History of the Gardens

Annie Thompson

Early History
The Gardens of Union have a long and colorful history.  Annie’s Garden was the original garden space and is named in honor of Annie Thompson, who lived across the street.  Annie and her husband John worked with neighbors to have the site of a burned down bakery legally turned into a garden in the early 1970’s.  Annie waved people into the garden and was a constant presence in the neighborhood.  One of her primary concerns was that the children here have a green space to explore, enjoy and spend time in.

A few years later, in the mid-70’s, the two lots that now comprise the larger section of the Gardens of Union were a rubble site: two 5 story structures were bulldozed due to their instability.  Members of the Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC) helped residents of the immediate area to clear the rubble and expand the garden.  It was a blank space without trees or topsoil, denuded and degraded.

Garden of Union Site, 1973

Composting History
Early on, members of the PSFC began bringing vegetable waste from the produce aisle to the garden.  Various bins and methods were tried over the next several years and included a grant in 1991 from the NYC Department of Sanitation to promote composting and to accept material from the neighborhood.  Members who wish to compost need to have an additional orientation tour for the gardens’ compost system.  It is important to use the current bin and to process the material properly.

In 2002 – 2005 we expanded and arrived at the current system of bins. The soil improved and much food was grown.  There has always been food in Annie’s garden as well. The light has diminished in places as trees have grown.  A large apple tree was removed in 2007 because it was leaning on the tool shed.  The birch tree has grown to fill that space.  Over the years the garden changes and we are always considering its long-term structure, both physically and socially.

Learn more about composting at the Gardens of Union.

Non-profit and Community Status
In 1986, some members decided that the legal structure of the garden should be a non-profit and that the gardens’ purpose was not only to grow and share food, but also to educate people on organic cultivation methods.  The garden became a non-profit and much food was grown for CHIPS (a local soup kitchen and charity) and given away to visitors and members.

Front Gate

A green house and a hoop house are both in the gardens’ history.  The pond was moved in 2006-2007 due to our neighbor’s complaints of water entering his building.  We try to get along with our neighbors and always invite them into the garden.  The opposite side of the garden is in close proximity to our neighbors and we are conscious of not making noise right outside their windows.  The garden needs all of its friends and supporters.  We work continually on community outreach.