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Seeds of the good life

Organic gardener harvests bumper crop at Highland Springs

Created date

March 20th, 2015
resident tending to her garden

Eldora Chambers has always preferred outdoor gardening to indoor housework.

“I’d much rather dig in the dirt than wash dishes,” says Eldora, who can often be seen tending her gardens at Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas where she lives.

Eldora’s knack for growing organic vegetables stemmed from necessity, as her son wasn’t able to digest processed foods.

“Whole Foods wasn’t around at the time,” says Eldora. “In the early 1970s, my husband Gerald and I purchased a house off Churchill Way in Dallas with a large lot to accommodate a vegetable garden.”

Continuing education

Eldora threw herself into the process of growing organic vegetables in the 80- by 80-foot garden they built in their backyard.

Her bumper crops yielded spinach, onions, beans, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, okra, corn, and carrots.

“When neighbors would rake leaves in the fall, we’d haul their bags of leaves into our backyard where we would shred them and use the shredded leaves as mulch,” says Eldora. “The next season, we’d turn the shredded leaves into the soil.”

Eldora is a self-taught gardener who judiciously studied her encyclopedia of organic gardening and each issue of Organic Gardening magazine.

“In addition to the shredded leaves and barnyard fertilizer, I used dried molasses, bone meal, rock phosphate, and blood meal as fertilizers,” says Eldora. “I really worked on the soil and built it up to yield the best produce.”

A community of gardeners

Thirty-three years after they moved to the house on Churchill Way, Gerald and Eldora were ready to be free of the chores associated with home maintenance.

“I loved working outdoors at that house, but it was time for a change,” says Eldora. “A friend invited us to visit the sales center for Highland Springs, which wasn’t built yet.”

Gerald and Eldora liked the amenities planned for Highland Springs and joined the priority list, ensuring their place in line for the floor plan of their choice. They moved to their two-bedroom, Oxford-style apartment in October 2006, shortly after the community opened.

“I’m one of the original members of the Highland Springs Garden Club,” says Eldora. “We meet once a month to share gardening tips and enjoy guest speakers.”

Eldora has five 8- by 8-foot gardens at Highland Springs, where she plants green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, black-eyed peas, spinach, and lettuce. The square gardens, located around Highland Springs’ sprawling campus, are available to residents for their gardening endeavors. She also grows several plants in the community’s greenhouse.

“I still like to cook and enjoy using fresh produce in my recipes,” says Eldora. “I share the rest of my vegetables with my neighbors.”

Full calendar

When she’s not digging in the dirt, Eldora has a full calendar of activities. She takes an aerobics class five mornings a week, dances with the Highlandettes, plays bridge, acts with the drama club, and volunteers at the community’s continuing care neighborhood.

“Gerald passed away in 2013, and I was so thankful to be living at Highland Springs,” says Eldora. “I’m surrounded by friends, and I’ve got my little routine each week. It’s a good life.”