(s) done, it would raise up a generation and more of people who know what value we have in our parks & public places, and will be fierce defenders of it.

  4. so are there any programs like that now? here in the united states of america? any site about volunteering for community gardens?

  5. The state sponsored, volunteer Master Gardener program has been successfully disseminating horticulture since its start in the NW in the 1970’s. Lincoln’s Morrill Land-Grant College Act preceded and allowed for the proliferation of Master Gardeners.

  6. Not quite a gardening WPA but pretty close: Here in California the Center for Land Based Learning’s SLEWS program has been fixing up neglected farm margins, roadsides and parks, and teaching ecological restoration to high schoolers for years(full disclosure: I work for CLBL… but not on the SLEWS program).

    High School classes involved in SLEWS adopt a site, usually on a farm margin, but sometimes in a park. The students then transform the site by pickng up trash, removing invasive plant species, planting native plants and installing irrigation. They beautify the landsacape, increase plant biodiversity, provide habitat for animals and learn job skills. Everybody wins!

    It’s a really cool program. Check it out http://www.landbasedlearning.org/slews.php

  7. What I would love is all those unused empty lots that grow weeds year after year and no one has bothered to develop. Turn those lots on a year to year lease community gardens. It may not be there next year, but people have a year to grow some nice annual veggies. If anything, maybe the people who own the lots might get a tax break for loaning the land out to a community cause.

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