A Sidewalk Garden with Free Produce Grows in Williamsburg

The garden, in all its splendor. Photo by the author.

Janet Brown was a nurse, she told me over juice on the rocks outside her home, which is the first container apartment in Williamsburg. It bears a sign that reads, “Trump is a poopy head.” Now, though, she’s taking care of people in a different way. Behind her, the sidewalk is shrouded in greenery, trailing around the corner to the Keap Fourth Community Garden entrance, which is kept up by volunteers in the neighborhood. At the sidewalk garden, however, Brown is in charge.

“People warned me, ‘People are going to take the tomatoes’,” she smiled, but that was exactly her intention. She hoped people would take some and toss it in their salads. 

Janet Brown showing off her tall greenery. Photo by the author.

Brown and her husband, David Boyler, who originally built the container home, had been volunteers at the community garden for six years. But one day, Brown had the idea to let the garden overflow, and began planting what she calls “plant sculptures” underneath the fence. It was natural, for Brown, who comes from a line of farmers. Eventually, after noticing the building next door had been vacant for some time, Brown decided to expand a little further. 

“Making things green just makes you feel good,” she said, matter-of-factly. 

She grows plant sculptures like the vibrant fuchsia amaranth towering above her, her first project, but more intriguing to me is the edible garden with an instructional guide detailing how to harvest the herbs and vegetables. Attached is a pair of scissors to snip, on your way home—and at no cost—an array of cucumbers, tomatoes, dill, bitter melon, bell peppers and ruda, a leaf boasting a host of benefits native to the Dominican Republic. 

“If they disappear, I’m happy,” she said as she walked me through what’s growing, stopping intermittently throughout the interview to say hello to familiar faces around the neighborhood, one of them asking when the peaches would be ready. 

“It just made sense,” she shrugged, before adding a bit of advice for humanity everywhere: “It’s time to employ a little more effort.”