Tiana Sharp looks over a garden bed that she adopted in the Garden of Hope, a garden providing affordable, healthy produce for people in the community, during a barbecue at the Snohomish Church of the Nazarene on Aug. 10. Sharp already has a bed filled with corn, squash, beans and other produce, but decided to take on another bed after a member could no longer care for it. (Daniella Beccaria / For The Herald)

Church’s abundant vegetable garden feeds a community

SNOHOMISH — Joni Kirk was planning to harvest the cucumber the next day. It was perfectly ripe and had grown huge under the summer sun.

The cucumber disappeared overnight.

Kirk was thrilled.

At the Garden of Hope outside Snohomish Church of the Nazarene, vegetables planted in boxes around the fence are meant to be taken. Kirk hopes the cucumber was plucked from the box by someone who needed it more than she did.

Inside the community garden, which is fenced in by donated pallets hammered together and painted by volunteers, people can rent one of 16 raised garden beds. The cost is $50 a year, and that includes a refundable $15 deposit. All of the beds are currently taken.

The Garden of Hope opened in May at 1017 13th St. It was built by volunteers with mostly donated materials. Last summer, the area was an empty stretch of lawn. Now, corn has grown tall enough to tower over the gardeners and the peas are crisp and sweet off the vine.

“And we have so many tomatoes, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Kirk, a volunteer and the planner behind the new garden. “I hope they disappear.”

The community garden is a way for the church to give back to their town, she said. It allows people to have a safe, fertile place to grow their own food and to give to the local food bank. Every gardener at the Garden of Hope is asked to donate at least 10 percent of their produce. Most donate more.

There also are smaller plots in the garden that are used as learning areas for kids. It’s a chance for children to see, touch and taste what it means to grow food, Kirk said.

The church uses rain barrels to water the garden. One good rain fills 10 of the 50-gallon barrels, set under the eaves of the church. Perennial flowers planted in pots around the garden help draw pollinators. Alternating planter boxes have edible plants.

Tiana Sharp, 18, rents a garden bed next to her mom’s. They attend the church and are passionate about gardening.

“Our goal is kind of to keep our church supplied with vegetables and our community supplied with vegetables,” she said.

The Sharps grow corn, scallions, pattypan squash, zucchini, peas and carrots. Most of the harvest is given away to friends, neighbors and the food bank.

Rita Fox, 63, doesn’t go to the church but lives next door. She eagerly watched the garden as it was being built and helped when she could. She always loved to garden but when she moved from a house to an apartment, she wasn’t able to grow anything that wouldn’t fit in the pots on her patio. Now she’s harvesting tomatoes, onions, leeks, lemongrass, sweet potatoes, two types of squash and sunflowers from her plot in the Garden of Hope.

“I think it’s great that people like me who don’t have space can garden, and we just get to share our bounty,” Fox said.

She always ends up with way too many vegetables, so the idea of giving to the food bank is rewarding and practical, she said.

Kirk likes to think the garden grows more than plants. It teaches kids about food, flowers and giving back. If offers adults a place to grow healthy food regardless of their income or living situation.

This summer, church volunteers have been hosting barbecues near the garden on Wednesday evenings. They’ve made friends and found new ways to help around Snohomish, Kirk said.

“It’s fun and it’s exciting just seeing people coming together,” Kirk said. “It’s just amazing what you can grow with a little garden.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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