Picture this; an apartment with underutilized garden space, a landlord who encourages you to plant it by providing free seeds, bulbs and tools, and free education on how to tend to the plants. For many urban gardeners this is exactly what they get from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Garden and Greening Program.
The program began in 1962 as a flower garden contest. Residents were so enthusiastic that vegetable, herb and theme gardens were quickly added to the competition. Today the Garden and Greening program is less of a competition and more of a community within the housing developments. NYCHA residents have year-round technical assistance, tools and free seeds and bulbs to plant.
Besides greenifying the projects, my favorite part of the program is the education. Although most development gardens tend to have a single resident devoted to the garden’s upkeep, daycare and senior center residents come help plant and learn about the earth. To date the program has educated almost 3,000 residents. Keep in mind that these are people who would otherwise have no way to learn about urban gardening.
Barbara Ward is one of those devoted residents who spends her days in the garden. For six years she has made the effort to beautify the development and she says that her neighbors are excited to help. Some will drop off potted plants to add to the landscape and others eagerly ask for guidance. Like most NYCHA development gardens, she enters hers into the annual Garden and Greening Competition. A panel of horticulture professionals judge the entrees and a citywide winner is selected from each category.
If you know a NYCHA resident with a beautiful garden please feel free to send in the pictures!