Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New York City's Community Gardens

Yesterday I wrote about Buster English, a Brooklyn man who tends a garden at his Fort Greene housing project. But English is far from the only person in New York City who grows vegetables and flowers.

In fact, the network of community gardens is quite extensive. The gardens vary in size from small patches of a few hundred square feet to larger areas that occupy entire city blocks.

According to the Department of Parks & Recreation’s GreenThumb website, there are “over 600 member gardens serving 20,000 city residents.” But the number of gardens and gardeners is undoubtedly higher, since the Parks Department’s totals do not include non-affiliated backyard and rooftop gardens, plus the garden patches alongside commuter rail lines throughout the city.

Several weeks ago I took a day trip with a friend to the outer reaches of Queens and Brooklyn. We came across three sanctioned community gardens, including two idyllic locales that seemed more small-town America than big bad New York City. The gardens at Floyd Bennett Field (New York City’s first municipal airport) and Fort Tilden (a former Army base) were teeming with peas, lettuces, tomatoes and zucchini.

The third, though, presented a completely different feel. The New Visions Garden (photo) was in the shadows of the elevated subway tracks in East New York, not exactly known as the safest place in the city. But just like in countless other gardens all over the five boroughs, the effort and commitment of the local gardeners was obvious.

Even if you have access to only a window sill and not a community garden, try raising some parsley or basil in a small pot or paper cup. You’ll be surprised at what you can grow in even the smallest of places.


Megan said...

Hi Rob. It's embarrassing to say, but I haven't the faintest idea on how to successfully germinate and grow a plant (watering, soil and drainage requirements, etc). Would you a know of a place in the NYC area that provides lectures or information on how to grow? Or perhaps you know of a good book with beginner information. -- Thanks - Meg

Chef Rob said...

Meg - I'll try to find a place in NYC that offers what you are looking for. Give me a couple days! In the meantime, check out Storey Publishing - http://www.storey.com/ - There's a good chance they publish a book about basic gardening.

Hope that helps.


Chef Rob said...

Meg - Check out this website; it has links to a lot of groups that may have good information for you.


Hope that helps.