The Ridgewood Community Garden allows its volunteers to take in the hard-to-come-by green space and escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
The long, narrow lot is wedged between Metropolitan Avenue and the athletic fields at Grover Cleveland High School. The volunteer-based group, founded in 2016, encourages everyone to come to their open hours, which usually happen on Sundays.
During that time, anyone can come to grow, harvest, relax and explore the foliage.
Charity Henderson Vince, the group’s treasurer, grew up on a farm near the Finger Lakes and said this garden has allowed her to feel like she’s back home.
“While I enjoy living in the city, I do miss the ‘growing things’ aspect of living in the country,” Vince said.
Beyond that, Vince said that the garden had been a great way to meet people in the community. Vince, along with her husband Daniel and one of the group’s social media managers, Janet Vukic, have all become close friends.
“I wanted to meet new people but also be a part of a project that would beautify the neighborhood,” Vukic said. “One of the things I love is planting really big sunflowers and just adding that to the neighborhood.”
After the height of the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to stay in their homes, Vince said they saw a surge of volunteers as the city eased restrictions. Usually, the group has about seven or eight consistent members, but they saw almost 30 volunteers contributing to the garden after the lockdown.
“We’re kind of back to what our numbers were before the [lockdown],” Vince said. “This spring, people were so eager to get out and do things after being cooped up. But retaining volunteers is a challenge.”
Vince explained that most people come for a few weeks and then drift away, leaving their harvest abandoned.
“It has been hard to keep enough core members or consistent members to keep everything going,” Vince said. “There’s always more work to be done than we are really able to get done.”
Vukic said that these challenges don’t take away from the peace she gets from maintaining the garden.
“We are so grateful to have that space,” Vukic said. “I can come completely stressed out and have all these things on my mind, but once I’m in the garden, those things kind of fall by the wayside.”
The garden has fruit trees, raspberry bushes, herbs, flowers, vegetables and more. The Ridgewood Community Garden doesn’t do individual plots, so all the space is shared.
The group takes people with all levels of experience and encourages their community members to join.
To learn more about the group, visit their Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.