P-Patch Community Gardens
The Anatomy of Building a P-Patch
By Pam David & Jim Sykes
The Linden Orchard Park and p-patch idea originated in 1994. The real Linden Orchard
beginning was November 9, 2000. That was the proud day when Seattle voters approved
the Pro Parks Levy, giving Seattle Parks and Recreation authority to purchase several
identified vacant land parcels and thus save them forever from certain development
into town houses and condominiums.
Ours, Linden Orchard, is located at 6701 Linden Ave. N. When Seattle Parks purchased
the property in 2001 it had been vacant and a unused orchard for over 50 years.
It was 14,800 square feet of the most beautiful ivy, morning glory, and Himalayan
blackberries one can imagine. Ivy trunks as thick as your arm, in fact the weight
of the ivy pushed over and up rooted 80+ year old apple trees. This was a real project,
physically and bureaucratically, it took a village to build it.
In chronological order; First, the public hearings:
Even though the Greenwood/Green Lake area was previously un-served by p-patches,
many neighbors voiced opposition to a p-patch in their neighborhood. They were concerned
"outsiders" coming and using the area and a p-patch would create additional
traffic. Others wanted play areas for their young children. Fortunately a large
contingent group supported the p-patch and it received the most votes at the public
hearings. As a result, approximately 4,400 square feet was designated p-patch.
Planning: Lots of planning, more meetings
The garden layout was done by volunteers with the help of p-patch staffers.
The slope was difficult to deal with for amateur landscape designers. Also, we were
not provided with support we needed from the landscape architect we hired to design
the park. We purchased a Sunset book which showed how to terrace slopes. The grades
did not match with those planned by the landscape architect, but in the end modifications
were made to make it all work.
It took a lot of behind the scene planning to investigate and purchase materials
so the work parties could be productive. There was a core group of about a half
dozen people who spent many volunteer hours pulling the garden together. The most
energy was in springtime when people were interested in planting. During the summer
months work parties became quite small.
Our grant required a budget and timeline - the budget wasn't too difficult, the
p-patch office (Rich Macdonald) was a great help and phone calls to vendors filled
in the holes. The timeline included a schedule of the work and when it would be
completed. In retrospect this was way too optimistic. We anticipated 10-15 people
to work weekends clearing ivy and blackberries as well as other tasks such as terracing,
constructing the beds, and the cob tool shed. At first we made great progress, then
the workers fell off and it became the core group who worked week after week to
get the job done.
In our urban environment we found skills we counted on people having - such as carpentry
and basic construction knowledge - as it turned out none of our people had these
skills. We had willing workers but limited skill base. We had one or two people
who had some knowledge, the rest of us did the best we could by staying out of the
way or holding nails! Another draw back to our urban lifestyle was no one owned
a pick up truck. We had hoped to haul away debris and pick up materials when needed.
Instead we relied on deliveries and rented a small dump truck to haul away broken
concrete. Thus, we learned how to build terraces and drive a dump trucks!
We love our Hobbit like cob tool shed, it's unique and beautiful. We thought we
could build it in about four or five weekends. We thought we could build it at no
cost with sand and clay mined from the site. We thought wrong! Our talented and
dedicated Catherine Burke worked countless hours, with many, many volunteers showing
us how to lay a broken concrete foundation, how to mix correct proprotions of sand,
clay and straw into a proper consistency, and build up the 10 inch think walls inch
by inch. It took us almost a year to finish the building after taking a hiatus over
the cold winter months. The green roof still is not finished and Catherine is testing
natural pigment colors to plaster the walls. In September we'll have another work
party to bucket the special soil to the roof and plant the sod and wild flowers.
A prefab tool sheds would have cost the same and would have been much faster. But
then we would have missed out on the experience of actually building the first cob
building in Seattle.
- Go north on 4th Avenue
- Turn right Battery St
- Battery St turns into Aurora Ave N
- Turn left on Winona Ave N
- Winona Ave N turns into Linden Ave N
- P-patch on the right before N 67th St