Wall blocks for beds

Promises: spring is such a promise! Sun and 60° are tantalizing advertisements for summer. This year’s garden will be the best yet! The garlic is showing leaves, the cover crops are beginning to look full and green. Our January planning, on Zoom, is a plan for continual harvests of salad greens, abundant summer vegetables, flowers for bees and other beneficial insects. We will challenge our gardening skills trying out cabbage and broccoli. Too wet and cool for any actual planting, it is a great time for mapping and scheduling. The promise of a completed garden this growing season arrives with the final shipment of wall blocks for our bed edges.

Early seeding

Starts: The vegetable and flower seeds we started in late February, to grow protected inside, germinate quickly and begin growing well, still promising! So far we progress according to plan. Plant starts are like Goldilocks: just the right varieties for our region, needing just right conditions: not to cool, not too hot, not too shady or too sunny, and just enough but not too much water.

Peas at three weeks



Soil: Cover crops have filled in by late February, by March some are starting to bloom. We’ve stewarded our soil by generously seeding cover crop mix in late summer and fall, and by February and bare spots are covered by leftover compost and grass cuttings. At our first transplanting day in late March, the cover crops and compost already on the beds requires only a sprinkling of composted chicken manure pellets under the lettuce and spinach transplants. The pea transplants should provide their own fertilizer through the symbiotic relationship with beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria.
Our generous neighbor has pulled out the large stump and leveled the ground, so we begin measuring and building our final three beds. One of our generous volunteers brings us yards of wood chips, which we distribute on the paths between the beds.

 nasturtiums cosmos fat our weeksCompromises: As the actual garden season begins, it looks like we may have started the cosmos and nasturtiums a bit early. They germinate quickly and grow fast, maybe too fast! We still have a month before our frost free date, so if we plant them out they may not survive a late frost. We plant a few anyway, and save some for planting later. Our plan for following peas with tomatoes likely won't work, as the peas may still be producing just when we want to plant tomatoes. We adjust the plan to follow the peas with cucumbers, which can be planted as late as early to mid July. Tomato bed moved to where we had planned cucumbers. But the promises of winter and spring still hold, we just shift a bit to accommodate reality, the continual dance of gardeners.

Gardening tools!




Joy: Our first day of transplanting in late March is one with warm sun. Our regular group of volunteers are here, and a new volunteer too. It is such a pleasure to work in the sun with friendly companions! Here is one promise fulfilled, the joy of satisfying work shared. This companionable work generates energy for the challenges that will no doubt arise during this garden season.
Perhaps we will have more volunteers join us this season! We will need them for our abundant harvests for the Food Pantry still to come!

- from Darien

As it has been for all of us, 2020 has been challenging for the volunteers of the Fall City Learning Garden.

Last year we had to move, as the house next door to the Masonic Hall was sold. We spent much of the summer & fall of 2019 moving soil and our bed edging closer to the Hall, where the Masonic Lodge invited us to continue gardening. A year ago we had only two 50 sq foot beds ready to plant, and one of them we filled with garlic! We also applied at that time for a King County Local Service Area community grant, to help us purchase new bed building supplies, soil, and tools.

This year, in February and early March, we started off hopeful that we would receive a grant award, and with new & long time volunteers that helped us set up a new composting area and start early seeds. We had plans for big public workshops to help us build our raised beds in a bed-building blitz!

Well, you know what happened in March. We had to cancel a workshop, and change plans. We were fortunate to receive a grant from King County, but for various reasons the funds were not released to us until October. Our wonderful steady volunteer team shifted gears, and we kept on, little by little. As agriculture is an essential business, even on a small scale, we were able to keep gardening. We adapted to mask wearing and social distancing, making sure we had clean gloves and tools for harvesting. Beds were built, one at a time, rainwater barrels and a new water system installed (thank you to the Fall City Masonic Lodge!), and seeds & transplants planted. As we had no planting space for the earliest peas and lettuce, a call went out for donations of large planters, and our community answered! Well, we ARE a “Learning” garden, as well as a “giving” garden. Here are a few of the lessons we learned this year:

◊ The first lesson learned was how much can be grown in the small space of a 12” container. Pole peas and early lettuce, multiple harvests! Another is how much can be grown in small growing beds. Most of our over 300 pounds of harvested produce, all donated, was grown on a little more than 200 square feet.

