Seattle p-patch community gardens are scattered throughout many neighborhoods. While most of these are in plain view along busy city streets, there are some that are hard to find. Hidden gardens producing abundant fruit and vegetables are right in the middle of some of the busiest areas in the city, just a few stories above ground on rooftops.
Right across from Seattle Center on a parking garage is the UpGarden, the first rooftop community garden in the U.S. Divided into about 100 individual plots, it is a community garden for anyone who is willing to get on the wait list and pay about $40 when a spot opens up. Because of weight limits on the structure, lightweight soil was used and placed directly on the concrete roof. Cedar planter boxes, in rows with elegantly curving paths, contain the soil in terraces.
The 1963 irridecent purple Ford Galaxy in the middle of the garden is a nod to the past that seems to suggest the ascendancy of nature over human invention in its grasses and trees that spill out of the top and sides. Another historic relic, an old Airstream serves as a tool shed that looks out over the garden.
Not only garden plots, but open lawn space, bee hives, flower boxes, and trellises loaded with hops and other flowering plants make the garden a lavish demonstration of how nature can thrive as an oasis in the city.
Bastille Cafe and Bar Roof Garden
A stylish french bistro in the middle of old Ballard just a few steps away from the marina on Salmon Bay, the Bastille Cafe and Bar has some of the freshest dishes around. On any given day, the chef will have a new menu item made with what is currently growing on the roof.
The roof garden is open to visitors on certain days with the purchase of a tour that comes with a cocktail. It is also available for a curated dinner for private party reservations. When I visted, there were peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, herbs, lettuce and cucumbers growing, to name a few, and said cucumbers were used in the refreshing cocktail that came with the tour.
The garden grows through the summer and winter seasons in wood planters and in plastic containers that were once kiddie pools. The planters have lids that get put on in the winter to provide protection from the cold rain and wind. Irrigation lines run through the planters to provide regular watering.
This is a wonderful way for the restaurant to produce its own food that brought its own challenges. It took considerable effort to strengthen the building to carry the load of the garden. Between the soil and the water weight, significant load is added to the roof. The Bastille roof, originally constructed in 1927, was reinforced with a large beam to carry the weight. Many newer buildings are now being constructed with the intent to carry soil weight, opening the possiblity for more food production on rooftops.
Pike Place Market Secret Garden
This hidden gem of a garden is in a beautiful spot overlooking Elliot Bay. Walk around the market all day and you could still miss it. Down a dark hallway behind the fish throwers and through a door, the garden is well hidden.
Like other P-patch gardens in Seattle, this one has a Giving Garden. Uniquely, instead of having individual plot holders, this entire space is a dedicated Giving Garden. Volunteers regularly tend the plants and harvest the produce, donating it to the Pike Market food bank.
Tomatoes, lettuce and other edibles are surrounded by planters full of bright flowers. The garden is a highlight of any visit to the iconic Pike Place Market and even has its own pig welcoming visitors.