Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

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“Orchard Gardens Cooks” – cookbook by our gardeners

CookbookOrchard Gardens has published a cookbook!  Thanks to Sharon and Nicole, dedicated gardeners, we have assembled a complete set of recipes from our garden clan.  We have tried to incorporate recipes which include vegetables from the garden.  Kale, beets, squash, and even quince have found a place in our cookbook.  I can’t wait to try the “Basil and Onion Mashed Potato” recipe by Jan.

The books are $10 and 100% of the proceeds go to the Backpack Meals for Kids program here in Bellevue.  Backpack Meals provides a bag of food to kids who would otherwise go hungry on the weekends.  You can look at their website, Backpack Meals for Kids, to get more information.  Backpack Meals was started by one of our gardeners who wanted take action to help kids in Bellevue.  The $10 from the sale of one book will fill a backpack for one student! A student who will surely appreciate it.

You can purchase the book online at Create Space.


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A Ton of Food!

A  Ton of Food…After months of planning, removing sod, plowing and planting in the spring of 2010, Orchard Gardens community garden in South Bellevue was born.  Every year since that first season, we have produced well over 1,000 pounds of fresh organic produce for Bellevue’s Hopelink food bank, in addition to plenty of produce for the 15 or so gardener’s own tables.  We have dreamed of giving one TON.  2015 was the year we did.  During this growing season, we brought 2,310 pounds of fruit and produce to Hopelink where it has been received with “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s” and ‘Thank You’s.”

Many workers and partners helped make this happen.  Holy Cross Lutheran Church donates part of its land for planting.  A few staunch gardeners and people with passion for growing things work together to move this project forward.  But without our community gardeners, we could not produce all the food.  The fresh produce was donated by gardeners who planted an ‘extra row’ and shared a few extra pounds each week, the produce was packed in the trunk of a Honda sedan every Tuesday morning and delivered to Hopelink for the afternoon shoppers.

Many wonderful people make this happen.   One amazing “Garden Godfather” is committed to growing for the purpose of sharing with local hungry families and he also shares his expertise with fellow gardeners.   A  Master Gardener oversees our composting as well as plants his own garden.  We have gardeners who, together with family members, built a structure for climbing plants.   A local Windermere office staff helped create a rose arbor.  A volunteer group from Stanford wheelbarrowed compost around each of two dozen fruit trees and built a brick edge for the community herb garden. One gardener single handedly took on the project of creating a beautiful clean edge for the garden and was assisted on several Saturdays by local volunteer groups including one sponsored by the City of Bellevue.

We partnered with Lettuce Link of Solid Ground who gave us plant starts and seeds for Giving Gardens.  Cedar Grove contributed 30 yards of compost for free and we have purchased many other yards of great Cedar Grove compost over the years to create healthy and productive soil.  Local landscapers give us chips to make walking paths.  We have a local “Bee Whisperer” who takes care of our Mason bees that pollinate the blossoms on the more than 25 heirloom apple, pear, plum and quince trees.  One gardener cares for worms that create nutritious compost. Another experiments with new ideas such as hugelkultur planting.   The Church of Steadfast Love from the Compass Center in Seattle helps us keep the fruit trees pruned and harvested.  The Pomegranate Center of Issaquah partnered with us to build a shelter from the sun and rain for the gardeners.  The list goes on and on.  Thank you Orchard Gardens Community.

Each year new gardeners become part of this community and invest a nominal amount to rent a plot and support the work of this community garden. If you have an interest in joining a thriving community garden, contact Jan Starr, Orchard Gardens P-Patch Coordinator at 425-221-8544 or


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Aphid Control

By Robin Bentley

November 4, 2015

In a garden where the focus is on production I sometimes see the plant’s natural “end stage” as unnecessary.  When the parsley, carrots, mint and cilantro, for example, start flowering and setting seed I yank them up to make way for something else.  And yet those flowers are important, even in a highly productive p-patch like ours.  First of all, there are the bees.  Anything we can do to encourage them and reverse colony collapse is crucial.  Flowers are also important to a host of other beneficial insects.  We hear that term a lot, but what does it mean?  Who are they?  These “insects with benefits”?

Ladybugs, for one.  But you’ve known that since you were three years old.  What you may not know is that the predatory larvae of hover flies and parasitic wasps (I know, yuk!) prey on—you guessed it—aphids.  So do the aptly-named bright orange aphid midges.  With flowers come pollen and nectar—which entices the flying adults of these beneficial insects to stop and raise a family, producing the hungry hordes of predatory larvae which feast on juicy aphids.  Yum!

Last summer a lot of our patches were stressed from drought—weakening our veggies and making them that much more susceptible to infestation.  Some are tempted in an acute attack such as ours to apply insecticidal soap or neem oil.  Proceed with caution, though, as many of the beneficial insects are hidden under the aphids, and they succomb to the soaps and oils as well.   My old trick of blasting the aphids with a strong stream from the hose will make the beneficials disappear as well.  Even pinching the suckers between your fingers risks killing the good larvae.

