Following New York and other cities, Seattle is building a rooftop P-Patch garden across from Seattle Center.
Instead of gardens and open space, all Edwin Stone sees when he looks around are buildings and parking lots.
It’s been frustrating for the devoted gardener. The only place in Lower Queen Anne he has been able to grow his tomatoes, basil and parsley was his windowsill.
But this spring, Stone and other downtown Seattle residents will get a breath of fresh air — and large amounts of soil.
A plot for a community garden — after a long search for space — was given to the Department of Neighborhoods by Seattle Center. Located on the roof of the Mercer Street Garage across the street from McCaw Hall, the P-Patch will be an example of sustainable living for the Center’s 50th-anniversary celebration.
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“There are a lot of really great rooftop gardens happening in New York and Chicago,” said Laura Raymond, project manager. “But most of them are not public community gardens the way this one will be.”
The rooftop garden is a part of the department’s P-Patch program funded by the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. The program, which sets aside green spaces in areas of Seattle that lack them, identified Uptown as a priority.
However, the department knew finding a large — and cheap — plot of land there would prove difficult.
“I realized that if there is any space that is not developed in that area, it’s usually a parking lot,” Raymond said. “We didn’t have the money to purchase any of those lots.”
To find affordable plots, the department often partners with other organizations or property owners to make the P-Patch gardens available, Raymond said. Last year, she heard about Seattle Center’s celebration, the “Next Fifty,” a six-month event highlighting issues that Seattle may face in the next 50 years.
One focus was sustainability, and talk of a rooftop garden arose. The Center offered the Mercer Street Garage as a possible location because the roof was rarely used for parking.
“Seattle Center does quite a bit with sustainability and environment, so this program is really in harmony with that for us,” said Deborah Daoust, Seattle Center spokeswoman. “We’re providing the space, and it is becoming a demonstration program for sustainable development in a somewhat unorthodox space.”
The $150,000 garden will be built mainly by volunteers who want to participate in the P-Patch program. The department allotted $25,000 to design — addressing issues regarding the concrete structure. Weight is a main issue, Raymond said. Certain areas of the garage can hold more weight than others, affecting garden-plot location. Garden beds will tier down the slope of the garage with two pathways running through the garden.
Up to 400 cubic yards of a light potting soil from Cedar Grove Composting will be used, and the garden will have a drip water system using existing pipes; gardeners will also be able to water their own patches.
The concrete garage will warm the soil, allowing gardeners to plant vegetables normally hard to grow in Seattle. Stone said some vegetables, such as tomatoes, need warm dirt and air to grow well. Other plants that need cooler earth can be planted earlier in the season and maintained by mulching and watering properly.
To mesh with the aesthetics of Seattle Center, volunteers designed a space-age theme, including an Airstream trailer as a tool shed. The garden at Third Avenue North and Mercer Street is expected to be completed by June.
The rest of the budget will be spent on construction, including a crane to lift heavy materials on to the roof.
The garden, however, is only a temporary project. In three to five years, the garage will become property of Seattle Public Schools in a trade agreement with Seattle Center.
The department will look into new locations for a garden once construction of the Mercer P-Patch is completed — including some public properties currently used as staging grounds for construction projects. While a single location hasn’t been selected, Raymond said the department hopes something will evolve.
“It’s a really motivated, community-focused spirit that is emerging,” she said. “People are already thinking ahead to where they will transfer this garden to where it will be in the future.”
Despite the impermanence of the garden, demand for the patch is high.
Raymond said more than 200 people had applied for a plot since the beginning of the month. With about 110 plots available, many volunteers like Stone hope their work will help them earn a plot.
“There is something really nice about getting your hands dirty in warm soil,” Stone said. “If you want to garden up here, help us build it.”
Mary Jean Spadafora: 206-464-2168 or email@example.com