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A p-patch term limit? With epic waitlists, city looking at ways to open up urban gardens — UPDATE: City says no term limits… yet

Beer Garden
uploaded by ~wesa~

UPDATE: The Department of Neighborhoods says ‘no’ to p-patch term limits:

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods has heard from many community members expressing concerns about changes to P-Patch operations that have been suggested by Department of Parks and Recreation for those P-Patch community gardens located on Parks’ property. 

Over the past few months, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, which manages the P-Patch Community Gardening Program, and Seattle Parks have been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding for the operation of P-Patches on Parks Department properties (of the 71 P-Patches, 22 are on Parks property).  A key concern has been over term limits on plots – The Parks Department is concerned about access to P-Patches and believe that long waitlists at some P-Patches restrict participation.  Seattle Department of Neighborhoods knows that the fundamental strength and success of the P-Patch community gardens is community building and feels that term limits curb volunteer leadership and community building, both of which are essential to manage and maintain the gardens. 

Mayor McGinn is very supportive of continued use of parks and other city properties for P-Patch community gardens and the commitment, leadership and stewardship that gardeners bring to public land. The issue is how to make more space available both for community gardening and generally for urban agriculture. 

Based on a meeting on April 19 with Mayor McGinn and city staff, the following steps were reached about P-Patch community gardens located on Parks land:

1)      DoN is to move forward with a strategic planning process as recommended in the 2009 P-Patch Evaluation.  The planning process would address the challenges of demand and emerging opportunities around availability of gardening land for residents.  This planning effort will engage directly with the public and P-Patch participants.

2)      At this time, no operation or policy changes will be made regarding term limits on P-Patches located on Parks Department property.

3)      DoN and Seattle Parks Department’s discussions around development of a Memorandum of Understanding will continue after completion of the strategic planning process.

To find out more about the P-Patch Community Garden Program, please click here, and for any additional questions or concerns, please call 206.684.0264 or email

Original Report:
Part of the excitement around the new Capitol Hill green spaces like Summit/John park goes beyond having a place to play and relax — some of you can’t wait to dig in, work hard and toil for Hill-grown food. Competition for a p-patch of land in Seattle’s city gardens is fierce. There are reports like this one from Publicola that City Hall is starting to look at ways to do something about the demand:

The city’s parks department is reportedly considering a plan to put term limits, perhaps as short as three years, on P-Patch garden plots on Parks-owned land, irking some P-Patch tenants who have maintained plots for years. (Twenty-two of the city’s 70 P-Patch gardens sit on Parks property.)

Here’s a TV report on the issue:

It’s early in the discussion but what do you think? Long-time gardeners are worried churning out dedicated p-patchers will weaken the system that depends on so much volunteer time and labor. Meanwhile, waitlisters — except for anybody near the top — are probably eager to dig in.

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47 thoughts on “A p-patch term limit? With epic waitlists, city looking at ways to open up urban gardens — UPDATE: City says no term limits… yet

  1. I’d love to hear from p-patchers and wait-listers on this. I’m a horrible gardener, so neither. But I’ve lived near p-patches for many years. Short-term thinking is not what makes a garden great. If there are gardeners who are not tending their p-patches, by all means kick them out for new blood. But if someone is dedicated to tilling that soil, and is maybe feeding themselves w/ the food or their spirit w/ the flowers, what is to be gained by weakening that bond to that chunk of land. If there is so much demand for p-patches, they should put energy into figuring out how to expand the program, not weakening the current system.

    Just my two cents. I hope current p-patchers and their neighbors rise up against this. (Or for it, I guess, if I misunderstand what makes for a productive garden and gardener turnover is somehow a good thing.)

  2. Waitlists being years long are very discouraging — by the time the turn around comes some people may have lost interest, which is a shame.

    A 3-5 year limit would give younger generations the chance to get their hands dirty and gain more experience making their lives more sustainable through gardening (as well as begin giving back to Seattle food banks). Young Adults are just the type to lose interest if they have to wait 3 years, but if they were able to get a P-Patch within a year or so, we could have one powerful, sustainable generation in this city.

