If you think the compacted-soil, rock-hewn, lifeless plot of land on your property could never support a garden, we have a story for you.

More than 100 volunteers recently transformed the empty gravel lot across from the Bellingham Food Bank into a garden in a massive project that included installing a six-foot wood and wire mesh deer fence, 32 raised beds, and a market stand to sell produce.

Oh, and they did it in one day.

It’s the new home for the “We Grow Garden” program, the work of Bellingham’s Northwest Youth Services, where homeless and at-risk youths plant, grow and harvest flowers and organic produce, then sell them. The program’s garden moved from a lot on State Street near NWYS headquarters to the new site near the food bank and Whatcom Creek Trail.

The project was part of Comcast Cares Day, a day of community volunteering throughout the state by Comcast/NBC Universal employees. It was one of about 30 projects planned for April 22, Earth Day. Local companies joined in, with SilvaStar donating lumber and RAM Construction providing irrigation, soil and labor.

NWYS produced a time-lapse video of the single-day transformation. Seeing it in real time was impressive enough. “It was amazing,” said Patricia Lenssen of the Bow-based Philbin Group, who donated her landscape design services. “I couldn’t believe how many people they rallied and how many donated material. It was pretty incredible.”

The space was laid out with a perimeter that would allow tools, a shed, and gathering space for learning. The northeast corner will remain public space.

“We wanted the garden to be visible so it felt safe, and wanted to keep it open and maintainable,” Lenssen said. The site features a pedestrian gate, shade and a place for communal seating. She hopes the future might include orchard, nut and fig trees, and a hoop house. While the development is somewhat portable (the property is leased), the location near Whatcom Creek has potential for native restoration and a native edible garden.

The garden’s location will fit with low-income housing for the homeless planned nearby through NWYS and the Opportunity Council. The 22 North Housing Development is expected to break ground in the fall.

“It was just the perfect location for what they wanted to do,” Lenssen said. “I think they will grow in this location.”


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"More than 100 volunteers recently transformed the empty gravel lot across from the Bellingham Food Bank into a garden "