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Public garden celebrates productive first year

Gardeners aren't required to have a "green thumb" to lease plots at the Community Organic Garden of Sequim.

But it certainly helps.

Showered with hard work, dedication and hours of volunteer labor, the community garden experienced a successful first season. What started as a dream in the hearts of the Sequim High School Ecology Club in 2005 has grown into a fully functioning plot for people to cultivate fruit, vegetables, flowers and friendship.

Sunflowers, raspberries, squash, pumpkins, zucchini and tomatoes grow abundantly in the 75-foot by 150-foot section of land leased to Friends of the Fields by St. Luke's Episcopal Church for $1 a year. The space is divided into 30 plots, including five raised beds for people with disabilities.

Extra food is donated to the Sequim Food Bank.

"It went great," said Liz Harper, publicity chairwoman, about the community garden's first season. "We had more plots filled than we expected."

People of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are invited to plant individual, family and group plots. Because the garden is organic, no chemical pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers are allowed. The garden is designed to rely on the soil, compost and other natural additives.

"I wasn't an organic gardener to start with but I am sold," Harper admitted. "Even with a cold spring, the produce was amazing."

The most surprising part of the first season, Harper said, is that there weren't any major complications. "I've worked with a lot of projects in my life but this is by far the best," she said. "It's like a love affair with Sequim. Whatever we needed, we were able to get."

That's not to say a few changes won't take place before next season. Organizers are investigating new water systems so that the garden isn't irrigated with chlorinated city water and are taking suggestions on how to make the paths between plots less susceptible to weeds.

Harper's long-term goal is to offer multiple gardens throughout town. "Sequim is the perfect place for these gardens," she said. "There should be more than one but we would need the partner with the city (of Sequim) to do that."

Though she's pondering the idea, no formal discussions have been initiated with the city yet, Harper said.

With temperatures dipping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, gardeners will "put the garden to bed" for winter Friday, Oct. 24. The gates will reopen in spring.

More than 10 plots are empty for the 2009 season but are expected to rent quickly, according to Harper, so applicants shouldn't hesitate. Renters are required to dedicate eight hours of community service to the garden, such as weeding, throughout the year.

Scholarships are available to individuals who cannot afford the fee, which includes basic organic gardening classes that will start in February.

Harper, who said she's tried growing a garden at home in the past but been fairly unsuccessful due to the deer, is planning to lease a plot next year and is looking forward to a second season as fruitful as the first.



Cultivating food and friendships

The Community Garden of Sequim, at 525 N. Fifth Ave., behind St. Luke's Episcopal Church, is a 75-foot by 150-foot field south of the playground. Thirty lots, including five raised beds for people with disabilities, are leased to the public. More than 10 lots are available for 2009. Fees are still being determined but aren't expected to be more than $50. Scholarships are available for individuals who cannot afford the annual fee. More information, past articles and photos are available online at http://cogs.thecascadian.net/. To make a donation, lend a hand, or lease a plot, call Liz Harper at 683-7698.





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