When Marketing Director Jami Colson started rounding up volunteers for a new community garden on the deck off the dining room, she didn’t have to look far for support. She found a willing partner in Carla Hattendorf, dining services director.
“I may know a lot about cooking vegetables, but I didn’t know a thing about growing them! I do not have a green thumb, so this is a learning experience for me, too,” said Carla. “I’ve really enjoyed the whole process, and I know the residents have, too.”
Garden planning began before the summer with a trip to Jackson Nursery. Residents were given a tour, education, and even a great discount for their chosen plants.
“We have four tomato plants, two pepper plants, some zucchini and herbs. We also have flowers, a butterfly garden, and hummingbird feeders. Residents have a fabulous time sitting and watching all the critters who come around. We sometimes laugh and wonder if we planted this garden for ourselves or for the squirrels, as they’re fattening up,” said Carla.
Even though residents have enjoyed small yields from their garden, Carla has already seen a great return on investment in other ways.
“I just think it’s a great way to stay active, getting out there and watering, pruning, etc. And it gives people more ownership and enjoyment of their nutrition. We grew some little yellow cherry tomatoes, and they’re not as acidic as regular tomatoes. People with stomach problems can tolerate and enjoy them more. There’s such pride in watching your “babies” grow and produce,” said Carla. “And it’s brought people together in wonderful ways. Residents hang out in the dining room more, which contributes to the experience more, and it’s important for residents to have that. If they have nothing else to talk about at meal time, they can talk about the garden. People who normally just sit there quietly are now making friends with table mates. All over this garden!”
If a garden can help with conversation, Carla, with her non-green thumb, has even discovered how conversation can help with a garden!
“Some people may think it’s strange, but I talk to the plants. Even on my days off, I often come in to water the plants and talk to them. It works! Now, when plants throughout the community start dying, they’re brought here to the garden, and we’ve brought them back to life.”
They say you reap what you sow, and when you’ve planted seeds of community and caring, you’re sure to have a beautiful harvest.