Photo: Collin Dunn
To help celebrate the Green Apple Festival this year, I volunteered to help clean up the Angel Morgan P-Patch Community Garden in Seattle. With the weeds starting to poke through last year's mulch in the flower beds, the garden needed a bit of TLC, but helping prepare the community for another summer growing season wasn't the most interesting part of the day.
Photo: Collin Dunn
Learning the history of the P-Patch
To best understand why the day of cleanup was more important than just beautifying the garden and neighboring park, it's important to understand where the garden itself came from. Back in 2003, the area where the garden is now was a vacant lot, prone to unsavory practices like garbage dumping, drug use, and prostitution. It was an eyesore, an unsafe place, and a poor use of the land.
A few of the community members decided that ought to change, and a community garden was the group consensus; not just as a place to grow food, but as a place for the neighbors to get together, get to know one another, and build a better community.
The City of Seattle manages the network of P-Patch community gardens -- there are 50+ around town -- and so with their help, the help of volunteer organizations like Seattle Works, and tireless work by those who wanted the garden to succeed (you'll meet them in a sec), the plot went from trash-ridden vacant lot to vibrant community garden. Five years after the first garden was planted, it's not so much a garden in a community -- it's a true community garden.
The community garden today
Now that the garden itself is firmly established, more plans to improve the land are falling in to place. A trellis is being rebuilt, with a new picnic table underneath. A local wrought iron artist is creating some gates to help finish the fence that was built to separate the garden from the park right next door. Some of the gardening space is reserved for a local food bank, and there's a community berry patch and a few fruit trees, so everyone in the community -- gardener or not -- can enjoy what grows there.
And the community really uses it for much more than a space to grow food. Kids play with their friends from other families while their parents work on the garden and the park; parents switch off watching the groups of running, screeching kids. Everyone knows everyone, waving from the street as they walk dogs or just stop by to see what everybody is up to in the garden.
And what happens in the garden spreads into the community. Gardeners learn composting tricks from each other to practice at home, to help cut down on the waste they send to the landfill. In this diverse neighborhood, gardeners originally from The Philippines or Vietnam swap seeds, vegetables, and growing practices, helping foster cultural exchange, and a huge variety of foods that don't typically find their way to American plates.
Photo: Collin Dunn
Earth Day is every day
In the same spirit of cries for "Earth Day, every day," the folks at the Angel Morgan P-Patch are building a greener, more sustainable space -- and, you could argue, a more sustainable life -- with every hour of planning and digging that goes in to the garden. Their work, while bolstered by many volunteer hands at events like these, doesn't stop when the Earth Day hubbub dies down, and maybe that's the most important takeaway from attending an event like this: That you don't need an event on the calendar (though it helps) to get started building a greener world. We can all get started right away.
Hit the next page for video interviews with some of the founding members and current farmers at the P-Patch.