Living

Patch of dirt nutures community

OLYMPIA – It took a little more than water and fertilizer to save the garden that Linda Adamy had cultivated outside of her West Olympia apartment.

Adamy, a resident of the Courtside Apartments, first had to outwit youngsters who kept picking and destroying her vegetables. Then she had to make a case to new apartment management to allow the garden to stay.

But Adamy was able to convince both that an apartment community’s garden is much more than its vegetables.

Now Adamy is dreaming big.

“A ‘disability garden’ was my dream,” she said, describing adding ramps and elevated growing areas that would make working in the garden easier for everyone. She also has hopes for a children’s area and more vegetables in the winter.

“It’d like to have it be a year-round garden with a beautiful winter garden,” she said.

The Courtside Apartments’ garden is just one of a growing number of multi-family gardens popping up in complexes in South Sound.

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

Adamy started the garden at the Courtside Apartments several years ago as a hobby, after getting permission from the previous apartment management.

At first, the garden was beset by vandals, which would uproot the plants and pick unripe vegetables, Adamy said. But she found a solution that reduced the vandalism.

“It stopped because I let them pick a pumpkin,” she said of the complex’s children, who helped nurture the gourdes before picking them. She also involved the children in growing other vegetables, and the community capped off the garden’s success with an autumn garden party.

Her next challenge: New ownership and management considered taking the garden out when they took over last year.

“Honestly, I was looking at it from an asset point of view,” said property manager Kim Dvorcek.

Dvorcek said she and the building’s owners had questions about whether the garden met city codes, whether the garden would be kept neat and nice looking, and whether the apartment complex would be put at any risk for having a community garden.

Adamy built her case in a three-ring binder, with a petition signed by dozens of residents, pictures from the previous year’s harvest party, articles on the range of summer, fall and winter plants, and phone numbers from carpenters and gardeners who wanted to help create a garden that would be accessible to the disabled.

Dvorcek received assurance from the City of Olympia that the garden didn’t violate any codes. She and Adamy also drew up a waiver form and a sign-in and sign-out sheet to cover any liability issues.

A garden committee also was formed at the complex and will meet regularly to discuss what will get planted and how the area will be maintained, Adamy said.

After addressing those issues, Dvorcek said she began to see the garden as an asset to the complex and an additional activity that could build the community there.

“We have quite a few families with children and people who are elderly,” Dvorcek said.

“The community here has longevity,” she said. “If they can feel that it’s home. … It definitely makes this feel like a home instead of an apartment.”

OTHER EXAMPLES

But Adamy’s garden at Courtside Apartments isn’t the only one of its kind.

Rochelle Gause, kitchen garden coordinator with Garden-Raised Bounty, said that her organization provides assistance to eight to 10 gardens in apartment or senior-living complexes a year through its kitchen garden program. The program also helps start 100 local gardens per year at the homes of low-income families and individuals.

“There are so many different models,” Gause said.

At Evergreen Vista apartments, residents take care of their own individual plots in the complex’s community garden, said Paul Grudis, who heads resident services at the west Olympia apartment complex.

“There are about 20 individual plots, and one garden for children, and one garden that’s given to Head Start,” he said. Head Start is a federally-funded preschool program for children who live in families with low incomes. The garden has a waiting list.

Residents at the Tumwater Apartments, a senior apartment complex, share a raised-bed garden, which is easier on older knees, said program director Susan Bryant.

“They wanted fresh produce right here where they live. Nutrition-wise, that’s a good thing,” she said. “I think they also wanted to do something together. They help each other out with the garden.”

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445

vbuhain@theolympian.com

www.theolympian.com/edblog

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