Food grown at Mukilteo Community Garden given to nonprofits

MUKILTEO — Michael Granger was nailing lengths of string into place, a toehold for eager young pea plants to grasp and send up tendrils as they grow taller.

Unlike some of those working around him, Granger doesn’t have his own plot at the Mukilteo Community Garden. He just wanted to help tend to some of the garden beds growing vegetables destined for area food banks and other nonprofits.

Granger, 52, from Lynnwood, said he first came to the garden earlier this year as part of volunteer day by Boeing employees. He has been back several times since and he plans on making it a regular thing.

“I really like the mission — just helping others,” he said.

The garden, now in its sixth year, has 1,800 square feet of plants producing food destined for food banks and other nonprofits, said Ann Ramos, a master gardener who volunteers at the site.

Last year’s crops yielded about 1,900 pounds of food. About 600 pounds of food has been donated so far this year to organizations such as the Mukilteo and Lynnwood food banks and Senior Services of Snohomish County. The list of crops grown there includes potatoes, carrots, lettuce, kale, onions and tomatoes.

“I’m amazed at what you can grow here,” said Christina Harrison, 46, of Everett, who serves on the community garden’s board.

“The sun is fabulous. The soil is fabulous.”

The one thing not in abundant supply is volunteers, Harrison said. “We really do need volunteers.”

Those willing to donate a couple of hours at the garden don’t need to have any previous gardening experience. The garden is located near the main entrance to Japanese Gulch, at the corner of 44th Avenue W. and 76th Street SW.

“We’ve had a lot of people just walking by and they stop and want to come in and help work,” said Diane Gordon, a regular volunteer at the garden. “We invite them to harvest or help with planting.” The best way to learn about gardening is to starting doing it, she said.

In addition to growing food for nonprofits, there also are rental plots available for people who want to grow their own food.

This is the first year that Samineh Faghidno, 44, of Mukilteo, has a plot at the garden. She smiled as she stood in her plot, watering her cucumbers, Korean sweet peppers, cinnamon basil, lemon thyme, chocolate mint and tarragon.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. At home, there’s no place for her to garden. At the community garden, “I learn how to garden from other people and master gardeners,” she said.

People who rent plots are asked to volunteer 10 hours at the garden.

Mary Ollenburg took a brief break from her work in one of the food bank plots and recounted the community garden’s earliest days, when volunteers helped clear a weedy patch of land. The soil then, by her accounting, was 75 percent rocks.

Ollenburg, 79, of Mukilteo, has worked at the garden for five years. On a recent Saturday, she plucked a handful of carrots from the plot.

“We didn’t have enough carrots planted this year,” she said.

Carrots are among the garden’s most popular items. Food bank workers start smiling the moment they see community garden volunteers headed their way, knowing that the vegetable is among their donations, Ollenburg said.

Ollenburg has her own plot at the garden, too.

“I’m happy to have a gardening bed here,” she said.

“I live in a condo. I’m limited to pots. Here, you can garden to your heart’s content.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Help out

The Mukilteo Community Garden is looking for volunteers to help with tasks such as weeding and harvesting vegetables grown for donations to local food banks and other nonprofits. Work and harvesting events are scheduled several times a week. Anyone can drop by to help, regardless of gardening experience. The garden is at the corner of 44th Avenue W. and 76th Street SW in Mukilteo. For more information check out the website, www.mukilteogarden.org/events. or email admin@mukilteogarden.org.

Take a class

The Mukilteo Community Garden offers free classes to the public. Upcoming classes include a talk Aug. 9 about vertical gardening and one Sept. 13 about late harvests. Classes begin at 10 a.m. at the garden. Children’s classes also are available Aug.10, Aug. 24, and Sept. 7. Check the website www.exploringveggies.com for more information.

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