Photo courtesy Bob Grubbs: The UpGarden P-Patch, on the roof of the Mercer Street Garage, will be rebuilt following a construction project to repair damage and seal cracks where water was seeping through. A $31,969 matching grant will allow UpGarden volunteers make needed improvements so the P-Patch can continue to operate.
Photo courtesy Bob Grubbs: The UpGarden P-Patch, on the roof of the Mercer Street Garage, will be rebuilt following a construction project to repair damage and seal cracks where water was seeping through. A $31,969 matching grant will allow UpGarden volunteers make needed improvements so the P-Patch can continue to operate.

After a great deal of uncertainty, UpGarden P-Patch patrons are feeling better about this spring and a new growing season.

The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhood awarded the nation’s only rooftop community garden, on the Mercer Street Garage, $31,969 through its Neighborhood Matching Fund Program, Oct. 30.

The money, which becomes available in January, tops off a stressful time for the community gardeners.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a year,” UpGarden Community Lead Bob Grubbs said. “This time last year we were just fighting for the survival of our garden.”

The grant funds will be used to restore the community garden, which patrons initially believed would have to close after Department of Neighborhoods staff said they would have to leave so the garden area could be turned back into parking spaces. When the UpGarden was built in 2012, organizers knew the site was only going to be temporary, but gardeners were not happy about being evicted in favor of parking spaces.

“We just didn’t understand why they had to kick us out to do that,” Grubbs said.

After appealing to District 7 Councilmember Andrew Lewis, gardeners received some good news when they learned they would not have to move out. They still had to work with Seattle Center, however, to accommodate a renovation project by taking apart some of the garden. Grubbs said the parking structure, which was built for the World Fair in 1962, needed to be renovated because water was seeping through  the cracks of the roof, and the rebar was starting to rust. He said Seattle Center management was concerned the structure could collapse.

To allow workers to repair the damage and seal the cracks where water was seeping through, volunteers had to remove a large section of perennial flower beds, which included moving a large amount of soil, deconstruct the irrigation system and open up a stretch of the garden so construction workers could access the area.

“It took us the better part of six months to do it,” Grubbs said. “It was a tremendous amount of work.”

Grubbs said, as he is retired, he had the time to devote to such a massive project and had a vision of what needed to happen. He worked with a landscape designer who uses the garden on restoring aspects of it and redesigning the layout of the beds to better preserve the concrete and building materials underneath.

“I think the end product is going to be a pretty amazing space,” Grubbs said.

When the grant funds become available, Grubbs said he and others will begin work. Grant funds will first go toward restoring the plot beds. Rather than butting up against the side of the garage walls, they will be situated further out — about three and a half feet — and cedar walls will be built around them to contain the soil and keep it from washing away, Grubbs said.  In addition, the grant funds will be used to restore and prepare the soil for spring planting and restoration of the beehives, compost and irrigation system.

With the renovations made to the garage structure by construction workers, which included filling cracks with epoxy, Grubbs said water will flow out of the building much faster and should  seepage.

“I think just the whole redesign should facilitate that, and we shouldn’t have that problem,” he said.

In addition, the grant funds will allow for additional amenities to make it more enjoyable for the gardeners, including benches and a gazebo and pergola. Grubbs said he has already salvaged three other pergolas that he will install, which will provide some shade for the gardeners because the P-Patch can get hot in the summer.

A bike rack will be added, as well as a extra storage shed to hold supplies.

“In the end, I think we’ll have a restored garden that has some nicer amenities to it that will make it a nicer place to be,” Grubbs said.

While Grubbs said P-Patch volunteers would find someway to make all the changes necessary to reopen the UpGarden, the Department of Neighborhoods grant will ensure a smooth reopening.

“This was just a real godsend,” Grubbs said. “I’m not really sure how it would have worked without it.”

The UpGarden is important to residents of Uptown who don’t have yards to allow for gardens, Grubbs said.

“That’s what we do up there, so it really is the heart of our community to the people who utilize it,” he said.

The UpGarden also provides important services to the community. Grubbs said, through the Giving Garden, gardeners have donated 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of food to food banks every year. The education program for students, including some with disabilities, offers youth a chance to learn about and experience gardening.

The UpGarden P-Patch is also popular with the public who go up to enjoy the views of the Space Needle and downtown and perhaps have a picnic.

“It’s just a little oasis in the middle of this really urban area,” Grubbs said.

This year, it also became a popular site for girls to show off prom finery they couldn’t otherwise wear because school dances were canceled. As a result, the UpGarden became a TikTok phenomenon, garnering 15,000 hits, Grubbs said.

“So that was a really interesting aspect of this year,” he added.