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Food Option: Start Your Own Garden
by Cathy Bussewitz and Aresh Javadi Thursday August 29, 2002 at 02:26 PM

Tired of eating genetically engineered food? Ready to grow your own peaches? The community garden in your neighborhood may be the answer to your salad dreams.

If your garden is filled for the season, reserve a space for next spring. But if that’s too long to wait for your organic big apple bites, now is the time to dirty your hands and plant your own food revolution. Follow the steps below…your stomach will be happy you did.

First, find your future garden. Once you’ve chosen a slice of land, find out who owns it by calling the New York Public Interest Group, or visit www.oasisnyc.net for maps. Check on development plans with your local community board (www.nyc.gov/html /cau/html/cblist.html). If you want to play by the rules, talk to the city’s housing department or GreenThumb. However, rather than talking to these agencies right away, you could try the following program.

(1) Free the land. Buy bolt-cutters at the local hardware store and open the garden gates. Replace the lock, and make extra copies of the key for your future fellow gardeners.

(2) Plant the seeds in your community. After sharing your plan with neighbors, throw a party to clean out trash and weeds from your new land. Invite community groups and post fliers to attract as many people as possible.

(3) Beautify. Organizations like Bronx Green-up and Brooklyn Botanical Garden can hook you up with free trees. GreenThumb provides free plants when you register the garden, but you must do some planting in order to register. Mail-order nurseries often offer nice discounts, but don’t shy away from hitting up local nurseries for donations.

(4) Start the feeding frenzy. When planting fruits and vegetables, remember: city soil is toxic. If you want to test your soil to find out how bad it is, contact the Enivronmental Protection Agency or Greenthumb. Using bricks, stones, 2x8 planks or your favorite found objects, build your large planter. Fill it with clean soil, and plant your yummies. April is a good time to plant long-growing varieties like squash, beans, herbs, watermelon and corn. In the fall, plant onion and garlic before the first frost. Learn about seedsaving at www.seedtrust.com. You’re on your way to better dinners!

(5) Sustain. Post signs telling others when the garden will be open; invite members to get involved. Host cook-outs, invite schools to teach lessons in your garden, donate vegetables to soup kitchens and grow mullen and echinacea to alleviate asthma. Invite everyone to sign a petition to make the garden permanent. Take photos to document the beauty your garden brings.

(6) Make it legal. Contact your community board; get on the agenda for their next meeting. Bring your portfolio, petition, and member lists to GreenThumb or the Trust for Public Land, and apply for permanent status. Contact More Gardens! Coalition (www.moregardens.org) for its How to Make Your Garden Permanent book. Enjoy your home-grown garden paradise!

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