Community Gardens

Prepare for Possible Weather Events with our Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide

In light of recent forecasts, which include the possibility of Hurricane Joaquin making landfall over the Eastern United States next week, GrowNYC is advising gardeners to consult our 2014 publication Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide

The guide, published in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, is a practical manual on making your garden more resilient, including step-by-step guidelines to minimizing storm damage.

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!

GrowNYC Builds 9 New Rainwater Harvesting Systems

This Spring and summer GrowNYC completed several new rainwater harvesting projects and updated several existing ones.

At Governors Island Teaching Garden, we installed 3 systems from a child sized shade structure that collects into 2 - 5 gallon containers and allows children to open and close valves which divert the flow of water either to the containers, a see through hose or a drain to the adjacent rain garden. 

To collect rainfall from the adjacent former Coast Guard housing, a 500 gallon tank was installed to collect from a large area of roof and two 50 gallon barrels collect from a smaller roof area. A flow meter was installed on the 500 gallon tank to monitor water usage. These installations were completed using funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. 6,000 visitors have interacted with the Green Infrastructure projects on Governors Island this season.

At  the Brook Park Community Garden in the Bronx, GrowNYC worked on a week long effort with  community gardeners and volunteers from In Good Company to install 3  new rainwater systems. A 1000 gallon cistern captures rainfall from the downspout of an adjacent home, a 250 gallon tank collects from an existing shed and 2 - 50 gallon barrels store water captured from a chicken coop.

GrowNYC staff worked with 10 youth aged 14 to 18 from Brotherhood Sister Soul in West Harlem to repair an existing rainwater system and install a new system in the Frank White Garden. Each system has 100 gallon storage and collects from existing shade structures in the garden. The youth learned about the New York City combined sewer system as well as getting hands on building experience  developing pollution prevention solutions.

GrowNYC staff completed a shade structure in the Morning Glory Garden in the Bronx which collects rainwater into a 300 gallon tank.

A new 300 gallon tank was installed at the Greenspace on Fourth Garden in Brooklyn. This new garden on land atop a water tunnel access site is a native plant garden where the gardeners installed a rain garden in collaboration with Brooklyn GreenBridge . The overflow from the rainwater system is diverted to the rain garden.

A 1000 gallon rainwater system at the St. John Cantius Garden in East New York, Brooklyn was reconnected to the adjacent building after it had been disconnected due to a change of ownership of the building.

These new and reconnected systems now bring the total number of rainwater harvesting systems in New York City Community Gardens to over 140 systems with the capacity to collect more than 1.5 million gallons of rainfall per year. An interactive map of these gardens and all rainwater harvesting sites can be found here.

Grow to Learn's How-To Gardening Series

Grow to Learn helps New York City schools to build and expand school gardens that are sustainable, responsive to their communities, and transformative for student learning. With over 500 schools in our network across all five boroughs, Grow to Learn has been thinking hard about how to continue to grow new gardens while still providing the hands-on technical assistance that existing school gardens need.

Our amazing staff have been planning, filming, and editing these short instructional videos for school gardeners. We plan to have a full suite of instructional ‘how-to’s’, addressing everything from building basic gardening structures to safe tool use to seasonal organic gardening practices.

Check out our first two installments: How to Build a Raised Bed and Best Practices: the Power Saw and make sure you check back for more in coming weeks!

The Season Begins at Governors Island Teaching Garden

A new season of garden-based programming for public school students has begun on GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden.  From April to November, we'll teach thousands of kids about where their food comes from and how to cook simple and nutritious recipes using garden-grown produce.

Among our newest additions to the garden is a solar cooker, made by our friends at GoSol, a Finnish social enterprise devoted to spreading the knowledge of how to build low-tech, high power solar concentrators. 

GoSol is currently crowdfunding to publish free construction guides, launch projects and create an online hub where people around the world can participate in the open development of these sustainable energy technologies. Read more about their great work at

Last week in the garden, we had a spectacularly clear day and were able to use the solar cooker with a group of high school students. We chopped green beans and mixed them with oil and spices in a frying pan. We then placed the pan on the solar cooker and asked two students to help use the cooker’s lever to move its giant wall of mirrors into place.  

