Pat Bird and Alverna Cantrell work hard to keep the flower beds and vegetable gardens healthy at Manor of the Plains. Turns out, gardening is doing the same for them.
Both women say working the soil and tending the plants is good for their own bodies, minds and souls. “It’s really good therapy,” Alverna said.
The community gardens at Manor of the Plains are thriving this season, due in large part to the work of these residents and many other volunteers. This year, residents were allowed to adopt a raised bed to grow their own produce or flowers, with help from volunteers like Alverna, Pat, and Activity Director Lisa Montoya.
“It is a community thing, really,” Alverna said. “Health care adopted a bed this year, and Lisa was taking their produce in.”
Pat, who moved here last fall, has enjoyed helping Alverna this first growing season.
“I just like to play in the dirt,” said Pat, who used to farm alongside her husband. “I like to plant a seed and see what materializes.”
Alverna also grew up on a farm and said she always found a place to plant something. Even here, she said, almost all of the apartment residents have a few pots of plants on their patios. In her six years living here, Alverna said residents have grown cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, okra, onions, potatoes, jalapeño peppers and, of course, tomatoes. And there’s always a surplus to share.
The act of watching and helping something to grow is wonderfully satisfying, Alverna said. Gardening can be great physical activity, but it’s also good for overall wellness – even if you’re just enjoying the view. “When I leave the dining room after lunch, I usually just cut through the garden and take a walk around and look at it,” she said.
Pat prefers to cultivate flowers; if you have seen the riot of zinnias, marigolds and cosmos among the beds, that’s her handiwork. She’s full of gardening tips – just ask her how banana peels can make your roses “wake up and say howdy.” She also plays bridge and makes ceramics, and her zest for living is as bold as the colors in her garden.
“I’m 88, and people say you don’t act like you’re 88,” Pat said. “You’ve got to keep stimulated, because if you don’t, you just die on the vine, really.”