Time for spring! Sustainable Renton teams with library on garden planning

‘Soil is kind of the meat of gardening.’

It may not feel like it some mornings, but spring is here in the Pacific Northwest. And to help prepare gardeners who want to expand their green thumb, the King County Library System (KCLS) partnered with Sustainable Renton to host a Garden Planning event at the Renton Highlands Library on March 26.

Sustainable Renton is a local nonprofit organization that seeks to build a sustainable community through food justice and zero waste by offering a free grocery store, a community farm and educational programs that relate to growing more sustainable food networks.

Sustainable Renton has been working since 2010 to ensure that no food goes to waste. The organization has saved 2.5 million pounds of food and only wasted about 500 pounds over the last 13 years.

“The library has such a large reach,” said Sustainable Renton volunteer Lara Randolph. “We’ve collaborated since pre-COVID, but it’s great to get back here and get things rolling again.”

As part of the organization’s programs, the Garden Planning collaboration brought a crowd of roughly 30 people to Renton Highlands Library where they learned about planting vegetables and other plants in the Pacific Northwest.

The event was spearheaded by horticulturist Rachel Rourke, who handed out free materials, shared her gardening wisdom and directed people to the free gardening books the library system offers like “Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades” by Steve Solomon and “Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest” by Binda Colebrook.

One gardening topic was on soil and the different ways to compost.

“Soil is kind of the meat of gardening,” Rourke said.

She discussed a mix of fertilizer known as “the Solomon Blend,” which is optimal for gardening in the greater Puget Sound area and the importance of patience in sorting greens and browns and manure when properly composting.

According to Rourke, the important ingredients for homemade compost are carbon, nitrogen, manure and a healthy balance of moisture and air. As she gave newer gardeners these important facts on properly growing vegetables, more seasoned gardeners added their own experience and wisdom to the presentation. When it came to proper manure for composting, attendants suggested reaching out to local animal parks like Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoo Doo program or which animal manure is the best to use fresh (that would be duck, rabbit and alpaca).

Other gardening topics included “almanac gardening,” where planting seeds is based around the moon cycle; guerilla gardening; how to grow tomatoes when there’s not a lot of sun; herbs that help deter insects; the importance of getting rid of traditional grass lawns; and what to do to keep out slugs.

“I like to make slug graveyards,” said Rourke, who recommends using Slug-O.

As the garden planning event winded down, future sustainable gardening events were announced, including “Introduction to PNW Mushrooms with Sustainable Renton” on Sunday, April 30, at the Renton Highlands Library; a Sustainable Renton 5K run/walk on Saturday, July 8, at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church; and the organization’s garden festival on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The Sustainable Renton Free Grocery Store takes place every Monday evening from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, at 1700 Edmonds Avenue Northeast in Renton.

The Solomon Fertilizer Blend:

Four part seed meal

1/4 part agricultural lime

1/4 part dolomite lime

1/2 phosphate or bone meal

1/2 kelp