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Senior Gardens Accommodates Disabled Gardeners

Posted: August 5, 2011

For the first time since the Beaver County Senior Gardens were established in 1986 as a joint effort between Penn State Extension in Beaver County and the Beaver County Office on Aging (BCOA), disabled seniors can once again enjoy their passion for planting, growing, and harvesting their own crops at the newly constructed accessible gardens.
Mike Durham at one of the newly constructed accessible gardens. Photo by Chuck LeClaire/Beaver County Senior News

Mike Durham at one of the newly constructed accessible gardens. Photo by Chuck LeClaire/Beaver County Senior News

Mike Durham, a Beaver County Penn State Master Gardener and chair of the Senior Gardens Project, explains, “We wanted to demonstrate how gardening can be made available to those with limited mobility. One of our senior gardeners is disabled, and we wanted to build a raised bed so he could return to gardening, something that brings him a lot of joy. He was our inspiration for this.”

With help from the BCOA and Valley Care Association’s Home Safe Home program, the project came to fruition in June. John Seitz of Home Safe Home offered design ideas and manual labor, and local contractor Carlo DelTurco also donated his expertise and labor. Funding was provided by Penn State Extension in Beaver County, BCOA, and Home Depot while the County of Beaver helped by donating materials. And of course, local Master Gardeners volunteered their time and efforts to bring the project to completion.

Five raised beds and an arbor were constructed on the newly poured concrete pad. Large pots were placed around the perimeter of the gardens, along with fencing and water barrels for easy water access. All of these elements will allow a gardener who uses a wheelchair to grow vegetables & flowers in the beds and containers as well as grow vine plants on the arbor. The area is large enough to accommodate up to three gardeners in wheelchairs.

“It really is a model garden,” Mike comments. “We want to present this project to nursing homes, private care facilities, or anyone who would be interested in learning how to build a similar area for disabled gardeners. It was quite a learning experience for us, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned in the process.”

Practically every day, you’ll find several of the Beaver County residents ages 60 and older who garden at the site (located on County property near Friendship Ridge) tending their plots. Most are there one to two times a week to weed, cultivate, and watch for garden pests, while others are there every day. Master Gardeners maintain several demonstration gardens at the site for evaluation purposes and to help the senior gardeners learn about composting, mulching, fertilizing, pest control, and organic techniques. MGs are also available to give advice, lend a hand, trade stories, and socialize with the senior gardeners.

Senior residents of Beaver County who are age 60 or older who are interested in this program are encouraged to call Penn State Extension at 724-774-3003 to be placed on the senior gardens interest list for 2012. Current senior gardeners will have the opportunity to keep their plot for next year, and any available plots will be assigned on a first-come, first served basis. Garden plots are either 20x15 feet or 20x30 feet, and you may share your plot with a friend or relative if you desire. There is no cost for a garden plot, although access to municipal water is available for a very nominal fee for the entire growing season (typically May through October).

(Article reprinted with permission from Beaver County Senior News, August 2011.)