Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, provides horticulture education, training and technical assistance to Bronx residents, community gardeners, urban farmers, local schools and community organizations. The program is the visible presence of the Botanical Garden beyond the Garden's gates, inspiring NYC residents to get involved in improving their communities through greening projects.
The Mission of Bronx Green-Up
Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, provides horticulture education, training and technical assistance to Bronx residents, community gardeners, urban farmers, local schools, and community organizations. The program is the visible presence of the Botanical Garden beyond the Garden's gates, inspiring NYC residents to get involved in improving their communities through greening projects.
Our work is threefold: we are trainers in urban horticulture; partners on Bronx greening projects, most often in community gardens and urban farms; and a conduit for bringing people and resources together to bring these projects to fruition. We create and redevelop urban green space. We teach people of all ages how to care for urban land and grow food with limited resources. We partner with local individuals, groups, and institutions to further community gardening efforts.
Bronx Green-Up offers free horticulture certificate programs and workshops throughout the year. Our certificate series—Grow More Vegetables, Soil is Alive, and Pruning—combine in-depth classroom instruction with hands-on practice in local community gardens. Those that participate in our programs give back to their communities, volunteering hours and/or creating their own projects. Our seasonal garden workshops take place throughout the Bronx, with community gardens and urban farms serving as outdoor classrooms. Bronx gardeners may request workshops on topics like seed starting, fruit tree care, weed identification, and more.
Bronx Green-Up also hosts a number of annual events, such as the Harvest Festival, which bring community gardeners together to celebrate their bounty, share information, and learn from each other. In addition, we work closely with the NYC Compost Project, hosted by The New York Botanical Garden, to provide compost outreach and education to Bronx community gardeners, schools, residents, organizations, and businesses.
Last year, Bronx Green-Up conducted 323 activities and events, reaching approximately 4,600 people representing over 75 gardens, greening groups, schools, and community organizations. The NYC Compost Project hosted by The New York Botanical Garden reached an additional 3,013 people through 248 activities conducted for more than 60 groups. This was made possible with the help of volunteers who contributed almost 1,500 hours. Bronx Green-Up is where the Bronx community goes to get involved in urban gardening. People approach us with their ideas—for gardens, for workshops, for projects—and we help to make them a reality.
Recent work includes:
- With our partner International Rescue Committee, we built New Roots Community Farm with hundreds of volunteers over 40 community workdays.
- We worked to strengthen school gardens and experiential learning at PS 87, PS 47, and PS 93 by working outdoors with classes—a partnership with Trust for Public Land and the Garden's Children's Education program.
- We helped to get a chicken coop and children's garden established at Taqwa Community Farm, part of a weeklong project with In Good Company.
- We partnered with the community at Church of the Mediator to build a garden on the property of this historic church in Kingsbridge.
Community greening has always been at the heart of Bronx Green-Up (BGU), the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden. Formed in 1988, the Garden created the Bronx Green-Up program to support the volunteer efforts of residents who were beginning to clean up and beautify vacant, garbage-strewn lots in the Bronx, a result of the economic downturn New York City faced in the 1970s and early 1980s. Some neighbors were clearing the land and turning the soil to plant food and flowers, showing resiliency and building community.
The Garden reached out to Terry Keller, who became the first director of Bronx Green-Up. She came to the Garden with a wealth of experience from Green Guerillas, the pioneer NYC community garden organization. Terry navigated city agencies and developed strategies to best utilize the Garden's knowledge and horticulture resources to support the community efforts taking place.
Garden of Happiness on Prospect Avenue was the first Bronx Green-Up community garden, founded by the now renowned community garden activist (and Garden Board Member) Karen Washington along with her neighbors. Ms. Washington went on to found La Familia Verde, a coalition of five Bronx gardens that has operated a farmers market for over 10 years, providing much-needed fresh fruit and vegetables to their West Farms/Crotona community.
As every gardener knows, nurturing and caring for gardens is hard work. Karen Washington reflects: "In the very beginning, the job of Bronx Green-Up (BGU) was to turn vacant lots into gardens. As more vacant lots began to disappear or turn into gardens, BGU had to change its strategy and look at how to make the gardens more sustainable—to not rely solely on BGU, but to network and look to other resources such as the community boards, schools, and community organizations."
More than 300 gardens have been established through Bronx Green-Up, enriching the lives of people—from young children to senior citizens—who have learned to grow plants, flowers, and vegetables while experiencing the joy of connecting with the natural world. Through the years, Bronx Green-Up has remained a steadfast supporter of these community-driven efforts and is proud to be a key partner in the greening, food and health, and environmental movements of the borough.