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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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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A new adventure – making a Hugelkultur raised bed

Hugelkultur is a German word which means roughly “mound culture”. It’s an innovative new way of making a raised bed. The bed utilizes old wood, twigs, organic matter and soil. The combination of the wood and organic matter makes it very fertile and the biological process of breaking down the wood and organic matter generates heat (just like in a compost pile). This heat and organic matter makes it a fertile place to grow. I have read about hugelkultur beds and the fact that they need much less water and no fertilizer to grow really nice crops. So I’ve decided to make my own, right in my p-patch bed.

At our p-patch we have lots of old apple wood from apple trees that have lost a limb, so we started with that. Rick cut it up into firewood sized pieces.

Cutting up the apple wood

Cutting up the apple wood

Then, I dug the top six inches of soil out of my bed in a 6 foot by 3 foot area. I wanted to preserve the top soil for the last step of the process. This also made a convenient space to contain the wood. I then brought in the pieces of wood and distributed them through out the area. I added twigs on top of that. (the twigs had a lot of leaves attached, I think that will help).

Piling on twigs after wood

Piling on twigs after wood

Then I covered it with a layer of leaves and organic matter from the garden (rhubarb leaves, squash leaves, etc.). Then I piled on the top soil that I had saved. The whole pile is at most 3 feet tall.

Finished Hugelkultur Bed

Finished Hugelkultur Bed

Lastly, I put straw on top to act as a mulch and keep it all nice until spring when I plant my vegetables in it. I can’t wait until spring and summer to see what my results are and if I really do have to water less. (that would be a nice bonus).

If you are interested in hugelkultur, you can do a search and find lots of detailed descriptions of how to do your own project. I will update this blog with my results (good or bad).

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Orchard Gardens Update

Current soil temp 52 – 55 degrees! The soil has warmed in the last few weeks. Unseasonably cold weather in the first two weeks of April held down the temperature a bit.

I have been growing vegetables indoors for a few weeks now and have tomatoes, broccoli, flowers, thyme and other plants growing. The tomatoes have been moved out to my greenhouse. They started life in a growing tray with a heat mat with a special starter soil. This greatly increased how fast they germinated and grew in the first few weeks. They were moved to bigger pots and spent a week in the garage before going out to the mini greenhouse. I waited to move them outdoors until the temperatures were in the mid 40’s at night. The mini greenhouse really warms up any time there is a bit of sun.

Here is a picture of my laundry room with my full spectrum grow light. The temperatures in this room are coolish, maybe lower 60’s.

The mini greehouse was obtained at a very low price at a local drug store. I keep it in the warmest spot in the yard, in our south facing driveway in front of the garage door.

Now that the soil temps are in the mid 50’s, here is what is safe to plant:

Broccoli Rabe (45 degrees)
Swiss Chard
Brussel sprouts
Leeks (grow from seedlings)
Radish (45 degrees
Turnip (45 degrees)

Covering your seeds with a loose row cover fabric will help keep the slugs and rabbits out and warm them slightly. As they grow they will push the fabric up as needed. Weight down the row cover with rocks but leave plenty of loose fabric. You can also use hoops, but this not necessary for many plants.

Many gardeners have been tending their gardens in recent weeks. Here is a picture of an artichoke growing in one of our beds.