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Compost Days Builds Community, and New Gardens

By Safiya Merchant
The Seattle Times

Learn more about this year's Compost Days campaign!

Volunteers and staff from Seattle Tilth’s Just Garden project gathered on a recent morning to build a new garden for the Reunion House, a low-income senior housing project on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. This one garden will yield $250 of fresh produce a week for seniors to enjoy.

For the next month, residents can give a little more to gardens.

The fourth annual Compost Days will take place from March 15 to April 15.

This year, the campaign will also include the Big Garden Give, providing free compost to more than 150 gardens growing food for low-income residents.

Compost Days is being put on by Seattle Public Utilities, King County Solid Waste Division, Waste Management garbage and recycling service and Cedar Grove, a composter of food scraps and yard waste.

To start off the Big Garden Give, 500 yards of Cedar Grove’s compost will initially be donated to the gardens.

Then, throughout Compost Days, buyers can take steps to bring more compost to these same gardens, including taking an online pledge to compost or redeeming a coupon for Cedar Grove’s compost. Cedar Grove will donate a bag of compost to the gardens each time a resident completes one of these steps. More information is available on

Mary Ranahan, who is in charge of compost sales at Cedar Grove, said compost lowers the heat of soil, suppresses weeds and puts micronutrients into soil.

One of the benefits of giving compost to community gardens, according to Ranahan, is, “It’s also teaching people about gardening. It’s kind of a lost art because everyone goes to the grocery store and they get their vegetables. ... People don’t know how to grow their own food anymore.”

According to the Compost Days website, donated compost will be sent to gardens managed by Seattle Tilth’s Just Garden program and the Snohomish County Extension service.

Some of the gardens that will receive donations have not been built. According to Stephanie Seliga, the manager of Just Garden, the group will build at least 50 gardens this year.

This week, Just Garden set up a new garden for Reunion House, one of the locations in the Seattle Housing Authority’s senior housing program.

Betty Doud, 67, said she has lived at Reunion House for three years.

“I’m a gardener, so I’m really anxious to get my hands in the dirt again,” Doud said.

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