Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Pumpkin Patch grows with community effort

From left, Corvin Cogley, 11, Joe Mileson, 16, and John Rowley, 15, shovel bark with Boy Scouts from Troop 430, Monday, at the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden. (Tyler Tjomsland)
From left, Corvin Cogley, 11, Joe Mileson, 16, and John Rowley, 15, shovel bark with Boy Scouts from Troop 430, Monday, at the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The Pumpkin Patch Community Garden was bustling Monday evening. Boy Scout Troop 430 from Millwood Presbyterian Church was helping move heaps of mulch and bark, spreading it in aisles between beds and doing landscaping around the garden’s sign.

“There are a lot of people here tonight, but there’s usually someone here no matter when you stop by,” said Teresa Sadler, garden coordinator.

The garden sits on land donated by Inland Empire Paper Co., immediately north of the Spokane River right off busy Argonne Road. Inland Empire Paper Co. is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review. The garden’s name comes from the pumpkin patch that was on the land until 2004, when the widening of the Argonne Bridge put an end to it

“We still grow some pumpkins here,” said Sadler, pointing to the southern part of the garden, which slopes down toward the Spokane River.

Of the 57 plots at the Pumpkin Patch, eight are still available.

The garden is in its third growing season and right from the beginning it’s had great sponsor support, including donations from Dew Drop Sprinklers and Landscaping, Northwest Seed and Pet, and Inland Empire Paper Co., which also pays the water bill for the garden.

It’s early in the season, but potatoes, onions, peas and beans are already doing well in the sunny plots. Piles of mulch and chips are regularly dropped off by local landscape companies. The Boy Scout troop has also constructed several compost bins for the garden.

“We don’t allow the use of chemicals,” Sadler said. “We have to be extra careful because the river is right there – and I’d never use anything in my garden that could harm a bee.”

The Pumpkin Patch Garden is a contributor to the Plant a Row for the Hungry program, growing more than 500 pounds of vegetables for the Second Harvest food bank every year.

Gardeners come from the neighborhood and other parts of town.

“Many of the gardeners are in apartments where they don’t have room to grow anything,” said Sadler, proudly showing off a plot bursting with potatoes, beans and onions planted by a first-time gardener. “We’ll help people get started if they don’t really know how to garden.”

Sadler said she’s always been a gardener and that’s why the Pumpkin Patch caught her attention.

“I only grow flowers at my house and I live in Millwood so I don’t have a lot of sun in my yard,” said Sadler.

To help communication, the Pumpkin Patch has both a website – hosted by Millwood Presbyterian Church – and a Facebook page, though it doesn’t have regularly scheduled garden meetings.

“The Boy Scouts are building us a picnic table. We’re hoping that will be a good place to meet,” Sadler said.

Community gardeners are good about sharing what they have, and Sadler said the Pumpkin Patch’s high visibility leads to a steady stream of interested volunteers and donors. Monday evening, for instance, Desert Jewels Nursery stopped by offering surplus tomato and pepper plants for free.

“We’ll find a good spot for them,” Sadler said. “If the gardeners can’t use them, then we’ll use them for Plant a Row for the Hungry.”