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More Reflections of a Growing Season

MIDWAY PARK COMMUNITY GARDEN, Des Moines

In the Des Moines Pacific Ridge neighborhood located between I-5 and International Blvd a lovely tree lined park separates two communities.  On the south, students attend one set of schools and on the north, another set.  Families have little opportunity to interact and the park has been the site of gang and other unwelcome activity.  Community activist Alena Rogers decided that a community garden would help unify the neighborhood and she reached out to KCD after receiving a grant from the Port of Seattle Airport Community Ecology Fund and permission from Des Moines Parks to install five raised garden beds.

Rogers’ vision of a true community garden where everyone was welcome to participate and share in the bounty was realized this spring.  “Because of the garden, I have met more people from my neighborhood in the last 3 months than I did living here for the last five years!” says Rogers, “Kids came out every evening throughout the summer to talk, taste and care for the garden plants.”   The neighborhood has shown a great deal of pride and usage of the garden and plans are underway for an expansion next year that will include individual garden plots.

Midway Park Community Garden is another example of the gardens that came online during the 2018 growing season. KCD was also involved in starting gardens at several apartment complexes and churches in addition to supporting existing food gardens. Next season, KCD hopes to bring food production even closer to home with “milk crate” gardening (watch for details this Spring).  By offering implementation and technical assistance, KCD helps make it possible for communities to grow food whenever and where ever possible while stewarding the natural resources that promote a healthy and sustainable food system.

October 22, 2018 / by / in
Reflections of a Growing Season

HILLSIDE PARADISE PARKING PLOTS COMMUNITY GARDEN, Kent

The inaugural season of World Relief and Hillside Church’s community food garden was a huge success with 20 countries represented in the 50 available plots (most measuring 10 x 17).  Throughout the season, gardeners gathered for classes on trellis building, composting and seed saving along with shared meals made from produce grown in the garden.  These opportunities for communal assembly have had a coalescing effect and the gardeners have truly become a united community.

Gardener Hau Lian wrote of his experience at the garden, “When I got my personal free time and doing gardening it’s make me forget my stress and feel fresh and by looking [at] what I planted growing it make me happy.”  Most of the gardeners at Hillside’s Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden come from an agrarian background and are learning what familiar crops will and will not grow successfully in the maritime northwest.

This past weekend, gardeners were busy clearing their plots in preparation for cover crop seeding, harvesting the last of their produce and saving seeds for planting in next year’s garden plots.  The garden will not be sitting idle during the winter months, however.  Construction is already underway to incorporate five rain gardens at the site.  These rain gardens will help filter stormwater runoff from the upper parking lot and will be the first of their kind in the city of Kent.  If you are interested in volunteering at the garden, watch Eventbrite for upcoming events (search refugee garden/Kent).

Next season, KCD hopes to bring food production even closer to home with “milk crate” gardening (watch for details this Spring).  By offering implementation and technical assistance, KCD helps make it possible for communities to grow food whenever and where ever possible while stewarding the natural resources that promote a healthy and sustainable food system.

October 8, 2018 / by / in
Yellowing in the Garden Explained

The gardeners at the newly constructed downtown Kent Lutheran Community Garden were suddenly noticing the leaves of their beans, eggplant and squash turning yellow in early July.  The church had created the garden with plots available to clients from World Relief in addition to growing food to supplement their twice weekly community dinners.  This seemed odd considering all new soil had been introduced in late May and the plants were getting plenty of sun and water.

Many gardeners experience yellowing of leaves and wonder about the cause.  Often the culprit is nitrogen deficiency and a soil test confirmed that this was the case at Kent Lutheran’s garden.  Nitrogen is vital because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide (i.e., photosynthesis).

But how is it that the nitrogen level could be so low in new, virgin soil?  An important correlation to nitrogen level is the amount of organic matter in soil.  In this case, the organic matter was rated VERY HIGH.  When there is a lot of organic matter or compost that includes wood shavings or bark, nitrogen becomes bound up in working to break down this carbon source and is not available to the plants.

Another cause of nitrogen deficiency is water-logging.  During our sizzling summer months gardeners want to ensure that their plants are getting enough water and often inadvertently water to the point of leaching the nitrogen out of their garden soil.  Plants only need 1” of water per week, so be sure not to over-water.

Remedying a nitrogen deficiency is easy!  Application of a nitrogen amendment will begin to turn new leaf growth green within a week of application.  Nitrogen amendments can include blood meal, feather meal, or fish fertilizer.  Nitrogen amendments are easy to apply and will need to be added regularly (according to manufacture instructions) throughout the growing season.

