Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Leave a comment

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



Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

Garden Calendar

A garden calendar has been established for the garden. Click here

The garden is now open! Gardeners gathered last week for an orientation and welcome and then went outside to prepare their beds. We were blessed with a little bit of nice weather for this task. Several new gardeners will be joining us this year. A big thank you to our local boy scout troop for creating some new beds for us last fall.

Leave a comment

Holy Cross Featured in Bellevue Reporter Article

Check out this new article on Holy Cross Church – featuring Linda, Rahmet and Jan Starr!

A great write-up on our efforts and some nice pictures of the p-patch.

A great write-up on our efforts and some nice pictures of the p-patch.

Leave a comment


The Plums Are Arriving at the Orchard at Holy Cross – report from Aug. 25, 2012

This is our third year tending this heirloom orchard and we are so surprised by the abundant plum crop. We haven’t seen this before!

This past Saturday, we surveyed and began to pick the four varieties of plums we observed.The raspberry-colored plums share tree stock with some golden plums and this makes for a beautiful little tree. We had thought we only had the deep purple Italian plums, but we find a total of four types this year.

But plums are very fragile and need to be eaten or refrigerated immediately. They are sweet and irresistible though. Sampling whlie picking is fun.

You have opportunities to join us to pick fruit on Sept. 22 from 10AM to noon. We pick to share fresh organic produce with Bellevue’s HopeLink food bank, but pickers go home with fruit too!

For more information and to volunteer, contact Janet at

1 Comment

Starting Tomatoes from Seed

By Jan S.

I love to start my garden from seeds. For over 30 years I have harvested a large crop of tomatoes grown from two small packets of tomato seeds ordered each winter from Territorial Seed Company in Oregon.

These seeds are open pollinated, determinate types which ripen their first fruit quickly and grow compact bushes that tend to bear heavily for a month or so and then taper off, great for our short ripening season. They hold their fruit off the ground and do not require a lot of staking.

Inderterminate types are said to yield the highest quality tomatoes but are a little later to mature with expanding vines which require heavy staking. I plant determinate varieties, either Oregon Spring or the Siletz for slicing tomatoes, and Heinz organic, a nice 3-4 inch tomato with a meaty texture and almost no seeds for saucing.

This year I am experimenting with an heirloom variety from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah Iowa. These seeds are an open pollinated variety, which the seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring with the same characteristics. Hybrid, on the other hand, is produced by crossing two different parent varieties of the same species. Hybrids do not remain true in generations and cannot be saved from generation to generation unchanged. But that is the topic for another day.

I always plant the seeds in a special seedling mix which I purchase from the Garden Supply catalog. You could make your own or purchase another variety, but I have success with this– why change something that is working. I plant them in a flat with 24-2inch divisions, cover them and place them in my warm downstairs bathroom until they poke their heads through the soil. Then it is into the garage under the florescent tubes. I have a timer on the light so that the plants get about 6 hours in the dark each day. Even tomatoes need to sleep sometime.

As soon as the first true leaves appear, I transplant them into a 4 inch pot. They go back under the light until they are strong enough to be outdoors in the cold frame and there is enough light. The garage is cool enough that they do not grow leggy. Depending on the weather, the tomatoes stay in the cold frame until it is warm enough to plant them in my garden, usually in May.

I am not a master gardener and I have never taken a class on gardening. But I have devoured Steve Solomon’s book:

    Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades

. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I grew up on a farm in Iowa where every summer I helped my mother plant and care for a garden that was about 3500 square feet(incidently the size of our p-patch). We grew all our vegetables for the year. My mother canned all summer in the heat and humidity. No freezer because we had no electricity.

I know. It is only the first week in April. But we can dream can’t we? Happy Gardening.

Leave a comment

Apple Pruning – Feb 25th.

Holy Cross Orchard Winter Pruning Event Feb. 25 10AM – 2PM
4315 129th Pl. SE
Bellevue,WA 98006

Near the corner of Factoria Blvd and Newport Way in South Bellevue
Across from Newport High School
Please join us to prune apple, pear and quince trees in the lovely old orchard in South Bellevue.

We’ll have some pruning coaches so no worries if you haven’t done this before or recently.
We’ll provide hot morning beverages and a hot meal at noon.
If you have ladders or pruning gear, please bring it. As usual, dress warmly!