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The Fruits of Labor – A Community of Gardeners

July 7, 2021

Sunny days in late June are some of the best moments in a Seeland Park summer. Walk past the budding begonias around the front office, or stroll past the thriving community garden and see the rewards of diligent and thoughtful work of their gardeners.

Independent living means letting go of household chores that aren’t so fun, but it doesn’t mean giving up some of your favorite hobbies. Instead of worrying about mowing the lawn, residents at Seeland Park have all the time they want to devote to gardening.

St. Francis Manor Board Chair Fran Conn and Seeland Park resident Jolene Jones planted the flowers around the main building and Jolene continued with 16 geranium planters around campus as she has for over 10 years!  “I want to thank Bob Terlouw for his past years of instruction on planting and caring for the flowers,” says Jolene.

Seed Shortages

Even with a shortage of plants and seeds available this year, they have created quite a beautiful selection of flowers. Many people felt the shortage but made it work. “Interest in gardening — in backyards and community gardens and on kitchen windowsills — skyrocketed last March. Then, many first-time gardeners planted out of panic. Now, a year later, the interest persists,” says Eater.com.

“Begonias, vinca and petunias were planted in the round beds in front of the administration office. We  normally plant bubblegum petunias in the top section of the large round bed but due to the shortage of these plants we needed to go with another petunia this year,” says Jolene.

First Flowers, Now VEGGIES!

While walking around Seeland Park and enjoying the flowers, stop by the community garden where no doubt there will soon be a bountiful supply of vegetables ripe for eating.  In fact, any extra fresh produce will be left in the Hawn Center for others to take and enjoy.

“We have 17 plots; they run from 6 ft to 25 ft and they are 15 ft wide,” says Warren Pick, Seeland Park resident in charge of setting up the plots. “Most plots have green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, peppers, rutabaga, potatoes, radishes, beets, squash, and zucchini.” Becky Harvey is growing a lot of the usual favorites, but also the crowd-pleasing swiss chard and kale.

If You Feed it, They Will Grow

We asked all of the gardeners what type of ‘help’ they gave their flowers and vegetables to grow this season and we have honestly had a mixed report! For flowers, “We used a plant-food called osmocote in the initial planting,” says Jolene. And then, “We use miracle grow plant food and fertilize at least once or twice a week at ½ strength. We stop fertilizing in September.”

“We usually don't fertilize,” says Glenn & Ginger Sterk. “We use miracle grow,” says Lucy Green.  John Green’s record-breaking sweet potato weighing 15 lb in 2019 shows that miracle grow really does work! “I froze a lot of sweet potatoes that summer and they were very good!” said Lucy.

And of course, the biggest necessity for a garden in a hot Iowa summer? “Mother nature's water is better, but this year with it so dry, we do water with the hose when needed,” says Glenn. Becky adds, and “…in this heat, it has to be every day!” 

Jolene worked with the heat by planting hot weather plants. “We use accents with the plantings like Diamond Frost which is a small white statis type plant and a new one for us this year was surdiva which likes hot weather so has worked great for these hot days!”

Start Small

Where do you start if you want to garden? Just start simple! “If you want to start a garden hobby, the easiest start is to plant flowers,” recommends Warren. Or find a fellow Seeland Park friend to share a plot with instead of planting all on your own.  “Geraniums are easy except you need to ‘dead head’ when the flowers look stressed,” says Jolene. “The vinca and begonias are plants that don’t need much care after the initial planting.”

Enjoying the Outdoors

Not only do gardens yield food that is amazing for you but it makes you feel connected to your surroundings and nature.  Moments outside around greenspace can instantly calm and relax you. Even if you are pulling weeds – which many of the Seeland Park gardeners told us to be sure to keep up with!  “When you're weeding, for example...you're fully present to what you're doing,” writes Sue Stuart-Smith, a British psychiatrist and author of the 2020 book The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature. “Nurturing activities are associated with release of endorphins, our natural opioids, as well as oxytocin, sometimes called the bonding hormone — and both of these have positive effects on our mental health.” 

We asked Warren why he gardens, “Why do I garden? It is the best way to be with nature and God,” says Warren.

Sources:

Nature: The Prescription for Better Mental Health

Rooftop gardening club grows plants… and friendships!

The COVID Gardening Renaissance Depends on Seeds — if You Can Find Them

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