Organic matter in garden soil is important.  It helps break up hard packed/clay soil and it provides habitat and food for the biological and fungal organisms that are vital to plant life.  However, our soil can have too much of a good thing!  If you are experiencing nitrogen deficiency (a FREE soil test from King Conservation District can confirm) consider adding only topsoil to your beds next season (avoid compost with woody debris that will bind up nitrogen).  Also, cover cropping with legumes with help fix nitrogen from the air and soil and help avoid nitrogen leaching from winter rains.

If it turns out the lack of available nitrogen is not the problem or you need help visually diagnosing your plant’s nutrient deficiencies, check out this great guide:

August 1, 2018 / by / in
It’s Time to Think about Your Winter Veggie Garden
By the first week of June, most backyard gardeners have only just finished planting their beds and are looking forward to summer’s bounty of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. However, KCD’s Community Ag Crew want you to consider the benefits of cover cropping and to make plans to pick up a FREE sample bag of cover crop seed to incorporate into your winter garden.

In addition to improving soil structure by avoiding soil compaction/erosion from winter rains, cover crops help keep valuable nutrients in the soil, suppress weeds and create habitat and food for native pollinators.

Beginning August 1, KCD will be making available FREE cover crop seed to any backyard gardener who has submitted a soil test through KCD (also a FREE service through KCD!). You can pick up your seed and instructions at our office in Renton, our volunteer events and tours or at the following farmers markets (look for the KCD booth):

  • Kirkland Farmers Market – Wednesday, August 8
  • Auburn Farmers Market – Sunday, August 12
  • Issaquah Farmers Market – Saturday, August 25
  • Bellevue Farmers Market – Thursday, September 6
  • Shoreline Farmers Market – Sunday, September 9
  • Ballard Farmers Market – Sunday, September 16
  • Wallingford Farmers Market – Wednesday, September 26

 

June 14, 2018 / by / in
Creating an Urban Garden in White Center

Typically, a loading dock space is where the dumpster, dead leaves and strewn trash are found.  But at Sea Mar Community Health Center in White Center, the staff envisioned a garden pocket park where clients could grow fresh, healthy food.

Sea Mar Community Health Center is located in the heart of South King County’s White Center neighborhood in a building that was previously a grocery store. Sea Mar staff wanted to create a demonstration garden in the former loading dock and contacted KCD’s Community Agriculture Crew for technical and implementation assistance. Building on the existing three wooden raised beds, four – 6-foot-long galvanized stock tanks were added, and a Planting Party was held on Saturday, May 19, to introduce the garden to neighbors, clinic staff and patients.

Over 40 people turned out to plant out a variety of vegetables and herbs, learn how to properly water, identify pests and weeds and beautify the garden with a chalk mural.

          

Everyone that attended the Planting Party is excited for summer harvests of their favorite foods. Sea Mar Community Health Center will be holding cooking classes this summer and will be using the veggies and herbs from the garden. Community members accessing the clinic will also be encouraged to harvest from the garden when they come for appointments.

Sea Mar Community Health Clinic’s commitment to improving their clients access to fresh, healthy foods prompted them to take what was once an underutilized space and turn it into a community asset.  Do you have space at your office, housing complex or place of worship that could be used to provide an opportunity to grow food?  If so, let’s formulate a plan that will bring nutritious fruits and vegetables closer to home.

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 / by / in
5 Simple Ways to Support Native Pollinators & Beneficial Insects

When most people think of pollinators, they think of hives and honeybees.  However, honeybees are not native to Washington (or the United States, for that matter) and there are many, many other pollinators that are better suited to our climate and do the work of pollinating our trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers and shrubs.

This week, KCD staff has been at the NW Flower & Garden Festival sharing 5 Simple Ways to Support Native Pollinators & Beneficial Insects.  Soon hibernating pollinators like bumble bees and beetles will be emerging, so consider the following ways you can support their habitat:

