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Gardening an effervescent experience for Valley couple

We all know what happens when you shake up a bottle of soda and then open it. The contents go everywhere. For Rich and Violette Gamba, the pent-up fizz captured in the bottle was trying to garden in pots and containers in New York City. They longed for more room.

It wasn’t until Rich’s job transferred him to Spokane in 2009 that they had any hope of unscrewing the cap and letting their desire to garden in a real garden bubble out.

A year ago they moved into a house with a third of an acre in Spokane Valley and began creating their dream.

The Inland Empire Garden Club recognized their achievement by awarding them the September Garden of the Month Award.

Their house was surrounded by nothing but grass when they moved in, and they wasted no time starting their project.

“We wanted the whole garden to be organic,” Rich said.

That meant removing the chemical laden sod and replacing it with new grass, reducing the lawn’s size in the process. They then worked with a neighbor who had access to large rocks to build a raised vegetable garden and more beds for herbs, berries and fruit trees. Not satisfied with all their new bed space, they began building raised box garden beds and compost bins along the south side of the garage where the previous owners laid a large concrete pad. They are planning to build a greenhouse in the space later this fall so they can start their own vegetable transplants.

Animals are an important part of the garden. I was greeted by a crowing rooster as I started my visit.

“We thought we ordered all hens but got this little banty rooster,” said Rich. “Fortunately the neighbors don’t mind at all.”

The chickens provide the Gambas with all the eggs they can use and eat all the weeds and vegetable trimmings they can get. Bird feeders and houses throughout the garden are attracting a number of visitors and a hawk has been checking out the chickens in recent days.

The Gambas’ own menagerie includes a couple of dogs and cats, a tortoise that likes to sun in his pen in the grass and a parakeet that loves singing with the other birds from his cage on the patio. An orphaned quail has been hanging out all summer with them but seems to be ready to join the local flock now that fall has begun.

“We will expand the garden next year,” said Violette. They plan to move their tall wooden fence out further into the front lawn and install a wrought iron fence out to the curb to give them more space to garden.

“We have lots of ideas for that space,” Rich said. Yes, the fizz is out of the bottle.

After trying to garden in pots and containers in New York City, the Gambas thought a third of an acre in Spokane Valley was a little bit of heaven.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by email at

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