13 Louis Place used to be a fenced-up, overgrown, unusable lot.

Now, for the first time in more than five years, the Marge Matthews Community Garden is in the process of being restored with flower beds, vegetable gardens and shaded seating for all walks of life. And the tulip beds have just begun to bloom.

The restoration, which is almost complete, includes five new planters, a brick walkway, new grass, a serenity garden for children with special sensory needs and shaded seating and tables for safely gathering while social distancing.

Deon Davis-Harris, the neighbor who facilitated the renovation in partnership with the Louis Place Friends of Marge Mathews Board Of Directors, also intends on creating a free farm stand in the garden for the surrounding community, in addition to hosting art-making workshops and wellness activities.

“We don’t have enough access to fresh produce in this area, and the produce that is available — the prices are just too high,” Davis-Harris said.

Budding tulips at Marge Matthews! Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Budding tulips at Marge Matthews. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

The edible garden, which will be planted in the early spring, will include tomatoes, cucumbers, collard greens, cabbage and cauliflower, Davis-Harris said. Anyone is welcome to harvest the vegetables once they ripen.

“This way, we can eat healthy in addition to having a beautiful place to get together with your neighbors.”

Davis-Harris directs an organization called Not Just Hoops, Inc, which focuses on facilitating wellness programs and recreational activities for Brooklyn youth.

Her work with the at-risk and special needs community is part of what motivates her to provide safe, inclusive, public spaces for her community to nurture their bodies and minds.

“I want to create a space that everyone can enjoy and gain from, where no one is left out,” Davis-Harris said.

Davis and the new planter beds. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Davis and the new planter beds. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

Davis-Harris said she’d be coordinating activities for all different ages during the warmer months focused on connecting with nature and healthy living.

“A lot of times kids are not too keen on vegetables, but it may make a difference if they have a part in actually creating them and making them grow.”

A garden space that provides fresh produce and fresh air is nice, but it’s also vital. Brooklyn residents living in food deserts are dying at higher rates from COVID-19, and Central Brooklyn residents have one of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and asthma, according to In Our Back Yard.

With a green space, people will have more access to safe places to have socially distanced gatherings and access to fresh food.

To facilitate the upgrades to the community garden, Davis-Harris partnered with Seeds in the Middle, a charity dedicated to creating sustainable, healthy gardens for school children across central Brooklyn.

The charity raised over $30,000 with IOBY to support edible gardens in Brooklyn, some of which will go toward updating the Marge Matthews garden.

Here's what the lot looked like after all the overgrown plants and litter was pulled out. Photo: provided.
Here’s what the lot looked like after all the overgrown plants and litter was pulled out. Photo: Deon Davis-Harris.

Davis-Harris also received landscaping support from GreenThumb, the NYC Parks community garden assistance program, after months of persistence over email. “It helps not to give up and keep reminding the City that we are here.”

The seating, the ambient lights and a mural from a local artist on the garden’s shed will be installed in the next few months to complete the garden renovation and Davis-Harris’s vision.

“A lot of my neighbors are excited that the garden is almost done, and we have a couple of people that are interested in helping us plant and tend to the produce, too,” Davis-Harris said.

“Everyone who passes by is just really happy to have a space like this so nearby. It’s going to be great to have a space that’s actually usable.”

The garden’s grand opening will be later this spring. The hours of the garden will be from 8:00am to 6:00pm. To rehabilitate a community garden, Davis-Harris recommends reaching out to local neighbors and GreenThumb.

Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

Join the Conversation

2

  1. I design and planned this sit 25 years ago… It was a beautiful garden that was built by the neighborhood housing services of Bedford-Stuyvesant when I was the assistant director. Hurrican Sandy came and destroyed the garden.. I organized along with Joy Clarke , louis place resident several of garden clean-ups. The Project GreenThumb, Greg Anderson has been my direct contact.. He helped secure the redeveloping….. Ms. Davis Harris is new and not an official board member….

    1. I’ve updated the article to include the Louis Place Friends of Marge Mathews Board Of Directors. Thank you for reaching out.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.