Community Gardens

A Day in the Life: A Grow to Learn School Garden tour

Grow to Learn celebrated the end of the 2013-14 school year with a tour of four school gardens in Harlem and the Bronx. Since launching in February 2011, 438 schools have joined Grow to Learn, making them eligible for garden grant funding, training and materials offered by Grow to Learn partners GrowNYC, NYC Parks Department’s GreenThumb Division and NYC Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood. Join us on this virtual tour of some dynamic school gardening programs:

Stepping into the hydroponics classroom at PS 208m The Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship, several fifth graders sat huddled over small tanks in front of them.  They were adjusting and observing the miniature hydroponics systems they had designed and built themselves.  Behind them stood the rows of basil, rainbow chard, and lettuce they’d been tending in the larger classroom system that served as their model. 

The class, taught by hydroponics teacher Tina Wong, begins with the history and basics of hydroponics, includes lots of planting and harvesting (each student tends to one plant, and picks what they get to grow), and ends with a STEM-infused experimental design unit.  Next year, students will test their know-how against the elements by expanding their garden – for the first time – outdoors.  With the help of City Year and Grow to Learn staff, PS 208 built an outdoor garden area with raised beds in cheerful shades of purple, yellow, red, and blue.  During the coming school year, students will run a small farmers’ market as part of their class, learning economics and business principles as they garden.

Ask the students at Family Life Academy Charter School, the next stop on our tour, if they know a good place to get local produce, and they might just tell you their roof.  During our visit, FLACS students could be spotted pulling young carrots straight from the ground, lining up at the hose for a quick rinse, and munching away.  Between bites, students shared a variety of facts they’d learned researching different crops in the garden (originally, students had been asked to create labels for crops, but got so excited they would up making a fact-packed laminated brochure for every plant in the garden). 

The school’s chef, Chef Bennett, looked on proudly.  He uses garden produce (especially herbs) in the school’s cafeteria, and uses the garden as a way to make healthy eating more appetizing, exciting, and understandable to the students that pass through his lunchroom.  We were lucky enough to stay for lunch, and enjoyed a fresh salad bar, roasted cauliflower, and other healthy treats!

At Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy, students spoke eloquently about the hard work and long hours they’d contributed to the garden.  They shared their different roles (from seed-purchaser to resident photographer), their garden struggles (a four-flight bucket brigade to bring soil to their terrace garden came to mind), and the rewards of all their hard work – like pesto from garden-grown basil served in the cafeteria.  Currently in their second season, the Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy gardeners felt more seasoned, and expected to produce over 400 tomatoes – a bumper crop compared to the four they said they harvested last year!

We ended the day with a sweet surprise at PS 154x Jonathan D. Hyatt: members of the Chicken and Garden Club greeted us at the garden gate with a bucket of freshly picked raspberries.  Older students, about to graduate, showed up-and-coming Garden Club students the ropes: from watering, to weeding, to eating radishes straight from the ground.  Most exciting, though, was the run on the far side of the building where “The Ladies” live.  Four hens (Storm, CoCo, Tami, and Diva) live and roost in a coop and run abutting Alexander Avenue, and are a constant source of curiosity and delight for teachers, students, neighborhood residents, and passersby.

ANNOUNCING: Governors Island Urban Farm!

GrowNYC is excited to announce the opening of a brand new urban farm on Governors Island! Governors Island Urban Farm was created as a result of the combined efforts of GrowNYC and the Trust for Governors Island, after the demand for our program at Randall's Island Urban Farm became higher than we could accommodate.

Governors Island Urban Farm is an 8,000 square foot urban farm that will feature over 20 vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, a gourd tunnel, fruit trees, a bean teepee, an outdoor kitchen, and so much more!

The farm will host free field trips for New York City public school and summer camp groups April-November. If you would like to schedule a field trip for the Summer 2014 season, please fill out the Field Trip Request Form. Due to the high demand of field trips, a spot is not guaranteed.

