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Community garden keepers brace for heat

If you want to enjoy your homegrown lettuce, you better pick it before the three-digit temperatures hit this weekend.

That’s the advice of Teresa Sadler, garden coordinator at the Pumpkin Patch Garden off Argonne Road just north of the Spokane River.

“Lettuce, spinach, when it gets really hot they just get bitter,” Sadler said. “Pick it now while you can.”

Sadler and the gardeners at the Pumpkin Patch have prepared for the coming heat by installing sprinklers and soaker hoses that run on timers.

She said it was so hot on the south facing exposed lot last year that it was uncomfortable being there after 10 a.m.

“The tomatoes love the heat,” Sadler said.

Peppers, eggplant and onions are also growing well, and the green peas are ready for picking.

That’s what Joy Amado, 20 and a senior at Whitworth University, was doing on Tuesday.

Amado picked community gardening as a summer project, mostly because she wants to be a dietician.

“I’m very interested in what difference it makes when you grow your own food,” Amado said.

She also helps with the Millwood Farmers Market hosted by Millwood Community Presbyterian Church on Wednesdays from 2-7 p.m.

What’s not being grown by private gardeners at the Pumpkin Patch goes to the food bank at Spokane Valley Partners.

Sadler said tomatoes and other vegetables are heirloom varietals.

“They taste better and they don’t have many of the disease issues newer varietals have,” Sadler said.

There are still a few empty beds up for rent at the Pumpkin Patch, but gardeners have to hurry.

“If they aren’t rented and planted soon, I’ll plant something in them,” Sadler said. “Otherwise hot sun bakes the nutrients right out of the soil.”

Watering is also a top concern at East Valley Farms and Schools Partnership on Sullivan Road, near East Valley High School.

“I’ve got it to a point where I can water without being here,” garden coordinator Lynette Romeny said. Most of the garden is covered with automatic sprinklers, but it’s up to gardeners to take care of their individual beds.

On Saturday, everyone got some help when 20 youths from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out and planted nearly 1,000 plants.

Romney said some were grown by East Valley High School’s Special Education Program, but most of the plants were donated by Shopko on East Sprague Avenue.

“They usually just throw out the plants they can’t sell,” Romney said. “I called and asked and they gave them to us instead.” She said she’s hoping to get more plant vendors on board with that idea.

Students from InTech High School cultivate a salsa garden, growing tomatoes, onions and cilantro, and then make the salsa and sell it as a fundraiser.

Most of the produce grown at the East Valley Farm goes to the school district and to local food banks.

Romney estimates the farm produced between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds of food last year.

“I know it’s going to be really hot, but I think we are going to be OK,” Romney said.


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