In the fall of 1993, neighborhood volunteers began moving trash and rubble from an abandoned lot at the corner of Summit and Columbia Streets. In the winter of 1994, the garden was approved for a lease from GreenThumb, and by the first major cleanup the following spring, donations of flower bulbs, perennials and hardy shrubs were already planted around the perimeter. Volunteers moved mounds of trash and weeds from the site, which had been abandoned for many years. Rubble was removed or repurposed to create well-drained planting mounds.
The summer of 1994 was spent gathering donations to acquire 250 cubic yards of soil for the central planting areas. By autumn, garden members were ready to build raised planting beds for herbs, vegetables and flowers. Green Thumb, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Council on the Environment and local businesses provided lumber, tools, seeds and plants, while members of the community donated time and hard work to creating the garden.
Throughout 1995 and 1996, the number of raised beds were expanded, and thousands of on-site bricks were excavated to create the paths and walkways. The garden was host to potlucks and barbecues. One of the flower beds was allocated to neighborhood children for education and fun.
In 1997, the garden started hosting local community events, such as movie nights and garden workshops. The Summit Street Community Garden was also part of the 1997 Columbia Waterfront Gardens tour. (Check out the brochure pages for photos of some of the area’s community gardens—including the Amazing Garden, the Human Compass Garden and the Backyard Garden—nearly 20 years ago.)
Still tended by volunteers, the garden features a border of shade trees, native plants, flowers and various plantings, including two grapevines—one over an arbor and the other along the Summit Street fence. In the spring, you’ll find two crabapples in bloom, as well as forsythia, tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths.
In late summer, you’ll see an array of blooms, including zinnias, elephant ears, coneflowers, nasturtium and hydrangea in borders and in members’ boxes. In the plots along the brick paths, you’ll also find vegetables and herbs, including tomatoes, sage, rosemary and basil. Take a seat at the bench by the garden’s entrance, in the arbor-shaded patio or at the umbrella table. The garden also has a carefully-tended compost area for garden clippings.
Today, the garden continues to host events, like bulb and bake sale fundraisers, potlucks, readings and theater. There is still a box dedicated to children’s learning, run by the Red Hook Playgroup. Once abandoned lots filled with rubble, the Summit Street Community Garden continues to be a pleasant green space in the neighborhood, and a place for the community to gather.