Thursday, April 29, 2010

Giving Gardeners: Diane Brooks, Delridge P-Patch

Lettuce Link works with gardeners all across Seattle, helping them grow fresh, local, and organic produce for Seattle food banks. In 2009, P-Patch gardeners donated close to 28,000 pounds of produce, coming together to get good food to their neighbors. Through these Giving Gardener spotlights, we’re celebrating the work of P-Patch Giving Gardeners.   To read previous Giving Gardener spotlights, click here.  To learn how you can donate garden grown produce to a food bank or meals program click here.

Diane Brooks began gardening as a child, “I remember thinning carrots on Memorial Day,” she says as we admire the Delridge P-Patch. Diane came to garden in Seattle over twenty years ago, finding a strong and diverse community with her fellow P-Patch gardeners in West Seattle. With food and flowers, “we found a way to communicate.” 

Gardening across cultures continues today as a strong theme among Delridge P-Patch food bank gardeners. Delridge has two food bank plots, one for the West Seattle Food Bank and one for the White Center Food Bank. In the West Seattle Food Bank plot, gardeners plant green beans, spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce among other crops. In the White Center Food Bank plot, Diane focuses on three client favorites- Daikon radish, mustard greens, and snow peas. For both plots, gardeners communicate with the food bank about what’s popular among their clientele. 

“I spoke to the food bank director and asked him to choose the top three vegetables for us to plant,” says Diane. Last season, “people could not believe how good the peas were.” 

Diane learned about Daikon from other Delridge gardeners. This long white root vegetable is popular among some Asian cultures where both the roots and the greens are used. In order to space the radishes correctly, avoid thinning time and reduce seed waste, Diane used a roll of toilet paper and a sheet of sticky spots for this do-it-yourself seed tape:

The Delridge Daikon Design – Make your own seed tape! 
You’ll need:
1 roll of 2-ply toilet paper
Round colored stickers

Un-roll the toilet paper and peel the 2-ply to make a strip of 1-ply
Place the seeds in a line on the toilet paper at exactly the spacing needed  (see seed pack for spacing of seeds)
Stick a colored sticker on each seed
Re-roll the toilet paper 
Label and store for planting day
Roll out the seed tape on your garden bed and lightly cover with soil 
Water immediately to secure seed to soil  

Weed and watch grow 

With depleted soil,  heavy shade and no one to garden it, a corner plot at Delridge P-Patch went underused. “It was a shame to see it just sitting there,” says Diane. She contacted the P-Patch program and was able to secure the plot for the food bank.  It’s taken a lot of effort to work the plot into production, but “shade and lots of water grow great greens in the summertime!” Thanks to Diane’s efforts, Barbara, Naoko, Phillipa and the rest of the Delridge Giving Garden team are able to grow food for both the White Center and West Seattle food banks. 

Giving gardens offer a place for gardeners to learn and grow together. This season, Diane is hoping to encourage more Delridge P-Patchers to garden in the food bank plot by gathering together on Tuesday evenings. This is a way for new gardeners to learn more about gardening while planting, tending, and harvesting together. Diane has met many community members walking through the garden. They often stop to help weed or haul compost.

When asked why she grows for the food bank, Diane thoughtfully replies, “I like giving people fresh produce, and I like eating fresh produce myself… I think I’m a farmer at heart. If I have an open space I’ll plant food.”

Lettuce Link also works closely with the Food and Fitness Initiative in Delridge as part of a larger effort to improve access to healthy food and safe places to play. Visit the diverse and vibrant neighborhood of Delridge this summer during the Refresh SouthWest (formerly Delridge Days) on June 5th. 

-Sadie Beauregard, Lettuce Link

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