The land was filled with piles of asphalt, concrete, old cars, used tires, and numerous other types of rubbish and waste. Consequently, the soil was so polluted that there were areas where even weeds could not grow. The first two years following the purchase of the land were spent building the soil back up so it could support plant life again.
During this rebuilding time, the Powells partnered with King County in a research project that tested different mulch preparations and their effectiveness. Powell tested the county mulch—made from yard waste and sold under the Cedar Grove brand—against five other brands. He planted crops such as winter wheat, compared the growth rates produced by the different mulches, then plowed the crops under and repeated the process. As a result, eighteen inches of super-rich soil now blanket the ravine, jump-starting the thousand-plus trees, shrubs and flowers planted there.
“We took a derelict piece of land and turned it into a green oasis of a couple of acres in a city of 75,000 people,” Monte says. “It’s an example of what urban horticulture can do.”