Within a few seconds of aligning the mirrors, enough light from the sun was reflected to the cook surface to cause the beans to start to sizzle!

GrowNYC's garden program profiled on BBC Radio

GrowNYC's Marcel Van Ooyen, Lenny Librizzi, and Shawn Brody were interviewed by BBC Radio's Food Programme. As part of a larger audio piece, GrowNYC contributed comments on the role that a urban agriculture and community gardens play in promoting healthy eating in NYC.  

Listen to the piece on BBC Radio.

Governors Island Teaching Garden: A Year in Review

During our inaugural season, GrowNYC's Governors Island Teaching Garden, a dedicated multi-use learning and demonstration garden space within Governors Island Urban Farm, hosted 16 weeks of garden-based educational programming and skill-building workshops for 4500 school children, school and community gardeners, summer camps, and members of the public.

During the Fall 2014 school semester, the Teaching Garden provided 500 NYC public school students (K-12) the opportunity to dig in and connect to nature through urban agriculture, environmental education, and nutritional learning, by growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating farm-fresh produce. Students engaged in in-depth discussions of plant care, ecosystems, food justice, and healthy living.

Students also had the opportunity to make a healthy snack or beverage on the bicycle blender! Along with a range of public schools from all five boroughs, we had the honor of providing programming to some very special groups such as Lighthouse Guild, Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and Rush Philanthropic. We also had the privilege of having GrowNYC’s own Mike Zamm come out one day to work with High School students making solar ovens.

In addition to hosting visiting school age students, the Teaching Garden was also open to the public during summer weekends. During these weekend open hours, 3,600 public visitors were able to take a self-guided tour of the space, drop-in on scheduled structured gardening activities, or taste produce from the garden during cooking demos. These activities included garden maintenance, (weeding, mulching, planting), harvesting, tours, and other hands-on arts activities.

On selected weekends during the summer, the Teaching Garden also hosted specific workshops and activities, include ones on animal care, making herbal teas, building trellising for peas, and vertical pallet garden construction. Weekend visitors were also able to see demonstrations of many of the garden and greening infrastructure elements that GrowNYC has built in the past three decades throughout the city. These included raised plastic lumber frame beds for edibles, ornamentals, and themed gardens; windrows for urban agricultural production; a shade structure; a rainwater harvesting system; a garden shed; mulched paths; easy to construct benches; fruit trees; season extending high- and low-tunnels; cold-frames; composting bins; recycling bins; a rain garden; stoop railing planters; and examples of enhanced tree pits for homes, gardens, and communities.

In total, the Teaching Garden produced a bounty of fruits, vegetables, and herbs -- much of it grown by children – totaling over 800 pounds. Most of this produce was harvested, cooked, and consumed by visiting school groups as part of Teaching Garden’s educational programming. Leftover produce was donated to city food pantries.







We're Spicing Up The City With The Bronx Hot Sauce!

This is a momentous year for GrowNYC. Our gardens have released their very own product, aptly named "The Bronx Hot Sauce," which hit shelves late last month. The fiery green condiment was concocted by acclaimed chef King Phojanakong, a native of the borough - just like the serrano peppers the sauce is made of. 

Packaged by Farm to Table Co-Packers and wrapped in a sticker designed by John Jaxheimer, the sauce is the result of GrowNYC's collaboration with Small Axe Peppers, who donated 3,500 pepper seedlings earlier this year, and R&R Produce Farms, who augmented the supply for peppers needed for the first production of the hot sauce. R&R Produce Farms happens to be one of our FARMroots program's most notable success stories (the program provides training and support for recent immigrants looking to farm in the Northeast).

With the fiery contents of this five ounce glass bottle, the Bronx officially asserts itself as the next big culinary destination for local food in the five boroughs. "I'm thrilled to see our developers and community gardens join together on this wonderful venture," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "The Bronx has an amazing food culture, and 'The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce' will only add to the great flavors our borough produces each and every day. GrowNYC and Small Axe Peppers have developed a product that not only tastes great, but also supports our local community gardens. That's a 'win-win' for our borough, and I hope epicureans from all over the region enjoy our borough's latest food creation." Hooray for the Bronx!