In addition to scheduled school visits, the farm will host gardening workshops and will be open to the public during weekends from July 12 through September 28, 12pm-4pm. GrowNYC will provide tours, volunteer opportunities, and activities for children and families. Please check our website for scheduled events.

If you are interested in receiving information about upcoming field trip, workshop, or volunteer opportunities, please fill out the Governors Island Urban Farm Survey.

Grow to Learn NYC Congratulates Carson Daly and the Today Show for "shining a light" on the importance of school gardens

A statement by Marcel Van Ooyen Executive Director, GrowNYC

I want to personally congratulate Carson Daly of the Today Show for supporting our efforts to build a garden in every New York City School.  Since its launch in February 2011, Grow to Learn NYC has been working to connect NYC public and charter schools with the funding, training and materials needed for their students to dig in, connect to nature and build more positive attitudes towards healthy foods.

As a result of our partnerships with city agencies, funders and fellow non-profits, 436 schools have registered garden projects with Grow to Learn, giving them access to the garden mini-grants, training, material giveaways as well as opportunities and resources offered by greening and wellness partner organizations--with a focus on supporting schools in underserved communities like the South Bronx, Central and East Harlem and Central Brooklyn.

To date, Grow to Learn has distributed $517,000 in 331 garden mini-grants to schools. And one hundred percent of funds raised for mini-grants go directly to the schools to allow them to purchase what they need from local retailers so their learning garden programs can bloom.  

We are deeply grateful to Mr. Daly and the Today Show for highlighting the need to expand gardens to all schools and look forward to seeing more school gardens bloom around the city. 

GrowNYC Releases Resilient Garden Manual

GrowNYC is proud to announce the release of the Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide, a practical guide on making your garden more resilient, including step-by-step guidelines to minimizing storm damage.

Superstorm Sandy came as a surprise to so many New Yorkers and lack of proper prevention exacerbated its impact. As weather incidents are more frequent, it is important that we take simple steps to minimize damage and have access to information that will help our green spaces get back online, serving New Yorkers.

GrowNYC is committed to creating a healthier, more resilient city for all of us by providing free tools and resources any New Yorker can take advantage of to improve their community. We hope this toolkit helps you to steward your green space responsibly and to ensure enjoyment for years to come thanks to sound design and preparedness.

We’ve outlined what to do before and after a major storm or other weather event so that you will be better prepared. From preventive pruning techniques to ways to secure garden features, we hope this guide will serve as a practical resource for you and your green space.

Get the Guide!

Best of the GrowNYC's 2013 Plant Sale

We're happy to say that the GrowNYC's 2013 Annual Spring Plant Sale, in its 28th year, was a huge success!  Over 500 community gardens, schools, block associations, and more received flowers, vegetables, and herbs grown by five local Greenmarket farmers.

We've spent weeks working at our new Bronx pickup site, College Avenue GreenThumb, and Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Brooklyn, helping them rebound from the beatings they took in Hurricane Sandy, and both gardens looked beautiful for the sale.  

Thanks to everyone who came out - gardeners, volunteers, and our hard working Open Space Greening staff!

         

Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools


GrowNYC formed a partnership with Wagner Middle School in Manhattan called Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools, funded by NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin. Under one roof, we are providing support from five GrowNYC programs: Learn It Grow It Eat It, Grow to Learn School Gardens, Greenmarket Youth Education, Recycling Champions and Environmental Education. For an entire year, GrowNYC staff is educating young people about how to lead lives that improve their personal health and that of the environment around them; so that eating, growing, learning and going green become second nature.

On the recycling front, we recently helped Wagner launch a school-wide cafeteria recycling program – 1,200 students in grades 6-8 sorted everything from trays to milk cartons, placing them in their proper containers with help from dozens of student volunteers and Green Team members. 1,200 students recycling milk cartons for one year will save 31 trees!

