Gardening at Future Leaders Institute

9 Aug

What: weeding and garden maintenance

Where: Future Leaders Institute, Morningside Heights, with New York Cares

When: Thursday, 6-8pm

When you arrive at the address for Future Leaders Institute charter school, you’ll notice that the name above the entrance is Hans Christian Andersen Complex. Enter. You’ll meet your team leader there and head over to the gardens, where you can begin on a number of tasks. I was given some options: 1, pulling weeds in the rocks and flower bed; 2, chopping and pulling large, 5′-6′ tall weeds; or 3, discerning what is a weed and what is a not, and pulling the weed. I immediately eliminated the 3rd option, as I have no idea how to differentiate a weed from a plant. I’m pretty sure one of my house plants is actually a weed. The second option seemed like a fun challenge, but I wasn’t sure if I trusted myself with a weedwacker. So I chose the low-and-slow weeding option #1.

Though it was a small area, me and my fellow volunteers (I think there were about 7 of us in one garden) pulled those suckers for 2 hours straight and just barely finished. Even though it was hard work, it was oddly calming. There were a few pedestrians walking around, but other than that, it was a perfect, mind-numbing activity done in relative silence; I welcome things like this after a hectic day at work.  Another great thing with a project like this is that you can see the difference you’re making, literally. I posted some pictures below of the before and after; I never realized how ugly weeds are until this day. I used to love dandelions-I’m a changed woman.

At the end of 2 hours, we had made a huge dent in the work needed to get this garden looking 100% awesome and well-manicured. Luckily, it will continue to get better, since this wasn’t a one time activity; this was only the second session, & ‘Gardening at the Future Leaders Institute’ will continue to run through the school year. After the maintenance and weeding are done, the project will begin to include the students, teaching them how to garden and participate in hands-on activities. And they’re lucky-I was huffing the sweet smell of fresh rosemary and loving it. These kids have a source of fresh basil, thyme, tomatoes, and much more to look forward to.

I usually end my posts with ‘other things to know’, but I can’t take full credit for the helpful tidbits this time;  NY Cares team leader Nada gave a full description of what to wear, subway directions, even weather reports the day of the activity. So, besides my advice, which is that you should bring some bug spray, here are some other things Nada the team leader will tell you:

  • Be on time! The project is only two hours long.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that can get dirty.
  • Relax, and be kind to your back [and knees]- be sure to get up and stretch from time to time.
  • Ask if you have any questions.

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