Sand Point in NE Seattle
East side of Sand Point Way at the 74th St. light.
This is the third post in my Magnuson Park series.
Originally I had only planned to mention the Magnuson Park Community Garden as part of the park introduction. But as I spent some time in the area I realized there was more to describe than would fit into a couple paragraphs. So the gardens now have their very own preview.
I’ve always appreciated the concept of community gardens and am glad cities have embraced the P-Patch idea. But I never saw them as having anything to do with me personally because I have a brown thumb. It turns out, though, that anyone who likes a pretty flower or watching the birds and the bees can enjoy a visit to one of these gardens.
Before I get into a tour of the Magnuson Park gardens I need to emphasize an important rule. The contents of the plots belong to the individual gardeners. They put in hours and hours of labor, and a not inconsiderable amount of money, making their gardens grow. Never pick any flowers or harvest any produce.
The main entrance to the P-Patch is tucked back behind The Brig (a one story white building) on the other side of a small, and often congested, parking lot.
On the eastern edge of the lot is a wood pergola, with benches and a tool shed. You can enter the garden by passing under the pergola into an open area with raised planters.
Just beyond the planters is a picnic table. If you can’t walk far, but would like to sit outside enjoying garden flowers on a sunny day, this is a pretty nice spot for it.
It’s also a fantastic spot for watching and photographing Anna’s Hummingbirds. I was in the garden three times last fall and saw hummingbirds near the picnic table every time. Other small birds like chickadees also flit around the garden.
From the picnic table a path wanders to the right up into the garden, heading south. The path is on a slight uphill grade, but only for a very short distance.
When the path levels out you will see another wood pergola in the center of the garden to your left. It has benches, so this is another spot to rest and enjoy looking at different flowers.
On your right is the top rim of the amphitheater. (The amphitheater can also be reached directly by just walking south out of the parking lot.) This amphitheater is where the Magnuson Park outdoor movies and concerts are held in summer.
You can stay on the garden path or cut down through the amphitheater, but either way if you keep going south you will reach the Children’s Garden.
The Children’s Garden was designed with input from kids and everything there is geared to them. Including the picnic tables, which are all very low to the ground and not very suitable seating for big folks. Various park programs hold classes and activities for youngsters here.
Another feature of note in the gardens is a small courtyard. The courtyard entrance is through a wood trellis just to the right of the pergola by the parking lot.
The courtyard is surrounded by large bushes and small trees. Inside are several picnic tables, benches, and chairs. In the back is a small water feature, though since I was there in autumn it was turned off for the season.
Like the school tables in the North Shore area, this courtyard can serve as a more unique and obscure picnic option when you don’t feel like fighting the crowds for a lakeside spot. Or don’t want to lug supplies a long way from the car.
Two things amazed me most about the community garden. The sheer variety of plants being grown was boggling. And the fact that there were still so many flowers blooming in late October/early November.
I haven’t explored all the nooks and crannies of the gardens, so this was just a basic tour to get you started. If you would like more info and to see an aerial view photograph, visit the Magnuson Community Garden website. (Link is below.)
Late spring and summer are the best times of year to enjoy a vibrantly colorful visit. But the advantage of a later fall trip is that gardening activity dramatically drops off and there will be few other people in the area, especially on weekdays.
Things to Know
Use the north Magnuson Park entrance at 74th. Go straight ahead to the stop sign.
Turn left at the stop sign and go straight to the fence.
Turn right at the fence and go through the small parking lot to the garden and amphitheater entrances.
4 am – 11:30 pm
One picnic table in the P-Patch and a few in the courtyard.
Benches by the parking lot, in the courtyard, and at the center pergola.
Grass terraces in the amphitheater and cement blocks between the amphitheater and Children’s Garden.
Tiny tables in the Children’s Garden.
There are bathrooms inside and outside The Brig, across from the amphitheater, but I believe they are only open during building hours of operation.
There is a large porta potty in the parking lot across the street south of the Children’s Garden, next to the playground entrance.
There are several handicap slots right in front of the P-Patch entrance.
The small parking lot by the gardens is cramped and often congested with vehicles for organizations housed in The Brig. So this is a rare case of evenings and weekends potentially being better for parking.
The most reliably available parking is along the fence on the north side of the lot.
If a special event is going on in the area don’t expect to find anything in this lot.
When garden parking is full you can use the large lot across the street to the south of the gardens.
To get there, instead of turning at the stop sign go straight. You will pass a divided road section and the parking lot entrance will be on your right. The gardens are on your left.
The Magnuson Park Community Garden is primarily used by people attending special events, children’s activities, and gardeners.
While I haven’t been here in the spring, my guess is it’s a pretty busy time in the P-patch as gardeners bring their plots out of winter mode and do their planting.
I don’t know what activity is like in summer either, but a lot of gardeners are retired people so the P-patch could be busy at any time. This is when a lot of programs run in the Children’s Garden. Expect crowds on movie and concert nights.
Most parks are great to visit in mornings before crowds arrive to soak in the sun. But my guess is that since a lot of gardeners try to avoid the heat of the day, that might not hold true here in summer.
In the fall gardening activity drops off a great deal and there aren’t usually any programs running.
Birds I’ve Seen
Anna’s hummingbird, black-capped chickadee, swallows, song sparrow, American goldfinch.
Flowers and birds.
Best light: Anytime. Depends on personal preferences.
Magnuson Community Garden site
Magnuson Park official website
Map of Magnuson Park
The next post in my series on Magnuson Park will cover the wetlands.
Between bad light on one day and being there in late October and early November, the photos here don’t make the gardens look as attractive as they should.
4 thoughts on “Seattle: Magnuson Pt. 3 – The Gardens”
I’m definitely going to have to go here. I love community gardens, although I’m not sure why they fascinate me so much.
I suspect you can find one closer to home. 😉 Does Everett have a P-patch program?
I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up. The closest community garden that I’ve stumbled upon is the one at Jennings Park in Marysville but I think it’s part of the master gardener program at UW and not one where people rent plots. I sure wish my neighborhood had one.
I got curious so looked it up too. First, apparently “P-patch” is a term specific to Seattle community gardens. It originated with the old Picardo farm in the Wedgewood area (not far from Magnuson) which became the first community garden after developers rather than farmers became the thing in the expanding city. (In case it hasn’t been obvious, I enjoy historical tidbits.)
I found a couple links. It appears Everett has several gardens, but many of them are operated by organizations rather than the city. The first link is for a city garden, the second is for a 2009 article in the Herald.