This article was the cover story of the Peninsula Daily News / Sequim Gazette special pull-out newspaper supplement, “Healthy Living”, dated March 2014.
A Growing Movement: Demonstration Garden Springs Up in Quilcene
Q Gardens quickly gaining momentum and community support in Quilcene
By Brenda Hanrahan
Peninsula Daily News
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Something is growing in the heart of Quilcene… Some might only see a garden taking shape one a once-derelict plot of land located off U.S. 101 at Roberts Road. But others see community spirit unfolding in surprising ways.
At times, the garden is humming with teams of volunteers digging a berm to create a large raised bed, removing huge rocks from the rich soil and moving wood chips or gravel to create pathways.
Other times one may only see three dedicated women tending to vegetable beds, checking on a worm bin or planting seeds and bulbs.
The name of this ever-changing project is Q (Quilcene) Gardens, and board members Anne Ricker and Juanita Thomas and Master Gardener Anita McCue have big plans for the demonstration garden.
“The intent of this garden is to educate the community about sustainable and organic gardening practices that they can accomplish in their home gardens,” Thomas said. “We also hope that they will grow extra produce to donate to the Quilcene Food Bank, which is always in need of healthy vegetables, herbs and fruit.”
The garden project started in October 2012 when Quilcene artist and businesswoman Anne Ricker received a $14,500 grant through the Environmental Stewardship Council and Washington State University to educate Puget Sound residents on low-impact development (LID) to reduce stormwater runoff.
Ricker began researching LID techniques by taking every workshop and seminar available on rain gardens, bioswales, low-impact gardening and green roofs.
She selected the garden site for its visibility and proximity to the Quilcene Community Center and community activities.
She worked with Quilcene resident John Helsper to design the garden.
The land was purchased in part with a gift in memory of the late John Pitts, an avid organic gardener who also served as a Jefferson County Commissioner and was a local veterinarian. “In the last year the garden has really come together,” Ricker said. “We are extremely proud that our project, even in its early stages, has already accomplished all six requirements of a LID demonstration garden.”
“We have a stabiligrid pervious parking lot, a green roof, pervious concrete with Americans with Disabilities Act compliant pathways, stormwater collection, storage and distribution, a rain garden and a native plant garden.”
The gardens will use no water beyond that which is provided by rain.
Tracy’s Insulation installed gutters to route water from a building roof to a 500-gallon tank that was donated by Ricker’s brother for irrigation.
“If you have a roof and it’s raining the you are in business,” Ricker said.
“In Quilcene, we have rain so once you learn to install this low-cost system you are in buisness forever. The things we demonstrate at the garden are practical, affordable and lasting.”
The initial installation of the garden was accomplished in June 2013 by 15 enthusiastic Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crew members, Thomas said.
“Volunteers have been amazing, if we need help, all we have to do is ask and they show up ready to work,” Thomas said.
“The entire community has been so supportive of the garden. If we mention that we need soil, it shows up. We mentioned that we would like a worm bin, and one arrived. We needed mulch, and there it is.”
Tasks that volunteers have helped with include transporting, transplanting, chopping soil, and cleaning up rocks.
“Community spirit is alive and well in Quilcene,” Ricker said.
“So many people have made monetary and in-kind donations and pitched in whenever they find out we need something. It is an incredible thing to witness.” Thomas and McCue are used to working together. The twin sisters have always shared similar interests, including becoming Master Gardeners.
“Anita grows food for our entire family, she is an amazing gardener,” Thomas said.
The sisters offer free gardening classes at noon each Monday. Participants meet near Quilcene Espresso, 71 Old Church Road, adjacent to the Q Gardens.
“We want these classes to be interactive and fun,” Thomas said. “So bring a friend, bring a question or an idea, but most importantly bring yourself.”
McCue said the classes are a great way for people to meet other like-minded people and to find affordable resources such a s seeds, compost and plants in the area.
“We welcome people of all experience levels,” Thomas added. “The demonstration gardens will highlight a variety of growing options.
“We will have raised beds; in-ground plantings; a native plant area that includes grasses, berries and shrubs; flower demonstration areas; a fruit tree area; a worm bin; other compost options and more.
“One things about gardening is that the possibilities are endless.”
A generous community member donated the 45 hay bales that outline the serpentine shape in the main raised beds and three smaller square ones.
The beds are 4 feet wide by four feet deep, with the main bed measuring just under 64 feet long.
“That raised bed will help produce fresh produce for the 300 to 325 clients that the Quilcene Food Bank serves and more,” Thomas said.
“We will also provide produce for groups who host free community meals from the garden.”
Eventually Ricker would like to add a native rose garden, vertical walls planted with artwork, a hot glass-blowing studio and an attached greenhouse to capture heat, living fences, a windmill, a small water well and sculpture scattered throughout the garden.
Ricker and other area artists will offer classes and demonstrations in the nearby Quaker church that is undergoing extensive renovations.
“The sky is the limit when it comes to Q gardens,” Ricker said.
“There’s nothing this community can’t accomplish.”