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‘It soothes the soul’

posted Aug 22, 2019, 8:00 AM by MCG Admin
Check out the lovely article by Paul Archipley in the August 21 Beacon about the Garden. You can find the article on-line @ Mukilteo Beacon - It Sooths the Soul

(Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)

Anyone who loves gardening will tell you it’s as close to communing with God as one can get. And if your garden is producing not just flowers but food, too? Nirvana.

In years past, Seattle exiles who escaped from the hustle and bustle of city life for the quiet respite that is Mukilteo longed for some things that were missing from their previous lives.

Among them were Seattle’s P-Patch community garden program. Former City Administrator Joe Hannon said he received calls all the time from people who missed their P-Patch.

Thus, a seed was planted, the idea grew and, in 2009, a group of volunteers and City officials teamed up to open the Mukilteo Community Garden.

This year, marking the garden’s 10th anniversary, gardeners past and present will gather to celebrate. The community is invited to an open house from 10-3 Saturday, Aug. 24. Cake will be cut and served between 12 and 1. The garden is at the top of Japanese Gulch. The entrance is where 44th Avenue West meets 76th Street Southwest.

Among those who will be celebrating is current board president Gloria Flatterich. She learned about the Mukilteo Community Garden from a mentor with the Master Gardener program.

“I got strong-armed,” she laughed. “I had lost my job, and that takes its toll. I learned about the Mukilteo Community Garden, rented a bed, and I was hooked.

“You’ve heard about how gardening helps people with depression? It’s true! I had found my ‘tribe.’ We clicked. I guess it’s because we have common ground between us – or common soil.”

Today, there are 48 beds for rent, ranging in price from $50 to $120, depending on bed size, plus some required “sweat equity.” Fees help cover a variety of expenses, including water, electricity, insurance, maintenance, compost and seeds.

The Mukilteo Community Garden is considered one of the Cadillacs of the community garden world.

That’s one of the reasons long-time gardener Ann Ramos has been renting her bed since the beginning.

A master gardener herself, Ramos heard about efforts to start a garden, and began attending planning meetings.

“It was very well organized,” she recalled. “And there was such enthusiasm. In fact, that’s still the case. It’s quite extraordinary.”

The groundbreaking was just east of a building that was originally a mortuary, later the police department, and just west of the site of a one-time cemetery.

“That led to a joke or two,” Ramos said. “Mr. Hannon said if you don’t dig deeper than 6 feet, you’ll be OK.” (For the record, all bodies had long since been relocated to an Everett cemetery.)

For Ramos and many of the other members, the garden created an opportunity to grow their own food, learn from each other, and join a community of like-minded gardeners.

That’s why Bob Dickensheets and Mary Ollenburg joined, too.

“We were new in town,” Ollenburg said. “Thanks to the Beacon, we heard about the meetings at City Hall and thought it would be interesting.”

Armed with shovels, hoes and other tools, they joined other volunteers at the garden site to begin preparing the land.

“It was all weeds and blackberries,” Dickensheets said. “I took a shovel, shoved it in, and it went ‘clank!’ A contractor helping us said it was all glacial fill, all rocks. We realized we’d have to build raised beds.”

A lot of sweat, effort and aches later, the first beds were ready for planting – late for the first season, but they were on their way.

Long-time members offer similar responses when asked why they garden.

“It’s good therapy,” Ollenburg said.

“It’s an outlet. And the camaraderie is fun,” Dickensheets said.

Master gardeners Lois Brown and Lynette Gardiner, who were instrumental in launching the community garden, agree.

“It soothes the soul,” Gardiner said. “You’re digging in the dirt, taking time to slow down and be quiet. It’s very meditative.”

All of the gardeners are quick to praise each other and the greater community for making the project bloom.

Besides the city itself, a range of individuals, groups, business owners and others have stepped up. The Kiwanis Club helps every year. Boeing employees, too. And Scouts. Master gardeners, of course. There are too many to list here.

“We were being gifted all the time,” Brown said. “It’s the only community garden I know of that’s had this kind of response.”

In turn, gardeners have been generous with their bounty, regularly providing fresh produce to the Mukilteo and Lynnwood food banks. They regularly offer workshops, including classes specifically for kids.

Of course, their needs never go away, either. The wood frames for the raised beds are deteriorating. Greenhouses and fencing need regular maintenance. The list goes on.

Find out for yourself. Visit the Mukilteo Community Garden this Saturday. Who knows, a seed might be planted and germinate in your soul.