You can reserve your own 10 by 10-foot plot beginning February 13. Come grow with us! Here are some quick details about the program:
- The program is conducted on city property and administered by the Events & Marketing Specialist.
- 10 by 10 feet garden plots sell for $25 for the season to Fife residents, business owners, and seniors, $40 for non-residents, plus a $10 deposit.
- There is a 6-plot maximum per gardener and plots are first come, first served.
- The gardening season is from April 1 to October 31.
7400 48th Street E
Fife, WA 98424
For more information, please see the rules and guidelines (PDF)
Interview with Karen McDonald, Community Gardener
1. What’s your experience with gardening?
My gardening experience is primarily with vegetables, although I have tried a few flowers over the years. I’ve been gardening ever since I was a kid - our next door neighbor helped me build a garden in her backyard because we didn’t have a good spot in our own yard.
2. How should someone get started in Fife? Time of year? Starts or seeds?
For someone who is new to gardening, purchasing starts is probably the best option. These are available at many locations around the Fife area; I used to purchase many of mine at Sterino’s produce stand. I also really like the starts which are grown by Bonnie and are available at most big box stores (Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, etc.) as many of them come in a peat pot that you can plant straight in the ground, and a lot of the varieties seem to do well in Fife’s climate. Most root crops, such as carrots, beets and radishes are best grown from seed and are generally easy to grow (just follow the instructions on the seed packet). Corn, peas and beans also do well planted from seed. For the intermediate to experienced gardener, starting all of your plants from seed is definitely feasible and can be cost saving over time, once you purchase the equipment. For seed starts to do well, and to prevent them from getting to tall and leggy, they really need to be started indoors under a plant growing light. Keep the light about 1-2 inches above the plants to prevent them from growing too fast. A seedling heat mat will help speed up germination by warming the soil. Pepper and tomato plants should be started around February or March, as they need a long growing season in order to product fruit. Herbs should be started about 6 weeks before planting, so I usually start them around the beginning of April. All other seedlings should be started about 4 weeks before you plan to set them out (zucchini, pumpkins, broccoli, etc.). The seed starting dates for these plants varies, as cold weather crops such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale can be planted outside way before the warm weather crops (zucchini, pumpkins, squash) so check your seed packet to narrow down the seed starting dates based on when the seedlings can be planted outside. If you wish to plant onions, I’ve had the best luck with onion sets, as opposed to seeds or seedlings purchased at the store. Onion sets are onions that have been allowed to partially grow before going dormant, and they look like little green onions with the top cut off and are bundled together with a rubber band. The local Puyallup Fred Meyer carries them in the spring, however I’ve had the best luck with onion sets that I’ve purchased online from Dixondale farms.
3. What types of plants grow best in Fife?
Typically, shorter season varieties grow well in Fife - check your seed packets to see how long each crop needs as you may be surprised to find that two different varieties of the same crop can have a significant variance in the days until harvest. Most cold weather vegetables such as broccoli, kale, lettuce, carrots, parsnips and peas grow well, as do warmer weather crops such as pumpkins, zucchini, squash, beans and herbs. I’ve had the best luck growing corn that has a smaller ear, thus requiring a shorter growing season. Although it sounds counter-intuitive based on the information just provided, if you are ordering onion sets online, you will want to select long day varieties. This refers to the amount of daylight that we get in a day, and in the Northwest we have long daylight hours during the summer months. Peppers, particularly hot peppers such as jalapenos and banana peppers, tend to grow well if the plants are started indoors early enough (or purchased as starts), and tomatoes can also do well for the same reasons. I had particular success with grape tomatoes (they are less likely to crack than the round cherry tomatoes), and for slicing or canning I had the best luck growing Purple Cherokee tomatoes. In terms of flowers, dahlias have also been known to do well in Fife, as do sunflowers (grow them from seed in your garden) and pretty much any of the typical flowers that you find at the local nursery (marigolds, petunias, alyssum, etc.).
4. Do you have any tips for managing a garden for the whole season?
Although Fife has a relatively short warm season in the summer, it is possible to do several rounds of crops throughout the growing season if you plan your garden right. My first year, I created a chart that I have used every year for my crops. I looked up the last frost date for Fife (typically, you don’t want to plant any warm weather veggies outside prior to this date to risk losing them to frost), which is generally around May 1st, with the "safe" date being May 17th, meaning that we could get a frost after May 1st and you might need to provide some temporary protection for your plants such as row covers if freezing temperatures a predicted. Based on this information, I determined when each of my plants could be planted (cold weather crops can generally be planted in advance of the May dates) and wrote that in my chart, and then figured out when each crop needed to be started by seed based on its planting date, and also wrote that in my chart. This left me with a neat chart showing what dates to start each plant, and when to plant it outside. If planned properly, many crops can be rotated; for example, you can often plant cold weather crops such as broccoli and kale, and replace them with another cooler weather crop such as carrots once you harvest them, as carrots can handle cooler weather if they grow into the fall months. Radishes have the shortest growing cycle of all (about 21 days!) so you can get lots of radish crops in during the year.
5. Any other pro tips to pass along?
I learned a long time ago that the quality of plants or seeds that you use does make a different between getting a ton of produce or a little produce. For seeds, I really like the varieties from Ed Hume that they sell at the Puyallup Fred Meyer as these are generally varieties made to grow in Fife’s climate. I also really like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds which is available online, as they have some really cool varieties that you can’t find locally, such as pink celery! Baker Creek also has horticulturists on staff, which you can call for help on recommendations for the best seeds based on Fife’s climate and/or your growing experience. One trick that I’ve found when growing small seeds such as carrots is to cover them with peat moss instead of soil. Fife’s soil can be heavy, especially during the wet months, and the seedlings can struggle to pop through so the peat moss makes it considerably easier for them to make it to the surface. Another important lesson that I’ve learned over the years is to amend your soil (I mix compost in my garden) and use a quality fertilizer as it will have a significant impact between getting a few tomatoes, or a bushel! All fertilizers are not created equal, so it is important to choose a balanced fertilizer. I like the organic fertilizers by Espoma as they are reasonably priced and available at Fred Meyer. If you are growing vegetables, beware of any fertilizers that have high nitrogen content (such as Miracle Grow). The nitrogen will cause your plants to grow giant and beautiful, however they will have very little fruit as all of their energy will go into growing the plant. Always keep your garden free of weeds, as they compete with the plants that you do want for space and nutrients. Weed paper can be helpful, as can burlap bags laid on the ground. In addition to the weed blocking effects, these can also help keep moisture in the soil for longer during hot weather, and the black weed paper creates heat which can be beneficial for peppers and tomatoes, which really like the heat! If you have problems with critters eating your plants (namely rabbits), a short chicken wire fence is generally inexpensive and will do the trick at keeping them out.