Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Millwood patch grows more than pumpkins

Longtime Millwood residents may remember the pumpkin patch that was planted every year on the north shore of the Spokane River next to Argonne Road. That spot is being reborn as the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden and yes, there will be pumpkins growing in the rocky soil again.

A group of about 30 community volunteers gathered at the site a few weeks ago to create garden beds with donated lumber and fill them with donated soil. There are 30 beds available to the public and only about half have been reserved so far. Many are still empty plots, but some are already dotted with small green seedlings poking above the soil. “It looks like someone has their cabbage in,” said the Rev. Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Presbyterian Church, as he surveyed the garden recently.

Goodwin is a member of the Millwood Better for Business group and wondered aloud if the land at Argonne and Maringo would make a good community garden. A relative newcomer, he had no idea of the spot’s history as a pumpkin patch. “It turns out that others had been thinking the same thing,” he said. “We just went for it. We started calling businesses.”

Wittkopf Landscaping donated the soil. The Idaho Forest Group donated lumber to make the beds. Dew Drop Sprinklers put in an irrigation system. Northwest Seed and Pet donated wildflower seeds for the border of the garden. Goodwin’s church is providing liability insurance. Inland Empire Paper Co., which owns the land, agreed to let the garden take root. The paper mill is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

“It’s been a real partnership of a lot of people coming together,” Goodwin said.

Now seems to be the perfect time to launch a community garden. New gardens have been cropping up all over the Spokane area as interest in growing food goes up. “It does seem to be a growing trend,” Goodwin said.

Cheryl Booth said she reserved one of the boxes to try her hand at raising her own vegetables. “We had talked some about doing a garden in our own backyard,” she said. “I was a little hesitant about tearing up sections of lawn.”

Booth heard about the new garden at the Millwood Farmers’ Market and it seemed perfect. “This is us getting our feet wet,” she said. She also sees it as a great way to be involved in the community. She and her family have already been at the site helping build the beds and fill the boxes with soil. It was something her 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son were enthusiastic about. “My son had his little sandbox shovel and pail,” she said.

She plans to wait until after May 15 to plant peppers, tomatoes, onions and potatoes, “things we cook with on a regular basis.”

Anyone interested in participating in the garden must pay a $25 fee to help pay for irrigation. The water system will run on a timer and each box will have its own faucet. “Everyone has to do their own weeding,” Goodwin said.

People can visit pumpkinpatch to sign up for a box and sign a permit that will allow them access to the property. People will also have to agree to only use organic gardening practices. “The paper mill doesn’t want anything going into the river from the garden,” Goodwin said.

That fee is standard for community gardens, but it won’t pay all the expenses, even with all the donated materials. Goodwin said Roast House Coffee plans to sell a Pumpkin Patch blend of coffee at the Millwood Farmers’ Market this summer to help raise money.

In addition to the individual boxes and the pumpkin patch, there are also plans for several rows of basic crops that will be grown solely for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Volunteers will water, weed and harvest the rows once the ground is tilled. “We had a tractor out here and the ground is so tough it broke the tractor,” Goodwin said.

On a recent day there wasn’t much more than dirt and mud to see, but Goodwin can envision what the land will become. “It doesn’t look like much now, but it’ll look pretty this summer.”

Click here to comment on this story »