    I’ve been on a wait list for a year now, with a P-Patch just a block away from my house going unused through much of the year by those who “maintain” them now. A 3 year limit, with a chance of a 2 year extension based on how much the give to food banks in the area maybe, would be a good solution. They could always sign back up or incorporate their skills in their own yard after their term!

  3. I agree with you that the city should be thinking of ways of expanding and putting more p-patches all over the city. I’m sure there are many city building rooftops that could be converted, for instance.

  4. I agree with Jane’s point – if there is so much demand for p-patches than the city really ought to look for more space to create more patches. What about taking corners of existing parks and giving a small space to p-patches? Parks like Cal Anderson could surely spare some square footage for another aspect of community recreation.

  5. I agree a term limit seems like a dumb idea. What about all the people that grow perennials in their patch? Just rip those up and let years of work go to waste? For example, hop plants take at least 2 years before they reach their peak production.
    They should look for solutions to the long wait lists, but in other ways – like subdividing the plots into smaller plots (perhaps offer “mini plots” for people that just want to dabble), or opening new pea patches.

  6. Where is the logic here? Why would I spend my time and effort making a solid garden space, raised beds, trellises, soil amendments, and ineffect making my own urban farm, if I get the boot in a few years?

    I can garden at home, and prefer my ornamentals where I can see them.
    I prefer the vegetables like lettuce close, as they ripen on the day.
    I prefer tomatoes, squash, beans, roots to be somewhere else as they take weeks to mature, and spend my home space with blooms and shrubs.

    I am on a wait list, and have been for a couple of years. I re-sign yearly, but would not do so if I had a limited term of occupation. I would like to plant an asparagus bed, but it takes three years to mature enough to bear spears that are edible. Where is the logic?

  7. The logic here is that wait lists have gotten ridiculous; 3-5 years to get a plot, or sometimes longer! While I think that the city should be actively creating more P-Patch space (perhaps on rooftops), I also think that 20 year or more terms are unfair to young adults and hopeful apartment dwellers in the city. I think that 3 years is a short term, but to help this wait list problem (along with creating more plots) a term limit of something like 7-10 years is more than reasonable/logical.

  8. It’s a terrible idea because building garden soil and making a plot your own takes time and energy, and because the community aspect and mentorship benefits of P-patches would be greatly diminished with so much turnover. Severl other optiosn would help: Be more strict on those who don’t maintain their patch, as others have mentioned. Another would be to ask those with really big plots to give up parts so that more people could have standard-sized plots. Oh, and more importantly, stop letting P-patch plots informally pass hands at the P-patch level. I know that when people leave, the spot is often filled with a friend, rather than to the next person on the wait list. I think that’s a big part of the reason the wait lists are so long. I also wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of priority for people who live in apartments or don’t have yards. Some P-patches are serving as an additional space for home gardeners, rather than the only option for those who live in multi-family housing with no yard space.

  9. As a long time p-patch gardener and volunteer with the program, I oppose term limits for those of us who have worked hard to enrich the plots we have and who contribute numerous hours past the required eight hours per year of volunteer time. Some crops like asparagus take three years just to get established.

    I do think that the people with plots who year after year barely contribute to the program and are a continual problem for their particular plot should be asked to leave thereby opening up space for others.

  10. Just how many tons of dirt do you think the roof s of the city can handle … for a few common veggies, you an get at QFC for a couple of bucks? Go look at the roof garden at the NEW city hall … looks like hell, with a city budget and staff.

    Some of this chatter is pure romantic nonsense.

  11. Mike with Curls, obviously you’re against p-patches in general then, since most are used to grow “a few common veggies you can get for a couple buck at the QFC.” Rooftop gardens aren’t just romantic chatter, they are a viable option for city gardening and many city rooftops have already been revamped for container gardening by building tenants.

