Join the community garden movement

At an age when so many of us have moved from our original homes to live in places across the country, it can be revitalizing to start a small garden or join in a garden project with others.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Arcadia Place, a senior living community in Vista, to assist the residents start a vegetable garden.

Violet, an Arcadia resident, shared her early interest in vegetable gardening. “I started gardening when I was about 9 years old, in the backyard of my parents’ home in suburban Detroit. My parents gave us kids a small place to grow vegetables, and when they were ripe we walked up and down the street and sold them to our neighbors. That gave us a little extra money, and we sure had fun doing it.”

Like so many “senior gardeners” whom I have had the pleasure of meeting, Violet brought to the garden project at the Arcadia her knowledge of growing vegetables — and her ideas of how to eat them!

Dino, another Arcadia resident, voted to grow tomatoes, “because we Italians know what to do with tomatoes!”

The project is just beginning and we will keep you abreast of the exciting details.

FIND A COMMUNITY GARDEN NEAR YOU

If your family backyard is not big enough, you can always seek out local community gardens, such as the Pine Street Senior Center Garden Club in Carlsbad. Contact your local city hall in Encinitas, Vista or Oceanside to find out more about community gardens near you.

Ten senior gardeners from Carlsbad and the surrounding area meet each Tuesday to share their knowledge and learn from some of the Master Gardener FYI information that I learned while serving as Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program in Cooperstown, New York.

A full listing of how-to-grow all local vegetables can be found at mastergardenersd.org.

Emilita, one of the students in the program, has shared her vegetarian recipes with the group. “Most Americans don’t add a lot of greens in their cooking, but where I come from in the Philippines, we eat every part of the vegetable.”

Her recipe for “Ginisa Gulay” had all the gardeners harvesting bok choi, spinach and cabbage to combine into a perfect accompaniment to fish or chicken.

THE PROOF OF GARDENING SUCCESS

In the March 2015 edition of Leading Age Magazine, Judy Petersen, assistant living director at a long-term care facility reported, “Nature can have a big impact on people, physically, socially and spiritually. They feel more connected with each other and with nature. I just had a conversation with a resident, and it went down a spiritual path. I don’t know how to quantify that, but sometimes when you’re out in nature, it’s just good for the soul.

“Although there are few quantitative studies documenting the impact of gardens and access to nature on residents in long-term care, a growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to gardens can improve sleep, reduce agitation and enhance cognition in the elderly and in people with dementia; Gardens can reduce stress, anxiety and the need for pain medications while improving memory, attention and self-esteem — with few or no adverse side effects.”

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR!

Whether you are gardening alone or with a group, have fun planning and choosing all those spring vegetables to add to your cooking!

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and teaches vegetable gardening classes at the Pine Street Senior Center. Contact her at [email protected] for questions.

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