To keep it fun, grades are competing to see who can reduce their overall waste – on a weekly basis, the amount of waste will be calculated and the winning grade announced on Fridays. At the end of every month, the grade that has reduced waste and recycled the most will receive special “Out-Lunch” privileges. Wagner has averaged a daily reduction of 9 bags of garbage or 17%, while generating an extra bag of recyclables.

The contest, designed by the Green Team, was the culmination of an outreach campaign they undertook to educate their classmates. Working with their advisor, teacher and sustainability coordinator Jessica Gordon, students created posters, morning announcements, and a PowerPoint. The success of the program could not have been possible without the support and help of Wagner’s administration and staff.

GrowNYC presents Stormwater Management workshops at NYC Botanical Gardens

In the coming months, GrowNYC's Open Space Greening Assistant Director Lenny Librizzi will be presenting a series of Stormwater Management workshops at NYC botanical gardens.

These two-hour workshops will cover stormwater management best practices for community gardeners and homeowners. Learn how to conserve water and help prevent pollution from stormwater by discussing topics such as rainwater harvesting, swales, rain gardens, enhanced tree pits, permeable paving, and more.

Information about sources for start-up materials and how-to tips will be discussed.

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx) Wednesday, February 6, 6pm to 8pm
Watson Education Building
Registration required; e-mail bronxgreenup@nybg.org or call 718.817.8026. 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden 
Wednesday, February 27, 6pm to 8pm
Registration required; Enroll here

Queens Botanical Garden
Saturday, April 6, 11am to 1pm
Fee: Free with Garden Admission (pre-registration required)
Registration required; e-mail schoolprograms@queensbotanical.org or call 718-886-3800 x.230.

El Jardin del Pueblo grows in East New York

GrowNYC is proud to announce the completion of El Jardin del Pueblo, a 5,300 square-foot community garden at 2358 Pitkin Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. El Jardin del Pueblo was originally three vacant lots owned by NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The community based organization Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation approached HPD with the idea of turning the lot into a temporary hub for community building, urban agriculture, and organic chicken production.

In April, GrowNYC started site work on El Jardin, and brought 50 volunteers from Timberland to the garden for Earth Day 2012. Our Timberland volunteers cleared 2 of the 3 lots, covered the garden with landscape fabric and mulch, built 30 raised garden beds, and installed a 1,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system.

In June, the garden received 25 heirloom chickens, which produce organic eggs that are distributed to the garden's members.

In September, GrowNYC and volunteers from Bank of America cleared the 3rd vacant lot, laying down landscape fabric and mulch, and prepping the site for further development.

In October, GrowNYC and volunteers from Swiss Re developed the 3rd lot, building 5 raised beds, constructing and raising a 200 square foot shade structure, installing a 500 gallon rainwater harvesting system, and building 2 picnic tables.

A huge thanks to all of our volunteers, to NYC HPD, and to Cypress Hills Local Development Corp!

Featured Grow to Learn Garden: Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, & Engineering

Grow to Learn NYC: the Citywide School Gardens Initiative was established in 2010 as a public-private partnership between GrowNYC, The Mayor’s Fund, and several government agency partners. Grow to Learn profiles successful school gardens in their monthly newsletter The School Gardens Beet. The September profile appears below. It was a week before the school year officially began yet Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering (CSS-MSE)’s garden was blooming with activity as students planted pollinator-attracting perennials, filled beds with soil, weeded, added trellis lines to tomato plants, turned the compost, and painted. Abby (13), Ashley (12), and Ariana (11) led me around their garden, expertly identifying their crops and generously offering me tastes along the way. Constructed by students practicing their engineering skills, the raised beds were lined with plastic and chicken wire to dissuade animals from burrowing inside. As we moved on, some unique and colorful structures caught my eye. The garden has two rainwater barrels painted as a chicken and a pig, and a large brightly-painted wooden shed. The front is painted with chalkboard paint where students list their garden to-dos and create temporary works of art. Ashley pointed out the different tools and supplies in the shed, but was particularly proud of the supply of extra work boots in case a student isn’t wearing proper footwear. Abby was also proud to point out the garden’s six compost bins and their contents.

