May 2, 2013 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley church members build garden beds, reclaim orchard

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Members of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection from left, Alan Terry, Jerry Combs, Karen St. Clair and Jackie Woolf work together to build raised beds at the church on Sunday.
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Members of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley spent part of Sunday afternoon digging in the dirt as they began building the first of 20 new raised garden beds in their community garden.

The church owns several acres behind the sanctuary. For the past couple of years some church members have cultivated in-ground garden plots. Now the congregation is opening up its land to others.

The food grown on the land has been donated to Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank in previous years, and new gardeners are encouraged to take part in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program.

It was a simple decision to open the garden to the community, said the Rev. Linda Bartholomew. “The church is not just for us,” she said. “It’s a matter of hospitality. It’s a matter of welcome and it’s a matter of being good neighbors.”

As part of the gardening project, the church is working to revive an old orchard on property it owns behind the sanctuary. The apple and pear trees were likely planted in the 1940s or 1950s, said WSU Extension small farms and acreage coordinator Pat Munts, who is also a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. No one has been taking care of the trees and they haven’t been watered in decades.

“Those trees are surviving in fairly rocky soil, and they’ve been chugging along ever since the church was built,” she said. “You look at them and they’re the picture of survival.”

Some of the nearly two dozen trees were trimmed over the winter. This spring Munts said she will tackle the insects that have infested the apples, including codling moths that bore into the fruit and eat the seeds. Insect traps will be set up, and when moths begin appearing the trees will be sprayed with an organic insect spray. The fruit can’t be eaten or donated until the insects are gone, she said.

“At some point we want to get the water back on the trees, but I think we’re just going to get them back into shape and go from there,” she said.

Munts said she isn’t even sure what kind of apples the trees produce and would like to send some off for analysis. “Those varieties are probably as old as the hills and aren’t even in production anymore,” she said.

Bartholomew said that neighbors seem excited about the project, which has included cleaning up weeds and trash. Volunteers also hauled away two loads of tires that had been dumped on the property. “It looks so much better,” she said. “It’s a blessing for everybody.”

People interested in participating in the community garden can pay $35 for a raised bed measuring 4-by-16 feet or $20 for a bed half that size. The price for larger in-ground plots is still being determined. Automatic watering is included in the price.

Call the church, located at 15319 E. Eighth Ave., at (509) 926-6450 to reserve a plot.

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