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From buds to blossoms

Garden club sprouts fruits, flowers, and friendships

Created date

June 25th, 2013

The Garden State lives up to its name this month as gardens across the state become lush with greens, reds, pinks, yellows, and purples. To see a fine display of gardens, visit Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, where residents plant and manage eighty 10- by 10-foot gardens from April to October. You ll find vegetables, flowers, and herbs a colorful collage that the whole community and its visitors enjoy all season long.

Low-maintenance gardening

For many people who move to Seabrook, the ability to garden without the upkeep of a large yard is a huge selling point. It gives people who gardened when they lived in a house a place to plant and exercise without the burden of maintaining a large yard. I would have moved here had there not been an opportunity to garden, but it s certainly a plus, says garden club secretary and co-chair Art Strohmer, and general services offers quite a bit of support. The general services team cleans up the gardens and paths at the start and end of every season. They rototill garden beds by request, and remove weeds in spring. General services has done a very good job, Art says, adding that they won t rototill any garden unless asked because many people plant perennials that could be hiding under the soil in early spring. Raised beds, installed by general services, make planting and weeding easier. While not all beds are raised, garden club members can request a thigh-high bed to help them avoid bending and kneeling. We have people in their 90s out there gardening, says master gardener Bea Gardella, and the raised beds really are a delight. The club shares tools, stored in two sheds near the community gardens. When people move here, they donate tools. We have just about any tool you could ever need, says Art, who donated shovels, rakes, and other items upon moving to Seabrook. Seven of my family members live at Erickson Living communities, so I knew about the gardens before I came, and I brought my tools.

Flowers to friendships

Aside from providing low-maintenance gardening opportunities, the community gardens provide an outlet for camaraderie. Gardeners enjoy meeting each other, chatting amongst the greenery, and sharing tips. You get to know the people who are out there all the time and develop a friendship, Art says. He visits the gardens at least once a day when he takes his daily walk around campus. Many people, he says, spend even more time in their gardens. It s great exercise. Gardeners also share their goods, from flowers to fruits. While some gardeners grow only flowers, others grow produce like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and herbs. Where there s an abundance of vegetables we often share with each other, or we take it up to the chefs, Bea says. Seabrook s two restaurants and caf graciously accept the homegrown, organic vegetables to serve patrons. Art plants both flowers and vegetables, having cared for several flower beds and a 15- by 20-foot vegetable garden at his house in Sayreville, N.J. Bea plants mostly vegetables in her community garden bed, while she saves the shaded area outside her apartment home for perennials and other flora, like delphinium, astilbe, and chrysanthemum. And she has been known to grow garlic and herbs under her window too. Inside her apartment home, Bea propagates plants, starts seedlings, and houses potted plants during cold winter months. By early April she had already planted lettuce, white hydrangea, and bleeding heart. I m ready to get planting! Bea said in April. By now, her garden is bursting with blooms.