Are you interested in local agriculture and community gardens? Curious about building equitable and community-based food systems?

Check out the Community Gardening Leadership Training program, applications are now open for the 2016 growing season!


This dynamic apprenticeship program gives motivated individuals the skills and experience needed to lead community farms and gardens. The training nourishes a vital local food system by providing fresh produce, volunteer opportunities, and education to the community through our food bank, school district, and non-profit growing programs. One apprentice will move into a leadership role in the Whidbey Institute Westgarden, another apprentice will be centered at the Good Cheer Food Bank Garden, and two more will focus on the South Whidbey School District Farm and Garden Program.


Click here to learn more!

Please contact us at: cultivatingcommunitywhidbey@gmail.com with any questions!


The Community Gardening Leadership Training (CGLT) is a partner program of the Westgarden and is responsible for bringing us a wonderful garden apprentice each year. CGLT is launching their 2016 fundraiser in order to buy educational materials, and pay apprentice stipends next year. We support them becasue the health of their program is directly linked to the wellbeing of our garden and many other community gardens on the South Whidbey!

Click here to support the Community Gardening Leadership Training!


Thank you!

Hi, friends! Please join us for our final work party of the season in the Westgarden on Thursday, October 22nd from 9-4.


All are welcome! We’ll be clearing beds, sowing cover crops, weeding, and doing some light harvesting. There will be tasks for all ages and skill levels, though we ask that children be accompanied by an adult. As always, we’ll provide a light garden lunch at noon.


Hope to see you there!

Margaret & Abigail

Surely this chilly weather that’s rolled in has many garden lovers thinking about the winter season. Soon, I am told, rain and cold will come to stay for the wet winter season. Luckily, a beautiful array of medicinal herbs exists along our garden’s border, a product of the generations of herbal-minded garden stewards who have carefully brought their favorite perennial herbs into the mixture of plants that grace the garden landscape. We’ve gotten a head start on stocking our medicine cabinets for winter with a few simple herbal projects.

Here’s a primer on some of the herbal projects we can make from the plants in the Westgarden. Fortunately, the tradition of using medicinal herbs has continued from season to season, the knowledge passed on once again from garden manager to apprentice.


Calendula oil, Motherwort tincture, and Lemonbalm-Lavender tea.

Last week, Abigail held a class on making salves and fire cider. Salves are made from oils that have been herb-infused, either by cooking or slow solar infusion. Beeswax is added to an existing herbal oil to turn it into a solid, similar to the consistency of Chapstick. Herbal salves are handy for injuries like burns and scrapes, and help to soothe irritated or dry skin.

Halley and Anh, fellow garden apprentices, putting finishing touches on our newly made salves.

Anh and Halley, fellow garden apprentices, putting finishing touches on our newly made salves.

Fire cider is a powerful immune booster made by infusing apple cider vinegar with a number of fiery plants: horseradish, cayenne, garlic, and ginger. A sip at the first signs of a winter cold can help to stave off sickness and stimulate blood flow, while warming the body and helping with digestion.


As we begin to contemplate the end of the growing season, it’s comforting to know that the garden will continue to sustain and support us, even when the temperature drops, the rain sets in, and we cozily plan for another year.


–Margaret, Westgarden Apprentice

Anyone who has lived on Whidbey Island for more than a year will tell you that this summer is exceptionally hot and dry! We’ve had very little rain since the spring, and the sun is strong and bright almost every day.


By noon, lettuce leaves flatten and kale stalks droop as plants try to conserve precious water. Newly seeded beds have to be watched over with the gaze of a worried mother to make sure they don’t dry out before germination takes place. Admittedly, we gardeners wither a bit in the heat, too.

We’re making good use of all of that good solar energy, though, and it’s paying off in the form of beautiful summer veggies. Once mid-June rolled around, we switched into high-gear, planting out most of our late summer crops like beans and squash. Our harvests have gotten heavy, with our last haul reaching nearly 80 pounds!


The heat has had other benefits; we’ve noticed that our dreaded garlic mold has been kept at bay, and we’re expecting a great season for traditionally hot-weather crops like tomatoes and basil.


The grass on the island may be turning brown, and the cool breezes few and far between, but our crops are surely grateful for all of this sunshine.

We’re happy to announce that our weekly Thursday work parties now include the afternoon! Volunteers are welcome to come by the garden any time between 9 am and 4 pm for a variety of gardening tasks for all abilities. As always, we’ll provide a light lunch from noon to 1 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!



We have four lovely chickens that find home in the Westgarden. Margaret Hatcher, Yoko Ono, Boc Choi and Eggy Sue spend their days roaming the perimeter of the garden eating bugs and taking dust baths. We provide them with a safe place to live and nutritious food to eat and they in turn give us delicious eggs that we share with work party volunteers and manure we add to our compost pile.

Up until a few weeks ago they lived in a coop built by Alexa Macauly, the Westgarden’s 2013 garden apprentice and roamed the ‘chicken run’ which is a small pathway that encompasses three quarters of the perimeter of the garden and is enclosed by chicken wire. We began to notice how quickly they ate up all the weeds and bugs in the run and found it ironic that they were surrounded by lush green pasture full of bugs and fresh greens but had no access to it. Excited to liberate them from the confines of the usual home and give them access to fresh food, we decided to build them a chicken tractor that could weave through the abundant pastures of Chinook.

   chicken tractorA chicken tractor is a mobile hen house that enables hens to move through a pasture. We drew up a blue print of their new home and with the help of Beno Kennedy, our resident ‘Fix It Guy’, we built the tractor from scratch with mostly recycled wood. Once we moved the ladies into their new home, they seemed excited to scratch and peck at the new grass and enjoy turning up sod to find a whole host of new critters to munch on. They resumed normal laying habits and seemed to get used to their home being picked up and dragged across the lawn every morning as well.

chickenA few unexpected troubles did occur, however. The primary one being that chickens need to take ‘dust baths’ to help them cleanse themselves of mites and bugs. If they can’t do this they become itchy and irritated. Even though the ladies turned up the sod to bathe in the moist top soil of the lawn, it didn’t quite seem to satiate that need and they seemed more uncomfortable. This act also turned our pristine lawn into a brown, pot hole infested surface which posed a problem for the aesthics of Chinook. We tried putting in a small container full of sand for them to bathe in but they didn’t quite take to that. We are still trouble shooting this challenge and finding ways for the chicken tractor to fit into our system at the Whidbey Institute. We’re going to try a few things and perhaps end up bringing them over for a small vacation on the lawn, as opposed to their permanent residence. This way they would periodically get fresh food and our lawn would get some extra fertilizer as well!


Many many thanks to Beno Kennedy for his help on this project!


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