Moreover, the funds from The Bronx Hot Sauce sales will go right back to maintaining and developing our local gardens - in one delicious, sustainable cycle. We are proud of our gardens and everyone who has worked hard to make this product a reality. "GrowNYC's Greenmarkets have always been the best source for locally grown food fresh from the farm," says our Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen. "Now, through this partnership with Small Axe Peppers, we are furthering our support of local farmers by purchasing their products and turning them into a delicious hot sauce that can be enjoyed by all New Yorkers." 

We hope you grab your own bottle of The Bronx Hot Sauce and try it on a recipe soon. It's sure to warm you right up this winter! You can find The Bronx Hot Sauce in these locations, with many more to come:

  • Norwood Youthmarket (Thursdays)
    E. Gun Hill Road and Dekalb, BX
  • Kensington Youthmarket (Saturdays)
    Ft. Hamilton Parkway & E. 5th, BX
  • Seaport Youthmarket (Thursdays)
    19 Fulton Street, MN
  • Union Square Greenmarket (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
  • 51st Bakery and Cafe
    5-33 51st Avenue, Long Island City

Learn more about the hot sauce at:

Check out The Bronx Hot Sauce in the press: The New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal.

Workforce Housing Advisors makes a garden grow

GrowNYC is very proud to have worked on making Kelly Street Green come to life in the Bronx. Congratulations to our friends at Workforce Housing Advisors on a great project!

Foothold Technology's Volunteer Day: An Interview with Founder and CMO Nick Scharlatt


On June 24th, Foothold Technology spent the day volunteering at PS 25 Eubie Blake School in Brooklyn.  The enthusiastic team revived the school’s garden area by clearing weeds, building raised beds, and constructing benches for an outdoor classroom. We spoke to Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Nick Scharlatt about his experience.

How did you first get involved with GrowNYC?

I first heard about GrowNYC in 2007, and by 2008 I had joined the Board!  I grew up in the city, just a few blocks from a recycling plant and a Greenmarket, so the idea of being involved and supporting GrowNYC’s work appealed to me. 

Why did you choose a school garden as a volunteer opportunity for your team?

Grow to Learn is among my favorite GrowNYC programs.  It offers what I call a “big win from a small age” – a chance to have a significant and long-lasting effect on kids, starting when they are young.  A work day in a school garden is also an opportunity to get a lot done!  If you start out with a rough plan, big overhaul becomes possible with a team of volunteers.  We can get the job done!  

How did your team react to the idea of a work day in a school garden? 

When I made the announcement to my team, people were really excited – except for one volunteer who had nightmarish flashbacks to weeding as a kid in his family’s garden!  Grow to Learn made working at a school garden totally “turn key”:  the problem was there, the equipment was there, and we were the solution.  

What were some of your favorite moments from the work day?

There was a lot of cross-team collaboration, so people who don’t necessarily ever work together were getting deep into the roots together – literally!  People who didn’t really know each other wound up working together for hours, trying to pull out a root stump, or building beds together.  


What do you think were the benefits of the work day for your team? The school?

The team as a whole really got behind the project.  As we were seeing how much we got done, we felt the satisfaction of the job well done.  And, talking to the staff and community members at the school, it was clear that, no matter how much of the school is involved, it sometimes feels like there’s never enough resources.  The Janitor said the job would have taken him six months alone, so it felt important to support school gardens by bringing resources, and so much human power, to tackle something and make a big impact there.

Why would you encourage others to donate to Grow to Learn? 

Every kid should experience the kind of space we were able to help build.  It shouldn’t be that only some students get to experience the variety of life experiences, curriculum, and outdoors that a school garden offers.  Grow to Learn gives kids who don’t have many opportunities to leave the city or get a taste of the outdoors a way to learn through nature.  All of a sudden, in front of everyone’s noses, there’s this amazing school resource that we could help make usable.  There’s a satisfaction for everyone who supports school gardens in knowing that with a few hours or few dollars you can change the way a whole school relates to the outdoors.


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.