Many BQLT gardens were originally vacant lots, converted through volunteer labor by community members into the thriving public green spaces that they are today. Today these gardens are open-access spaces for all who live in the community.
Although BQLT members use their gardens for multiple activities, the majority of gardens are used for urban agriculture. Of all the gardens, approximately 92% are used to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for the gardeners, their families, and their community. Many BQLT gardens are located in lower income communities, where access to fresh produce may be scarcer than in more affluent neighborhoods, while nutrition-based disease (such as obesity and diabetes) is more prevalent. Having the means to independently raise nutritious food right on a Brooklyn block is one step toward improving the health of these communities.
BQLT gardens also serve as an open-air classroom for students of all ages. Some gardens are used by day care centers to allow the children time to play outside and to experience gardening and to play in the dirt. Several schools have held hands-on educational programs in the gardens to teach students about planting and growing vegetables, taking a practical approach to earth sciences. At the university level, select gardens are participating in a bee study project by a Long Island University professor who is researching and examining bee diversity at community gardens throughout Brooklyn. The study is an attempt to answer several questions that will help understand and support urban bees in community gardens.
BQLT gardens seek to make minimal negative impact on the environment. Currently there are three gardens under the BQLT umbrella which use solar power to help generate electricity. The majority of the gardens have some type of composting project in the garden. One garden even has a composting toilet, allowing for the garden to provide restroom facilities for visitors and gardeners. The composting toilet processes human waste and converts it into organic compost and fertile soil. As an extension of its environmental stewardship and sustainable food raising practices, some BQLT gardens have beehives, chickens, and fish ponds.
Finally, and crucially, BQLT gardens are a space that brings the community together. Gardens host a dazzling array of events including art and photo exhibits, crafts, cooking demonstrations, night time movies, yoga, live music, card games, checkers, Scrabble, chess, dominoes, garden parties, barbeques, fish fries, dinner fundraisers, block association meetings, community meetings, garden parties for community outreach, and educational workshops for the youth. The gardens are a catalyst for community involvement and volunteering, marshalling neighborhood citizens to help prepare gardens each season, maintain the gardens through the year, and launch new community programs.