Category Archives: gardening in Bremerton

The treasures of gardening in the city


Almost two years ago, Karesha Peters traded her landlord’s grass for a vast city garden in Manette. She did all the heavy lifting herself, tearing out the lawn and replacing it with boxed beds now filled with butternut squash, chard, tomatoes and more.

“He let me rip up his entire front yard,” she joked of her landlord. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

The work, she says, was all worth it.


“I can’t imagine not growing my own food,” she said.

Peters maintains one of the prettiest gardens in the city, using the fruits of her labor to sustain her family all summer long, and selling the overage at the Bremerton Farmer’s Market.

The child development specialist, who is originally from South Africa, got into gardening eight years ago while living in Seattle. Since moving to Kitsap County, she has grown a garden on a family property in Seabeck until she started her own in Manette in early 2014.

She’s honed her craft, as evidenced by her taste for the boldest flavors around. I’d never had New Zealand Spinach before, but its sweet flavor makes me struggle to eat anything but in the Spinach department. Her carrots always go fast at the market; even if you miss them, don’t worry, because she overproduced green beans a bit this year following robust demand at last year’s market for them.

In the spirit of city gardening, she also planted a healthy amount of strawberries, which she allows the neighborhood kids to take off the vine for a quick snack.

Almost anytime of year, her garden is in production. She still loves that first sprout, whenever it may be. “That initial pop out of the ground gets me every time,” she said.

I’m hopeful she’ll be among the gardeners featured when the biennial Manette Edible Garden tour returns in 2016. But if you wish to try Peters’ farm fresh vegetables this year, better hurry: Only three Thursdays — Oct. 1, 8 and 15 — remain in the farmers market season.


IN PHOTOS: In search of Bremerton’s biggest Rhododendron

This is a rhododendron. Really.

It’s the state flower of Washington for a reason. This time of year is just spectacular in Bremerton and beyond as rhododendrons pop with radiant colors.

But there’s one rhodie I look forward to every year in this city. No, not the ones in my own yard but rather on Fifth Street, not far from Kiwanis Park.

And it’s huge.

Ben Anson, a retired cop who lives in Illahee, told me about it a few years back. “You must go see it,” he’d say. So I did, and I didn’t regret it.


The thing must be 20 feet tall and at least that wide. Owned by the Wilson family, its hundreds, if not thousands of magenta-colored flowers put on a dazzling show each year. Many people who see it don’t even realize it’s a rhododendron.

It made me wonder: is there any bigger, more spectacular rhododendron in Bremerton? Or in Kitsap County, for that matter?

“This is quite a spectacular rhododendron!” Olaf Ribeiro, a tree pathologist and arborist on Bainbridge Island. “It is  probably the biggest one I have seen in Kitsap county!”

But he knew, as did I, that I needed to talk to Bremerton Arborist Jim Trainer, who has spent a career not only studying trees but the biggest ones among them.

Trainer told me that, yes, there is one he knows of even bigger than the one on Fifth Street. At somewhere around 35 feet tall, it reigns over the Krigsman’s property in Illahee. Not long ago, we wrote a story about an old copper beech tree on their land that is believed to have been planted by Dr. Henry LaMotte, chief surgeon for President Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.


The variety of rhododendron, as well as the soil in which it is planted, make a big difference in how massive they can get, Trainer said. In his book “Trees of Seattle,” plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobsen lists the largest rhododendron “fortunei” hybrid at 40 feet tall and a Rhododendron “catawbiense” at 20 feet tall and 23 feet wide.

“So, if your Rhody is a catawbiense it is certainly a champion tree!” Ribeiro said.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to be definitive in this case. As Trainer points out: “I haven’t been in everybody’s backyard,” in an effort to find the biggest one.

We at the Bremerton Beat will continue to investigate just how special this Rhododendron is. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note — and preferably a photo to go with — if you think you’ve got an even bigger, even more stunning rhodie than this one.


Bremerton nursery’s ‘potstickers’ add pizzazz to local landscapes

‘Potstickers’ were invented by Bremerton City Nursery.

Coastal rhododendrons, the state flowers of Washington, are a spectacular site in the Pacific Northwest in springtime, bringing vibrant colors to neighborhoods in Bremerton and beyond. But by this time of year, their bloom is long gone.

