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All you need to know about community gardens in NYC

Starting your own garden, away from home

A bunch of tomatoes that have been grown in one of NYC's community gardens.
Starting your own garden in NYC community gardens is a perfect way
to combine a hobby with practical, useful and healthy.

Whether you're trying to find a new hobby that'll be a way to kill time or wish to be a part of something meaningful, you've come to the right place. Having a green thumb and being involved in creating an eco-friendly environment is a great way to spend your free time. You'll not only enjoy it yourself, but you'll also create a great starting point for many people. However, you need to have all the facts before you get into it. In the spirit of being informed, here's all you need to know about community gardens in NYC.

What are community gardens in NYC?

Community gardens are urban green spaces created and maintained by city residents. These residents are stewards of underutilized property. They grow fruit, vegetables, and/or plants for their appealing appearance on individual or shared plots on private or public land. In New York City, there are over 550 community gardens on city property, over 745 school gardens, over 100 land trust gardens, and over 700 gardens in public housing developments.

Two people holding a bowl with tomatoes that they've grown in a community garden in NYC.
Having your own small garden in NYC community gardens enables you
to meet other like-minded people, grow your own vegies, and more.

Why should this be your new hobby?

Visiting or contributing to a garden is an excellent opportunity to become engaged in your community and meet new people. You can also teach youngsters about gardening and food production and enjoy a little bit of nature in the city. Although there are many different ways to enjoy outdoor activities in NYC, none are as rewarding as helping out in the community gardens.

Which gardening programs are there?

If you're looking to explore various gardening programs, there are three main choices that you can look into, and they are all excellent. The community gardens are really on another level in NYC when you compare them to most other places.

 Green thumb

GreenThumb (GT) is the nation's largest urban gardening initiative. It's aiding over 600 gardens and thousands of garden members around New York City since 1978.

 Land trusts

In New York, more than 90 land trusts seek to protect farmland, woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, routes, gardens, parks, and preserves. Land trusts operate throughout New York, from Chautauqua County in the west to Fisher's Island in the east and from the northern Adirondacks to New York City. If this program for community gardens in NYC interests you, there are two options you can explore. Both New York Restoration Project and Brooklyn Queens Land Trust are great.

 NYC housing authority

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the city's largest landowner, with over 700 gardens. NYCHA has hosted the annual Garden and Greening Awards Competition for residents since 1963. They found inspiration in Chicago's public housing, and organizers hoped that competition would motivate residents to take pride in their dwellings and foster a feeling of community.

A person holding a thumb up in the middle of a green garden.
Having a green thumb means being capable to successfully plant green
growth plants, bushes and vegetables that will reward you in many ways.

What to do if you want to work in one of the gardens?

If you choose a community garden in NYC that's far from your neighborhood or even decide to start your own, you'll need a place to keep that equipment. Depending on how many items and tools you own and use, you should consider placing them in a storage unit that'll be easy to access. Once you find a place for your tools and other items, you won't have to worry about them or drag them with you.

The garden's history

We can trace back many NYC community gardens to the 1970s financial crisis. This was the time when people neglected and abandoned public and private land in various parts of the city. The majority of it was concentrated in low-income areas such as Harlem and the East Village. Residents tried to reclaim these abandoned lots and turn them into community gardens to improve their environment and avoid crime and drug peddling.

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Finding a garden for you

Some community gardens are mere green spaces, while others host art installations or composting workshops. Some even function as urban farms with crops that sustain their own farm stands. Many gardens work with schools to offer workshops and educational opportunities. Some will even keep hens or beehives on their property. If you're looking to make community gardening in NYC your new hobby, that's excellent news. It would be best to find a garden by searching your particular neighborhood. Seeing how various volunteers run community gardens, their working hours may vary from one garden to another.

How can you get involved?

Once you've decided on a garden to join, pay a visit during open hours or one of their events. They're usually advertised on signs at the garden gate or the garden's website. This is a great way to meet the gardeners and learn about their membership process. Nevertheless, starting a unique hobby such as this one comes with some strings attached. Some organizations need you to attend an orientation or general meeting, join a garden committee, pay dues, or volunteer before you may participate. However, once you become a part of a great community garden in New York, it's all worth it. It's really an enriching activity.

A laptop, phone, and a notebook that you can use to gather info and research the NYC community gardens.
If you are interested in community gardens, no matter where you live,
go online and find the nearest community garden to give it a go.

Seek help from professionals

If you've joined an NYC gardening community that's already up and running, that's great. However, if you're starting a new one, you'll need some help. Seeking help from professional movers may not be the most usual choice, but it is a very fruitful one. If you've just moved to NYC, you probably don't have many connections. So, once the team from Simplify Valet Storage & Moving has helped you settle in, you can also let them help you with some advice, so you find your footing and join the community.

Raise awareness about the gardens

Once you've immersed yourself in the world of community gardens in NYC, you should spread the word. Who knows how many like-minded people are trying to find new hobbies. Seeing your praise and comments may be just the sign they've been waiting for.

Starting your garden

You can start your own garden if you can't find one in your neighborhood. The city gives detailed instructions. They entail locating suitable land, determining who owns it, developing a vision for the area, gaining community support, forming a core group of volunteers, and engaging in some politically charged activities. However, if starting your own community gardens in NYC is something you genuinely want, it's a small price to pay.

Above images by Unsplash and Pixabay

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