Pickering Barn volunteer garden showcases drip watering system

August 23, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

“We’re not just growing food, we’re trying to educate,” said Faalah Jones, of Seattle Tilth.

Water resources manager for the Cascade Water Alliance, Michael Brent, agreed.

“We’re just trying to show the potential of a few things,” he said.

Manager of the Issaquah Resource Conservation Office, David Fujimoto said much the same.

“It’s kind of a learning garden,” he said.

All three were referring to a large public garden alongside Pickering Barn on 10th Avenue Northwest in Issaquah.

While it is maintained almost exclusively by volunteers, the nonprofit organization Seattle Tilth oversees the garden. The latest project in the garden is a new drip irrigation system being installed by the city and the water alliance, Brent said.

“They’re not real new,” said Fujimoto of drip watering systems. “But they’ve become more and more popular in the last few years.”

Brent described the systems as incredibly efficient, with up to 90 percent or more of the water used reaching plant roots.

Get involved

Pickering Barn Garden

Learn more or volunteer by calling Seattle Tilth at 206-633-0451 or sending an email to Faalah Jones at faalahjones@seattletilth.org.

“There’s almost no waste,” Brent said, adding that’s a stark contrast to traditional irrigation or watering systems, such as those that make use of sprinkler heads that pop out of the ground.

With such traditional systems, up to 70 percent of the water used never reaches the roots of the plants it was intended to benefit, Brent and others said.

At Pickering Barn, the new watering system consists primarily of rubber tubing that runs down the rows of the garden. Jones said small emitters, about one every foot, drip water into the gardens over a fairly long period of time. A few spots in the garden have micro-spray emitters that spread the water out more. Collected in a large metal cistern near the garden, rainwater is used for most of the watering, Brent said.

Drip systems work well with edible crops as well as flowers and lawns, Brent added. The Issaquah garden consists of ornamental areas as well as rows of vegetables. The garden also includes wooded areas to the rear of Pickering Barn. Jones said she plans to leave those areas as natural as possible, but wants to remove invasive, non-native plants such as blackberries.

So far this year, 259 volunteers donating 687 hours of their time helped grow some 294 pounds of food in the garden, which consists, at this point, of 50, roughly, 4-by-8 foot beds. The Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank is, by the way, the recipient of all those vegetables, including cabbages and onions.

While Jones said the numbers of volunteers might sound impressive to some, she decidedly could use more. For example, Jones said she simply hasn’t had enough volunteers to attack the woody locations.

“We are just at the point where we would like to really reach out to the community,” she said.

While Pickering Barn attracts a crowd every weekend for the Issaquah Farmers Market, the garden sits on the opposite side of the barn from the site of the market. Jones said the result is that, even among regular visitors to Pickering Barn, many don’t know the garden is there.

Jones talked about volunteers gaining a “warm, fuzzy” feeling from working in the garden with friends and neighbors, not only because they are helping beautify and conserve a public area, but also because the garden is helping stock the local food bank. No artificial pesticides are used in the garden and Jones said volunteers would learn extensively about natural growing techniques.

“The whole idea is to have people say, ‘Wow, I can do that in my garden, too,’” Jones said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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