Inspiration Destination: Seattle & the ACGA

toolshed and space needle
Earlier this month, I found myself on the top of a parking garage in the midst of the UpGarden P-Patch, a Seattle community garden situated on the top level of a parking garage.  You could see white paint from the old parking spaces peeking out from between the raised beds.  The space needle was right there, in view.  A classic car (from 1962, when the garage, space needle, and Seattle World’s Fair were all built)-turned-planter was parked between two beds.  An airstream was converted into their tool shed. There were two raised beds of lawn for community gatherings. It was cool.

I was in this P-Patch garden — one garden in a network of over 100 run by Seattle’s Park and Rec — because of the American Community Gardening Associations’ annual conference. This year it was in Seattle, and I was lucky enough to receive one of the few scholarships they offer. The theme was “Cultivating Community, Harvesting Health: Community Gardens to Urban Farms.” — perfect for Garden City Harvest’s mission and vision.  I lead a workshop on Garden City Harvest’s programs which was great fun.

It is an energizing, inspirational experience to be among so many growers of all kinds. The conference attendees grew gardens, farms, minds. I met a woman who empowers adult learners though garden education in Oregon. I ate some really good local food. I met a man who loved bees so much a bee sting was a bit, well, orgasmic, in his words. I met the Seattle’s Urban Farming Artist in Residence (Missoula needs one of these!). I met a man who helped his city build a community garden on the grounds of City Hall in Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s a little slideshow of some of the Seattle P-Patches I visited on our afternoon sally into the thick of these P-Patch community gardens.

First, I should say that the Seattle P-Patches are managed by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.  As of May 2013, there were 85 P-Patch community gardens (that’s 2,750 plots and 6300 gardeners). They’ve got funding from a $2 million 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy and 22 new or expanded gardens are in the works for 2014.  They also have a Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Neighborhood Matching Fund to help community members develop their own gardens.

The ones I visited were full of art: hose bibs with bike gears for eyes, mosaic after mosaic, fences made of beautiful wrought iron.

an artful hosebib

Many of them were experimenting with things like attracting bees or the Blushing Orchards project, where gardeners applied women’s footies (you know the ones, the little pantyhose things that you put on in the shoe store) to apples and pears and things, to keep the pests away (only they dyed them with Kool-aid, and made it colorful, too).

blushing orchard tree

One garden had its own bathroom filled with a mosaic — which not only made them proud, but also keeps the bathroom from getting vandalized.  People are proud of the pretty awesome thing they’ve got in their community.


Bathroom Mosaic

They also have a conference room (with a fireplace!)

Conference Room and a little kitchen.


Two of the gardens had bees.  At Bradner P-Patch, the local school drew sketches of bees to help educate visitors. The gardeners built a structure around it to keep bees up high and less likely to sting observers.

bees in the garden

It is amazing what a new perspective, a group of interesting and passionate people, and a beautiful garden will do to invigorate your soul. And your work. I return to Missoula hoping to make new partnerships, grow our education program, and keep building more community gardens for this great city.