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A Moment To Breathe…

Kate with dahlias, her favorite

Welcome, all of you who are new to the blog – thank you for visiting and please stay a while. Please feel free to comment, as I love to hear from you all – I believe this is our blog together!

This week I’ve had the privilege of a lovely visit from Kate, of Hills and Plains Seedsavers in Adelaide, Australia. Hills and Plains is a seedsaving group numbering about 40, who meet once a month, trade seeds with one another, and blog together about gardening. Oh, and Kate is also a participant in The Growing Challenge!

We’ve had a lovely time together so far, touring our local community gardens, visiting the famous Pike Place Market, walking (and driving and taking the bus) around town, and eating, eating, eating

It has been absolutely wonderful to take a break, become a bit of a tourist myself, and to unwind as we learn from other gardeners along our tour. Here is a taste of our visit so far:

Thomas Street P-Patch

Thomas Street P-Patch

This is the community garden closest to our house. It currently has a 3-5 year wait list for a plot. In Seattle we call our community gardens “p-patches”, after Rainie Picardo who set up the first p-patch in 1974. Here is more of the history of our patches.

Squirrel making itself at home

It is interesting how each community garden seems to have a bit of its own culture, with unique patterns of planting, methods of growing, and types of plants grown. Thomas Street has small plots, but most of them are very packed full of one or two of just about everything each individual gardener enjoys!

Republican Street P-Patch

Republican Street P-Patch

This garden is a the other side of our large neighborhood of Capitol Hill, surrounded by larger houses and townhomes. It was not as densely planted, and seemed to be going through more of a transition as summer crops were taken out and cole crops were just being seeded.

Blogger Photographer

Pelican Tea Garden

Pelican Tea Garden

Some of you have seen this garden before, back when I came to visit Seattle and look for an apartment. This is a tiny co-operative plot down a dark, dirty alley lined with garbage. But the garden itself is an urban oasis, full of all sorts of herbs and vegetables!

Seattle Tilth Demonstration Garden, Food Bank Garden, and Good Shepard P-Patch

Seattle Tilth

Seattle Tilth is a wonderful local educational facility for Seattle gardeners, offering classes on master composting, container gardening, irrigation, urban chicken keeping, and much more. The garden itself is largely a demonstration garden, where each small bed demonstrates a new technique. When I visited in the late summer with other local bloggers, they even had a sign on their squash saying “this is what powdery mildew looks like” – ha! It made us all feel better, as it has been a particularly cold and wet growing season this year.

Coffee bags as mulch

Stockings to protect apples from pests

Like several of the local p-patches, Seattle Tilth also hosts a food bank garden that provides fresh organic produce to low-income families.

University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden

University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden


As we took a tour through the beautiful University of Washington campus, I remembered a great little medicinal herb garden tucked away inside the campus.  We found all sorts of herbs from all over the world.  The cold rain had hit some of the tropical herbs pretty hard, so I’m sure mid-summer the place is just magical.  




Interbay P-Patch

Interbay Food Bank

This is a very large community garden feeding 120 families on a landfill between the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods. The gardeners and their families meet once a month for a potluck and get-together, where they roast vegetables from the garden and enjoy one another’s company.


It was here that Kate found a whole plot of dahlias and was in heaven (top photo).

Kale with grass mulch from local landscaping companies



Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market


In between gardens, we’ve also indulged in quite a lot of local food, including some wonderful cheeses we found at the Pike Place Market.  One of the cheeses was from a lovely woman who had recently been to Australia on a tour of the different cows in the region.


Rosecrest Farm Swiss Cheese


Today we’re off the the University District Farmer’s Market and to visit our “family allotment” at my mother’s place. It’s under a bit of construction (more to come about that!), so it will be an unusual garden visit but at least there are a few things still growing for Kate to see.


Pike Place Fish Co.

Sosios Produce

I must say it’s nice to step back some, to re-evaluate my world and my views from an outsider’s perspective. Things that are normal – like squirrels, large mountains, food banks, and bike racks on buses – are unusual to others. It’s refreshing to see normal in a new light.

I’ve also been able to take my eyes off the news, the market, the election – just a little bit. I know it’s all still there, but it’s a bit more distant and thus easier to reflect upon, easier to recognize the bigger picture.

There are many more photos on Kate’s blog, if you’d like to hear more about our visit!

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16 comments to A Moment To Breathe…

  • I’m struck by the fact that community gardening is clearly cultural in Seattle, whereas we have very little of it here at all. Our park district has an area that can be used for this, but it is designed for use by low-income people, and the plots are rented on a sliding scale based on income. My understanding from a friend who works for the park district is that it is under-used. They have a rule that the plot must be cared for in a reasonable fashion or you lose your space. That is mostly what happens.
    I would assume that, being a less urban area, most gardening here is occurring on people’s house lots. Proportionately we probably have fewer apartment dwellers, other than the college students, who are unlikely to spend time gardening.
    It’s just interesting to see the cultural differences that occur even within our own country. Just another fun thing about the internet. Thanks for the article!

  • Hi Melinda,

    Great to see the beautiful spaces created by these wonderful communities.

    I am so glad you got to take a little step back and just enjoy your city.

    Kind Regards

  • Melinda, what a great respite for you. I love. love. love. the voice and photos of Hills and Plains and have been following Kate’s travels.

