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Elbow-deep in dirt

Growing season is here at Riderwood. Get out and garden!

Created date

March 20th, 2012

First impressions are everything. When Nora Das first drove onto the Riderwood campus, she was impressed by the landscape and covered walkways that connected one building to the next. The trees and flowers and well-maintained grounds made her realize that Riderwood really takes pride in its community. Since moving to the Silver Spring Erickson Living community two years ago, Nora has gotten herself elbow-deep in dirt, so to speak. She now leads the Riderwood garden club, maintains two garden areas, and cares for the community circular gardens and flowerpots. Being outside was like a therapy for me when my husband passed, she says, and now it s just a daily comfort to be in the sunshine hearing the birds and smelling the fragrance of the soil, the flowers and other things growing.

Mother Nature s best

Nora sees many benefits to maintaining a garden. She grew up with parents who always planted vegetables, and when she and her husband moved to Prince George s County, Md., and had a yard of their own, they started exploring and growing things. She brought that love and experience with her when she moved to Riderwood. Many people grew up on farms and like to see things grow, Nora says. She sees the benefit to planting something, caring for it, and watching it develop, promoting patience. There s also something about communing with good ol Mother Nature, and getting vitamin D through the sunshine.

Growing season

Riderwood provides 168 ten-foot by ten-foot garden squares for community member use. The 105-member garden club stays active from April to December, but membership is not required to maintain a garden. Nora says that in milder weather, like the previous fall and winter, the gardens bloom through Thanksgiving. The versatile gardens are home to flowers, vegetables, even bonsai plants. Many vegetable gardeners feast on their bounty, but they can donate their surplus to Elizabeth House, a local charity that helps needy neighbors in the Laurel, Md., area. The organization accepts donations of food, money, and volunteer time. When they re not gardening, the club meets monthly to discuss tips and to address any concerns among members such as weeding and groundhogs (who dig tunnels around and under the gardens). One time Nora filled the tunnel in with small rocks; the next day she found the rocks piled into a wall. Clever little things, Nora laughs. The club uses Have-a-Heart traps to relocate the groundhogs elsewhere on Riderwood grounds. The club also hosts guest speakers, like an entomologist from the University of Maryland, College Park, who discussed the evolution and importance of insects.

Gardening for everyone, everywhere

Riderwood gardeners aren t limited to the community garden area. Many garden on their patios, balconies, or windowsills. Lately, Nora has been learning how to grow orchids inside her apartment home. She stresses that everyone is welcome to get up to their elbows in dirt with her, even those who care for houseplants. Gardeners are friendly, happy, helpful people, Nora says. The garden club enables people to get together to share their knowledge and passion for things that grow. And the rest of the community benefits. Neighbors stroll around the gardens, sit on the benches, and take in the view and relax. They even bring friends and family. The gardens are such a peaceful place, Nora says.