Exploring Jersey City’s Community Gardens & Access to Fresh Produce
Jersey City is home to numerous community gardens, providing residents with space to exercise their green thumb, contribute to food security, and build civic engagement. They help inform and get us to understand where our food comes from and make healthier decisions about our food. Whether you decide to join a community garden near you, learn useful tips for growing and maintaining an urban garden, or decide to visit your local farmers market for fresh produce, we hope you feel inspired and share that experience with others.
Find a Community Garden Near You!
There are currently 20 community gardens located around the city, providing residents with access to growing fresh food, interacting with one another, and enjoying nature. Some of these gardens are located within the city’s adopt-a-lot program, allowing residents to transform city-owned lots into gardens. Others are located within private properties available for urban gardening. Check out this list of community gardens put together by Sustainable Jersey City, a local nonprofit organization pushing Jersey City towards a more sustainable future. Together with Jersey City Gardening Coalition, both organizations serve as excellent resources for community gardens and urban farming questions.
Every community garden has unique policies, so please check in with the organizer and see what rules they have in place. Some offer individual plots, while others have communal areas where everyone divides the harvest. In addition to gardening, there are opportunities to assist with composting, educational programming, and community outreach.
A Closer Look into Riverview’s Community Garden
Andrea Newman, Riverview Community Garden’s (RCG) Board member, provided us with a deep dive into understanding the true impact a community garden makes. RCG is located in Jersey City Heights, directly next to Riverview-Fisk Park between Bowers and Griffith Streets on Ogden Avenue. It was founded in 1995 through the adopt-a-lot program by a few residents who saw the empty lot as an opportunity to transform it into a vibrant green space.
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RGC provides gardening opportunities and activities to residents of all ages. Their Green Ambassadors program invites city kids to grow food and become stewards. Additionally, their Community Composting program offers food scrap drop off to reduce waste in landfills.
Garden members grow various vegetables from tomatoes, eggplants, collards, kale, and more. Through their Community Food Share Program, RCG generously donated last year’s harvest. This year, they plan to do the same and give back to JC Heights Community Fridge, a community-run fridge set up for those who require a little help with food and necessities.
Whether a member of the community garden or passing by, Andrea frequently hears residents saying how peaceful it is and how it restores their inner calm. “You forget all the noise from the outside, and the garden brings a sense of joy and peace to residents who stop by. We leave the outside world behind us,” says Andrea.
If you’re interested in visiting RCG, the public is welcome every weekend from 10-3pm. Don’t miss the beehive managed by a volunteer beekeeper!
Interested in Starting an Urban Garden? Tips from a Local Jersey City Resident
There are numerous ways to get creative when it comes to gardening in the city. Sima Kunttas, a Jersey City resident, manages her urban garden from seed to table in her front yard! She started gardening about five years ago, where she initially grew plants in containers and pots. In 2018, she invested in raised beds for the front yard. She grows mainly what her family likes to eat: spinach, lettuce, radishes in the early spring and fall, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs in the summer. She enjoys experimenting with growing new plants every year, such as okra and corn.
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When it comes to urban gardening, space and pollination are two of Sima’s biggest challenges. She has learned to overcome these challenges by using the square foot gardening method. Mel Batholomew developed it in the ‘80s, and Sima combined it with growing crops vertically rather than horizontally. Planting annual and perennial flowers that bloom at different times of the season helps attract pollinators throughout the year.
“It is never too late to start, and you don’t need to start everything from seed. If you’re new and have never grown a plant outside, your best bet is to get transplants from Lowe’s, Home Depot, or a local plant nursery to try and test,” recommends Sima for a first-timer. Mapping out which part of your house gets the most sunlight will help determine which plants may grow better in that specific area.
Sima’s favorite part of having her urban garden is the ability to share the knowledge and the produce with neighbors and folks passing by. Most are curious and ask what she is growing, and some can identify the plants, while others are amazed to see there is even a possibility to grow some of these plants in this area. A true sense of community is formed through gardening right in Sima’s front yard.
Support Local Farms, Eat Fresh! – Jersey City Farmers Markets
If you don’t have the time to commit to volunteering at a community garden and don’t want to commit to building an urban garden, Jersey City has great farmers’ markets. You can eat healthier and enjoy the freshest and nutritious produce; check out Jersey City’s 7 best farmers’ markets to explore. While you’re shopping, be sure to know what fruits and vegetables are in season.
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Check out this helpful guide breaking down major summer and fall crops by month. By eating crops in season, you are supporting local farmers and lowering your carbon footprint. It’s a win for all!
We hope you gained valuable insight into Jersey City’s community gardens and ways you can access fresh produce. If you’re interested in learning more about gardening, be sure to follow: