Cool Gardens: Pike Place Urban Garden, Seattle

Gardening gem in the Emerald City

In the first of my new series, Cool Gardens, highlighting inspiring and unusual growing places, I found a real gem – Pike Place Urban Garden, Seattle. The Emerald City lives up to its nickname – I’ll be writing about other gardens I stumbled upon too. Pictures by Gary Welford.

Yes, Seattle! This year, I took Gary on a surprise rail trip across the USA (Seattle-Chicago-Boston-New York) for our joint 50th birthday.

Washington State and Seattle captured my heart. It didn’t rain, people were laid-back, friendly and everyone apologised profusely for Mr. Trump (I was told it’s a very liberal state – recreational marijuana is legal).

You’d be hard pressed to find a better location for a city – on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific, with the 14,411ft glacier-covered volcano Mt. Rainier and the Cascades in one direction, the almost 8,000ft Olympic Mountains over the Sound, still snow-capped at the end of May.

Hidden rooftop garden

A prime tourist spot is Pike Place Market, a maze of fish, fresh produce stalls and unusual little shops. What you might miss is on the roof – a 2,000sq ft community garden.

In May 2013, Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority and Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFC) teamed up to create the garden on the underused roof patio.

In true North-West ecological style, SUFC designed the Pike Place Urban Garden around materials on site – reclaiming juniper lumber from an abandoned construction project for the raised beds.

The beds and pathways are built with disabled access in mind so Senior Center residents can join in with the gardening.

Produce donated to the elderly and poor

There’s a tool shed, miniature library and schedule of chores, with a great bunch of volunteers. Produce is donated to the Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank.

Despite the Alaska Highway beneath you, you’re stuck by the peace of the place. There’s a replica of Pike Place Market’s mascot, Rachel the Piggy Bank to welcome you. There are eclectic pieces all around – a pig-footed chair, sticks painted like snakes and giraffes – it’s fun.

Crops grow out of every conceivable container – cans, zinc baths, etc – lettuce, herbs, onions, tomatoes and much more, brightened up by annuals and companion plants to keep away pests.

There’s even a sign to tell you how many pounds of produce has been donated so far to the Senior Centre and Food Bank.

Belltown, home of grunge, goes upmarket

The space is open during daylight hours and is a great place to chat and admire the stunning view. One of the volunteers lamented how much the Belltown area had changed – the home of grunge is now hip, with nowhere decent to live under $1,000,000 and a $70,000-a-year income is classed as low paid.

The dichotomy of Belltown is summed up by an experience of mine – sitting in The Whisky Bar on 2nd Street, flicking through the menu, where the most expensive tot was $1,200. The bar is opposite a hostel for the homeless.

To find out more about the Seattle Urban Farm Company’s projects, visit http://www.seattleurbanfarmco.com/projects/#/pike-place-urban-garden/

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