It used to be a windy corner lot at the intersection of West Gardner Avenue and Elm Street. Weeds would grow there in the summer and the lot’s owner, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, would mow it once in a while.
That began to change in the summer of 2007 when the church decided to put in four raised beds, a tiny start toward a community garden on the big vacant lot.
“Initially we were mostly growing food for the church dinners,” said Kris Christensen, urban missioner with the church. And food they need: every Wednesday as many as 100 people gather for a free dinner in the church hall. Food comes from Feed Spokane, and the dinner is also supported by St. Stephen’s Church, St. David’s Church and the Cathedral of St. John.
“We wanted to grow fresh vegetables for the dinners, but then it took off from there,” said Christensen.
In 2008, there were eight beds and last year there were 20 beds.
The plan is for 26 beds this summer. Volunteer garden chief Alan Zunke is currently working on improving the soil in the garden, and he has created a Facebook page for the project.
WSU Master Gardener (and Voices contributor) Pat Munts helped bring together neighborhood gardeners.
“She has been amazing helping us get started,” said Christensen. “Now the idea is to have people come in and garden their own plots.”
The fee is $25 per growing season for one bed.
So far water is coming from the church, but Christensen said it would be ideal for the garden to have its own water supply from the street. However, a water meter and the needed hookups would cost about $2,500.
“I look at it like we’re down one vacant lot here in West Central,” said Christensen, smiling. “And gardening draws people together. Community organization to help with other issues here in West Central could come from this.”
The cold and wet spring has put a damper on some garden activities, but the raised bed frames are being refurbished among piles of compost and dirt, ready to be put in. One bed already sprouts rows of tiny onions, and raspberry plants are being put in against a fence.
When completed, the garden will also feature a labyrinth for contemplative prayer.
“We see the community garden as an extension of the dinner,” said Lanny Burrill, who’s a member of the church. “People build relationships when they get to know each other and that helps everyone feel more safe around here.”