DOTHAN, Ala.—A garden is a place for people of all ages to gather, share community and interact with one another.
Regional Alabama Extension Agent Lucy Edwards is cultivating a community of gardeners at Glen East Apartments in Dothan, Alabama. This is Edwards’ first year to work with the seniors at Glen East. Raised bed gardens were built for seniors to enjoy on the property earlier this year.
“The apartments are divided into two sections,” Edwards said. “Each section has three raised beds measuring four feet tall and two feet wide. The height is perfect and the location within the housing community gives easy access to the residents.”
She said the beds were constructed with pressure-treated lumber and filled with three feet of sand and one foot of a mixture of sand, fine pine bark particles and compost. The builders took special care to top each corner post with copper caps, and place hooks at the end of each bed for planting trowels.
In January, residents planted winter vegetables—transplants of Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard and broccoli. They also planted spring onion, carrots, lettuce and spinach seeds.
Edwards will return in April for the planting of spring vegetables. They will plant tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant.
She said it is important for her to reach out and work with groups on projects like the one at Glen East. In her experience, much pride, joy and excitement comes from planting, tending and harvesting one’s own food.
“A garden in their community provides opportunities to have fresh produce at home,” she said. “I hope these gardens will provide an opportunity for residents to thrive and feel more at home, while giving them a sense of belonging and purpose.”
In addition to regular interaction with one another, Edwards said the gardens provide opportunities for residents to teach and encourage.
“At the planting day, we had many laugh and encourage each other as they planted vegetables for the first time,” Edwards said. “It was neat to see those who grew up or ‘farmed all my life,’ as they would say, teach new gardeners how to plant properly.”
She also said there was much chatter about how residents would cook the vegetables once they are ripe. Some even mentioned a potluck dinner to share the bounty.
Edwards said she hopes to have Bridgette Brannon, an Alabama Extension Food Safety Regional Agent, come during the summer to talk about freezing and cooking vegetables.
Alabama Cooperative Extension Agents throughout the state are making a difference in their community. Contact your local Extension office to find out about unique programs near you.
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