Planting a New Community

Written By: Ellie McDermott, World Relief Seattle Employment Manager

A group of nine newly-arrived refugees stood around a plastic tarp on a beautiful April afternoon as Laura Matter (Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline Education and Program Coordinator), arranged bags of potting soil, a stack of pots, vegetable and flower starts, and a bag full of seed packets.

Ellie; PlantingHaving recently arrived to a new country, a new living environment, and a new (and colder!) climate, these refugees had come to the Container Gardening class to learn about growing food in Washington.

Laura began the class with some general information about gardening in Washington, but it wasn’t long before potting soil bags were sliced open and the participants were eagerly filling their pots.

One by one, Laura talked about the different plant starts she had brought and passed out one or two for each participant to put in their pot. The participants examined each plant and consulted with each other as they arranged the mustard greens, lettuce, bok choy, and pansy starts in their pots.

When the pots were filled with the vegetable and flower starts, Laura started describing some of the seeds she had brought for the participants to put in the pots. The participants continued to consult with each other before gently planting the seeds in their pots.

Soon the pots were full, but the class was not over.

In a combination of English, Arabic, and Farsi, the participants and Laura talked about medicinal uses of plants, how much sun each vegetable needs, and recipe variations of dolma (a stuffed vegetable dish from the Middle East with a lot of recipe variations!). The class ended with the hope of continuing the discussion about how people use plants in different ways around the world.

The participants thanked Laura and loaded up in cars to take their pots home to balconies and back patios. Hopefully throughout the summer, these refugees will enjoy delicious produce that they planted in their new country!

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