There’s a bright purple bunch of blooming chives in the middle of East Central Community Garden. Raspberries climb the chain-link fence and on this Friday volunteers are putting woodchips down on the paths between the garden plots.
Alexandra Montague is the leader of the garden, a post she said she inherited when no one else wanted to do it.
“We are in our fourth season, and we have about 20 plots here,” Montague said.
She got involved to teach her grandchildren about where food comes from and no matter what aspect of gardening she brings up – weed pulling, watering, working the dirt – she makes some connection to children in the neighborhood.
“It can be difficult to get the kids over here, but I really want to pull them in,” she said.
She’s given a few plots to neighborhood kids and helped them get started. “I’m so proud of them. They did all the work themselves, clearing the plot and planting stuff.”
The East Central Community Garden was one of the gardens funded by the Spokane Regional Health District through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health.
Montague said the Washington State University Master Gardeners have been helpful in getting the garden started. And senior neighbors with lifelong gardening experience continue to be an invaluable resource.
“I wish we had more Russian gardeners,” Montague said. “We need them. They have so much to teach us – I want to make friends with them.”
Sherwin Elston lives just across the street. It was his 8-year-old son who got him started on community gardening.
“He kept asking if we could go over here,” said Elston, while putting down wood chips. “Now the first thing he wants to do is go water the garden.”
Inexperienced gardeners are always welcome, even if they can’t tell the difference between a dandelion and a tomato plant.
“I didn’t know much when I started,” said Jennifer Mathews, “but it is much more fun gardening here than doing it all alone in your backyard.”
The East Central Community Garden is on property belonging to the Spokane Water Department, surrounding a big pump house. It takes up about two-thirds of the fenced area, but Montague would love to see that change:
“My dream is to fill up the whole space. That would just be so cool.”