  • OH! What gorgeous photos. You just gotta show off out there on the west cost, doncha? JK Seriously, I feel stunted and neglected here in the ‘burbs. Detroit’s idea of a community garden is some abandonded lot folks try to use to scrap out a few tomato plants in hopes of a garden taking root. Sigh. I need to move. ;o)

  • rob

    P-patches are cool. Unfortunately, City of burien can’t decide what to do about p-patches. I say they need to make some of the land at the communiyty center and p-patch it. Funny thing I call the city council the “garden Club of Burien”.

  • What fun!

    I agree about the P-patches having different personalities. It’s been many years since I visited, but there was a really sweet one in North Seattle. It was about a block away from where I worked so I would often go over and spend my lunch break there.

  • [...] As I walk with Kate through many local p-patches here, I’ve been wondering what you think of the Growing Challenge.  Has it been helpful for you to have this community of gardeners pushing you to plant from seed?  Will you continue on to grow more new plants from seed?  Are you saving your seeds for next year?  And it’s ok to be honest.  I know some of you had a terrible time with some of your new seeds and will never plant those crops again.  Did you learn from that experience, or was it just a dud? [...]

  • Great photos. I don’t visit p-patches enough but I am always so happy when I run across one. And yes, the UW Medicinal Herb garden is awesome in summer (though this one was wonky there as everywhere). It lies between my building and a building I travel to for meetings sometimes, and I always take the long way so I can walk through it. You should come visit it next warm season.

  • Wow, that makes me miss Seattle. I always loved walking by the medicinal gardens when I could, though I never had classes near it. I didn’t see the community garden I remember living down the street from in the U-District. It was on NE 42nd, I think, could be wrong, very close to Landen Hall. It’s been 11 years, so I don’t know if it’s still there, or what it was called.

    How does that work exactly? Does an individual own the property and rent it out to co-op members? I can’t imagine people doing it where I live now, since everything has to be irrigated. (We get less than 5 inches of rain a year, mostly in November and March.) There’s actually an empty lot across the street from me that I would LOVE to turn into a community garden, assuming the owners would let us. It’s a big dirt plot right now. But I’m not sure how we’d irrigate, or who would want to use it, since most people in the neighborhood have room to plant their own, and don’t.

  • Aww, that sounds like a great time. What nice gardens. Glad you got a break!

  • EJ

    Why the stocking on one apple?

  • [...] have been eating loads of fresh, local goodies lately – it was fun to show off our local flavors with Kate last week! Actually, I’ve made a special effort to find local food in October as a part of the Eat [...]

  • EJ, I believe it is an attempt to keep out the apple maggots or other pests. All of the other apple trees in the garden had terrible wounds in them from some sort of pest, but these apples with the stockings on them were beautiful.

    I tried doing a search online, but didn’t come up with specific reasons for this. But next time I’m at Seattle Tilth I will ask them!!

  • I’m a bit behind answering comments, due to Kate’s visit, but I will be back to answer the rest of your comments!

  • Oh, I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your comments! Please keep leaving them, though – I love them!

    Joyce, Yes, it is a cultural phenomenon here. All sorts of outdoor activities are big here, actually. Outdoor theatre, soccer, ultimate frisbee, rowing, summer outdoor movies, botanical gardens, etc, etc. I am not sure why – maybe that we value the time we can spend outside, because it is cloudy 9 months out of the year! ; )

    Seriously, though – I think it has a lot to do with people taking the initiative. And it has to do with legislation, since people can ask the city for monetary help in setting up a garden.

    When my grandfather was gardening here when he was younger, there was no system. He saw a parcel of land that wasn’t used for anything, and he went to the city and asked them if he could make it into a garden. They said yes. So… if he can do it, we all can. : )

    As far as your comment about apartments… we are a dense urban area. But the community gardens are all over the city, where there are apartments and where there are houses. Mostly where there are houses. There are 54 of them in total.

    I too, love the internet – gives us all sorts of ideas and perspectives!

    Belinda, Thank you – it was a nice break!

    Katecontinued, Kate has been to some amazing places on her trip. It was difficult to stack up to rural France. ; ) But we did our best!

    Eco ‘Burban Mom, Of course I have to show off! Heh. And -ahem- you know that if there isn’t a community garden there, someone has to push for it to happen! ; ) I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to garden.

    Rob, Weird – “Garden Club of Burien” with no gardens, eh? Grrr. I suppose you’re not covered under Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods grants…? Bummer! I would say if there are open spaces, the city would probably be more than happy to let someone take it over as a garden. It’s cheaper and adds to property value…

    Deb G, What a lovely lunch break!

    Lauren, Good to hear from another local blogger! I’ve added your blog to our northwest blog list. I will definitely check out the medicinal herb garden in the summer!

    Amanda, Glad I could bring back good memories. I lived in Landen Hall for my first year at the UW!! That was -cough- a few years before you, though. ; )

    The p-patches have running water, and many of the plots have drip irrigation – each farmer does it differently. There is a grant program through the city. They actually help buy the land, and then help pay for the installation of water, amending the soil, etc. It’s a matching grant, so you have to put in work hours in order to get the money. But it works quite well.

    If you’re doing it on private land, you could probably do it fairly cheaply, but you’d most likely still have to put in a water pipe (unless there is water nearby). Doesn’t hurt to inquire!

    Stephanie, It was really nice – thanks!

  • [...] our neighborhood soon, though they’ve been having some funding trouble.  Since these “P-Patches” are so high in demand (each with a 2-5 year wait list!), we’re going to contact the [...]

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