Community gardeners in Edgewater Park open straw-bale garden

A group of dedicated gardeners worked with the Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative and secured a grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City to create their garden, which they call a micro-farm.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Green thumbers of Edgewater Park have created an organic micro-farm in a previously undeveloped area of the park.

Facing the prospects of salty soil in the waterfront private community, the garden features an assortment of vegetables and flowers that are grown in straw-bales.

The mini farm is called Garden in the Park, and it is a collaborative effort of community members partially funded through a $2,700 grant from the Citizens Committee for New York, garden organizers said.

Deborah Roff and her sister Patricia Sharkey have gardened the site for almost 15 years, but creating a full garden capable of growing organic foods proved to be a tall order because the garden is located near Weir Creek and Eastchester Bay, which sometimes floods the site and damages the soil.

Roff said that when her son presented her with a book about straw-bale gardening, the idea of how to create a sustainable garden at the location in a cost-effective way came to fruition.

The plants are grown in the straw bales instead of in the soil.

After applying for the grant with the help of garden cooperator Corinne Grondahl, and getting permission from the Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative, the group of gardeners, neighbors in the seaside community, achieved their goal.

“We had a dream, we built a team, and we worked really hard and the dream came through,” said Roff, who added that she would like others to know that organizations like Citizens Committee for New York are there to help community-based endeavors like the garden, succeed.

(l-r) Richie O’Flanagan, Brian Roff and Josephine Roff garden with relatives at Edgewater Park’s straw bale micro-farm.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

The garden, now in its first season, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplant, cabbage, herbs, watermelon, and flowers.

The garden fills a void in the community of tightly packed homes because the typical Edgewater Park backyard is small, said Grondhal.

“We had to get communal space because we really don’t have yard space,” said Grondhal, who added “we needed sometime to enrich our community, particularly after Hurricane Sandy.”

Grondhal, who along with Roff wrote the grant application for the Citizens Committee for New York funding, said that the straw-bales used to grow the food are sustainable. They are turned into mulch after use.

Each straw bale costs about $11, explained Grondhal, making the gardening affordable for all those who want to take part.

Among those who have volunteered their time to make the garden a success are Denise O’Donnell, Patricia Lynam and Louis Camerato.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the garden, located on the edge of its Section D parking lot, is planned for 6 p.m. on Friday, September 4. It is by invitation only.

The gardeners grow their vegetables in straw bales because of the naturally salty environment next to the sea.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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