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PN - Spiritwood Manor

Bellevue, Washington

Partnering was the key to success in this innovative garden

Many dedicated hands built a beautiful and productive garden at Spiritwood Manor, which includes 10 raised beds on the grounds of an apartment complex. While most apartment sites are surrounded by grass, Spiritwood Manor students and volunteers pushed old thinking aside and chose to build a garden. The result of their hard work feeds the belly as well as the soul.

Whole Kids Foundation contributed to the project first, providing funds that went toward seeds, soil, and gardening tools. WKF team members also made many visits to the site to help teach students and volunteers how to build the garden. Later the team returned to help the group harvest produce.

A local business, Swanson's Nursery, took part as well; their master gardeners were kind enough to take trips to the site to get the garden started. They returned to guide the group on the special techniques and efforts required to maintain a garden in winter, and showed everyone how to keep it healthy and productive.

Lastly, garden coordinator Markeese Rieux worked with 45 students to bring the gardens—and their harvest—to life.

Half of the beds at Spiritwood Manor produce vegetables, and the other half produce flowers and other decorative plants. There's not much that can compare to enjoying something one has brought forth literally from the ground up, and kids take especially great pride in projects such as this. The edible produce has generated quite a bit of enthusiasm.

Students are "excited and engaged around gardening and using the healthy foods we harvest from the garden to cook and make snacks," said the garden team at Spiritwood Manor. "Members were able to use vegetables from the garden in our Healthy Habits program and for our Cooking Club. (They) learned new and fun ways to eat healthy fruits and vegetables."

Since the site is within an apartment complex, members who are also residents are able to enjoy produce that's about as local and trustworthy as can be. Having a garden so close to their kitchen tables has been a boon for those who have wanted to learn how to improve their meals and their health with something fresh and wholesome. Homegrown vegetables fit the bill, in every way.

"Members and their families have benefitted from increased access to healthy foods and being educated on the importance of health, nutrition, and community involvement," the garden team emphasizes. "The garden provides a positive space and access to healthy foods not only for our students, but for the entire community."

The participants also developed an understanding of what goes into raising a garden, which led to other discoveries as well. "The education that they have received through this Garden Project has spanned multiple program areas, including healthy lifestyles, art, math, and science," the garden team says. "(It's) a place to learn and socialize in a positive way."

The sentiment is perhaps best expressed by one of the young students, who put it this way: "Since we built our new garden, I've started to love gardening. It's really peaceful."