For the past four years, Bothell resident Denise Tarter lived quietly in her neighborhood, across the street from a vacant lot that was an eyesore.
One day, Tarter decided to convert the lot into a community garden, an idea that would grow various vegetables and new connections within the community. They call it the 13th Place Garden and it is thriving along with the sense of neighborliness among 13th Place residents.
“Everybody is genuinely excited about growing this garden that we’re growing together,” Tarter said. “One of the neighbors brought over a head of broccoli from their garden the other day and that’s awesome, I wouldn’t have known [them] a year ago and now [they’re] bringing me homegrown broccoli.”
Tarter grew up with a vegetable garden and a strawberry patch at her childhood home but never had the chance to plant her own garden until she bought her first house at 13th Place.
The yard at Tarter’s new home was overgrown with weeds, but she eventually cultivated her own garden, which paved the way for her idea of a community garden.
“I live right across the street from this common place, which [was] this unused piece of land that some people parked cars in,” Tarter said. “I had happened to stumble across this book at the library and that planted the seed in my mind.”
The book was “Start a Community Food Garden” by LaManda Joy and after a few free classes from Snohomish Conservation District’s (SCD) “Lawns to Lettuce” program, she was ready to pitch the idea to her neighbors.
The 13th Place neighborhood is about 30 years old and doesn’t have a homeowners association, which puts it under specific rules regarding development of common spaces.
According to Snohomish County, the vacant lot was equally owned by each of Tarter’s neighbors, so as long as she didn’t build a structure, she was allowed to convert the space into a garden with the community’s approval.
Tarter then set out to speak with each of her neighbors earlier this year, asking them what they thought about a community garden. A few people were initially hesitant and didn’t want to potentially break any local codes. But overall, the idea was met with major support and after two meetings in May, the neighborhood held work parties on June 9 and 10 to plant the garden.
“I can’t believe the excitement that other people have had with this project,” Tarter said. “ I was kind of hesitant to share my idea because of the fear of rejection … but I was surprised that each person I talked to gave me more motivation and inspired me to try even harder and it’s been really rewarding now when I turn down my neighborhood, I see the garden and it’s thriving.”
The neighbors of 13th Place haven’t harvested anything yet, but about a dozen people use the garden regularly and have planted zucchini and jalapeños in used tires and corn, herbs and a bean teepee — planted in wooden boxes and large pots.
“For the bean teepee we have these huge bamboo poles,” Tarter said. “Eventually the beans will grow up and cover [the bamboo] and then the kids in the neighborhood will have a little place to hide.”
Tarter’s children even painted rocks and made a tic-tac-toe game to play in the teepee.
Brier horse owner Kiola Krienke donated and with the help of her husband Martin Krienke, delivered all the composted horse manure used in the garden. Chip Drop provided the arborist chips for the garden space and Les Schwab donated the tires they used for planting.
“We scrubbed them with dish soap to degrease them before using in the garden,” Tarter added.
Many other things used in the garden were donated through local Facebook gifting groups “Buy Nothing Brier” and “Green Bee Group: Bothell,” including the bamboo poles, used for the bean teepee, vegetable starts, a watering can, large planting pots, the A-board sign for meeting announcements and the kids’ plastic chairs, which will be placed inside the bean teepee.
“The 13th Place Garden is a brilliant community project and a gathering spot to meet our neighbors, grow vegetables and have fun in the sun,” said Frank and Margaret Mateo, two of Tarter’s neighbors.
The neighbors of 13th Place hope to continue the garden indefinitely and even have a pumpkin patch planned for a harvest in October. They also plan to use their corn to grill at a neighborhood block party at the end of the year.
“It is so exciting seeing all of the efforts of our neighborhood paying off. A bunch of people have contributed time and resources to make this happen and it really feels like a community garden because of that,” said Kayla Preston, a 13th Place resident.