Spring in the Air, Seeds in the Ground

NYC urban gardens gear up for another growing season

Thor here, to officially declare that it’s that time of year again! Spring is on its way and farmers across the northern hemisphere are making their preparations.  Ploughs are turning the fields over and fertilizers are being added to the soil.  Seedlings are getting their headstart in protective greenhouses and first plantings are getting mapped out.

Growing up in a rural area of Central New York, I became fond of the sights, sounds and smells (yes, I mean manure) of this sort of spring.  It was one of the things I missed most after moving to the city where evidence of the new season could only be found, I stubbornly assumed, in the occasional crocus bed or in the random cherry tree-lined street.  Over time, however, I learned that the urban spring isn’t all groomed and superficial. I came to realize that regular old cultivation does, in fact, take place within the city limits.  And not just in tiny backyard gardens, but on large projects that are big enough to be called (with slight exageration, perhaps) farms!

One of these big plots can be found in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden where a half-acre of land produces a bounty of diverse crops each year.  This urban “farm” is called the Children’s Garden because it is dedicated (and has been since 1914!) to introducing city kids to the art and joy of growing their own food.  It boasts an extensive line-up of educational courses for all ages (in addition to their amazing adult class offerings).  Registration is still open so check their listings and sign up for something that catches your eye.

spring 08 011Children’s Garden Participant, Danny HorowitzLike its provincial counterparts, the Children’s Garden has been gearing up for the spring of ’09.  Patricia Hulse, the program manager, explains that the plot gets turned over and prepped with a layered mulch system.  Raised beds have been built up in anticipation of the incoming crops, many of which were started as far back as February in one of BBG’s greenhouses.  Soon, hundreds of children (thoroughly supervised, of course) will descend on the plot to begin the planting.

And, as mentioned above, the Children’s Garden does not stand alone as a NYC urban “farm.”  For example, there is the Red Hook Community Farm run by the sustainable development non-profit, Added Value. Or there is East New York Farms in northeast Brooklyn.  Between these farms and the countless community gardens there is ample opportunity for people like me (and you, perhaps?) to get their hands dirty and participate in a food-producing spring!  As the season develops and turns to summer, I’ll be visiting many of these places to report on the urban agriculture scene of NYC, so stay tuned!

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