April 5, 2012 in Washington Voices

Community gardens kick into gear

Saturday event at Grant Park marks start of season
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Lori Kinnear stops for a photo in the community garden on the west side of Sacajawea Middle School Friday, Mar. 31, 2012. Kinnear helped launch the program of six community gardens around Spokane. There will be a seasonal kick-off event at the Grant Park garden April 7. There is a waiting list to get a plot.
(Full-size photo)

More about the event

Visitors to Saturday’s garden kickoff can sign up for garden plots across town; learn how to build raised beds; learn about composting and bring seeds for the seed exchange. Second Harvest Food Bank and the Spokane Regional Health District will have informational booths at the event.

The kickoff is organized by Spokane Community Garden Program Committee in cooperation with the Washington State University Extension Office, Spokane Parks and Recreation Department and the Spokane Regional Health District.

There’s snow in the forecast. It’s rained more than it’s ever rained before during the month of March. It’s still a bit chilly out there, but crocuses are blooming and so are snowdrops.

Still, Saturday the Spokane Community Gardens is having a kickoff for all the gardens at the Grant Park Community Garden, just west of Grant Elementary School off Ninth Avenue.

Now, there are community gardens located in most neighborhoods, but that wasn’t always the case.

Some years back, Lori Kinnear – then-city Councilman Richard Rush’s aide – took on the job of organizing existing community gardens and getting new gardens into city parks.

“I guess I went at it with the attitude that I couldn’t fail,” Kinnear said, standing near the Grant Park garden on a blustery day. She did presentations before the park board, using already existing community gardens located on water department property as examples.

“One park board member went out to all of the community gardens and checked to see what they looked like,” Kinnear said. “He came back and said he was very impressed. That’s when I knew it was going to work out.”

At Saturday’s kickoff event, all the community gardens will be represented, and those that have space available will have plots up for sale or rent.

Kinnear said the Hillyard Garden – also known as the Pumphouse Garden – needs some dedicated gardeners, and plot availability varies from garden to garden.

Earth Turners, a garden established last year in Peaceful Valley, had a waiting list as soon as it opened.

Grant Park Community Garden is on its second season and has room for more gardeners.

The Slavic Garden at Hillyard’s Andrew Rypien Field is full.

“Prices for garden beds vary between $25 and $35 for a growing season,” said Kinnear. “If you garden intently, you can easily make up for that with the produce you grow.” Some community gardens will negotiate a bed price on a sliding scale depending on a person’s income.

Kinnear said some gardeners sell their produce to local restaurants – and some restaurants buy community garden plots.

“The Manito Tap House pays for two plots at The Commons,” the garden at 33rd Avenue and Lamonte Street, said Kinnear.

Some neighbors purchase plots and donate them to schools and day care centers nearby.

“I always thought it was very cool that you can buy a bed for someone else,” Kinnear said.

She got the idea for community gardens on park property from Seattle’s P-Patch program.

Community gardens operate in many different settings. One is located at the Salvation Army on East Indiana Avenue. Another is at Garry Middle School on East Joseph Avenue. Some are at churches.

Kinnear said they all try to support one another.

The Grant Park Garden needs a fence that will cost several thousand dollars. The Commons Garden donated $500 toward that fence, and that’s just one example of how the gardens share resources.

“Gardens located on park property must have a fence,” Kinnear said, “and that’s a good idea. That way the garden becomes an entity in and of itself. And it keeps dogs and bikes out of the garden.”

The Community Garden website at www.spokanegardens.com is also being updated to help gardeners better communicate and share what they are doing and growing.

“It’s just so nice to watch it all come together. So many people have worked so hard to make this happen,” Kinnear said. “For me, personally, to get to this point was a labor of love.”

Now all that’s needed is a little sunshine.

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