Gardening at The Flatbush Library

Another exciting program that is happening at the Bklyn Library is Sunshine, Seeds, and Reads Community Garden.  The Flatbush Library is working to make a community garden in the back of the Caribbean Literacy & Cultural Center of the Flatbush Library.  This project is being led by Joyce Artis, Queens resident and volunteer.  Joyce has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground.  The Flatbush Library serves a large Caribbean population; therefore the garden will have a Caribbean feel and will grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, teas, and nuts that are common in New York City’s Caribbean communities.  This garden will serve as a place for learning, recreation and programming for all ages.  The Flatbush Library also hopes to have some outdoor events in the garden such as “World Wide Knit in Public Day”, an Afternoon Tea Party, a city fair and more.  There are also plans to make the garden accessible to people with mobility issues by having some raised beds and it will also be wheelchair accessible.    There are even plans to make a special “square foot garden” for toddlers.  This will be a raised box that is divided into a grid where each section is one square foot.  Each section in the box will grow a different plant.  This method is based on the book Square Foot Gardening with Kids by Mel Bartholomew.

BPL- Flatbush Library- Daffodils BloomingThe garden kickoff was on November 16th, 2013 when staff and community members helped plant more than 500 daffodil bulbs that were donated by the 9-11 Daffodil Project.  This project was founded in 2001 to serve as a living memorial to 9-11 and is overseen by New Yorkers for Parks. Hans van Waardenburg, a Dutch bulb supplier, was very distraught about 9-11 and he wanted to know how he could help the City of New York.  Van Waardenburg tried making phone calls to his customers, but many lines were not working that day.  He was finally able to get a fax through to Lynden Miller, a good customer and horticulturalist located on 5th Avenue in New York City.  In response to the fax, Miller asked if Van Waardenburg had any extra bulbs he could donate.  Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, also thought it would be nice to plant daffodils since yellow is the color of remembrance.  A gift of 1 million bulbs donated by Van Waardenburg and the City of Rotterdam arrived in New York Harbor.  As of today, nearly 5 million free bulbs have been planted around the city by more than 100,000 volunteers including school children.  This has been one of the largest volunteer efforts ever in New York City history.  In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg named the daffodil the city flower to honor of all the daffodils that have bloomed every year since 2001.    

Also, on that day three trees were planted including one dogwood tree that were donated by the NYC Million Trees Initiative.  The NYC Million Trees Initiative was started under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration in order to increase the number of trees by one million in New York City.  At the start of this project, in New York City there were approximately five million trees and this initiative will increase the number of trees in New York City by 20 percent.  Some of the places trees can be found throughout New York City are along streets and highways, in parks and in backyards.  There are many environmental, economic, and social benefits to planting trees.  One of the major environmental benefits of trees is reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and pollution in the air therefore slowing down the effects of global warming.  There is also an increase in air quality, lower summer temperatures, and a better habitat for wildlife to live and roam.  Some of the economic benefits of planting trees are increased property values and more community and district appeal.  One of the social benefits of trees is it reduces pollutants in the air which can trigger asthma and other respiratory ailments.  Stop by the Flatbush Library to see the new trees that were planted.

Staff and community members with the help of Joyce Artis will be working over the spring and summer 2014 to make some of Ms. Artis’ visions a reality.  According to Ms. Artis “The garden is a work in progress. We hope to replace the existing raised beds and irrigation system that are currently there but are in not usable and in poor condition due to neglect and damage.”  She also stated that “There are plans to build a compost bin, rain water collection system, food scrap collection and drip irrigation system.”


The first work date for the 2014 season was Saturday, May 3rd.  During that day the 274 square foot plus area was prepared and mulched.   The mulch and compost was supplied by the New York City Department of Sanitation.  The Flatbush Library will be scheduling other days for people in the community to help.  Please contact the Flatbush Branch to find out what days are scheduled.  Ms. Artis also stated “We will need the support of the community’s residents, merchants, and political officials to make the garden a success”