  12. @mike with curls

    unfortunately most roofs aren’t designed to support even a ton of dirt. when a building is designed the roof is almost always designed to support just the mechanical systems for the specific building.

    to use a building’s roof to grow things would require substantial engineering to retrofit the roof support structure. retrofitting can be quite expensive which is why most developers opt to tear older buildings down vs. shoring them up. with all the budget issues the city has i can’t see them subsidizing rooftop improvements.

    the better option is to find unused land and reclaim it as dedicated p-patch space.

  13. I have been on the wait list for a p-patch on the Hill for over a year now. As a vegan, apartment dweller, and someone who is always trying to find a sustainable way of living in the city, I wish more than anything that the city would recognize the demand for gardening space in urban areas and provide more.

    I know I’m not the only one on Capitol Hill that has seen building after building come down and vacant lots turned into cement wastelands and over grown grassy areas. Why can’t the city make use of these? Yes, I see that on 16th and Howell the parking lot is becoming a park…but it has taken the city how many years for it to finally, and only, be dug up?

    As Seattlites we boast about being a forerunner in greener and more sustainable ways of living in a big city. I do not see how putting a limit on a sustainable way of life is in line with those ideas. Long term gardening in our urban areas should be promoted. And if there is a list of 5 years worth the people waiting, I see that as a sign to ADD MORE GARDENS. I love the idea of opening up park space for gardening.

    No limits. More parks. Lets set an example and encourage urban gardening. No snuff it out.

  14. Under the system we have, if I had had a patch for awhile and just wanted to take a year off, there’s no way I would give up my plot since it would take 3 or more years to get a plot back — I’d just not garden the plot for a year, essentially wasting the space.

    However, if I knew I could give up my plot and jump back on a wait list that only took 1 year (because of term limits and more P-Patches in the city both), I would be very willing to give my plot up to someone who would actually use it.

    I don’t doubt that situations like this happen a lot here, as well as situations like the one mentioned above about handing a plot over to a friend instead of giving it back to the city.

    I think we need 3 changes:
    1) Term limits — maybe 7-10 years instead of 3-5, since people make a good point about plant maturity over time & building community
    2) Stricter lack-of-use rules and regulating turnover to friends instead of wait list
    3) More P-Patch space throughout the city.

  15. If you want take up space for your own garden, then rent or buy a place with land. There is a fundamental conflict between living in a dense city and having a place to grow a garden.

    The roof idea is a good one though, it increases the efficiency of the HVAC system (extra layer of insulation) and reduces the temperature of the whole city.

  16. There’s lots of room around the city between the sidewalk and the street, and a recent example of a small raised bed is on the south side of Howell, just east of 12th Ave in front of a narrow property. Most of this area is just neglected, so lots of room for improvement.

  17. We waited 3 years to get into the Mad-P (Madison Valley) P-Patch– but the wait was totally worth it. While I don’t think it’s universally great that people have to wait so long–it’s obviously not good for everyone, the commitment of waiting out the waiting list was actually useful preparation for my wife and I becoming reliable gardeners.

    Put another way: having to wait 3 years to get our P-Patch meant that we started thinking about what we wanted to do with the garden and as gardeners over a timeframe like 5-10 years.

    Based on my experience, I don’t think the P-Patches would work as well if people were thinking about their commitment to their patches in shorter terms. It’s taken us 3 years of gardening just to get the beginnings of the hang of half of it–and the P-Patch community experience, imho, is very much about feeling like you’ll be learning from and gardening with most of the same neighbors for something like 5-10 years.

    At the Mad-P, we’re expected to have a garden fully planted by some date in May. If you don’t do that, you lose your patch. I don’t see any space going to waste (with the exception that not all of us have mastered gardening through the winter). We also have to help maintain common areas and we commonly are asked to help with things in other people’s patches. It’s great, but if you do it, it’s hard not to feel like you’re committing to something on a longer, e.g., 5-10 year timeframe–it’s all service to infrastructure that you benefit from over an extended period of time.

    Also, many of the people with P-Patches share their space with others — sort of sublet or include friends / family / other neighbors.