Some of the other lessons learned by our garden volunteers:

◊ The importance of mulch—it keeps soil moisture in, feeds the soil as it decays, and slows weed growth

◊ The benefits of cover crops, which contribute to soil health and fertility, and cycle soil nutrients

◊ Not everything that's not a vegetable is a weed, and even that some "weeds" can be beneficial flowers attracting beneficial insects, or contribute to soil health.

◊ How to start from seeds, how to transplant starts, and when to plant

◊ How much to water, and when to harvest

◊ Different ways to harvest lettuce for a prolonged harvest

◊ Which varieties worked better for our garden and methods. We tried many lettuce varieties, as well as tomato and cucumber varieties. (My favorite lettuce varieties this year: Kweik, Merlox Red Oak, Bronze Arrowhead, and Canasta. Cucumbers: Suyo long, and Northern Pickling.

◊ One of our volunteers says: “I'm always amazed at how much food can be grown, and donated to the local food banks, in what doesn't seem like a ton of space.” She has taken lessons learned here into her home garden!

Of course there are also the more painful lessons too:

◊ Late summer rains brought tomato late blight. We were fortunate to have some to harvest before it killed the plants.

◊ Another lesson that goes along with abundant harvest in a small space, is that some plants can get shaded out if planted too close to more vigorous growing larger plants. We lost our fall broccoli starts, and some of the later planted lettuce to vigorous cucumber and tomato plants.

◊ Lettuce, cilantro, and radishes should be planted weekly or nearly to have a continued supply. We didn't manage this! But one thing about a garden is that there is always next year to improve!

My most favorite lesson learned in the garden this year, is that gardening together with the other friendly volunteers, contributing in a very small way to a need in our community, is an absolute joy.

I invite any of you who would like to learn and help, come join us next season! Look for us on the calendar page of the "Fall City Neighbors."

To continue following the Learning Garden on social media, join our page on MeWe.com or sign in to you accont there. We will no longer post to the page on Facebook.


Thanks to our dedicated core team of volunteers we’ve been able to make progress on developing the new garden site and continue some planting.

What they’ve done so far: Planted spring crops of lettuce, peas, kale, and a few radishes, all successfully harvested for the Food Pantry. Lettuce has been replanted a couple of times, so we should continue to have some for the Food Pantry. We have one bed of tomatoes planted, and some tomatillo plants in the large pots.

We’ve built two new beds this spring (tomatoes in one). With the soil saved and protected with cover crops over last winter, we have had enough soil for the four beds now built, and possibly one more. Bed #4 was just completed and filled with soil, we should be able to plant it in early July, possibly with bush beans and peppers. We also gave away about 40 tomato seedlings to Food Pantry clients. Our efforts will continue through ththe challenging times of reopening business and social opportunities.

Here's an update of our activities from Darien.

Last week we harvested kale, lettuce, and the last of the peas. In bed #2 we planted peppers on the west, and three butterbush squash on the east, replacing lettuce and radishes that have been harvested.

More soil and compost was added to bed #4, then peppers planted down the center, cilantro seeds on east and west ends, and bush green bean seeds on the south side.

Here's an update of our final July activities from Darien.

In spite of mid-day heat this last week of July, work on the Learning Garden has continued. The garden is looking so good now! Thanks to our core volunteers for your hard labor!

Yesterday early morning I went to the garden to water before the heat of the day. I was a bit worried about how the squash, cucumber, and lettuce transplants, and bean seedlings, would look after not being watered since last Wednesday. They all looked great!