Welcome to our FAQ! Questions are organized in three categories:
What is a giving garden?
A giving garden is any garden where people grow food specifically for the purpose of donating it to food banks and other organizations that feed those in need.
How is a giving garden different from a food bank garden?
It isn’t. Food bank garden is just another name for giving garden.
How many giving gardens are there in Seattle?
As of 2021, Seattle had more than 85 gardens whose gardeners are committed to growing for giving; these are in city P-Patches. Most P-Patches have dedicated areas where volunteers grow food for the hungry. Where there is no dedicated area, P-Patch gardeners donate gleanings from their own plots. There are also large giving gardens and smaller ones found in backyards, alleys, senior centers, schools, faith communities, colleges, food banks, roof tops, “parking strips” and reclaimed parking lots and elsewhere around the city — many of them mission-based giving gardens. If you notice a garden: it’s a chance to ask about the gardener’s efforts!
The word P-Patch has many connotations; some are sponsored by and governed by the City of Seattle which refers to their Community Gardening Program; some are sponsored by faith communities and others by schools and food banks. We don’t intend to describe the governance of any particular piece of property on this website. We only intend to provide what help we can to the community of Giving Gardens.
Where is the giving garden nearest me?
You may wish to refer to Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods pages.
Who funds the giving gardens?
The giving gardens are entirely self-supporting. Until 2013, Blues for Food Fest was a fund-raiser for Seattle’s Giving Garden Network. Since then, various efforts have raised funds from private and corporate donors and SGGN works creatively within the community to continue raising money to support the gardens. Giving gardens receive no direct funding from any government source. That’s why your donations are so important. Please consider sending a donation to GROW Northwest
Who runs the giving gardens?
Giving gardens are run entirely by volunteers. One person usually serves as giving garden coordinator. This person calls and leads the work parties, keeps track of what’s going on in the garden, communicates with the team, etc.
Where do the seeds and vegetable starts come from?
SGGN purchases organic seed for starts sown in volunteer-operated greenhouses made available by generous individuals and organizations. In 2021 three greenhouses produced 22,000 starts that were distributed to giving gardens, food bank clients, and kitchen garden meal programs. (By comparison: In 2015, five greenhouses produced nearly 14,000 starts that were distributed to the giving gardens, helping them extend their growing seasons. In 2016 four greenhouses produced 12,000 starts. The volunteers have developed some wonderful expertise — if you’d like to begin a similar program please reach out.)
We also ask for seed (specifically for educational programs with food banks as well as for giving gardens and kitchen garden meal programs) and distribute it.
How does the food get to the food banks?
Volunteers harvest the produce and often drive the produce to the food banks themselves. Where there are large volumes to donate on a regular basis, food banks may send their own van or volunteers to pick it up. Giving gardens are always looking for volunteer drivers to help deliver what they grow and food banks are often looking for volunteer drivers too. Contact a giving garden or food bank near you to find out how you can help!
How much food is actually grown in Seattle’s giving gardens?
In 2016 more than 47,711.5 pounds of produce were provided to the food banks, kitchens serving meals to the poor, and to low income individuals. Several hundred vegetable starts (tomatoes and greens) were also provided to low income individuals to grow food for themselves.
Do food bank clients appreciate the produce?
“Appreciate” would be an understatement. “Eagerly await” is more like it. Remember that when it comes to perishable food donations, most food banks receive leftover dregs that food retailers can’t sell to paying customers. So people really notice when the giving garden bins arrive, overflowing with just-picked lettuce, vitamin-rich greens, crunchy green beans, beautiful beets and sweet tomatoes right off the vine. Food bank clients enjoy some of the healthiest, freshest produce available anywhere, which is no small thing.
FOR GIVING GARDENERS
How do I go about starting a giving garden?
Just look on the contact the giving garden nearest you. Even a simple search of “giving garden” with your favorite search engine will bring up loads of information. And the Community P Patch Seattle website has some good resources. The Interbay P-Patch Food Bank Garden team has developed a “best practices” document that you can download and read here.
Where do I get compost/tools/seeds/starts?
Many gardens report that using starts decreases the time from planting to harvest, and increases their harvest! Seattle’s Giving Garden Network volunteers have grown more than 20000 starts the last two years; they’ve also provided some seed. (These give-aways will be announced on the home page of this website, the city of Seattle’s list serve, and at any Spring gathers sponsored by GROW Northwest.) It’s also worth approaching your neighborhood retailers, who are often eager to contribute to such community projects. If your giving garden is in a P-Patch, check with leadership to see if funds are available from the garden budget. And you might consider a specific fund-raising event. SGGN will provide free seeds at the Spring Gathers — arrive early for best choice. (We favor organic, non-gmo varieties) And the Sprouts (backyard greenhouses) will provide free starts — just ask!
To get a “heads up” on starts distribution, please be SURE that you have a valid name and email on the City of Seattle’s Giving Garden list serve, because this is how we will notify you when starts are ready for planting.
I find I’m running the whole giving garden myself and it’s wearing me out. What do I do now?
Download the Interbay P-Patch Food Bank Garden Best Practices here and read the section on Volunteers. Try to find at least one person to help you and don’t give up!
I love the idea of the giving garden! How Can I get involved?
Start by visiting the How You Can Help section at this website, or join one of our upcoming events!
I have no garden experience at all. Can I still volunteer?
Absolutely! Gardeners love to share and they will teach you everything you need to know. Find out when and where the next work party is, put on your gardening clothes and show up!
I don’t have a lot of time, but I’d like to contribute in some way. Any ideas?
Check out the How You Can Help section at this website. You can donate money, be a volunteer driver, help to water sprouts, attend work parties occasionally… the choices are many.