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Pat Munts: A garden where knowledge can grow

Ann and Gary Edwards stand in their new edible landscape garden with their new raised beds and greenhouse barn behind them garden they are converting. (PAT MUNTS)
Ann and Gary Edwards stand in their new edible landscape garden with their new raised beds and greenhouse barn behind them garden they are converting. (PAT MUNTS)

Normally when I go to visit the Garden of the Month, I expect to be greeted with gorgeous flower beds and well-kept lawns.

Not so in Ann and Gary Edwards’ riverside garden in Millwood, the September Garden of the Month winners. My arrival was greeted with piles of dirt and a major construction project with hints of gorgeous gardens poking up in the background.

There is a good reason behind all the chaos. The Edwards moved to Spokane in February 2012 from Chino, Calif. They had purchased their house on the Spokane River near Millwood several years earlier in anticipation of retiring and being near family.

Ann, a retired teacher, had always wanted to give children an opportunity to get a good basic education but also teach them about the natural world, how to grow and cook good food, and how things were done in the societies she grew up in eastern North Carolina. That explained the piles of dirt and new barn at the back of the property.

Their gardens have the remnants of some beautiful gardens put in by a previous owner. A waterfall and stream in a narrow space along the side of the house that leads down to their dock provides them with lots of spaces to sit and visit on hot summer evenings. Along the driveway are the beginnings of a garden full of plants that provide nectar, pollen and shelter for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

The big changes to support their education goal are occurring in the entry gardens and along the steep bank above the river. They have terraced the river space and planted with strawberries and other fruits. Behind the house in the entry garden they are slowly combining the ornamental plantings with all kinds of vegetable and fruit crops to make an edible landscape.

The biggest change, and the one that will provide them with the means to offer classes in alterative education topics, is the construction of a greenhouse-workshop surrounded by raised beds and space for a large chicken coop. “We want to give the children a chance to experience a hands-on education along with a good academic program,” Ann said.

The raised beds will provide enough room to grow even winter squash and corn. Being banked against a south-facing wall, they will warm up quickly in the spring. The greenhouse has a large growing bed that will be filled with compost the children make and planted with a variety of winter crops. The space will also provide room to start transplants for planting later in the spring. The greenhouse will also help heat the workshop space.

The workshop space will have a kitchen to teach cooking and canning, an upstairs classroom space and a large ground-floor shop space where the children can do crafts and large-scale group activities. They hope to have the construction done in time to plant in early winter.

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