Eight years in and the seniors of Ingersoll Houses’ community “garden of Eden” are showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, at their annual community planting day this past Saturday, April 18, they were out and about even before some of the younger volunteers from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) arrived to help clean up the garden beds and lawns!
Explaining their enthusiasm, Ingersoll Garden of Eden President Edna Grant said “it’s a special day because we all come out and get ready. I love that it beautifies the community. And it gives seniors something to do.”
For Grant, that means planting a different collection of flowers every year. She doesn’t remember what she planted last year, but this year she already has tulips and gorgeously bright hot pink flowers that no one could remember the name of.
For Yvonne Washington, this year will hopefully see her cultivate a butterfly garden and assorted roses and daylilies in her garden bed. “It’s my second year with the garden and it’s wonderful fun,” she enthused.
Each senior — there are around 60 who have or share garden beds of their own along the front patch of lawn along Myrtle Avenue off Ashland Place, and 40-50 with beds on the other side of the building — gets their own bed and can plant anything they want. The Ingersoll Garden is so popular that there is even a waiting list for space, said Grant, and the garden will continue to expand to other patches of grass around the complex in order to accommodate demand.
The garden also serves as a community project. Come harvest time, each individual ends up sharing their flowers or produce (past vegetables have included collard greens, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans, cabbage, cucumber, and Indian and Chinese vegetables) with one another.
Each year also sees improvements added. Last year, it was a wraparound wooden bench around a central tree. This year it’s a tool shed to replace the one destroyed by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters and wind. That shed, said Grant, was paid for with help from Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, who called the Ingersoll garden a “garden of love.”
“With an event like this, you can feel the energy and love,” she said. “Everyone has been cooped up in their apartments all winter and its very important to connect with the earth, soil and vegetation, not just because it’s beautiful, but for healthy food and to keep everyone young.”
“Events like these are important because it helps build community relationships while beautifying the area and encouraging ownership of where they live,” said Denise Guess, NYCHA’s resident engagement liaison to Ingersoll.
Also on hand were representatives of Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center, HealthFirst, GorwNYC, and the Department for the Aging’s Grandparent Resource Center.
Volunteers included NYPD Explorers from Police Service Area 3 and East New York-based Chianesu Bakari Mentoring Program.