What’s a gardener to do for some color during nonflowering times?

Enter the potsticker.

The brainchild of John Dreaney, one of the owners of Bremerton City Nursery, a potsticker’s powder-coated steel container, attached to the end of a pole, can elevate a flower or plant above other, less exciting landscapes.

“Pot up some really bright-colored annuals and pop some potstickers into the landscape,” suggests Alex Siefert, manager of city nursery. “And suddenly you have color and dimension.”

Dreaney’s idea has been selling well since the nursery brought them to market in springtime. The potstickers, which slightly resemble a frisbee golf basket, are easily lined with moss for additional color.

The containers also provide an isolated environment for plants known for their expansionist tendencies, Siefert said.

“We all know mint will just kind of do what it wants,” she said. “Put your mint in the potsticker, put your potsticker in the herb garden, and it’s safe and contained.”

Siefert adds potstickers can be used indoors and even as table centerpieces for weddings or other parties as well.

Edible gardens galore: the tour’s on in Manette for third year

The Howell family garden.
The Howell family garden in Manette.


One of my favorite events of the whole year in Bremerton is the Manette Edible Gardens Tour de Coop. The third annual event returns Saturday with a dozen gardens to tour, art to see and live music to listen take in — all within a (hilly) walk.

I got a sneak peak at three gardens — two of them brand new to the event — and will give you a little taste of what you’ll see on Saturday.

The Spoon family garden.
The Spoon family garden.

1. Wheaton Way’s ‘Keyhole’ Garden 

Dave and Tanya Spoon have done a lot of volunteer work in Africa for local charity Children of the Nations, and it serves to inspire their green spaces just off Wheaton Way near the Manette Bridge. The centerpiece is a “Keyhole” garden they’ve seen in their travels around East Africa. It consists of a central composting pile that, as it degrades, serves to nourish the carrots, cucumber, kale and sunflowers that encircle it.

The Spoons also have chickens, whose run actually surrounds their garden beds. The perimeter they form keeps out slugs and bugs, which the chickens eat. The couple, which has lived at the home since 1995, also has installed a rain collector, which has offset their water use by more than 80 gallons.


The New Life Assembly garden.
The New Life Assembly garden.

2. The Church’s ‘Square Inch’ Garden 

A 60×20 foot slab of concrete next to New Life Assembly on Ironsides has been transformed this year, for the first time, into an organic garden. Jackie Swanson, who has attended the church for six years, had the idea in January. Already, the gray concrete has been turned to green with the area covered in raised beds. All produce grown there, including a long line of upside down cherry tomato plants, is donated to the Kitsap Rescue Mission (18 pounds of snow peas was their first donation).

Other than watering, she’s been using old coffee grounds as a way to recycle them — slugs hate the grounds and they put nitrogen into the soil.

Swanson said they’ve had a lot of help from local organizations, businesses and neighbors and plans to expand the garden as far as she can. “We’re going to use every square inch,” she said.

The Howell Family Garden.
The Howell Family Garden.

3. The Grapevine Garden 

The Howell family’s Cascade Trail home endured a failed septic system after they bought the property eight years ago, and slowly they’ve morphed their once-torn up backyard into a pastoral setting complete with a grapevine-encircled garden and a line of apple trees.

Mounds of dirt behind their house revealed debris including a chair lift. But once they cleared it, they planted the beautiful grapevines and, two years ago, installed raised beds that are now filled with fruits and veggies.

Their home is featured on the tour for the first time this year, and they’ve added some new additions on the occasion — namely, a chicken coop. One of their hens, named for Professor McGonagall of the Harry Potter world, just laid the family’s first egg.

If you go

So, how do you get to see these gardens, and nine others like them? Start at the New Life Assembly parking lot, 1305 Ironsides, between 9:30 a.m and 1 p.m. (I’d go earlier rather than later.) Bring a donation ($5 is suggested and is a small price to pay) and buy some raffle tickets for local prizes if you’re feeling lucky. You’ll get a map of the garden locations and tour button and are free to trek to each on your own.

Look for artists and gardening teachers at each site. There will also be Garden Bingo, sponsored by the Kitsap Regional Library and the Kitsap Volkssporters walking club will also lead their own walk through the neighborhood.

If you’re interested in growing food in urban spaces, this tour is not to be missed.