    I think it’d be good to see some organized way to match-up people who want to garden with more space to do so–either on private property (individual’s parking strips) or in shared space in existing P-Patch plots. But, in general, I hope the demand for P-Patches encourages other programs and new gardens to start, that are outside of the P-Patch program. More ways to grow food for ourselves in the city is good.

  18. It’s hard to know what to think about this one. I understand that people have put a lot of work into their plots, and they feel that they should have the right to continue to reap the returns. On the other hand, I was on a waiting list for over two years and got very tired of seeing plots that were untended or empty for months at a time. I also saw a situation unfold in which someone stopped caring for their plot, so the person with the neighboring plot just expanded. Not cool.

    Also, I really don’t have much sympathy for people who have yards and gardens at home but also have a p-patch because they would prefer not to use their own land to grow things that take up too much space or aren’t pretty enough or take too long to yield a crop. Capitol Hill has high density, which is great, but it means that a lot of people live in apartments and have no other way to garden. Those people should have priority.

    On the other hand, I finally ended my wait after seeing some of the things that people do in p-patches on Capitol Hill. Seriously, I would not eat anything grown in those gardens. I’ve been vaccinated for hepatitis, but still . . . Anyway, I ended up convincing a friend to lend me a bed in her yard in exchange for help with garden-related chores. Not a perfect arrangement, but it will have to do until I figure out something else.

  19. I am amazed how self centered some of the people posting here are. You have a yard and space to garden and you are trying to get a p-patch? That’s just selfish. There are a lot of people that have _nothing_. Not even an indoor windowsill that gets enough light to grow something edible and those people pay taxes too. You p-patch people really just suck.

    I think term-limits are long overdue. I think that they should only allow people to keep their plots for one year and then have everyone reapply and then select randomly because that would be more fair. Yes, there are veggies that take longer to grow, so don’t plant them!!! Plenty of annuals do just fine in a year – don’t like it, then don’t get a p-patch, because a lot of people would be just over the moon if they could just get any kind of space to use for ANY period of time.

    Don’t forget, it’s not YOUR space. It’s for everybody and I think it’s long past time that some people freaking share already.

  20. I suggest starting out in a seasonal plot, such as those at Picardo Farm P-Patch, while staying on the waitlist for a year-round garden or a garden nearer your home. I don’t think there is much of a waitlist for seasonal plots, so start there – it’s a great way to see if the P-Patch program is a good fit for you, as you still have to put in volunteer hours and manage your plot.

  21. I second everyone above about exploring other options. And it’s not just about growing asparagus, it’s about the amount of work you need to put into a plot to get it ready to plant. The only wasted plot I’ve ever seen is a woman who started in the plot next to mine in spring, but gave up before summer started. That plot could have gone to someone on the list for the rest of the season, but unfortunately they only assign plots once a year in most patches. If you seen empty plots in the winter it is for this reason, plus they shut off the water and it is tough to grow much in our winter climate without constructing a hot-house or some other structure.

    According to the P-Patch website they are already cracking down on passing a patch to a friend and saying the plot must go to someone on the waitlist. Along with strict enforcement of this policy, plus priority for people without yards and expanding the system in high-density areas, as well as a quicker way to turn-over plots mid-season if necessary, I think can help take care of this back log.

  22. There probably won’t ever be enough city p-patches for everyone who’d like to garden. I’m thinking city wait list and also sign up on There’s a chunk of earth out there somewhere with my name on it!

  23. My partner and I have a plot at a P-Patch on capitol hill. I was on the wait list for 2 years, and we’re currently entering our 4th growing season at the garden. I only just this year feel like we’ve finally established our plot. So I agree with Jane when she says short-term thinking is no what makes a garden great. I understand that the city is in a tough position trying to balance ppatch demand vs. the very limited availability, but I don’t think term limits are the answer.

