There is so much talk these days of becoming green. A number of seniors have chosen vegetable gardening as a way to pursue fellowship and physical activity while producing fine food and doing their part toward sustainability.
Need for and Benefits of Senior Community Gardens
It is obvious there is a demand for these gardening plots since all three of the gardens in the Montgomery County, Texas area have waiting lists, and 80% of those gardeners are active seniors or boomers. An attractive feature of these gardens is the ability of the gardeners to come and go as their schedules and energies allow.
With the rising numbers in the population of older adults, the benefits of providing garden land for community gardens for seniors are becoming more and more obvious. With sustainability as a goal for many people, more and more gardens are popping up around the country.
There are many benefits to seniors who work in these community gardens:
- Fresh vegetables, many of which are organically grown
- Locally grown food, eliminating need for transporting food
- Increase level of sustainability
- Exercise, fresh air and fun in the sun
- Fellowship with other gardeners
- Progress in going toward a green community
- Savings on food budget, a big bonus in the changing economy
- An opportunity to pass gardening skills on to younger generations including grandchildren
Gardeners Working in the Community Garden for Seniors
In talking with senior gardener Joe Perugini, he confessed to gardening at two sites. He works at a Montgomery County Community Garden for Seniors and also at the Woodlands Bear Branch Community Garden. It gets him outside and he enjoys watching vegetables grow. He shows up regularly to stay on top of weeding, watering, and other chores.
He has been able to use his mother’s seeds from Italy for pole beans and rattlesnake beans. However, heirloom tomatoes would not thrive in the Gulf Coast sun. He has been successful in saving seeds for the next planting season. And of course, there is nothing as good as the fresh vegetables he takes to the table.
Another master gardener, Barby R. Carroll, has worked in the other county garden in Conroe, Texas. He stated that the gardens help keep retirees busy since they are used to going to work. He spoke of sharing many pounds of tomatoes with The Friendship Center in The Woodlands.
How Some Community Gardens are Organized
The two county gardens run by Precinct 3 Recycling Complex of Montgomery County, Texas charge a one-time fee of $25 for use of a plot in their efforts toward building a more sustainable community.
The Woodlands Bear Branch Community Garden started in 1995 and is managed by the Woodlands Community Associations. Water and raised beds are available to residents of The Woodlands, Texas. The costs ranges from small, medium and large plots up to $50. a year. This garden includes a small orchard of fruit trees. It also is enclosed by a 10-foot fence for both security and to prevent entry by deer and feral hogs.
According to Robert Dailey, Environmental Education Specialist, they are adding more plots to the space to accommodate the growing waiting list, and to achieve fuller use of the land available. He also reported that when some gardeners are out of town, others watch over their plots, watering and tending them as needed. However, if a garden is being neglected, the gardener will receive an email reminder.
Continuing Information Available to Senior Community Gardeners
A county agent gives a free seminar at the local library twice a year, and it is well attended by 70 to 80 people. Also, information is emailed regularly to participating gardeners. This is especially helpful to newer gardeners, and also to experienced gardeners who have moved here from other climates. Gardeners are also referred to the Texas AgriLife Extension Services for local planting and care instructions.
Community gardens are becoming more popular for seniors and boomers. There are many benefits to seniors involved with community gardens. There is some organization involved to set up and manage community gardens for seniors. Many senior gardeners take advantage of continuing information available to improve gardening techniques and network with other gardeners. Go find a garden and enjoy!
Interview with Robert Dailey, Environmental Education Specialist with the Community Associations of The Woodlands, Texas on July 13, 2009 at Bear Branch Community Garden.
Interview with Joe Perugini on July 2, 2009 at South Montgomery County’s Community Garden for Seniors.
Phone interview with Barby R. Carroll on July 15 about the Conroe, Texas garden.