  1.  Provide Native Plants – Native plants have been found to be four times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives and many butterflies only lay eggs on native species.  By planting a mix of annuals and perennials that bloom from early spring through mid-fall, you can ensure flowers in your garden that provide food for pollinators throughout their active seasons.
  2. Re-Think Chemical Use – Before you spray, make sure you truly have a pest problem!  Many insects are harmless or even helpful.  Information on pest control is available through your County Extension office or Master Gardeners.  If you must spray, be mindful of your timing.  Apply early morning before blooms open and avoid spraying the flowers.  Also, pollinators are less active in early mornings or late evening.  Remember, however, any chemicals applied to plants can be consumed by hungry caterpillars.
  3. Leave the Leaves – One of the most valuable things you can to do support pollinators and beneficial insects is to provide them with winter cover in the form of leaves and standing dead plant material.  Considering creating a sign to inform your neighbors of your pollinator-friendly choice!
  4. Re-Think Tillage – Just like raking leaves, tilling is an annual chore for most gardeners.  It is what we have always done!  However, tilling can disturb or even kill hibernating pollinators.  One of the most recognizable pollinator, the bumble bee, survives Washington’s winter chill by burrowing only an inch or two in the ground.  If you till to avoid compaction, consider growing cover crops or only digging in exact planting areas.
  5. Grow Cover Crops –  like leaves, winter cover crops of rye, vetch and clover offer habitat and protection from the elements for pollinators.  In spring, flowering clover is an early source of nectar and cover crops prevent compaction which limits the need for tilling.  (In order to avoid nuisance cover crop weeds, do not let flowers go to seed.)  In the backyard garden, cover crops can be “chopped” with a spade or hand turned with less disruption to pollinator habitat than mechanical tillers.

We can all take simple steps to protect pollinators and promote bio-diversity in our yards, gardens and open spaces.  For more detailed information about supporting pollinator habitat, visit www.xerces.org.  

 

February 9, 2018 / by / in
Growing A Taste of Home

Akasanjaku Beans, Ping Tung Eggplant, Molokai Spinach and Armenian Striped Cucumbers are all tastes of home for many of South King County’s newly arrived immigrants and refugees.  However, access to these familiar foods is both limited and costly.  Thirteen-year-old, Erica A., of Seattle decided she wanted to do something about that and has dedicated her Bat Mitzvah project to growing plant starts that will be distributed at community gardens across South King County this spring.  Erica and her father, Larry, met me to plant out the first batch of seed starts earlier this month.  The process involved a bacterial wash of the seed trays, filling the trays with starter mix and planting out hundreds of tiny seeds.  “It was exciting to hear about how even people who do not have their own land are able to learn about gardening, soil and conservation,” Erica observed.  She was particularly interested in International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Namaste Garden in Tukwila, where she hopes to see some of her culturally relevant plant starts grow into food that will provide access to fresh food and a taste of home.

A special thank you to Auburn Mountainview High School for the use of greenhouse space and to Horticulture Instructor, Regina Grubb, and her students for caring for the plant starts.

If you would like to help plant out seeds for community gardens, please contact me.

Melissa Tatro

Community Agriculture Coordinator

KING CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Melissa.Tatro@kingcd.org

425-282-1921

January 23, 2018 / by / in
Free Compost Available to Qualifying King County Community Gardens

It’s never too early to think about compost and amending your soil for the 2018 growing season.

KCD has FREE GroCo compost and delivery made available through our partnership with King County to qualifying community gardens. To find out if your garden qualifies, download an application.

For more information about GroCo compost (made with Loop® biosolids) can be found here:  http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/wastewater/resource-recovery/Loop-Biosolids.aspx

January 8, 2018 / by / in
Lend a Hand – MLK Day of Service

Looking for ways to engage with your community on MLK Day of Service?  Several community gardens are looking for volunteers to help with infrastructure projects, garden clean up and winter prep.  There is a task for every skill level and a great chance to spend time with family and friends.

These community gardens are holding work parties on Monday, January 15:

HILLSIDE COMMUNITY GARDEN, KENT

Hillside Community Garden is holding a Refugee Community Garden Work Day from 9 am to 12:30 pm.  Your participation will help efforts to convert an acre of paved parking lot space into a garden paradise  where refugees, immigrants and local community members can gather to grow culturally appropriate foods that promote a healthier lifestyle, improve food access, foster economic independence, and build community.  More Information and Registration Here.

ELK RUN FARM, MAPLE VALLEY

Volunteers are needed at Elk Run Farm from 10 am to 2 pm to grub out blackberries, sheet mulch and turn under cover crop for early March planting.  Elk Run Farm grows food year-round on an acre of converted golf course to supply 12 area food banks with fresh fruits and vegetables.  The farm holds regular work parties throughout the growing season.  More Information and Registration Here.

SUSTAINABLE RENTON COMMUNITY FARM

There is never a shortage of things that need to be done at Sustainable Renton Community Farm.  From 10 am to 2 pm, join United Way volunteers to help spread wood chips along pathways and weed beds and perimeters.  In addition to offering year-round gardening spaces, Sustainable Renton Community Farm grows food for local restaurants and has a “pay what you can” Farm Stand.  They are passionate about food justice.   More Information and Registration Here.

December 20, 2017 / by / in