The Harvard Ave Collective Brings Fresh Produce to The Shores

If you’ve been walking around The Shores lately, you may have noticed this wonderful little garden sprouting on Harvard, just off Olive Way. Its amazingly well constructed. Nice little rows of plants surrounded by a brick border. I was curious about who started this project and finally got a hold of Nathan, one of the gardeners of the plot. Nate gave me the skinny on how this beautiful bed of sustainability came to be.

The group that is tending the garden along Harvard Ave between Denny and Olive is a small collective of people that were organized by a woman who put a post on Craigslist.  The request was for people looking to utilize public and unused land in our local neighborhoods for growing produce.  We met in late feb on a weeknight at Remedy Tea.  There were 7 people who, with the exception of 2 couples had never met before that evening.  The idea was originally to build a series of these gardens.  However, we had difficulty obtaining permission to use some of the private land we had scouted.  Eventually we just went ahead and broke ground (I think in early march) at the Harvard site just to get things going.


The bricks surrounding the little plots were donated from the Sound Transit demolitions on Broadway, so at least those old buildings haven’t entirely left the neighborhood. The majority of the 4 plots are dedicated to salad greens but they are also growing radishes, beets, a few onions, basil, broccoli, peas, beans, cucumber, peppers (hot and sweet), and 2 varieties of tomato.

I asked Nate if they had any problems with vandalism and he said there have only been a few instances of people breaking plants or throwing the bricks. The biggest concern has been water. “Currently, I am bringing water over there  1-2x almost every day.” Nate said, “I have 2 7 gallon water containers that I fill in my shower and carry down in the mornings in my car as i head to work, but in the evenings I foot it and just use muscle for the 2 blocks.”

This little garden is an inspiration to us all. Remember, the city waived permits for planting strip gardens back in May, so none of us have excuses for not following the Harvard Ave Collective. If you need some tips on how to get started just head down there in the evening and you’ll probably spot Nate or some of the others tending the vegetables. I’m sure they would be happy to share their knowledge, especially for a few gallons of water.

4 thoughts on “The Harvard Ave Collective Brings Fresh Produce to The Shores

  1. i can vouch for the the quality of the produce. i was down there with kristin — the woman behind the craigslist ad — on sunday and got some romaine, mustard greens, and radishes.

  2. Hmm, gardens and homegrown food is cool, but to play devil’s advocate, should this really be done on the grass strips next to our sidewalks? In the winter this is going to be a muddy, ugly stretch of dirt. Normally these sidewalk plots are grass (even half-dead grass is more esthetically pleasing than just a bare plot of dirt).
    If the members of the Collective move or ever gets tired of this, it’s likely no one will be around to replant grass or maintain the garden.

    I read the Mayor Nickels announcement, guess I’m just surprised this is legit. Seems like this is what we have public pea-patches for (like the Cascade one down by REI, only about a 1/2 mile walk from Harvard/Olive)… Some of them are full I’ve heard, but then we should work to get more pea-patches.

  3. jdavin, not only are “some of them full” but there is a 3+ year wait to get a P-Patch here on The Hill. We will hopefully get 22 more patches by Summer 2010 but by that point it will have taken nearly 5 years and countless volunteer hours and community support to attain the funding to get those. On the other hand, there are acres of land in our planting strips that goes unused. I know that grass may look nice but it doesn’t just do that by itself, as with a garden people have to constantly water, aerate, and mow these patches to keep them looking nice. If not, they will also turn into out of control messes of weeds and mud.

    Gardens can be winterized and although they aren’t beautiful, they aren’t just ugly patches of mud. Perhaps these individuals will leave or stop using this land but hopefully they will let all of us here on CHS know and someone else can take care of the plot.

  4. We do actually have temporary plans for the winter.
    We are talking about planting the beds with a wintering crop like clover, hairy vetch or alfalfa. It’s pretty common practice.