Giving and the Garden

Meghan is Land Morphology's newest staff member.  She is a landscape architect with both public and private design experience.  

I love working in the soil and finding bugs. Last week, as I uncovered a garden bed from its winter burlap cover, I found dozens of earthworms and centipedes of all sizes. Some were smaller than an inch while others were longer than my palm. Seeing such life in the soil tells me that the soil itself is very healthy, and that healthy food is what it will grow.

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I am the Giving Garden Coordinator at the Interbay P-Patch. I have been volunteering in this giving garden since I moved to Seattle in 2008. This garden is where I made my first friends in the city. Now, I lead a team of volunteers each week, keep crop records, and coordinate supplies and deliveries.

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The Seattle Giving Garden Network is an all volunteer-run organization which helps connect gardens, greenhouses, and gardeners in order to grow and donate organic produce within Seattle. There are 60+ giving gardens spread throughout the city, and the food goes to those in need at food banks, senior centers, or shelters.

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Interbay P-Patch’s Giving Garden started more than 15 years ago as a growing garden for the Chicken Soup Brigade. Gardeners tend about 1,000 square feet of raised garden beds, and produce goes to the Ballard Food Bank and Mary’s Place day shelter.

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The garden’s volunteers meet once a week, after work, during the primary growing season, April through October.

Each week, usual tasks include: planting seeds or starts, weeding, laying down mulch, creating compost, irrigating, harvesting the mature crops, and preparing them for donation. Some weeks are leisurely, if nothing is ready to harvest, while other weeks are a flurry of activity.

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The best part comes after the work party! Volunteers gather in the garden’s pavilion and have a pot-luck dinner together. Everyone brings a little something, and we share a meal and conversation. It’s a great way to bond as a little community and build friendships. Since it’s a potluck, the menu can be unpredictable. Once, everyone brought a bottle of wine and no one brought any food!

Veggie gardening can be a challenge if the gardener is not used to our PNW climate.

Our summers are not quite long enough and not quite hot enough to grow many of the prized summertime veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, okra, and other heat lovers often don’t have enough time to mature and produce fruit on their own. Using transplants, cloches, and other season extenders tend to be essential. Also, it is wise to use varieties geared toward our climate. I just discovered a short-season okra which matures from transplant to fruit in only 30 days! (I love okra.)

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On the flip side, our winters are mild and our springs and autumns are moist and cool. It is very easy to grow cool-season crops practically year-round. Kale, chard, collards, lettuce, arugula, peas, and beets can thrive in the garden from March until late June and again from September through November. A gardener can even raise veggies in the winter, such as cabbage, leeks, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and more kale. I currently have three varieties of leeks in my own garden, to harvest through the entire fall and winter.

If you have a veggie garden, please consider growing a row for those in need. And if you’d like to get involved as a volunteer, reach out to the community garden or food bank near you!

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