So feel good instead about letting some of your plants go to seed—plant a row of alyssum, some clumps of calendula among your veggies, or a border of verbena around the edges…in the case of calendula and many other flowers the petals are edible for humans as well.  You can be secure in the knowledge that they’re your best allies in the aphid battle.

As well as eating some of these flowers, the seeds that follow are available for planting next year.  So it’s a win-win-win.

In her book, Backyard Bounty Linda Gilkeson lists the following beneficial herbs, flowers and vegetables useful for planting to keep aphids away.  She also reminds us to have something in bloom from early spring to late summer by growing a variety of plants.  Here are some herbs you probably already have growing somewhere in your patch:






Summer Savory


Try letting some of these go to seed, too:

Happy Planting!!




Perennials Vegetable Flowers
Calendula Alyssum Chinese Greens and Mustards
Coreopsis Basket of Gold (Aurinia) Kale
Cosmos Coneflower Radishes
Feverfew Daisies Leeks and Onions
Heliotrope Golden marguerite (Anthemis)
Lobelia Goldenrod
Mignonette Rudbeckia
Schizanthus Verbena
Sweet Alyssum Yarrow


From Gilkeson, Backyard Bounty



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Use Those Greens!

Use Those Greens!

When you have a garden, you may be likely to have a lot of greens to use.  Even 3 kale plants can produce a LOT of kale.  One Swiss chard can grow to a giant size and you’ll be happily harvesting all summer and into the winter.  But what to do with all those greens?  You can donate to the food bank, which is a wonderful thing to do.  But perhaps you’d like some ideas for working them into your own cooking.  Many of us did not grow up using large amounts of greens.  I never ate any kale until I grew it in my garden.

So here’s some ideas to help you eat those greens.  Use the comment section below to add your favorite ways to use greens.

Salads – ok, that’s obvious.

Kale Chips – you can find recipes online for these.  I think they taste like hay but a lot of people really like them.

Stir fry’s – many types of greens cook up wonderfully in a stir fry.  Cook your favorite stir fry recipe and throw in a mixture of your greens – kale, swiss chard, bok choy, etc.  They will cook down and blend in with the other flavors.

You can also stir fry just the greens. Heat some olive oil in a fry pan, and add some garlic and cut up greens.  Stir and cook until greens are tender.

Steamed – use a steamer (you can buy a little one at the grocery store which fits in an existing pan).

Smoothies – the current favorite at our house.  Use a blender, stick blender or one of the machines they sell specifically for these kind of drinks.  Here’s our recipe:

Three cubes ice
Several strawberries (frozen is fine)
Handful of blueberries
½ cup of yogurt – strawberry or raspberry
Kale (as much as you can get in the container)
Handful of almonds
Enough apple juice to almost cover the contents
Optional – 1/3 banana or ¼ of avocado.  The avocado doesn’t change the flavor but makes the drink very smooth and adds the “good fat” that your body needs.

Blend 30-60 seconds until smooth.  Great for breakfast – gives you that whohoo! burst of energy that lasts till lunch.

Soups – greens are great in soup.  They blend right in and are a good way to hide the greens if you have those who are not so in love with them.

Sausage and Chard Soup – 4 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage (I like chicken sausage) cut into 1 inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
14 oz canned or fresh diced tomatoes
1 small bunch of Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped (you can also use some kale along with the Swiss chard)
1 can* cannellini beans, drained and rinsed – if you like a really thick soup use 2 cans.
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Transfer to plate.  Cook sausage until slightly brown.  Stir in broth, add onions and garlic back in.  Add rest of ingredients except for greens, parsley and parmesan.  Cook at a simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add in greens, stir until cooked (maybe 1 minute) and add fresh parsley.  Serve topped with grated Parmesan if desired.

*You can cook your own beans ahead of time and freeze to use in recipes like this.  Cheaper and better for you.
Spaghetti sauce – make the sauce a tomato/vegetable sauce.  Mix in shredded carrots, zucchini, chopped greens, mushrooms and greens, along with your other ingredients. (Got fresh tomatoes? Use those instead of canned).
Ingrid's Patch

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Spring News in the Garden

–By Ingrid Turner

We had the opening of our garden on March 14th, 2015.  Gardeners met and went over the rules of the garden and we talked about what we hoped for the year.  But even before and after that, there was a lot going on!

Here’s a run down –
February 14th – we battled the blackberries.  An unusually warm February meant it was a nice day to work outside.

March 7th – Jay brought his dump truck and delivered 8 cubic yards of compost to the garden.  We also took a load of odds and ends to the dump.  Gardeners were busy spreading their compost.

