Darien

As plant growth slows with the arrival of cool, damp, and short days, I have a bit of time to reflect on this past growing season. The Learning Garden has certainly provided fertile ground for learning! The garden began as an idea, and land, offered by the Masonic Lodge after the 2013 seed exchange. We held several community meetings to assess community support. Six adventurous people were willing to take on the project.

We spent the spring of 2013 articulating our vision, and then applying for a King County CSA grant. Our vision is three-fold:

  • To offer hands-on, educational workshops on topics related to home-scale, organic food gardening, nutrition, food preparation and preservation
  • To provide fresh produce for the Fall City Community Food Pantry
  • To offer small plots for gardeners, at low cost, with scholarships available

Have we fulfilled our vision?

Receiving the King County CSA grant, to our surprise, allowed us to purchase insurance, raised bed building materials, and topsoil and amendments.

Over the summer of 2013, as we awaited results of our grant application, we cleared the lot behind the Masonic Hall. We received two generous in-kind donations: a very generous donation of cedar 4x4s from Issaquah Cedar Lumber Company and a beautiful wheelbarrow from Carmichael's Hardware in Snoqualmie. We were able to build the first raised beds and begin planting and learning. David Bach created our website, letusgarden.org.

Our first garden workshop, free to all, in September of 2013 was "Compost and Cover Crops." We built large compost bins, and planted a demonstration area with winter cover crops.

The second workshop, "Plant Now for Summer Harvest: Garlic & Strawberries" was held in October. We planted the first two raised beds, 40 square feet of strawberries and 30 square feet of garlic, intending the future harvest for the Fall City Community Food Pantry.

Carol Whitaker attended the September workshop and began volunteering with us. A seasoned project manager, she guided us through an extensive strategic planning process as well as facilitating our mapping of the future garden.

In early 2014 we offered the workshops: "Plan Your Vegetable Garden With Us," (January) at the Fall City Library, Mason Bees (February) with Master Gardener Missy Anderson; and Companion Plants & Plant Allies (April). David set up a weather station near the Learning Garden, with real time weather information on our website, letusgarden.org.

Pastor Lee Hartman, of the Fall City United Methodist Church, introduced us to boy scout Carson Stine. Instead of holding a workshop in May, we hosted Carson and his scout community for an amazing day of raised bed building. Carson and his scout team built us eight raised beds, 14' x 4', and filled them with topsoil. This massive effort allowed us to plant a few summer crops for the Fall City Community Food Pantry. I was honored to be a witness to the power of scouts!

In spring we planted lettuce and peas, intended for the Food Pantry. The lettuce didn't do especially well, but the peas grew very well. Learning opportunity: I learned about the limitations of purchased topsoil, and we added an organic nitrogen source. After the scouts' bed building blitz, we planted summer crops of tomatoes, tomatillos, lettuce, and green beans, as well as companion flowers and herbs. Colin Keizer and his mother Joelle have been essential to the garden.

In July we planted chard and kale, for fall harvest, as well as a few herbs and flowers as companions. Over the first growing season we gave the Fall City Community Food Pantry garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, lettuce, green beans, kale, chard, and a few strawberries and herbs. So that part of our vision has begun to be realized!

All this has been accomplished through thousands of hours of volunteer labor, most from our core team of six people, but also many hours from other members of the community, including workshop presenters and the boy scouts and their families who built our raised beds. Through our workshops and website we have assembled a list of Learning Garden friends that numbers about 70 people.

This fall we offered two more workshops: "All About Soil", with Master Gardener Fred Wemer; and "Cooking Class and Harvest Feast" with Chef Tina Fogall. Since September 2013 we have offered seven free workshops to the community, so we have accomplished our vision of offering free hands-on garden education here in Fall City.

Our P-Patch vision however has not yet been fulfilled. Garden plots are available for community gardeners for the 2015 growing season. The garden beds were fall planted with cover crops to improve the soil for this coming year. (One bed is planted with garlic to share with the Food Pantry next summer.)

Other losses have hit us also. We've lost half of our core team: Carol to Texas, Lee Hartman to another church and a new community, and Shondell Kelley to a new and demanding job. The Fall City Learning Garden can use additional volunteers for any and all tasks—basic garden planting and maintenance, joining our core team, or community outreach. Please consider joining us for a workshop, a few hours in the garden, on the planning team, or as a P-Patch gardener. Visit our website at letusgarden.org or call 425 222-0593 to join our friends list or volunteer.

The first growing season has been definitely one for learning!