Monday, May 16, 2011

C D P Patch!

Brrrrrinnnng. The phone rang early last week, bringing some good news, for a change. (For all you youngsters out there, "brrrrrinnnng" is the sound that pretty much all phones once made.) The news was that, after three or so years of idling on a wait list, I'd finally popped up as next in line to get a gardening plot at my local P-Patch.

A P-Patch, as you either know or could guess, is a community garden endorsed by the city and partly organized and supported by it in cooperation with the people gardening in it. I'd always assumed that the term "P-Patch" was national in scope and was a play on "pea patch," and was surprised to learn that it's actually a Seattle-specific, home-grown term. It harks back to the first community garden in town, a plot of land acquired from a farming family, the Picardos, who ran a truck farm on it in the early 1900s. Hence the "P" is gleaned from Picardo, not peas.

Here's what my new 100-square-feet looked like, after a sopping-wet, cold winter-spring (headline in last week's paper noted that Seattle had gone 191 days straight without climbing above 70 degrees):

Needless to say, it was weedy, mainly with lanky strands of shotweed, which lay across the soil like a bad comb-over. Shotweed is named for its sneaky habit of explosively spraying seeds in all directions as you yank it from the ground, sort of like an herbal Gatling gun. Other names for this charmer include spitweed, poppit, and pop-in-the-eye weed. They grudgingly shared the space with a few brawny dandelions and tentative bugleweeds.

But there were a few gems scattered among the weeds: some poppies, their heads bowed but ready to burst into bloom any day now; fluffy feverfew, which spreads like crazy but suppresses other weeds and obligingly allows itself to be plucked from the ground without any fuss (kind of a Schmoo-like plant); ferny sprays of fennel (which I don't like, but a gardener near me did, and so the fennel will simply be moved), and even some beets that overwintered and went straight into the oven, sprinkled with kosher salt and roasted at 400 degrees.

I hoed the heck out of the plot on Sunday in the pouring rain and tossed in some random garden slates that were scattered in the path nearby, left behind by a previous gardener. Now, in the warmth of home, I get to indulge in the best gardening activity of all: dreaming of what to plant.