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First Lady Michelle Obama got much-deserved attention when she and Washington, D.C., schoolchildren started an organic vegetable and fruit garden on the South Lawn of the White House. But she was not the first resident of the White House to take such action.
Congress was a bit parsimonious with expenses for President John Adams, so he defrayed the cost of feeding guests with food grown in his own vegetable garden.
During World War II, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s vegetable garden helped inspire some 20 million “victory gardens” around the country. According to some estimates, these gardens accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s produce during the war. My mother found she had a green thumb in our backyard in Elmhurst. I still remember the freshness of the carrots, radishes and tomatoes.
During the past few months, I have written quite a bit about “greening” in Queens. I noted that although we are in the largest borough by area and the second largest in population, the number of our community gardens is proportionately less than that of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Operation GreenThumb of the city Parks Department estimates there are more than 600 community gardens in the city.
Depending on the source, there are either 38 or 47 community gardens in Queens, including school gardens. The Council on the Environment of New York City gives the higher figure and it includes, for example, the Greens for Queens Garden at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, of which I wrote in the spring. The list I obtained from the Parks Department gives the lower figure. In either case, it is clear thousands of Queens residents are involved in community gardens.
These gardens are open to the public, with hours posted usually at the entrance. The fall is a wonderful time to visit your local community garden.
The community gardens are under the jurisdiction of a number of organizations: the city Department of Education, the Parks Department, those run jointly by the DOE and Parks, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York Restoration Project and the Trust for Public Land, an organization I wrote about earlier this year.
According to the lists I have, the school gardens are at John Adams, John Bowne and Beach Channel high schools; PS 9, 19, 40, 48, 49, 86, 96, 120, 139, 175, 206 and 251; and MS 210.
The gardens used by local volunteers are in Corona, South Jamaica, Astoria, Far Rockaway, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Elmhurst, Locust Manor, Long Island City, Ozone Park, East Elmhurst, Flushing, Rego Park, Springfield Gardens, South Ozone Park and Little Neck.
If you look around, you will find one near you. When you visit, spare some time, effort and money to help sustain these wonderful green oases in our midst.
Gardening in the city is not an easy thing. Lead in the soil is one of the matters citizen gardeners — and homeowners — have to contend with. Choosing the right things to plant is another matter.
But there is help available from many sources. With the efforts of tens of thousands of New Yorkers in some 700 neighborhood groups, according to the Parks Department, community gardens are thriving and will continue to do so. The community gardeners and their supporting organizations deserve our thanks.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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