    P-Patch gardeners sincerely care about building a sense of community both within the garden and the surrounding neighborhood. At our P-Patch, all gardeners are required to be active in their plot and actively participating in the general upkeep of the garden and/or the P-Patch organization. We’re required to grow food to be donated to local food banks (something the majority of us did even before it was required). Inactive plots and those that don’t sufficiently contribute to the community are made available to the next person in line.

  24. I agree, putting limits on p-patch time is a bad idea. If someone really wants to garden, they will find a way, either by waiting their turn, creating a potted garden, volunteering with a group like Alleycat Acres or finding some guerrilla garden project. Gardening takes time and is an experiential process. Don’t take that away from people who are in the midst of that experience just so fickle gen-y’s can get their hands dirty because they’re too impatient to wait their turn. Patience is an important lesson learned!

  25. I see your point, Cory. Urban farmer certainly looks like an oxymoron on the surface. And there’s something to be said for folks that use their P&R-owned p-patch space as a permanent flower bed or herb garden… seems as if there could be a balance somewhere between the extremes of ‘want to be local/sustainable’ and ‘get your own home with land, already’.

    I would propose we change the law: change zoning of apartments/condos to provide incentives to include land set aside for urban gardening (or build with green roofs in mind) rather than lean on the already-painfully-strapped-for-cash Parks&Rec Dept to provide for citizens wanting to till the earth. Imagine Joule and Brix with garden spaces and green roofs?! That would be a huge win-win for everyone AND still keep the open-spaces mission of the parks dept intact.
    Likewise current (older) apartments should be offered incentives to convert landscaped side yards into garden space: I’ve seen several 50’s & 60’s era apartments/row houses on capitol hill (east of Broadway) that are already making this changeover. Let’s keep that momentum.

  26. This is literally the ‘planting strip’: The city owns it but gives all responsibility for design to the landowner. Seriously, whoever owns the plot behind it can do what they want with it so long as they don’t try and convert it to car parking. I doubt most Seattleites realize this.
    Effectively, there’s a plot of built-in p-patch land in front of every house and apartment in the residential zones here! Someone add the square footage up, PLEASE – we’re talking about hundreds of acres of land citywide, I’m sure.

  27. I cannot set up a permanent lawn chair (imagine cement moorings, steel posts) in the middle of a sidewalk and claim it as MY spot.
    You cannot set up a permanent volleyball game at Cal Anderson (imagine fencing it off, posting a sign saying “special volleyball volunteers only – please see waitlist”) and claim it as YOUR volleyball court for the rest of the year.
    Nor can anyone claim one swing on the Miller playground as THEIR swing for years at a time.

    Instead, in city parks, we’re sharing.
    This is a large part of what motivates people (like several of our parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents) to bequeath land to the city for parks & helps other folks feel warm and fuzzy about voting for city money/levies for parks. Old man Phinney & his widow would not have GIVEN the land that now hosts the zoo and the adjacent Woodland park if they’d thought some selfish, blinders-on fool would 100 years later be trying to claim some plot of it as only ‘THEIR’ patch of park land.
    IMO, Parks are about shared open space, about the public societal benefit, the cultural benefit even, of having a community that recognizes that all can share and use that which all have contributed to. Much like sidewalks. Much like schools. Much like swingsets at playgrounds.

    Term limits on city owned parks & recreation land DOES make sense, as this is / was / will be publicly owned land. There are also a number of non-P&R-owned P-patches and I like that term limits could leverage motivation for longer-term urban gardeners to use THOSE and let newbies and short-termers use Parks land. Perhaps this generation of older gardeners with bequeath land to a private p-patch with no term limits: GREAT. (I challenge you champions of urban farming to go change your will now).

    I support: a 5 year limit for city owned p-patches, AND more land use for gardens (like the planting strip between sidewalks and roads) AND zoning changes/incentives to encourage new construction to account for Seattle’s trend of sustainable growing. However, I do not support using any more SP&R public land for p-patch use ( at the very minimum, until the 3-5+ year waiting list can be abolished).

  28. Agreed: people losing interest will only mimic the unsustainable trick that theatres have played on themselves: you’ll get only an old audience… and diversity in ages is much more wise.

