Food Gardens in the Fall

Veggie garden by M. Ewert

Just like that, it’s fall! What a fantastic summer we had, ideal for growing tomatoes and other heat-loving crops. But now that it’s getting cooler, the time is right to switch to winter crops or get your garden tucked in for the winter so it’s ready to grow again next spring.


Time to bring in those winter squash (did you grow pumpkins?), apples, and not-quite-ripe tomatoes and then clean all the plant debris out of your garden beds. If you end up with more than you can eat or preserve, consider sharing via Lettuce Link‘s food sharing program or taking it to your local food bank. Then, on to mulching or planting!

Grow Food Over the Winter

Plant garlic by Halloween and it’ll be ready to harvest late next summer. You can grow also greens, like lettuce, or veggies like broccoli, under plastic sheeting, floating row covers or cold frames. (One easy idea for hoop tunnel row covers here.) Fall is also the best time to plant perennials, like blueberry bushes and fruit trees – our wet fall and winter months help them get established before a long dry summer.

Leave leaves!

Leaves falling to the ground is one of the biggest signals that fall is here. Sure, you can rake them up and put in your compost or green collection bin, but leaves make great mulch, so consider leaving them in place or rake into beds to protect perennials and tender plants and provide nutrients for the soil. You may need to keep an eye out for slugs though, as they do like to hide out under leaves.

Another way to build good soil, prevent weeds and soil erosion and attract beneficial insects, is to plant cover crops (or “green manure”) now, such as red clover, purple vetch, fava beans, and cereal rye. In the spring, many of these can be spaded right into the beds, and some even provide nitrogen for the soil, so your veggies will be off to a great start.

Get Help

First up, we are lucky to have Seattle Tilth as a great local resource. From classes to plant sales to online information, you’ll find great support for your food growing and other gardening efforts.

The City also offers ways to learn more. Check out Seattle Public Utilities’ Food Gardening page that links to lots of info on natural yard care, composting and includes their Growing Food in the City guide. The guide has a handy planting calendar for many commonly grown foods and has been translated into 13 languages besides English. If you want to talk to an expert, call the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 or email them at

Making the Most of Urban Fruit Trees

Gleaning on Beacon Hill, photo by City Fruit

It’s late summer and that means harvest time for lots of fruit trees, including apples, pears and plums. This bounty can sometimes go to waste when fruit doesn’t get picked when it’s ripe, or there’s just too much fruit for one family to use when things ripen all at once. Luckily, there’s help if you find yourself in this situation!

Check out City Fruit – a non-profit whose mission is to help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees. At this time of year, they go to neighborhoods throughout Seattle to harvest extra fruit (called “gleaning”). In 2013, City Fruit brought in 10,017 pounds of  unused fruit from residential properties in South Seattle/Beacon Hill, West Seattle and the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhoods. Most of it was donated to food banks and meals programs and a portion of it was sold to restaurants and others.

City Fruit also helps tree owners learn how to care for their fruit trees, trains fruit tree ambassadors, and works with Seattle Parks & Recreation to care for urban orchards.

There are lots of ways you can get involved, from donating extra fruit you pick, volunteering to pick (see list of 2014 dates/locations), or even just adding your tree to the research map for City Fruit’s work to understand where trees are located in the city (you can choose to request harvest help also, but mapping your tree is just for research purposes).

Let’s make this most of this abundance in our midst!

New Tools for Food Services & Restaurants to Reduce Food Waste

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And Rethink! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a free new resource to reduce food and packaging waste. Because wasted food means wasted money, along with significant environmental and social impacts, the Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit helps restaurants, grocers, caterers, and other commercial kitchens reduce food waste.

Understanding the amount, type of, and reason for food waste is the first step toward reducing it. The kit includes an Excel audit tool that allows users to tailor their waste tracking to the level of detail needed for their facility. Once the data is entered, the spreadsheet automatically generates graphs and data summaries to help facilities identify opportunities to reduce waste.

Businesses can also consider joining EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) – a free program for any organization which prepares, sells or serves food. Participants reduce wa
sted food through source reduction, donation and recycling, saving money, helping communities and protecting the environment. FRC shares tools, hosts webinars and gives annual EPA awards.

‘Grow Your Park’ grant will help low-income families grow fresh produce

[Reposted from Parkways blog.]

Rainier Valley Community Center garden – by Rainier Valley Post

Seattle Parks and Recreation has been selected as a “Grow Your Park” grant recipient from the Darden Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Seattle Parks was one of 15 communities awarded this grant in 2014. The grant amount is $10,000.

Environmental Stewardship Coordinator Shanyanika Burton said the department will use the funds to increase outreach efforts to underserved populations and boost participation at six of the 10 community center gardens located across Seattle.

“Food security is a crucial component of the conversation on equity,” Burton said. “Through our Good Food urban agriculture programs, we provide access to land for growing food to community members who don’t have space at home. We are hoping that raising awareness of our gardens will encourage people to come together and to eat more fresh organic produce.”

In addition to the production of nutritious food, community gardens promote healthy lifestyles, connect people to nature, cultivate community ties and strengthen self-sufficiency for many. The entire process from planting to harvesting helps create a more active, engaged and healthy community.

“The Grow Your Park grant program and its recipients embody our commitment to give back to local communities, preserve our planet’s natural resources and serve food to those in need,” said Stephanie Ghertner, director of the Darden Foundation. “Food banks and other organizations in communities across the country benefit from the fresh produce and educational opportunities community gardens provide.”

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 40,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

The Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation is the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Darden Foundation’s mission is to maintain a spirit of service and community engagement as defining characteristics of Darden’s family of restaurants – Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House. Since 1995, the Darden Foundation has awarded more than $71 million in grants to leading nonprofit organizations that align with its mission and community priorities: Recipe for Success®, Preservation of Natural Resources and Good Neighbor grants. Through the Darden Harvest program, Darden Restaurants has also donated more than 66 million pounds of food to hunger relief agencies across the U.S. and Canada. In 2011, the Darden Foundation introduced the Restaurant Community Grants program that is dedicated to supporting local nonprofit organizations in the hundreds of communities where we live and serve. For more information, please visit

Shop at Local Farm Stands, Support Low-Income Gardeners

The High Point and NewHolly Farm Stands open this week offering fresh organic produce picked right from the P-Patch market gardens. Grown by low-income gardeners, the produce that is fresh right now is spinach, carrots, leafy vegetables, new onions, peas, turnips, and radishes, to name a few. The farm stands’ hours of operation are 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

  • High Point Farm Stand (32nd Ave. SW and SW Juneau Street) open Wednesdays from July 9 to September 24.
  • NewHolly Farm Stand (S. Holly Park Dr. between 40th Ave. S. and Rockery Dr. S.) open Fridays from July 11 to September 26.

Both farm stands accept EBT cards and participate in Fresh Bucks which doubles consumers’ first $10 spent on the card. Come see the garden, meet the farmers, and enjoy their fresh produce.

Seattle P-Patch Market Gardens is a program of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening Program in collaboration with Seattle Housing Authorityand GROW to support low-income gardeners and their neighborhoods. Its mission is to establish safe, healthy communities and economic opportunity through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farm stand enterprises.

Learn more here.