Plants & Gardens Blog

Gardening Like Our Life Depends on It

What makes New Yorkers so able to bounce back from disaster? Community horticulturists know: We live in relationship, not isolation. Brooklyn gardeners collaborate and learn to respect each other, though it’s not always easy, as well as Mother Nature.

A survey of 70 flood-zone community gardens in the Community Garden Alliance showed that most survived Sandy with torn tree limbs and broken fences. But as summer beckons and memories of the superstorm fade, complacency would be a serious mistake.

The Boardwalk Garden, nestled by the beach on Coney Island, was hard hit. In a matter of hours, its beds of fruits and vegetables, prized throughout the neighborhood and beyond, were buried by tons of sand. "People walking by on the boardwalk from all over the city, and even the world, are delighted and inspired by seeing urban agriculture in action," says Carolyn McCrory, a garden member working to restore it.

Sandy also took a toll on our urban forest, toppling more than 8,000 street trees. Now more than ever, street tree stewards are needed to water, weed, and mulch. Take a free Street Tree Care workshop with Brooklyn Botanic Garden or visit to get started.

There is much work to do. After Sandy, Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) volunteers joined BBG staff and Alliance members to dig up more than 200 plants and trees from BBG’s Discovery Garden—closing for expansion this spring—for transplanting to community gardens, including the Boardwalk Garden. If your community project needs help from BUG volunteers, contact [email protected]. For more information or if you’re interested in becoming a BUG, visit

Sandy was a reminder that global warming has put us on a collision course with nature. Gardeners especially see the disruption emanating from climate change: earlier bud burst, shifting ranges for pollinator and plant species, warmer oceans, and stronger storms. We know it’s time to reduce our footprint on fragile earth. Let’s get out our trowels, join our neighbors, cultivate our urban forest, support city farmers, and heal the relationships at the root of a more sustainable, verdant future.

Robin Simmen is a former director of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's community greening programs.

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Image, top of page: Antonio M. Rosario