Church garden is Mukilteo’s ‘stone soup’

By Sara Bruestle | Oct 02, 2013
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Alexis Macula and Samantha Kim of Girl Scout Troop 42048 wash plastic bottles on Sept. 19 they will later use to build a sustainable greenhouse at the Pointe of Grace garden.

Like the story of ‘stone soup,’ the Pointe of Grace garden has grown through the cooperation of volunteers and is enjoyed by many.

The 1/4 acre “learning garden” next to the church parking lot at 5425 Harbour Pointe Blvd. is designed to be both nobody’s garden and everybody’s garden.

Garden Director Cherrie Wallace said her goal is to teach others how to garden organically and sustainably – by rotating crops, germinating seeds, making compost, etc. – and to grow community in the process.

“I’m just trying to get people in touch with how good the food is that comes from a garden,” she said. “It tastes incredible.”

However, it’s not all about the food, Wallace said, but about the process: learning how plants grow, how to plant them and how to care for them.

“A garden is never done; it’s always changing,” she said. “It’s about things growing and learning.”

In the garden are several planting beds that grow strawberries, pumpkins, carrots, peas, squash, marigolds, broccoli, leeks, cantaloupe, sunflowers, lavender, rhubarb, tomatillos, zinnias, romaine, kale and herbs.

There is also a row of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees.

In 2009, before Trinity Lutheran Church expanded to Pointe of Grace, Wallace, of Mukilteo, approached Pastor Eileen Hanson and said, “If you ever get that church, I’ll start a garden.”

She looked at where another parking lot was meant to be and instead saw possibilities.

Wallace did what she promised, and started the garden – although, she started it with nothing, not even an empty pot and a stone.

“I just keep volunteering,” she said. “Every year, I buy all the seeds and soil, and I seek out people to do projects and to volunteer. We have no source of revenue.

“It’s just like ‘stone soup’,” she said. “That’s how I think of the garden.”

Garden volunteers – some as young as 4 and as old as 85 – show up every week, rain or shine, to keep the garden growing. They donate their time, money and whatever else they may have, adding to the ‘soup.’

The garden operates on the honor system. Volunteers may take up to four strawberries and one other fruit or vegetable every time they work in the garden.

Although most know to just “pick one,” theft has been an issue.

A woman once cleared the entire garden, filling her trunk with organic produce. Wallace confronted her before she drove away.

“She told me she thought that this was nobody’s garden and nobody was watering it,” she said. “I was like, ‘It’s freshly watered! I just spent two hours watering it!’”

Wallace asked the woman if she’d like to volunteer in return for what she took. She said no.

Wallace doesn’t let the stealing get to her. She has many volunteers and donors, and is always finding more. Most of her volunteers are teenagers.

“They’re not going to be gardeners right now, but some day,” she said. “They can’t do it if nobody has taught them. They don’t learn this in school.”

In return, Boy Scouts have completed projects in the garden to earn their Eagle rank, including building a gazebo, compost bins, kiosk and chicken pen. A chicken coop is in the works.

Girl Scouts have done projects to earn a Silver Award, including installing a labyrinth, making tripods and planting garden beds. A greenhouse is in the works.

“If there’s somebody in the community who needs a project, they call me,” Wallace said.

Harbour Pointe Middle School students plant and harvest seeds, spread wood chips, pull weeds and pick crops. Harbour Pointe Christian preschoolers have planted a zinnia cutting garden.

Adult volunteers have built a garden shed and a skeleton for the Girl Scouts’ greenhouse; they also plant, water and weed; give tours to kids and teach them how to garden.

One even writes a weekly letter to the kids about the garden from the perspective of “Morris the Mountain Beaver.”

On Tuesday, Wallace was surprised to find four newly built benches in the gazebo.

Right now, four eighth graders from Girl Scout Troop 42048 are building a greenhouse out of plastic pop bottles. The girls need about 1,500 bottles to complete the project.

“I always liked doing little projects,” Girl Scout Iris Lee said. “I would buy all the supplies and do it at home, but this is different – it’s for the community, and also it’s really big.

“This is a good experience for me. It’s a step up.”

Wallace designed the sustainable greenhouse with the idea to “make something out of nothing.” She looks forward to growing tomatoes, melons, peppers and cucumbers inside.

So far, the girls have washed and rinsed about 100 bottles and cut them so they can stack on top of each other.

“It’s a really good project,” Girl Scout Samantha Kim said. “Whenever we pass the greenhouse, we’ll be like ‘Oh, we made that,’ and it will feel good.”

Wallace has many more projects in mind, such as a cutting garden, seed packets, a trellis and a fence.

That fence may show up sooner than later: A woman who recently passed away left the garden $5,000 in her will for one.

“‘Stone soup,’ I’m telling you,” Wallace said. “I’ll just keep plugging away and then all of a sudden, someone will have something to donate.”

Help the Girl Scouts build a greenhouse: Drop off your plastic 2-liter pop bottles in designated boxes located at Pointe of Grace Church or Harbour Pointe Middle School.

Adult volunteers who would like to garden and learn about sustainable gardening practices are welcome to join Wallace from 7:30-9 a.m. Tuesdays.

Kid volunteers are invited to work in the garden 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. At least two adults are there to supervise.

Want to volunteer? Call 425-446-1821 or email cwindesign@yahoo.com.

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