Green my Ballard: How green does your garden grow?
Note: The 3rd annual Sustainable Ballard Edible Garden Tour takes place June 25, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., beginning at Ballard Community Center, 6020 – 28th Ave. NW; tickets are $10 per person (kids are free) and can be purchased day-of (tickets are a Google map that includes some detail about the gardens). The tour encompasses 14 SE Ballard gardens and the new Thyme P-Patch; most are within walking or cycling distance from the community center.
As luck (or contacts) would have it, ours was one of the featured gardens on Sustainable Ballard’s first Edible Garden Tour when they featured Ballard’s NW quadrant. Talk about incentive! We had a good start on an edible garden, but there was much work to be done to make it “visitor friendly.”
With yard space to spare, my partner Forrest and I started our ‘community garden’ earlier that year. A neighbor had gardened here for years, but even with his continual expansion, there was room for more. With five new gardeners, the invitation to participate came with excitement, but also a giant sense of urgency for some intensive yard maintenance.
Years prior, Forrest and I began an extended effort to eradicate every possible invasive: blackberry, ivy, morning glory, scotch broom, deadly nightshade, and whatever else I’ve now blocked from memory. Most were beaten back by sheer persistence, some with a little help from a vinegar solution.
But with much reluctance, I finally bought a bottle of RoundUp to tackle the unrelenting morning glory. The strangling weed is gone now, but at what cost? (To learn more about RoundUp’s producer, Monsanto, follow these links to Organic Consumers and Gaia Foundation or do a search on “evil Monsanto”.)
So just how do you deal with problem weeds and other garden dilemmas? There are plenty of online resources and books, like Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, and Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. But who better to learn from than your neighbors? They share the same weather, pests, and plants, and many have learned by trial and error.
While my sensibility is green, my thumb really isn’t, so I’m taking the tour this year to learn more – and gather some creative ideas. In addition to being a fundraiser for Sustainable Ballard (the event is organized by two of their volunteer groups, the food and garden guilds), gardeners – including Master Gardeners – are available to provide tips, information, and of course, inspiration.
Food Guild lead Jennifer Mundee says, “Some of what you’ll see on the tour includes creative use of parking strips, containers, raised beds, bee houses, clever chicken coops, fruit trees, and berries. Tour participants can meet the gardeners and ask questions. We want to both educate and inspire people to grow more food.” Two years ago, the Food Guild built and began planting garden plots at the Ballard Community Center with help from the kids who are active at the center.
This year’s tour shows off gardens in the southwest quadrant of Ballard, most of which are south of 65th Street and west of 28th Avenue.
“What’s really exciting is the variety,” said tour coordinator Paula Jensen. This is her first year coordinating the tour, but her involvement with Sustainable Ballard’s Urban Crop Circle, their gardening group, began several years ago.
“We have everything from true urban farms to shared rented space at an apartment building,” said Paula. “Participants will see there’s a place for something in every yard, no matter what size – whether just a pot of herbs, or sharing space with your neighbors. Hopefully it’ll show what’s possible in a variety of spaces. And get people thinking about community and not doing everything yourself. There’s so much growth and diversity in SW Ballard.”
I’m with her on this one. Not doing it yourself makes all the difference. If you don’t have a neighbor to share with, consider a garden matching service. I’ve written about my experience with Urban Garden Share, but while at the Seattle Green Festival last month, I learned about another one: We Patch. Given the waiting list for Seattle’s P-Patch program, they’re worth checking out.
Why garden at all? “Reliance on local food sources reduces our reliance on oil-fueled transportation, provides us with fresher food, strengthens our sense of community, preserves genetic diversity, keeps money in the local economy, benefits wildlife, and so much more,” continued Paula. Localizing our foodshed helps ensure we’ll be able to feed ourselves if – or when – disaster strikes, and it doesn’t get any more local than growing your own.
The just-published Robinson News Green Book included a verse by Sustainable Ballard’s Jenny Heins and Jennifer Mundee, inspired by the lovable Dr. Seuss, written as they planned last year’s tour. Here’s a snippet, and maybe it’ll inspire you to check out SW Ballard gardens on June 25.
Do you like to grow your food? Can you do it your ‘hood?
Would you do it with your hands? Would you do it on your lands?
Could you do it in a pot? Could you do it on your lot?
Would you? Question is, why not?