Dry August is impacting Queens community garden

Sonia Ferraro has been gardening all her life. But she says there is a noticeable difference in the harvest this year.

“It’s unlike any other gardening year. This year it was like you wanted to cry because we watered and it wasn’t good enough,” said Ferraro, the founder of Paradise Community Garden in Queens.

They grow more than a dozen vegetables and flowers at the Paradise Community Garden, but New York City is currently in the midst of a severe drought — a result of the driest August since 1994. It has rained just seven days in the past 50 days.

what you need to know

  • New York City is currently in the midst of a severe drought

  • This is a consequence of the driest August since 1994

  • It has rained only seven days in the last 50 days

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That means volunteers at this community garden on a property at Inwood Street and Shore Avenue worked double duty to keep the plants watered

“It takes a lot of effort to make sure everyone is well fed and well hydrated,” said Sacesha Bennett, a St Albans resident.

Bennett is new to gardening, but she has been volunteering in the garden for about a year.

She has already noticed a difference in the amount of rainwater collected in the garden’s rain barrels this summer.

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This leaves the gardeners much more dependent on the city’s water supply through a hose connected to a hydrant around the block — something they needed FDNY training and licensing to do.

The Paradise Community Garden is one of over 550 community gardens across the city supported by the Parks Department’s Green Thumb Program.

As part of the city’s green infrastructure, community gardens play a critical role during extreme weather events, according to the Parks Department.

The agency offers free workshops on sustainable water management in gardens and provides resources to groups to help with drought conditions.

Ferraro helped start the Jamaica, Queens Community Garden just before the pandemic began in 2020.

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For Ferraro it was a haven. And helped provide healthy food to local families at a time when it was most needed.

“The whole idea with every bed is that families come here to supplement their food in their home because groceries have gotten quite expensive. Most people can’t afford to buy organic food, or even the ethnic food they’re used to,” Ferraro said.

And Ferraro says while this summer’s bounty wasn’t as plentiful as she’d hoped, she’s grateful for the hard-working volunteers and hopes for a rainier planting season.

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