Giving Garden history

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Designing the garden

Through years of volunteering with Garden-Raised Bounty in Olympia, we knew they had a model that worked so we followed their free, online how-to guide from GRuB's Kitchen Garden Project. We researched the cost of lumber, and though cedar would last the longest, we decided that demonstrating affordability was more important. Cedar costs 5 times the amount of Douglas Fir and even untreated Douglas Fir will last several years.

Cost of a raised bed garden

There are a few ways to keep costs low:

  1. If you are building several beds, buy Topsoil/Compost mix in bulk.
  2. Weed barrier fabric is not necessary and will double the cost of your beds, but may save you work in the long run. A combination of cardboard and newspaper will keep the grass and other weeds out and will break down over time.
  3. If you do not own basic hand tools, borrow them from friends or neighbors.

In addition to the items below, a shovel, hand saw and hammer are needed and a wheelbarrow will make the work easier.

Needed supplies Cost
Lumber - per bed (2 - 10' 2" x 8",1 - 8' 2" x 8") $15 - $20
Nails $4
Topsoil/Compost mix (organic recommended) $13 - $35
Total $32 - $59 per bed

At the UW Tacoma Giving Garden, we also installed a basic trellis. For this, all you need are a few nails, 4 - 8 footlong 2" x 2"s, and some twine. A trellis costs just under $15.

Composting and sustainability

UW Tacoma's composting facilities are located at the Giving Garden. In 2010, the university expanded its composting facilities to include a 10x18 foot open bin to accommodate all of the yard waste collected on campus. This past fall we also welcomed the addition of two worm bins to break down food waste that is collected from campus offices and student commons areas. The system reduces the waste produced by the university and at the same time provides a source of natural fertilizer for the garden. In order to honor UW Tacoma's commitment to sustainability, the compost program will continue to expand in the years to come.

In the spirit of continued sustainability, the university installed three 60-gallon rain barrels in the garden during spring 2010. These barrels collect the water that runs off the adjacent facilities building. Just a half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield 300 gallons of water. Rain barrels are especially ideal in the Pacific Northwest where we receive plenty of rain in the spring followed by extremely dry summers. This addition not only provides water for the garden during the dry summer months, but it also reduces storm water runoff from impervious surfaces as well as reducing the amount of municipal water required to keep the garden thriving.


Each week, food scraps are delivered to our tumblers to be converted into nutrient rich soil. This process is relatively simple.

The finished product from the food scraps collected by UW Tacoma students, faculty, staff and campus vendors will be re-used as a natural fertilizer on our Giving Garden. For this reason, it is very important that everybody participating in our campus composting program knows exactly what can go in our bins.compost process

The Do's and Don'ts of composting at UW Tacoma
Do's Don'ts
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags or loose tea
  • Moldy bread
  • Oats
  • Egg shells
  • Molasses
  • Dry cereal
  • Fruits, cores, peels
  • Vegetables
  • Unbleached paper products
  • Houseplant trimmings
  • Compostable food ware
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Bones
  • Corn cobs
  • Eggs
  • Pasta
  • Salt or salty food
  • Dairy products
  • Cooking oil

Garden timeline

December 2010: The importance of maintaining native vegetation is immeasurable. Invasive plants choke out natives and take over, reducing plant diversity as well as food sources for local fauna. The perimeter of the land the Giving Garden occupies has been susceptible to many invasive plants. This month student volunteers and members of the Washington Conservation Corps removed 15 yard waste bags of Himalayan blackberry, morning glory and curly dock. The voids were filled with nearly 300 native trees, shrubs and ferns! This activity contributed to the health of the ecosystem in many ways. In addition, native plants attract native pollinators which benefit the garden.

October 30, 2010: UW Tacoma welcomed worms to the Giving Garden! This event welcomed students and community members, teaching visitors how to build their own worm bins. These worms make it possible to effectively manage food waste on campus. Worms accelerate the composting process and contribute their highly nutritious castings. Although we are starting small, there is room for expansion and it is our hopes that we will eventually manage nearly all of the food waste on campus. In spring of 2011 the first collection of castings will be tilled into the garden beds, which further illustrates our commitment to campus sustainability.

July 9, 2010: The Giving Garden was visited by 37 local kids between the ages of 6 and 9 years old. The students learned about gardening practices and were able to take home seeds that they had planted in their own pots made of reused plastic bottles. They also participated in painting tiles that depicted their own ideas about nature.

April 22, 2010: Earth Day at the Giving Garden. What a success! Volunteers built four more beds in the garden to total twelve beds. There is now 480 square feet of garden beds! Volunteers filled the beds with soil, sowed seeds and transplanted seedlings from the greenhouse, and mulched between the garden beds to surpress weed growth. The garden also welcomed the addition of two bing cherry trees and six Asian pear trees.

January 18, 2010: Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a big success at the University of Washington Tacoma's Giving Garden. Over forty volunteers attended the event, including students and families from the Tacoma community. The day was spent clearing space for planting vegetables and fruit trees, filling two new garden beds with soil, constructing trellises for both vegetables and fruit trees, as well as starting seeds to be tended in UW Tacoma's greenhouse until an April planting in the garden. Many of the children and adults participated in painting a brightly colored, beautiful mural to be displayed in the garden, as well as painting individual tiles. This event prepared the Giving Garden for the upcoming growing season, and increased the beauty and overall aesthetics of the garden.

May 29, 2009:The UW Tacoma made its first donation to the Good Neighbor Cafe, which included spinach and radishes.

April 18, 2009: Nearly 50 volunteers showed up for our Giving Garden expansion event. The garden now has 8 beds and is planted with a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables for harvesting and donating to the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

Janaury 19, 2009: Over 80 people showed up for our Kick-off event. The first 4 beds were completed and all of the remaining invasive species were removed in just 2 hours! This amazing display of volunteerism demonstrated the huge amount of work that can be accomplished through the efforts of committed individuals.

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