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Washington Voices

Garden Program Brings People Closer To Earth, Closer Together

Thu., May 2, 1996

Bonita Weaver-Rhodes is talking beets.

Gardening illiterate a year and a half ago, the West Central woman now knows herbs and seeds, soil and fertilizer, because of a neighborhood program that encourages backyard gardening.

Last year, her first in the program, she grew herbs, tomatoes, broccoli and peppers. After a year with “dirt under her fingernails,” Weaver-Rhodes is talking beets, onions, cucumbers and carrots.

“It’s really a tiny spot but I grew a lot of food,” said Weaver-Rhodes, 55.

Weaver-Rhodes’ two raised gardening beds were built by volunteers from a program developed by Lori Steiner and paid for with $8,000 in federal community development money.

Thanks to the Spokane Community Gardens program, 30 raised beds will be constructed this spring, mostly in West Central, Hillyard and Emerson-Garfield.

Steiner’s philosophy is that gardening is therapeutic and builds ties to the neighborhood. Her program makes that happen for everyone.

“For older people and those in wheelchairs, digging in the ground is very difficult,” said Steiner. “But working in a raised beds is very easy. Pulling weeds is easy and you don’t have to quite bend down so far.”

Steiner, a social worker, says a table-full of homegrown carrots can bring financial and psychological benefits.

“It really helps people be more self-sufficient and healthy,” said Steiner, who modeled the program after one in Portland.

The program also is a platform for Steiner’s philosophy of “urban greening.” Last week, Steiner, her husband Hank and a handful of other volunteers helped West Central’s Glen Seaman turn a dilapidated dog run into garden.

“I figured I might as well use it for something,” said Seaman, who planned to plant peppers and corn and “whatever the missus says.”

Steiner said just three gardens went fallow last year; a landlord shut off the water on one bed.

Weaver-Rhodes is a success story, her rocky yard transformed into green space.

“It’s easy to weed it because the ground is so nice and soft,” said Weaver-Rhodes.

In addition to seeds and sweat, the program provides ready advice. Weaver-Rhodes, for instance, was told to plant marigolds at the corner of each bed last summer to keep away bugs.

Volunteer and experienced gardener Kay Stolz loves to feel dirt under her fingernails and is excited when others feel the same. “There is a spiritual dimension to gardening,” said Stolz.

Steiner said all the gardening spots are taken for this year, but she plans to continue the program next spring. In the mean time, she will help people with new beds.

“Now comes the growing,” said Seaman.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: Call for info For more information about Spokane Community Gardens, call Lori Steiner at 326-8159.

Call for info For more information about Spokane Community Gardens, call Lori Steiner at 326-8159.


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