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April 6, 2021

The Gardening Club grows community connections at ECS

 

With the longer days of spring, thoughts turn to planting, especially for members of the Gardening Club at MonteCedro, which has blossomed to nearly 20 members.

Started about six years ago, the club grew out of residents’ desire to maintain their connection to the soil and the seasons. Kate Berman, a resident at MonteCedro, is one of the two original co-founders, along with Gretchen Perry, who was “really the founding force,” Kate says.

John Mayfield became a club member when he first arrived at MonteCedro. “When I joined, I volunteered to make some of the gardening boxes,” he says. And he’s been an avid participant ever since. Along with raised beds and boxes, the club also has some half-wine barrels that hold plants. Kate says they’re ideal for plants such as trailing geraniums, which form part of the garden, bringing happiness to anyone who looks at them. John acts as a kind of barrel bank, taking back barrels others no longer need and providing them to those looking to extend their gardens.

Both Kate and John share a lifelong love of gardening. “I’ve been gardening since I was a kid,” John says. Kate loves to grow herbs and vegetables, while John’s preference is flowers. Along with Irises, John enjoys growing the state flower, the California poppy.

Kate turns her green thumb to growing eggplants, sweet peppers, beets, zucchini, summer squash, jalapeños, eggplant and herbs. And she always has a barrel full of basil. “I cook a lot. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t use something from the garden.” She says she is particularly popular during the tomato season. “In the summer, everyone wants a friend with tomato plants,” Kate laughs. Right now, she’s pulling a lot of kale and herbs from her garden. By the end of March, the first tomato plants will be in the soil.

Another Gardening Club member, Mary Helen Crew, truly enjoys the concept of communal gardening and was thrilled when additional raised gardens were built by her fellow residents. For over 25 years, she and husband Ernie had been members of the Altadena Community Garden, which was established in 1970.  The MonteCedro garden allows her to visit her new garden nearly every day. As an organic gardener, she plants seasonal vegetables and especially loves growing flowers that she arranges into bouquets for family, friends, and staff.

The Gardening Club meets once a month and has grown to be a success. Kate says it’s a great activity for everyone. People share their tools, supplies and tips from a lifetime of experience. One resident has plants that her husband started 28 years ago, and they are still thriving.

During these COVID times, the Gardening Club has remained a source of social connection. Residents could still spend time outdoors tending to their gardens and connect with others while maintaining the appropriate social distance.

“Gardening is so important,” Kate says. “It’s exciting to see something you planted take root and grow.” Like the gardening club itself.

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