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Garden ready

After a cold, harsh winter, Seabrook gardeners are itching to get outside

Created date

March 22nd, 2018
Ed Ganss tends to his garden at Seabrook in late summer.

Ed Ganss tends to his garden at Seabrook in late summer. 


With spring settling in, Ed Ganss is anxious to see if his red bud saplings survived the below-freezing temperatures of the harsh winter. Alongside salvia and tomato plants, Ed cares for saplings in plastic and clay pots in his garden spaces at Seabrook, then transplants them when they’re big enough to areas around the 98-acre campus.

Likewise, Art Strohmer anxiously awaits the first sign of 25 prize oriental lilies he planted last fall.

“I’ll be curious to see how they turn out in the spring,” Art says.

Even though they don’t have to venture outside in the weather because all buildings are connected by climate-controlled walkways, everyone at Seabrook is surely ready for spring to, well, spring!

Dirty business

One select group of neighbors especially awaits spring’s arrival each year.

Seabrook, an Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., has 79, 10- by 10-foot gardens, including 12 raised beds for residents to adopt.

Each gardener belongs to the garden club, whose motto goes something like this: “We want to garden; we don’t want to talk about it,” meaning that they like to get their hands dirty and don’t typically host field trips or guest speakers. They get down to business, meeting twice a year: once in spring and once in fall.

That doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the benefits of group gardening. While each gardener cares for his or her own space—and some care for two—they all look out for each other, sharing ideas, care, plants, and produce.

“All the gardeners know each other, so there’s a lot of socializing, especially on nice days,” says Art.

Colorful variety

Stop by the community garden area on a sunny day, and you’re likely to see people kneeling and planting, assembling trellises, weeding, or plucking a ripe tomato from the vine come late summer.

Friendly smiles abound, and neighbors share gardening tips along with their fresh flowers and vegetables. Residents grow everything from vegetables and herbs to annuals and perennials.

Some gardeners specialize in one type of plant, such as dahlias, gladiolus, tomatoes, roses, or even the Asian fruit bitter melon.

“We have such a tremendous variety of plants,” says Art, who plans to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and Swiss chard in addition to his prize lilies.

The growing season in New Jersey runs from May to September, and sometimes extends into October. Art says gardeners start preparing soil in late April to early May, and they start talking about it as early as March.

Low-maintenance gardening

New community members are often delighted to learn that they don’t have to give up their lifelong pastime when they move to Seabrook.

For many people who move to the Tinton Falls community, the ability to garden without the upkeep of a large yard is a huge selling point.

Seabrook’s grounds department provides mulch and organic leaf compost as well as tilling upon request. Hoses, watering cans, wheelbarrows, and tools are kept in a garden shed. Residents may share, or some use their own tools and store them in the shed for easy access.