The tomato plants in Judy Doba's garden tower above the cheerful gardener.
"It looks a little bit like the Amazon," says Judy. "I might have added a touch too much Miracle-Gro."
This summer's tomato crop is thriving in new plant and vegetable beds at Eagle's Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston where Judy lives with her husband Ray.
As chairman of the community's garden club, Judy spearheaded efforts to revamp the resident gardens.
"We looked at several options to make the beds more user friendly," says Judy. "The administrative team at Eagle's Trace gave us the flexibility to consider creative possibilities for our resident gardens."
Galvanized steel troughs
The out-of-the-box thinking led to a unique design for the resident gardens. Twenty-five galvanized steel horse-watering troughs form neat rows, allowing ample space around each workspace.
"The troughs were a great solution," says Judy. "They're eight feet long by three feet wide by two and a half feet tall, giving each gardener significant space for gardening."
The spacing of the troughs creates four-foot aisles between each row, allowing gardeners to freely move around the perimeter of their gardens.
"The fact that they're raised is an added bonus," says Judy. "We don't have to bend over to garden. There's no more kneeling. We can work at arm's length."
Plus, the raised gardens keep weeds at bay.
"We're at the forefront of a trend," says Judy. "Container gardening is taking off, and we're grateful that the management team at Eagle's Trace embraced our vision and helped make it a reality."
The overhaul of the resident gardens began in November 2017 and was completed in January 2018.
"We drilled holes in the bottom of each trough for drainage, filled the bottom with river rock, added garden fabric to keep the soil from escaping, and filled the troughs with soil," says Judy.
To ensure successful plantings in their new raised gardens, members of the garden club invited Harris County Master Gardener Jean Fefer to Eagle's Trace to help them get started.
"Jean told us we need to introduce microbes into the soil and recommended we add an organic fertilizer," says Judy. "She helped us get off on the right foot."
Fefer, for her part, says the troughs are a great solution for container gardening.
"The use of the troughs allows residents to tailor the soil," says Fefer. "We need raised beds in Houston because there's a layer of clay just below the surface which hinders drainage. Now Eagle's Trace residents have the ability to grow their plants in great soil."
Fefer says troughs are catching on as a viable alternative to in-the-ground planting.
"I volunteer at an elementary school in Houston, and the school's installed seven troughs for students to use as container gardens," says Fefer. "It's an excellent solution that's catching on because the height of the troughs is just right for gardening."
All 25 garden troughs are currently in use by Eagle's Trace residents eager to get a little dirt under their fingernails. Surveying the rows of galvanized steels troughs brimming with flowers and vegetables, Judy says it's rewarding to see the project come to fruition.
"It's easy and manageable to pop over and tend our gardens," says Judy. "I like to check on mine every day."
The garden club is just one of hundreds of resident-run clubs and activities. Get the scoop on all the possibilities of vibrant senior living at Eagle's Trace by requesting more information today.