Monday, June 11, 2012

More than Red Lights: Mama's Community garden

Every week I will add to a series of posts called "More than Red Lights" to share my personal experiences on why I believe Amsterdam is an amazing place to raise a family and why it is so much more than it's international red light reputation! This week's post is just the latest reason why I love this city and why I am so lucky to live here raising my babies!

We had to make one of the most difficult decisions three years ago after I found out I was preggers with #2...whether or not to move out of the city and into the 'burbs, so that the snot noses would have a garden and room enough to play.

Baby Daddy and the city guy working on the garden
We couldn't afford a bigger apartment with a garden on the ground floor in Amsterdam. So it was either a big move to the 'burbs or find something affordable in Amsterdam. We took a leap of faith that our kids would be happy no matter where we chose, and we decided to stay in "the city." We bought an apartment on the first floor with the only outside access being three small balconies. Not practical for the little ones, so the first few years was full of walks down the street to Vondelpark.

But that all changed last week! Baby Daddy hooked us up with our very own (ok we share with two other neighbors) garden in front of our house. We noticed that one block down the street the residents had turned their strip of bushes into a garden with a picnic table and vegetable garden. We thought well if they could do it then we should be able to do the same. After extensive research Baby Daddy found a contact with the "gemeente" or city government and he emailed the guy asking what we could do to have the same "garden".

Immediately the city representative answered us back and set up a meeting to discuss. All it took was for Baby Daddy to send an email around to the surrounding neighbors to have their input, and then the project was underway.

The wasted strip of bushes full of weeds and dog poop slowly turned into our community garden. This city rep pulled out all stops for us to have everything we no expense to us, we just had to help out. And the city even removed the bushes and tree, put down woodchips, supplied us an old picnic table and wood to refurbish it with and park benches. Ok, maybe it's not for free, but for once I don't mind paying so many taxes. It was amazing how much this rep helped us out. He even came by on a Saturday to help Baby Daddy put up the fence (which he also supplied) and re-work the picnic table.

And it was a success from the very first day! We met neighbors we hadn't met in the three years living here. We all sat together, drank wine and the kids had a blast playing in the "garden" and sidewalk. Matter-of-fact one of our neighbors has lived here 33 years and she said this was the best thing ever to happen to this street.

For me, finally after almost 10 years of living in "the city" I feel like I live in a community. I now know my neighbors and we have a place to meet together to BBQ, have a drink or enjoy the sunshine without sitting on the sidewalk. Most importantly, my kids have a little piece of green in the city to play safely in front of their own home! And it is all thanks to the City of Amsterdam and of course all the hard work Baby Daddy put into making it happen!

I know I have said it a 1,000 times but Amsterdam is an amazing place to raise a family and so much more than just a city full of red lights!


  1. What a great project! You popped up in our google alerts as you have a similar blog name to our website ( But looking at your photos I think you may actually be in the same neighbourhood as well. We (my neighbours and I) have been working with the gemeente to get our community gardens in place for the last few months. It is a bigger project than this (a garden and a separate playground) which has currently stalled for funding reasons so it is great to see one actually being completed.

    1. Hi Amsterdam Mamas! I love your website, what a great resource(I actually submitted a piece to you guys on part-time working! Matter of fact, I will check the activities on the site to find things to do this weekend!
      Good luck with your project! You are so lucky to have the space for a playground : ) I think the neighbors down the street are petitioning the gemeente to have the street closed off to traffic at certain times so that the kids can play safely (my street is full of school-age kids!)...Im curious to see how that turns out!


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