Forget Your CSA Share, Why Not Grow Your Own in a Community Garden?

Cultivate! The Wanaqua Family Garden in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of GrowNYC, which supports the site, a large lot next door to PS 43 in Mott Haven.

We’ve spent a lot of time promoting the joy of CSAs on this site, but we’ve been remiss in not mentioning yet another citywide program that help brings fresh produce (and flowers, and even chickens and bees) to neighborhoods that might not have access to similar goods, and that’s community gardens.

There are hundreds hidden around the city, from the massive oases with running water and gazebos and beehives in the East Village, to shady stretches with a few tulips in Hell’s Kitchen. Most have at least a few sunny plots or patches where members can grow edibles, and now’s the time to find one near you before those spots all get snapped up. And even if they do, most gardens will let you join anyway, you’ll get to hang out and likely harvest a few leaves of basil each weekend in exchange for duties like turning compost, weeding, or being there to welcome visitors during each garden’s open hours. (And most gardens will teach you how to do all of those things, too.) There are two places to look for land near you: GrowNYC’s Open Space Greening Program and the city park’s department’s GreenThumb group. Both have databases searchable by nabe, and both support gardens and new gardeners, too.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.