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Nation’s biggest rooftop garden opens at Seattle Center

"UpGarden P-Patch Community Garden" attracted hundreds of volunteers to build the garden at the Mercer Parking Garage at the Seattle Center. However, the garden may not be around for very long. (Photo: Kistler | Higbee Cahoot)

Seattle’s first rooftop community garden opened on Friday on top of the Mercer Parking Garage at the Seattle Center. It is the largest-scale rooftop garden in the country.

The garden, dubbed the “UpGarden P-Patch Community Garden”, is the largest of its kind in the state at 30,000 square feet – roughly the size of six basketball courts.

“As the first of its kind, the Uptown P-Patch community garden is another example of Seattle’s broad community support and efforts toward creating a more sustainable future,” said Mayor Mike McGinn in a press release. “And as with all P-Patches, it is a model of inclusiveness and civic engagement.”

The project was funded by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) P-Patch Community Gardening Program, which paid $150,000 for the design work and construction.

The rooftop p-patch features raised garden beds and broad pathways with benches and tables.

“It’s full of garden beds of all different sizes and shapes, there’s an airstream trailer that’s going to serve as the garden shed and an old [Ford] Galaxie that’s going to be an art car planted with all kinds of vegetables,” says project coordinator Laura Raymond.

In all, UpGarden will have 110 plots available to the community. These plots will function like a co-op.

“People who have garden plots are expected to maintain their plots year-round and to also help care for the garden,” says Raymond.

Other plots are reserved to grow fruit and vegetables for local food banks.

“UpGarden” was designed by landscaping architects at the Kistler | Higbee Cahoot. Eric Higbee and Nicole Kistler worked around several challenges in bringing the project to life.

First, the architects had to consider the garage’s weight capacity on the top floor. They also had to consider the slope of the section allotted to the garden, which could cause soil to slide out.

To this end, Higbee and Kistler came up with the raised beds as a way to have enough soil depth to grow good vegetables without too much weight spread across the garage.

Garden beds will also be terraced in increments along the incline of the garage to prevent leaking and to prevent sliding soil.

Combating the exposure to direct sun and wind, volunteers plan to install drip irrigation.

Aside from technical design work and hiring contractors to put in posts for the terraced beds, the entire project was completed by members of the community. Hundreds of volunteers put in thousands of hours to build the garden in two months.

Despite great community interest, the garden may only last a few years. The 2006 Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan agreed to give Mercer Garage to Seattle Public Schools in exchange for the school district’s Memorial Stadium. This means that the garden may be dismantled within just a few years.

In the meantime, however, UpGarden has many in Seattle excited about the newest addition to the Seattle Center.

“I, like many, began this journey just wanting a plot for growing some vegetables. I did not realize the extent of what was required to bring a P-Patch to life in such a short time,” said volunteer coordinator Craig Moore. “The process has brought me closer to a group of neighbors that I now share a sense of pride and ownership in our creation.”

Jeanne Lockhart contributed to this report.

For more information on the UpGarden P-Patch Community Garden, click here

About the Author

Jillian Raftery

Jillian Raftery is a reporter for KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. She loves the neighborly vibe of the Pacific Northwest and spends as much time as possible outdoors.

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