The University Place Historical Society is adding two community gardens to their seventh annual “Spring Into Summer” garden tour. The University Place Community Garden and the UPOG-Mount Cross Lutheran Church Community Garden are two of the nine sites planned, along with Curran House, and six private residences scheduled for the tour.
“[The Tour] is perfect for people that enjoy gardening,” said Frank Bonaro, President of the U.P. Historical Society. “We’ve connected with the master gardeners and they can explain to people which plants are in the gardens and describe which plants do well where. Members of the Audubon Society will also be there to answer questions on what type of plants attract birds and that are good for birds in the area.”
The U.P. Community Garden, located just off of 67th Avenue and 40th Street, has been around since 2011. Developed from partnership between the Tacoma Narrows Rotary and the University Place School District, the U.P. Community Garden contributed to almost 2,100 pounds of food to the Families Unlimited (FUN) Food Bank. The U.P. Community Garden is supported by many local organizations, such as Harvest Pierce County, TAGRO, Washington Native Plant Society, Boy Scouts, and the Tacoma Garden Club, but the actual work is done through volunteers who enjoy just getting their hands dirty.
“It’s the love of gardening,” said UPCG president Dan Enbysk, “and the love of taking care of the earth. A lot of people have their different reasons, but I think they all come out here for the enjoyment of it, the exercise, and the community. So for us I think building the garden is one thing, but building the community within the greater UP area is another benefit of coming out and participating in a project like this.”
“Community gardens are a sense of the vitality of a community,” agreed Master Gardener Judy Thierry. “If you have a local community garden, something good is happening there.”
The UPOG-Mount Cross Lutheran Church Community Garden is a bit smaller, but still contributes hundreds of pounds of fresh food for FUN. Roughly 18 beds take up about 50 by 70 square feet, and are tended by eight gardeners. Dave McInturff, coordinator of the garden, believes that fresh food starts with the soil. Using food waste from food banks (and donations of coffee grounds from local Starbucks locations), McInturff and team have designed a way to turn that waste into fertile soil. They have also found a way to make their own charcoal.
“I don’t think people will look at waste the same way again when they see the possibilities for what it can be used for,” McInturff said. “Our goal is to promote what the food bank does as well as good environmental stewardship.”
The “Spring Into Summer” garden tour continues to be a major fundraiser for the UP Historical Society, with the ultimate goal of restoring the Curran House to its former glory. Bonaro estimates each garden tour brings in around $12,000 a year, with about $7,000 in sponsors. “Last year we put in $25,000 in windows into the [Curran] House,” Bonaro said. “We’re working with the city to get permits to redo the bottom portion of the Curran house and turn that into the living museum for University Place.” The tentative schedule for the museum’s opening is 2019.
The U.P. Historical Society’s “Spring Into Summer” garden tour is $20 per person. Tickets are available at Grassi’s Boutique (2811 Bridgeport Way), Portland Avenue Nursery (1409 E. 59th St.), Lakewold Gardens (12317 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW), Chirp & Company (3803 N. 26th St.), and Willow Tree Gardens and Interiors (7216 27th St. W). Tickets will also be available during the event at the Curran House (4009 Curran Ln.).
More information about the historical society is available at www.uphistoricalsociety.org. Anyone that would like to rent a bed for the season or simply volunteer time at the University Place Community Gardens, go to www.universityplacecommunitygarden.org for more information.
Those interested in participating at the UPOG-Mount Cross Lutheran Church Community Garden, McInturff recommends contacting the church at (253) 564-2200.