  29. NoL: good ideas. Tell us how you would fund it. (Buying land to convert to parks, as we’ve seen with the FedRep lot, can be costly just to acquire the real estate ($1.3 million for a modest 3-house lot). Development into a great park space would take another $750,000 or more. You say “more parks”. And I agree. But I also keep my checkbook balanced and expect my city to, too. How do we pay for it?)

  30. There should no term limits for people who actively participate in the cultivation of the p-patch program, especially those who garden for the food bank. At the Lincoln Park p-patch the land that could be developed is enormous compared to what has been developed for this program. Are the people on the p-patch waiting list there due to the economic downturn, are they there because they are apartment or condo dwellers with no means to grow food let alone helping growing produce for the food bank, or are they folks who have homes but won’t put land aside to grow a garden, are they short term gardeners who once the economic sector is better will then not want to be a p-patcher? Why not expand the land in the p-patch program so that more Seattle residents can participate in it. The Parks Department and the City Council need to hold public meetings to discuss stewardship and the process for determining who is assigned a p-patch before making any changes in the current program.

  31. P-Patch Community Gardens are public open spaces (gardening arboretums) that serve the larger community as:
    • Restorative spaces
    • Learning gardens (idea factories)
    • Places to gather and visit
    • Gardens improved or built with Neighborhood Matching Funds require a community space
    P-Patch Community Gardens are public spaces maintained by their gardeners, who provide services to their community by:
    • Contributing more than 15,500 hours of volunteer hours per year
    • Contributing about 27,000 lbs of fresh organic produce to local food banks annually
    • Organizing open-to-the-public events such as concerts, potlucks, picnics and sales of affordable plant starts
    P-Patch Community Gardeners are stewards of public land:
    • Organic gardens require a long-term investment in the soil.
    • Gardeners share their knowledge with visitors.
    • Gardeners plant and tend landscaping around the p-patches – plantings that enhance the neighborhood.

  32. If we’re going to make density enticing, we need a way to replace the things you give up if you live in an apt, condo or even a townhouse. Things like yards and porches. We have a good amount of green space to hang out and run around in, though even by the city’s standards we need more. By one look at the waitlists, we don’t have enough garden space. We could waitlists, or tell all the urban gardeners to suck it up because they live in the city. But that won’t solve demand and it won’t make density any more palatable.

  33. mmariono and mapsmith are right – there are potential ROW gardens everywhere. I’m working with a group of people on a ROW garden right now – it’s on Harvard behind Dick’s. The landowner doesn’t mind what we do there (we’ve checked!) and we haven’t had much vandalism to speak of (except that time with the sunflowers…). While you’re in line for a p-patch or working to get more for the neighborhood (like I am), take a look around for neglected right of ways and bits of land. Often the landowner won’t mind if you garden there as long as you don’t put in anything permanent. And because of an ordinance passed by City Council last year, you don’t even need a permit to it.

  34. I live on the first floor of an apt. building. While I have access to some planting space I have no sunlight, so I can only work with native plants – no tasty salad garden for me. I’ll be moving to a 5th floor apt. soon with no access to potential garden space. I will probably not have a yard in my entire life. I just don’t make that much money. I want a P-Patch. I’ve been working toward getting a Park and P-Patch at John and Summit for two years now. Our group, Unpaving Paradise, succeeded in its goal and we’ll get that Park and P-Patch by the end of the summer. Once this is done UP will probably move on to look for more potential P-Patch spaces around Capitol Hill.

    I want a p-patch and I don’t time limits on P-Patches because I want to ensure that a long-lasting community develops that will care for and keep an eye on John and Summit Park. I think that most if not all the folks who worked on making John and Summit a reality agree. Is that selfish?

  35. @mapsmith

    I get the theory, but it doesn’t translate to p-patches. P-patches serve people *better* by serving people longer. They enhance the urban landscape for non-gardeners WAY more when they are established. In other words, you are increasing the value to the greater community. They should not be experimental plots for short-term gardeners–this will degrade their value to the surrounding community, while giving *less* value to each individual who gardens them.

