Guest blogger Jordan McKerney is a marketing communications professional and a volunteer with the United Way Emerging Leaders marketing committee, where she focuses on planning and promoting volunteer opportunities.
When I woke up to pouring rain on the morning of our Nov. 14 Second Saturday volunteer project, my stomach sank. A group of Emerging Leaders was all set to help Seattle Tilth build a learning garden in a Kirkland park, but what would we do if everyone decided to hit snooze and stay warm and dry instead?
You can imagine how happy I was when more than 20 Emerging Leaders came out to McAuliffe Park, decked in parkas and rain boots, ready to make a difference. The group didn’t hesitate to jump right in to the day’s project: transforming a flat patch of dirt into a garden that will produce food for those in need and also serve as a learning and community-building tool.
Ironically, the rainy weather was a perfect way to learn about one of the primary goals of our activity: preparing the land for optimal water retention so Seattle Tilth can manage the garden more sustainably. And this is important, because Seattle Tilth is busy in our community, educating people and helping to provide access to nutritious food. Seattle Tilth plays an important role in building the future United Way envisions, where families are financially stable, people have homes and students graduate.
But when it comes to water retention strategies, if the words swale, berm and Hugelkultur are new to you, you can rest assured they were new to us too! We learned that there are a few keys to water management in a garden: digging shallow depressions that accumulate water (swales), building raised mounds that direct water into swales (berms) and creating garden beds on top of decomposed wood that retains water (the practice of Hugelkultur).
It was very satisfying to see what 20 people wielding shovels and toting wheelbarrows can accomplish in just a few hours. In fact, Seattle Tilth had been working on preparing the land slowly over the past few months and they were blown away by our group’s ability to quickly complete the preparations.
But we didn’t stop there. Our group also headed into the nearby forest to pull up ivy plants. While that might not sound like much more than Saturday morning weeding, we learned that if left unchecked the ivy would eventually kill the trees and blanket the ground so thickly that nothing else could grow.
By the end of the morning, we were wet, cold, covered in dirt… and feeling great. I think the experience was a good reminder that giving back never stops. Every day, no matter how rainy, there are people out working hard to make our community a better place. And on this Saturday, the Emerging Leaders were happy to be part of it!