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The allure of a 'recession garden' | JOKER'S PEACE

Bremerton’s Blueberry Park community garden is currently undergoing major renovations this year.   - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo
Bremerton’s Blueberry Park community garden is currently undergoing major renovations this year.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo

Looking to offset food costs and bolster the local economy, more people are looking to the land.

The meeting room at the Bainbridge Island commons was packed to near capacity Monday night for the Sustainable First Monday discussion on “Community Gardens.”

The island group Sustainable Bainbridge has been hosting these public discussions/meetings/forums on the first Monday of the month for the past few months, focusing on topics of sustainability including water issues, art and community, voting on sustainable measures and more.

Sustainable Bainbridge member Neva Welton had mentioned she’d seen anywhere from a handful to a dozen, sometimes up to 20 people attending.

This past Monday’s session had more than twice that.

Sandy Perkins of the Seattle P-Patch Community Garden group was taken back by the size of the audience. She opened the meeting by saying she wasn’t used to speaking to crowds that large — which is illustrative of the overwhelming interest in community gardening on Bainbridge Island. Something that’s prevalent to differing degrees throughout Kitsap County.

P-Patches (or community gardens) — areas of public or private land dedicated to the use of gardening, usually shared by a community of gardners — have existed for years in each area of the county, typically created and tended to by small but dedicated groups of volunteers and hobbyists. Now, it seems, people are taking a hard look at community garden plots as a means of necessity.

More than half the people I talked to at the First Monday discussion were there on the premise of learning how to grow their own food, whether due to the growing conciousness of the local economy or to augment the food costs in their monthly budget. Some were there to learn how to rent out plots from a community garden, others were looking sign up for the local Community Supported Agriculture program, in which people can subscribe to some local farms for a year’s worth of produce. Some were just there to learn more.

I wanted to learn how to build my own recession garden in my backyard.

Perkins, Kitsap Master Gardner Peg Tillery, local garden expert and newspaper columnist Ann Lovejoy and permaculture expert Chuck Estin were all onhand to help out to that end.

“We are lucky in that living here, we can grow just about anything we want to eat,” Lovejoy noted, excluding a few exotic things like coffee beans. “But it’s really important that if you are going to be eating what you’re growing, it’s very important that you don’t poison the well.”

While a whole host of gardening techniques, from soil preparation to planting to harvesting, can be widely debated among cirlces, Lovejoy said, “we’re all right.” However, one technique that is almost uniformly opposed is the use of toxins in the garden.

What you’ll need to get started is a plot of dirt or a raised bed to house your garden, a few bags of quality soil and compost heap.

If you’re planning to grow food on a plot that had been treated with any sort of chemical solutions, a year or two of soil rejuvenation is advised.

However untreated, raw Northwest clay soil isn’t likely to sustain many of the plants bought at local nurseries, Lovejoy added, because most of those plants were born in a controlled climate dissimilar to the cold ground of the Northwest.

So for best results, it seems, you can get your soil work started now, while growing in a bin or pots this year. Then follow up with more and more plants in the ground each successive year. It is a process. But there are a great deal of resources from which to draw from in this area, evidenced by a simple question raised at the end of this week’s Sustainable First Monday discussion.

“I’m just wondering how many Master Gardeners there are in the house,” a lady asked from the crowd.

About a dozen hands shot up.

For more on Kitsap’s Master Gardeners go to www.kitsapgardens.org, for more on Sustainable Bainbridge, go to www.sustainablebainbridge.net.

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