March 14th – Gardener’s meeting

March 21 – Gardener’s retreat to Jan’s condo downtown Seattle.  We spent several hours going over what we wanted for the future of the garden and what we needed to work on next.  We had a good group with 8 gardeners and supporters in attendance.  We finished up with a walk to the Sculpture Park.

March 28 – Again, we battled the blackberries.  There is a corner of the orchard and garden that is quite overgrown with blackberries.  They are invasive, so each year they have advanced a little bit.  We are trying to cut them back and realized that we will have extra land to work with when we are done!  Who-hoo!  We are already thinking of what we can plant there – more fruit trees?  Edible landscaping?  Many thanks to Grace Stiller with Newcastle Weed Warriors for helping us with this huge task.  At our second work party we were definitely starting to see progress.   More work parties will be scheduled.  Grace’s group has a website: and don’t miss the Earthday celebration that they sponsor on April 18th!


Janet and Dave discuss the day's work at the retreat on March 21st.

Janet and Dave discuss the day’s work at the retreat on March 21st.

Gardeners enjoy a view of downtown Seattle after our retreat.

Gardeners enjoy a view of downtown Seattle after our retreat.

Jan battles blackberries with her loppers

Jan battles blackberries with her loppers

Ethan enjoyed the nice spring day while helping us battle the blackberries.

Ethan enjoyed the nice spring day while helping us battle the blackberries.

Grace Stiller of Newcastle Weed Warriors.  She's the best!

Grace Stiller of Newcastle Weed Warriors. She’s the best!

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Backyard composting

What can we do in the winter garden?  Why, think about spring, of course.  And, work on our composting.  I wanted to increase the amount of compost I had available and wanted to find a way to compost food scraps.  It had to be easy, and it had to be rat-proof.  This round unit is ideal for that.  The round shape means rats cannot get their teeth into the plastic to chew.  The ball is on rollers so the compost can be turned and this speeds up the compost process.  The second photo shows a 3 bin unit which is covered with wire.  The front boards are removable to allow access to your compost, and the top lifts up to add items.  Rat-proof?  Maybe.  The 3rd photo is a round plastic unit with a lid.  It definitely is not rodent proof, and the chew marks at the top prove.

If you are just composting garden waste like leaves, plants, and grass, there is not so much need to worry about rodents.  Anytime you add any food matter, the chances increase that you’ll have visitors.    A friend woke up one day to find that raccoons had dug up her carefully buried food scraps.  (several months old).

The main thing with composting, whether you add food scraps or not, is to layer your browns and greens.  Browns can include lots of things, not just brown leaves.  You can use shredded newspaper, old pizza boxes, torn up paper towel tubes, etc.  The browns add pockets of air, which are critical to making the process work.  When starting a compost pile, you can also put in a couple of layers of old compost or garden soil to add in the beneficial microbes.  Turning the pile will speed up the rate at which your material turns into compost.  However, you don’t ever NEED to turn it.  You can just fill up the bin and leave it.  Look in there a few months later, it’ll be half full, as the material becomes compost.  It may take a year or so to create compost in a pile that is not turned.

When using food scraps in the pile, layer food scraps with layers of browns and other green material.  Use only vegetarian food scraps (no meat or cheese).  If you find your pile with food scraps is smelly, add a layer of garden soil to the top.  It’ll stop the smell.

With a 3 bin system, like the middle picture, you can have 3 stages of compost, one you are adding to, one that is “cooking” and one that is finishing.  Cooking refers to the fact that a properly put together compost pile will heat up as the microbes do their thing.


Round compost unit

Round compost unit


3 bin composting unit



Round barrel type composting unit


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Apple Picking Success!

We had a wonderful apple picking and cider making event on Sept 27th.  At 10:30 a.m. approximately 50 Girl Scouts along with leaders and parents gathered for a special Girl Scout event.  The girls enjoyed learning about the orchard, picking apples and seeing how cider was made.  For one troop, this was their first outing together as Girl Scouts.  For other girls, it was the first time they had climbed a ladder or picked an apple.

Our event opened to the public at noon, as many members of the public joined us for some old fashioned fun.  The weather cooperated, and it was a beautiful day to be outside enjoying the orchard.  We sold herbs and vegetables from the p-patch, pickles, and Jamie sold her yummy pastries.  Much of the money collected went to the hungry.

Some interesting statistics:

$350 collected from sale of garden and pastry goodies for backpack meals
6 boxes of food collected for backpack meals
100 lbs collected for hopelink
150- 200 people attended including nearly 50 Girl Scouts


Apple picking - fun for the whole family

Apple picking – fun for the whole family

Wonderful pastries for sale

Wonderful pastries for sale

The apple press which turned out gallons of great ciderThe apple press which turned out gallons of great cider