Is your garden prepared for climate change? Are your hyacinths ready for a heat wave? Is your fig tree ready for a flood? These are the questions GrowNYC is posing to gardeners across New York City this year—and chances are, the answers are “No, no, and no.”

A new manual released by the nonprofit could change that, though, by providing gardeners and greenspace managers with simple strategies to prepare for more severe weather incidents.

The Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide is a practical manual that details easy ways to make your garden or greenspace more resilient, including step-by-step guidelines to minimizing storm damage.

Learning from Sandy

Photo credit: GrowNYC
Photo credit: GrowNYC

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy showed us, in the most straightforward way, our region’s immense vulnerabilities when it comes to climate change. It also gave us a glimpse of what is to come: more severe weather events, frequent flooding, higher temperatures, and less predictable outcomes.

In fact, these changes are already happening: just last month, New York City received nearly five inches of rain in a single day. As our region begins to tackle the infrastructure needed to handle these changes, GrowNYC is making sure we don’t leave our greenspaces and urban gardens behind.

Lenny Librizzi, GrowNYC’s assistant director of open space greening, remembers the impact of Sandy well. “Around 25 community gardens were damaged in some way by Superstorm Sandy. A number of them had large trees come down causing extensive damage. Others were completely flooded by the ocean or the East River.”

And while GrowNYC was awarded funding to help these gardens recover—through soil replacement, raised bed installation, debris removal, and other repairs—Librizzi hopes that in the future, with the help of their new guide, that won’t be necessary.

A Guide for the Future

Photo credit: GrowNYC
Photo credit: GrowNYC

The 15-page guide is meant to provide practical, approachable advice to gardeners of all kinds—backyard, community, and beyond. It provides preventative steps, like pruning, rainwater collection, and infrastructure enhancements, that can enable a garden to withstand the winds, rain, drought, and snow that come with a changing climate.

The pages are filled with illustrations, diagrams, and photographs that make it easy, even for gardening novices, to take steps towards resiliency. The end of the booklet also contains pre- and post-storm checklists that are designed to keep gardeners safe and healthy.

Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide
Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide

GrowNYC has distributed more than 1,000 copies of the guide to NYC community gardeners at gatherings, workshops and plant sales. The guide is also available online.

If you’d like to see some of these resiliency strategies in action, Librizzi recommends the following:

  • Campos Community Garden on the Lower East Side, where gardeners replaced wooden raised beds with recycled plastic lumber, which is less likely to be displaced by flooding and can be reused after floods.
  • College Avenue Community Garden in the Bronx, where GrowNYC has helped prune dead and damaged branches on trees and added dwarf fruit trees which will not grow as tall as standard varieties and therefore be less likely to be damaged by wind. This garden also repurposed many of the downed limbs into rustic structures in the garden.
  • Santos White Community Garden in Coney Island, which received a new shade structure that incorporates rainwater harvesting as a way to mitigate damage from heavy rains.