Spring is in full swing here in Seattle, which means the Pike Place Secret Garden is getting ready for a bountiful growing season!
Past the flying fish and tucked away behind the butcher and the tea shop, this thriving community-led garden overlooking Elliott Bay is a hidden gem behind the hustle and bustle of Pike Place Market. Visitors are amazed to discover that all produce grown will be donated to the Pike Market Food Bank – an estimated 500 pounds of fresh herbs and vegetables each year! Our programs staff work in partnership with the Food Bank to thoughtfully select seeds that are desired by the Food Bank’s clientele, many of whom are residents of the Chinatown-International District. In the garden you will see vegetables common in many Asian cuisines, such as bok choy, cabbage, and much more.
We tagged along with our Food Access Interns at the Pike Place Market Foundation to get a sneak peek of the preparations, as they cleared garden beds after a cold start to the season, and started planting the first seeds of spring….
Mirsha is in her last quarter at UW, and is excited to spend this summer connecting with the Market community. “I’ve actually been looking for an internship for a year and a half, trying to find something that fit what I really wanted to do,” she said. “I didn’t want to be sitting at an office staring at the computer, I wanted a hands-on experience.”
Hailey is in the Public Health-Global Health program at UW, and is specifically interested in nutrition and community engagement. “This role really checked all of the boxes, not only because I get to learn from the people I interact with every day, but also the gardening component too,” she said. “It feels like I am doing something meaningful.”
Marin hails from the Seattle area, and is home for the summer after designing her own major track for food systems at Scrips College. “I initially got interested in food systems from a sustainability standpoint,” she said. “but since then, I have learned about its social, emotional, and cultural components, and how important gardening can be for social connections and mental health.”
Marin was specifically drawn to this internship because of the incredible network of social services nestled in Pike Place and the opportunity to connect with the Market community. “In addition to working here at the Garden, I’ll also be working with the Preschool to do some lessons to learn about soil and things like that.”
The gardening season was kicked off in mid-April by planting some leafy greens that tend to thrive in the typical Washington spring weather, including Chinese cabbage, lettuce, collard greens, and many other favorites. As the spontaneous heat wave arrived in early May, the interns were then able to plant some crops that flourish in the extra sun, such as beans and tomatoes. Throughout the entire season, our Food Access Interns follow a methodical plan drawn out by Kathryn, Program Specialist at The Market Commons, to plant a well-versed variety of vegetables in the raised beds.
After adhering to each plant’s ideal growing conditions–seed spacing, seed depth in soil, and distance between rows–as best as possible, the garden staff is intrigued and hopeful to grow a great mix of healthy, culturally appropriate vegetables for clients at the Food Bank to enjoy. “I always thought gardening was something you needed a big plot of land for,” says Hailey. “But this rooftop garden made me realize how easy it can be to start home gardening in a relatively small space.’
In addition to growing fresh food for our neighbors, the Garden also serves as an important green space for Market residents and workers to enjoy and connect with each other. Since many senior residents live in smaller studio apartments without balconies, the Secret Garden provides a shared area for them to get outside and socialize with their neighbors. The interns showed us how on this small plot, even in a place as busy as Pike Place Market, we can enjoy the health benefits of gardening while also building community.
The garden will get many more visitors as the warm months ramp up and tourists and locals alike stumble across Pike Place Market’s best-kept secret. “As I’ve been clearing the beds, I’ve gotten to meet the residents, and tourists, and everyone has been so friendly!” said Mirsha.” “Something as simple as gardening can really connect people,” agreed Hailey. “And people get really excited when they learn that everything we grow will be donated to the Food Bank!”
Besides being a serene place to bask in the sun and gaze out at the Puget Sound’s vivid blue waters, the Secret Garden’s mission makes it a sacred spot in the middle of Seattle’s best-recognized attractions. At its core, the space engages many Market community members and visitors in unique ways: As the interns learn gardening methods during the planting process, the Market residents get to experience the new growth in their own “backyard”. As the Food Bank clients enjoy the thoughtfully-selected produce offerings, the tourists get a taste of the complexity of the Pike Place Market community beyond the postcards. The Garden, in its own fascinating ways, is an ever-evolving ecosystem that encourages anyone interested in learning about the greater specifics of sustainable agriculture, at all stages, to walk away with something new. It is, quite literally, the gift that keeps on giving.
We are so grateful for the Food Access Interns joining us this season under the direction of the amazing programs staff at The Market Commons. Next time you’re in the Market, find your way to the garden by walking past the fish throwers at Pike Place Fish Market and hanging a left before you reach Maximilien Restaurant. The garden is open to the general public daily – come see what we’re growing!
You can contribute today to support the Secret Garden and our Food Access programs at Pike Place Market! Together, we are nurturing a thriving community where everyone can live their best lives possible.
Contribute to support the Secret Garden and our Food Access Program at Pike Place Market!
Access to fresh, affordable produce is rooted in the history of Pike Place Market, and is essential to the health of our community. Through the Food Access Program at The Market Commons, we help minimize barriers and alleviate food insecurity for the Market community through shopping programs, education, and the Secret Garden.