    [See @Ray Schutte post way down there for a great list of benefits provided to the community–and I’m that community, not a p-patcher.]

    I suspect the term limit proposal is a way to make managing the program easier–i.e., it’s easier to kick someone off a p-patch because of a term limit than to argue that they aren’t using it, or investigate possible “subletting,” etc. I understand that difficulty, but this is not the right program design decision. I’m confident they’ll come up w/ a better way to manage it.

  36. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like that the way the bylaws are set up now that IN THEORY a P-Patch could have the same gardeners for 20 – 30 years? ….If nobody died, moved, went to jail, etc., it’s time for a change. Just because this is the way it’s always been is not a good enough answer.

  37. It’s not true that it takes 3 years for soil to become usable for gardening. I know this from experience. Yes, soil knowledge is helpful, and so is a lot of compost. Most vegetables can easily be grown in a season.

    The plants that take longer than that to mature into healthy adult plants probably aren’t the best choice for a p-patch.

  38. If Parks would make it possible for communities who ask for P-patches on Park property to have them, this would increase the options and decrease the waiting lists. Given that Parks has been very reluctant in the past — and it has taken considerable citizen effort to acquire the P-patches on Parks land that do exist — it seems unfair to limit the gardeners’ time and more fair to make more space available.


    This is a cool site –


    Who we are
    Seattle boasts a total of 70 P-Patches (community gardens) in the city. More than 2,000 people of all ages garden organically in land owned by the city or purchased by the P-Patch Trust. Gardeners initially apply for a plot with a dream to grow food or flowers for themselves and their loved ones. But in the process, many individuals take on leadership or volunteer roles, immerse themselves in the community aspect of the gardening process, and in numerous documented cases, go on to change the world through outreach, education and giving back to their communities.

    P-Patch gardeners strive to educate and inspire all age groups about the joys of organic gardening in one of the 70 community P-Patches located in our progressive city. We believe that by making garden land available and teaching the life skill of sustainable gardening to all citizens, each of us can learn to grow healthy delicious, organic food for our own families and loved ones, thus ensuring longer, stronger, healthier and happier lives.

    The vision and purpose of the Blues for Food fest is to shine light on the 48 P-Patch food bank and giving gardens that donate OVER 20 TONS of organic produce to food banks, meals-on-wheels programs, homeless shelters and transitional housing in the city. We also strive to promote and protect American blues music and its rich history. Although the blues was born in poverty and despair, its message of life, love and hope continue to inspire us to keep on digging.

  40. The comments that suggest “oh, well, cal anderson has plenty of space, let’s carve out some for p-patchers!” drive me nuts.

    Fine. In general, yes, more space should be made available. I’ll agree that new acquisitions can be purposed this way (john & summit). But I get the hint, dotty, you’re suggesting that existing park space should also convert…
    What playground do you want closed to make way for your single-use? What frisbee field? Which offleash dog area? Which lawn that hosts Shakespeare plays? What trails? Which park-land trees need to come down so you can better grow? Who’s spot of sunlight to lay in on the grass? What shared open space should shrink for your solo recreation use? Which fountain or statue do we demolish to make way for this new use? Which perfect patch of parks-owned serenity should be chewed up and turned into a mess of tiny garden strips with limitless terms for only one person to set foot on for decades?

    What you presume to be “extra” parks space is, I believe, someone else’s perfect paradise. In most cases, MANY people’s perfect paradise at various points throughout the year. More importantly, those perfect paradises were hard won; they represent battles to make sure open space was incorporated into the design as each park was built.
    Tread as carefully as you would ask me to. Please.

  41. We are in our second year, and are only starting to improve the hard clay soil we inherited. Organic gardening takes long term care and planning – term limits will lead to a tragedy of the commons.

