Friday, May 27, 2011

Belltown P-Patch garden - a haven for urban farmers

Belltown P-Patch garden is a haven even for some smaller inhabitants; this little bird was busy feeding her noisy chicks inside the house... (perching on the flower stake with a duck).

Make no mistake: Seattleites are one eco-friendly bunch of people. They bike (or at least drive a hybrid), and with their fleeces and sensible shoes, they generally look like they would just be heading off for a tough hike somewhere off the beaten tracks. They recycle religiously, use their own latte mugs instead of disposable ones, and eat organic food, preferably bought at the local farmers markets. So it is no surprise that growing one's own food is hugely popular here, and living in the middle of the city can do nothing to curb that passion.

Entrance to the garden, with a solar-powered fountain and mosaics by local artists.

For the moment, the city of Seattle has totally 73 community gardens where urban gardeners can get their nails dirty. Since the early 1990s, the number of gardens have more than doubled, but this hasn't been enough to satisfy the eager growers; at the same time, the queue for allotments has more than doubled, too; in the most popular gardens you now need to wait over three years for a lot. In Seattle, community gardens are called P-Patch gardens after the first of them, Picardo Farm, which was bought by the city in 1973 and rented as allotments for the citizens. Belltown P-Patch is from the mid-90s. It is the most urban of the P-Patch gardens, situated just a stone's throw from the business district of Seattle city centre.

A salmon-colored aquilegia in full bloom.

Only three of the original cottages are left, showing the scale of the city for a century ago. Two of these now are appointed for writers-in-residence from the Hugo House Writers Centre, the third is for community gatherings.

Belltown P-Patch has a decidedly arty air, with works by many local artists enhancing the garden. Many of the works are both beautiful and practical, like the great welded entry gate and the elaborate railings around the garden. Colorful mosaics fill the heavy retaining walls that are indispensable for keeping the soil in place. Many of the urban farmers have kept to the same theme, filling their lots with re-purposed objects, all arranged according to their personal tastes.

 Delicately stripy fava beans need more sun and warmth to develop their delicious pods.

Surrounding high-rises; the garden is an oasis for local residents and people working in the city centre alike.

For many Europeans, United States unfortunately stands for all things fast and big - junk food, high energy consumption and water usage just to mention some. But community gardens like Belltown P-Patch are the antithesis of all that, and they show the other side of US that seldom gets into the spotlight abroad. With urban farming gaining momentum and farmers markets popping up everywhere, ecological thinking and great concern for nature and food are growing like a great wave all over the country. Is tremendously exciting to see how committed and engaged people are to making things better. Jamie Oliver got colossal attention when he took his Food Revolution- show to the US last year. But in Seattle, and many other parts of the country, Americans were well on their way towards healthier food and lifestyle long before he crossed the Atlantic.

Open to the public, 2516 Elliott Avenue, Seattle.


Gardener in the Distance said...

We get so used to governnments telling us what to do, it's heartening to hear when they're responsive to their communities - as they should be - instead. Belltown P-Patch looks wonderful, Liisa - allowing for play and a sense of purpose - even better that it's so close to the centre of town. It reminds me of the old, English 'commons', where land belonged to everyone, and brought people together. It makes you feel that community is growing, and isolation disappearing.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

I agree with you, Faisal, they do grow a community here, just as much as veggies and flowers. It is such a joy to wander through this garden, just a couple of blocks from the shadow of the skyscrapers. I'm currently on a mission to visit as many of Seattle's 73 P-Patch gardens as possible!

Ruben said...

Heder åt dessa Seattlebor!!! Ser väldigt exotiskt ut med små täppor mitt inne i en storstad.

Ha det gott!