‘Success Garden’ a success

The New York Botanical Garden celebrated youth gardeners and officially kicked off the 2010 community vegetable gardening season with a ribbon cutting ceremony in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden on Wednesday, May 12.

In a celebration of the benefits of vegetable gardening and using fresh produce in daily meals at NYGB, schoolchildren participated in hands-on educational planting activities. Community gardeners received a “Get Growing” package of materials, courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden and The Scotts Miracle-Grow Company, to help them begin the gardening season.

Nine-year-old Jada Nicole Young received the Youth Gardener’s Award from The Scotts Miracle-Grow Company for her work in planting seeds at the Padre Plaza Success Garden’s greenhouse, and teaching other children about growing vegetables and flowers. Michael Young, Jada’s father, is the president of the garden, located at St. Ann’s Avenue and East 139th Street.

“What is exciting about the Padre Plaza Success Garden is that it had fallen into disrepair and had been abandoned,” said Ursula Chanse, of director of the NYBG’s Bronx Green-Up & Community Horticulture. “The Young family decided to bring that garden back. They asked for our assistance. We helped to redo a pond, brought in planting materials, and it is now flourishing.”

With help from the Bronx Green-Up, a support program for community gardens, Michael Young oversees an active core group of 23 volunteers, and organizes a weekly farmers market and community supported agriculture effort in conjunction with Sustainable South Bronx and Just Food. The market provides fresh produce to the community.

“We work with the schools, churches, and homes for the elderly and show them gardening techniques, composing, and the importance of eating a healthy vegetables and fruits instead of just store bought food,” Young said. “The New York Botanical Garden helps a great deal. They showed us how to build and install the vegetable boxes, and taught us about the importance of composing. We have been at it for five years.”

The Padre Plaza Success Garden comprises three-fourths of an acre. The garden consists of 16 plots of different community gardeners. Four more plots are planned for the upcoming season.

Gardeners grow tomatoes, peppers, collards, mustard greens, lettuce, garlic, broccoli, corn, oregano, thyme, basil, eggplant, and strawberries. There are also apple, peach, and pear trees. The garden features an active composing system and a beautiful pond, which houses Tommy the Turtle and 300 goldfish.

Padre Plaza also provides summer programing for children through the Summer Youth Empowerment Program. The garden hosts annual Halloween parties and a Winter Wonderland during the holiday season. Young, a carpenter by trade, is very proud of his accomplishments in making the garden a community resource.

“I rebuilt a stage, bridge, gazebo, and started a membership process for the garden,” Young said. “We have the opportunity to work with schools including P.S. 30 and P.S. 361. We teach the students about prunning, composing, and maintaining the pond. We are never closed.”

Reach reporter Partick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com.

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