    Rather, I’d suggest 2 things:

    1) Build more P-Patches. Parks has about 6400 acres (granted not all nice level sunny spots). Of that less than 1% is devoted to P-Patches. We can probably justify less space for picnics and more for growing food

    2) Increase community hours over time. Right now our garden requires 8 hours of labor outside our patch regardless of tenure. Perhaps increase it ~2 hours/year tenure up to a max of say 40. If it gets too onerous, surrender the plot and sign up again. That will keep those that are really committed (and give the Dept of Neighborhoods a big supply of volunteer labor) and encourage those who don’t really value to give to someone who does

  42. Thank you, Tricia:

    “…stop letting P-patch plots informally pass hands…”

    This seems to be a big part of the problem to me. There are plots going un- or under-used. There are people with multiple plots. The P-Patch Program administrators need to do a better job of allocating space and managing the waitlist. Otherwise, change the rules so people who wait years aren’t having their wait-slot go wasted / stolen.

    Not to denigrate the fine folk at DoN; as a former local gov employee, I know what it’s like and expect they’re doing their best.

    Term limits are reasonable. It does NOT take years to build soil. Most plots are 10’x10′. You can easily fill that with a load of fresh compost from Cedar Grove – bought there, a pickup truck load worth of soil is around $11!

    If you have multiple plots, have been gardening them for years, and have a yard at home, well it doesn’t seem fair to apartment dwellers.

  43. I was excited to hear about this. I occasionally co-garden at a well-established p-patch. I am disgusted at the politics and gossip that go on. There is so much drama. People that have had patches since the patch opened feel they know more and what is the best for everyone involved. They are territorial and mean-spirited. The waitlist is pointless. People pass-on or bequeath their patches to friends, instead of returning them to the waitlist. Other people leave them as food bank plots for a year or two until they decide to return and garden once again???? It’s completely unfair.
    I’ve seen plots lay untended,despite the rules, just because someone is a longtime p-patcher

  44. I am against term limits but do think there is a need to do a better job monitoring the users of the patches. I know two people who each have multiple patches AND have a full size backyard garden. No-one should have more than one patch. Also, some people have patches in their names but have turned them over to friends.

  45. In support of long-term commitments to P-Patches, I submit that short-term thinking is just the type of raze and burn treatment gardeners try to prevent in bonding with the land. Yes the soil can be worked the first few years, but what of the entire package? P-Patch gardens are not just commodities to be divvied up. Beds of lilies, asparagus, bay leaves, herbs of all types, poppies and roses are a few of the plants that will be lost if term limits are imposed. The amount of work involved annually to build raised beds, cobbled pathways, sheds and even the new batrooms would be decreased in an atmosphere of temporary assignments. If the gardeners who built the walls, fences, and sheds are kicked out, we endanger the entire program. Please reconsider randomly rotating the gardens.

  46. All the best, most experienced gardners–the mentors and keepers of the compost–will be immediately phased out if 3-year term limits are put into effect. There will be no stability or continuity. Annual plantings will reign, effectively turning our p-patches into a mono-garden-culture. Who needs perennials like asparagus or rhubarb or berries or the flowers that feed bees and birds and the soul anyway?

    I do.

    I understand the wait list is long. I waited 3.5 years to get my plot, but the wait was worth it. I’m now beyond my 3 year mark of being in that plot and my garden is the best its ever been. It takes time to learn–what works in your neighbor’s plot may not work in your own–a season or two of trial and error to find out how to make the brussels sprouts give a higher yield, a season or three to discover the best variety of calendula or snow peas.

    I can’t imagine having to stop now and _indefintely_–it’s become a big part of my life. Our neighborhood simply needs more garden space for its residents. We have a high population density of mainly apartment dwellers, like myself, with no other access to this simple joy of growing plants and tending the soil. More value needs to be placed on our neighborhood residents’ access to _long-term_ opportunities to garden. Unfortunately, change, like the waitlist, takes time. I don’t think that razing the gardens every three years is an effective method of increasing access–it’s a “1 million served” campaign, where nobody really gets anything nutritious for long enough to make a difference.