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Resident gardeners attending a gardening workshop. (Photo by Leticia Barboza)
NYCHA Residents Grow Their Gardening Skills at Annual Conference

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents crowded into the cramped room and sat with undivided attention as they gathered tips on how to grow fruit and vegetable gardens in the middle of a large urban environment.

Tip #1: Cut gallon-sized water jugs in half for plant beds and stack milk crates for shelves. 

Tip #2: Grow crops in circles instead of rows to maximize limited space.

Tip #3: Place cages over crops to prevent squirrels, pigeons and stray cats from eating them. These are just some of the tricks of the trade more than 500 NYCHA residents picked up at one of the 16 workshops held on March 25, 2011 at the Ninth Annual NYCHA Grows with its Gardeners Conference.

Garden and Greening Conference attendees enjoying festivities. (Photo by Leticia Barboza)
Garden and Greening Conference attendees enjoying festivities. Photo by Leticia Barboza

I learned a lot today about how to work the soil to get plants to grow,” said Frances Johnson, from Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn. “I didn’t know you could use broken egg shells and coffee grounds in the soil.”

The “Indoor Plants that Clean our Environment” workshop revealed that fluorescent light bulbs – not the standard ones – provide the best light for indoor plants. Fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, are now in use throughout NYCHA developments to improve efficiency and save money. 

Conference-goers even got an education on alternative medicine from “The Power of Herbs” workshop. Residents learned about the healing properties of mimosa, which is said to help get rid of kidney stones when boiled and made into a tea. Applying blended comfrey leaves may reduce swelling from arthritis.

The conference inspired some residents to take a greater interest in developing their green thumb. “There is a garden at the senior center I go to,” said Luis Rosado, from Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn. “Now I will get involved.”

Held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, the NYCHA Grows with its Gardeners Conference is part of the Authority’s Garden and Greening Program.  The Conference included a green resource fair that brought together gardening and environmental partner organizations that provided educational materials and other free or low-cost gardening resources to resident gardeners.

By Eric Deutsch
March 25, 2011

NYCHA's "Green" Agenda
Garden Program