The Spit – Gardening on the Edge

Story by Kats Hunter, who—with help from her husband Jon—has kept this spit in plants and color for the last 16 years  |  these photos taken September 4, 2017 by Jon Sibaila
Planting up a new 12 foot-stretch of the spit garden with succulents—by this time next year these plants will feel like they're always been here
Looking out towards the water—plants started back in April (see later photos) are now firmly established
The view back in the opposite direction
These photos taken April 17, 2017 by Jenny Stein  |  The spit juts out between Richardson Bay Marina (L) and Yellow Ferry Harbor (R)
Accessible to all—note the BCDC sign—this area is technically the responsibility of Richardson Bay Marina (formerly Kappas Marina) property—though they are happy enough that someone else wants to garden the spit
Water central—irrigation, watering cans and most importantly, running water—enables the garden to thrive
An area popular with dog walkers, this sign and readily available poop bags remind people to pick up after their dogs
Not the easiest environment in which to establish plants, this planter provides a welcome riot of color
Newly-planted succulents—these plants will fill out nicely over the summer
Purple-tinged iris, lavender and other established perennials give scale and structure to the spit garden
A bird feeder and bird bath add yet another dimension to this garden (POV towards the marina)  |  photo by Jon Sibaila
Kats wrangling the watering hose to give everything a good drink—once established, these plants will be equipped to weather the dry spells
Regardless of the season there's always something in bloom—these Iris are spectacular for a few short weeks, but then are quickly followed by a succession of other flowers
Thanks, Kats!  |  these last 3 photos by Caroline McFadden  |  post by Jenny Stein

GARDENING ON THE SPIT—I guess I should start by saying the Hunter Clan has always loved gardening. My own love of gardening is constrained by living on a dock—Issaquah—where I’m limited to container gardening. There are only so many potted plants one can have, even when neighbors give up valuable real estate in front of their boats to allow space for me to expand. I currently have over 100 potted plants.

Dogs have also always been a part of my family, and for years, the spit—jutting out between Yellow Ferry and the Richardson Bay Harbor Office—was where we walked our dogs. 16 years ago, the spit was, if you’ll excuse the expression, a giant litter box for dogs. But there was dirt, and it just seemed like a great place given my lack of terra firma. For the first 3 years there was no running water out there, so I had to “bucket” the water out. Consequently, my plants were pretty sparse. Then Chris Tellis—of Yellow Ferry—plumbed water out to the spit and the plants were ever so happy.

Chris also had a retaining wall built on the right (south) side of the spit. But over the years the rocks below the wall have been pulled away by the tides and the bank has eroded. My greatest frustration is the tide stealing the dirt from the plants. Waldo Point Harbor donated plastic bags and dispenser boxes with “pick up after your dogs” signs and my husband Jon (Sibaila) mounted the boxes where folks can see them. It was, and is, a great help in reminding folks to do just that: pick up.

Every year, in the early spring, Jon weed whips the fox tails. Fox tails are deadly for dogs, so they have to go. This year, instead of whipping, we dug them out by the roots. What a job! And you must know that when I say “we” I really mean Jon did the digging since he is always there to help with the big jobs. Up until last year, I only had time to garden the left side of the spit. I still don’t have the time but after the fox tails were gone, all that new dirt was calling to me. So now I am working on both sides of the spit. I have a ton of new succulents that have been donated and that will have a home soon. The drip system also needs some work but progress is being made. Slowly, but surely.

It has taken years of experimenting with plants to see what works. As we all know, that area can be under water twice a year from our extreme tides, so salt-water-hardy plants are a must. Our plant population consists of a ton of succulents and bulbs—they store their own water and are drought-hardy. Lavender, Ceanothus and Rosemary all thrive. There are curly willow trees transplanted from my sister’s property in Arroyo Grande, California, and many plants from what I call dumpster shopping. Neighbors get tired, bored or just unhappy with plants—many are almost dead. The plants get left, thankfully, out front of Issaquah by the dumpster and I rescue them for the spit.

There is a personal expense, of course, but the joy of the results makes it worth it. Some of my neighbors on Issaquah and Yellow Ferry have made monetary donations—which are happily accepted. Working a full-time job and with my dog-walking business, I struggle to squeeze out time for the gardening. But when I get the chance, I am happily out on the spit—ruining my manicure. I am happiest when folks walk by with loving comments about the garden. It is my greatest pleasure.