July 27, 2013 in Washington Voices

First-year garden full of produce

Fresh Start Community plot to stock food bank
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Sam Morris, left, and Omar Akkari sit by a raised bed in the Fresh Start Community Garden. Some of the plots were adopted by community members and the two Americorps volunteers plan to raise food bank supplies on the rest of the land.
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More info

Fresh Start Community Garden, 11202 E. Mission Ave., is looking for volunteers and donations to help with the project.

Some of the needed items are: an easy-up tent, fruit trees or berry bushes, gardening tools and tomato cages, oil-based paint, rust converter primer, storage racks or wall racks for garden tools, outdoor pastel-colored paints, corrugated metal roof material, bike racks, picnic tables, a greenhouse or cold frames, lumber, topsoil, crushed rock and mulch.

For more information, visit www.svpart.org and click on “services” or find them on Facebook.

At the beginning of May, it was little more than a vacant field with a couple of raised beds.

Today, it’s been transformed into a lush garden, growing fresh produce for Spokane Valley Partners and a handful of neighbors who have rented beds.

Fresh Start Community Garden is on 2.41 acres donated to SVP by Modern Electric. AmeriCorps Vista garden coordinator Omar Akkari and AmeriCorps Rotary First Harvest intern Sam Morris have been building raised and mounded beds and planting vegetables.

There are melons, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beans, lettuces, herbs and lots and lots of tomatoes.

“It’ll be nuts,” Akkari said of the upcoming tomato harvest, estimating they will have at least 1,000 pounds of tomatoes.

SVP hopes the garden will serve as a community gathering space, along with providing fresh, nutritious produce to the food bank. Connie Nelson, program director of Spokane Valley Partners, also envisions a farmers market to incubate small businesses that may rise from products grown in the garden.

It’s the first year of planting in the garden at 11202 E. Mission Ave., near Splash Down Water Park. Akkari said the garden has received around $13,000 in donations so far, including a $5,000 donation from A to Z Rentals.

Akkari and Morris have installed a drip irrigation system for the raised beds and mounds. They received old lumber from various donors to make the raised beds, some of which are ADA accessible. They received a large storage shed for tools and equipment. A local composting company donated truckloads of topsoil. They’ve received seeds, starter plants and Akkari purchased tools from garage sales.

Akkari and Morris started out planting fruits and vegetables with a short growing season, less than 75 days, since they started late in the season. They said people who wish to rent a raised bed only need to plant, weed and harvest and the two of them take care of the irrigation. The end of July is too late to start planting, so they won’t take any new renters this year, but about five residents have rented beds, which range in price from $10 for a 32-square-foot bed to $25 for a 75-square-foot bed.

Akkari has a degree in landscape architecture and Morris used to be a landscaper. Akkari said they make a good team, since he can build the garden and Morris can grow it.

“He knows how to make it happen,” Akkari said. “I have no background in farming.”

Morris has his own bed that is bursting with golden zucchini, herbs, arugula, broccoli, basil and beans. He also added borage, a plant that attracts honey bees, for pollination.

Morris wants to make a habitat for bees in the garden, not for their honey, but for the plants.

“We are really interested in getting more fruit,” Morris said.

Coming up this fall, the two are planning a harvest party as a thank you to their many donors, using produce grown in their garden. Akkari said all of their donors are local, many from Spokane Valley.

“We want to make sure we give them a thank you,” he said.

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