Gardening can be intimidating for the first time gardener!  Challenges include knowing when to start planting, how to supplement the soil, and dealing with garden pests. In the spring of 2017, Growing Hope’s Home Vegetable Garden Program partnered with Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels to encourage gardening among low income senior residents of Ypsilanti. The program hoped to address some of these challenges and share the many benefits of home vegetable gardening such as enjoying fresh home-grown vegetables and herbs, saving money, spending more time outdoors, increased exercise, and learning an enjoyable new skill.

“I like fresh vegetables and just like to watch things grow. It’s rewarding to me and therapeutic. Makes me want to go outside more,” said one participant. Participants watched their vegetables grow in raised beds supplied and installed by staff and volunteers from Growing Hope. Many of our participants had limited mobility or space, and we worked to make gardens as accessible and as easy to use as possible by designing them to fit the individual needs of each resident. 

One of the seniors in the program, Maria Garcia, has been a gardener for most of her life but recently discovered that she can no longer bend down or kneel to tend her garden as she used to. She greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in the program and receive a higher raised bed garden that allows her to continue growing. She has been very enthusiastic about her experience with the program and stated that, “To do something like this for the elderly who may be physically impaired and would normally have to give up gardening is such a blessing. It allows them to tend to their own garden and reap the fruits of their labor in a physically comfortable position. I just love it!”

Designed to educate, support, and supply alternative food options to low income residents of Ypsilanti, 75% of households served by the 2017 Home Vegetable Garden Program had incomes below $25,000 and 25% had incomes below $12,000.  Out of the 81 people served by the program, 53 were seniors, and 28 were children. All participants reported that they ate more fresh vegetables with the addition of their new home vegetable garden where they grew green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, kale, radishes, and a variety of fresh herbs. The produce was an important, cost-free addition to their home menus and family activities during the growing season!