Abby’s dad built the garden’s most recent addition: the compost tumbler. Made out of salvaged materials, it includes engineering that will enable them to harvest natural gas from the compost! Using student recipes and ideas, they plan to use the gas for cooking in the garden, an activity that the students enthusiastically lead from prep to feast. What were these students doing in the garden during their summer vacation? Ariana expressed that she likes to plant and “growing different types of plants and vegetables is cool.” Ashley loves the garden, it is “a place for me and my friends to gather while helping the environment and still have fun.” Abby agreed and added that being in the garden “is a chance to get away from the city.” Behind the students’ love for the garden is a dedicated and inspirational teacher, Meredith Hill. Meredith’s goal is to make the garden as student-driven as possible. During the month of June, students participate in an elective course focusing on one topic. Abby and Ashley joined Meredith and 30 other classmates in the garden for a Food and Sustainability course where they learned garden care, compost, raised bed construction, and how to prepare meals using produce from the garden, choosing what to plant and cook. The course culminated in the publication of Fresh!, a student-authored anthology created entirely by the 7th grade Food and Sustainability Class and features some of our favorite GreenThumb school gardeners. Students teach skills that they learn to fellow gardeners and the rest of the school community. From Garden to Café harvest events incorporating garden produce into the menu to collecting food waste for composting, the school gardeners have a big presence during lunch at CSS-MSE. Following a student suggestion, the School Food Director allowed students to harvest, prepare and add fresh veggies to pizza as well as distribute samples of garden produce from tomatoes to kale chips. To keep the students’ interest and excitement—and the garden—maintained, Meredith introduced open garden hours during the summer. Students were able to choose their level of involvement with the garden and it provides a chance for students who were not in her class to dig in and help. CSS-MSE’s gardening successes didn’t come without challenges. After two years of having a rooftop garden, new regulations made them unable to use the space. Meredith explained, “I started looking for spaces elsewhere to garden, and a colleague suggested that I check out this space. The site was indeed overgrown and abandoned. Once we discovered it was a Parks Department property, I contacted GreenThumb and we started the process of registering it as a garden. Crucial to this process was finding interested parents and colleagues who helped make connections and offer support to the garden. We received keys about a year later, in the spring of 2010.” Meredith and her students are so grateful for all the support they have received from GreenThumb and Grow to Learn as they have built and improved their garden. Now that the school year has begun, they will transition some of their beds into colder-weather crops, and hope to extend the growing season, thanks to new row-covers from a recent GreenThumb workshop! They plan to hold leaf raking parties in Morningside Park to stow away lots of brown material for their year of cafeteria compost. Meredith will incorporate the garden into her English class this year as a way to demonstrate how gardening supports the Common Core standards. Students are also enthusiastically planning a GreenThumb composting workshop for this October that will be led by 7th and 8th grade students. Keep a lookout in our October newsletter for the exact date, time, and location.

Help GrowNYC Win a New Grow Truck!

Grow Truck is GrowNYC's mobile tool-lending program, delivering tools, donated plants, soil, compost, and lumber, and dispensing on-site technical assistance all across New York City, for free since 1977. We've had our current Grow Truck for 23 years, and it's time for a new one - and you can help us get a brand new truck by voting for GrowNYC in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good contest on Facebook. On Sunday May 20th, go to 100carsforgood.com and vote for GrowNYC. In the meantime, you can "Attend" our Facebook event so you get a reminder to vote for us on the 20th. Until May 20th, watch the video we made especially for this contest, and look through some of our photos below of the Grow Truck's past 35 years. And by all means - if you've got a project that you need to borrow tools for, let us know!

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