It’s that time of year where a lot of people start getting the itch to go outside and dig through the dirt, planting and growing things that are green, flowery, and/or edible. But living in the city, not all of us are blessed with either the space or the good southern exposure to get too serious about it.
Luckily, Seattle has its P-patch program, providing a way for communities to acquire, build, and maintain urban plots of land for gardening. (trivia: The “P” stands for Picardo, the name of a family farm in Ravenna that the city purchased in the 70’s as the first P-patch). Here’s the idea: vacant lots and park space are set aside and subdivided into small plots that individual gardeners use to grow whatever they want.
Yesterday I went on a biking tour of neighborhood P-patches with the team that is building a new community garden at 25th & Spring. The goal of the trip was to see what was going on at the established patches and get a list of tips and best-practices to drive the development of 25th & Spring. Here’s what we saw:
1. Immaculate Conception P-Patch – 18th & Columbia – Tucked away to the south of the church’s school buildings, I have walked by this spot more than a hundred times and never noticed that it was there. It’s a smaller piece of land with 18 plots (leased from the church), but well-tended and with a lot of light. The average wait for a plot is 6 months to 1 year.
2. Squire Park P-Patch – 14th & Fir – Located on a big lot across the street from Washington Hall, this one has been a big long-term project for the Squire Park neighborhood. It has good light and 30 generously-sized plots and with an average wait list of 1 year.
3. Hawkins P-Patch – This one sits on a hill above MLK, just north of the intersection with E. Jefferson. Of all the gardens we saw, this one seemed to need the most love, with several large plots that appeared to be unattended. It also has only a 0-2 monthly wait-list if you’re interested in getting involved.
4. Judkins Park P-Patch – Created from joining two lots into an L-shaped property, this one includes 21 big 10×20 plots. Here we ran into city councilmember Jan Drago, who was tending to her plot and offered some good advice on how to get a new P-patch off to a good start. She said one of the the biggest challenges is in the management, insuring that gardeners stay involved and don’t let their plots languish and become weedy nuisances. Average wait for a plot: 0-6 months.
5. Bradner Park – Apparently the crown jewel of our local P-patches, this sprawling garden stretches over most of a block, with 43 10×20 plots, a meeting space, a central gazebo, and a wide variety of well-executed improvements. We were met by Joyce Moty, the point person and driving force behind the park’s development. She told the story of how the neighborhood joined together to keep the city from selling the property to developers back in the mid-90s. Since then, they’ve received $450,000 of grants and raised another $500,000 for park improvements. The average wait for a plot at Bradner is 3 months.
To learn more about P-patches, visit the city’s website.
With the looming onset of climate change and the oil crises vegtables are going to get alot more expensive. As many P-Patches as we can start the better.
You missed two in the CD. The newish Jackson Place patch between Davis Place South and Hiawatha South, across from the new Artist Lofts and Co-Housing. A sculpture garde is planned adjacent to this one. Also there is a private church run P-patch just north of Bradner. Many of us on the I-90 Advisory Committee took alot of heat over enforcing our recommendation that the Bradner site not be housing and be developed as a P-patch. The city lied to our committee and did not tell us it was owned by the Parks Dept. when the committee made the original recommendation for housing. We changed out recommendation and a “political shit storm” happened. Signs were placed every weekend on surrounding arterial that said “See the Park the Mayors wants to sell”. As a result a new ordinance was passed that requires a city wide vote if the Parks Dept. wants to sell Park property and we have Bradner.
Back in 1999 I took a group of British Landscape Architects, here on a Churchhill Fellowship, on a tour of Seattle P-patches. The presentation was made at a conference in London. Britian now has thousands of what we call P-patches (formally called alottments during the World Wars)all focused on organic gardening. This has been spurned on by Prince Charles a strong advocate of Organic Farming. His royal farmland is strictly organic.
If you are interested in joining the Sustainable Central District group that has now formed, there are those involved who want to explore the issue of public gardening on city owned right of way, etc. Look for our next meeting time and place on the Central District News.
Scott – thanks for joining us for the tour and taking the time to write up this trip report.
I want to point out that it looks like updates have recently been made to the P-Patch information for average wait and they are dramatically longer than what you list in the article. Gardeners are holding on to their plots and demand is high.
Information for the plots we visited can be found here:
The information gathered from this outing was very helpful especially since we met the next evening with the Design/Build committee and landscape architects for the Spring Street P-Patch. The gardens visited were chosen for their diversity, the availability of a site coordinator to speak with us and what could comfortably be seen in 3 hours by bike. Additionally, a van tour is planned for this Tuesday evening for those who could not make it for the bike tour. The van will visit a couple of the same gardens as well as couple a bit further afield.
Again, thanks for the write up!