Submitted by Faye Mahaffey
OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer
OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteers meet monthly during the growing season with an enthusiastic group of Veteran Gardeners at the Ohio Veterans Home at Georgetown, Ohio. Large raised beds in the courtyard are accessible to gardeners that have limited movement capabilities. We help amend the soil, till, plant, mulch, or complete any other jobs as needed by the Veteran gardeners. Most of all we look forward to making new gardening friends as the summer growing season progresses.
We met in March with twelve Ohio Veterans Home residents that were ready to talk about planting their raised bed gardens. We like to take time to interview each gardener to find out how long they have been interested in gardening, who taught them how to garden, what is their favorite vegetable to plant and eat, and what benefits they gain from gardening.
Most of the Veteran gardeners started gardening with their parents or grandparents when they were youngsters. Some gardeners simply taught themselves through trial and error. Several Veterans didn’t become interested in gardening until they became residents. Stories were shared about the family working together in the garden raising all the food they would eat.
When asked what are the benefits they gained from gardening, the answers included: 1) Feel good inside, 2) Gives a sense of accomplishment, 3) Exercise, 4) Fresh air, 5) Doing something productive, 6) Getting away from the TV, 7) Keeps them busy, 8) Being able to eat what you grow, 9) Doing something with your own two hands, 10) Helps make them healthier, 11) Watching the miracle of Nature, and 12) It beats lying around in bed.
When I looked around the room on that March day, the room was alive with conversation about growing tomatoes, how to keep weeds out of the garden, tips for growing the best carrots or corn, and the simple love of gardening.
What is the favorite vegetable to plant? The most popular answer was tomatoes. One Veteran gardener told me that for every cherry tomato he stood and ate in the garden, he had to toss one to his old hound dog who was eagerly awaiting his favorite treat from the garden!
What is your favorite vegetable to eat? The answers included: tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, onions and peppers. One gardener said his favorite was that first “mess” of green beans, with potatoes and a ham hock! I must admit that I was hungry after that comment.
One of our favorite discussions with the Veteran Gardeners is the string bean versus the string-less bean. I don’t care what you say about how good those string beans are, I can’t stand that string!
We shared stories about our biggest tomato harvest and one of the Veteran Gardeners shared that he had won first place at the Brown County Fair with his prized zucchini!
One of our Master Gardener Volunteers, Susan Barber, will be starting tomato plants again this year for the Ohio Veterans Home gardeners. She has been donating her plants and time for 9 years.
We started working with the Veteran Gardeners in 2010. There were 8 gardeners that year, and since then we have averaged about 13 gardeners a year.
We meet on the third Tuesday of the growing season (rain or shine). Working with these Veteran Gardeners provides opportunities for education and conversations. Gardens are planted and cared for; friendships are formed, and spirits are raised.