INDIANA GARDEN CLUB GETS GROWING WITH PLANT AMERICA
Ambitious rooftop garden therapy project for military veterans
fosters pride, reaps health benefits
Plant America, a new national initiative launched by National Garden Clubs Inc., is rooted in community service—and more than 50 United States military veterans at an apartment complex in Gary, Ind., are the first to reap the healthy benefits from a local garden club’s ambitious rooftop garden therapy project.
Hobart Garden Club in Hobart, Ind., located near Gary and southeast of Chicago, Ill., is the first garden club in the nation to be awarded an NGC Plant America Grant from The Espoma Co., a leader in providing natural and organic products for the lawn and garden industry. NGC and Espoma formed a partnership in May to recognize the valuable resources garden clubs contribute to communities. Based in Millville, N.J., Espoma will award organic plant foods and potting soils toward Plant America projects to 20 NGC-member garden clubs across the U.S.
A rooftop vegetable garden gets growing with the help of (pictured left to right) Veronica Walkar-Davis, Frederick Owens, Tony Owens and James Pavelka.
The rooftop garden therapy project stems from an outreach to the garden club from the manager of the Veterans Wellness program at Methodist Hospitals in Gary, who, in addition to the coordinator for the hospital’s Diabetes Self-Management Education program, was interested in a gardening project that promotes healthy eating for nearby apartment residents. The successful collaboration led to an idea for a therapy garden on the roof of the apartment complex, and garden club members began to research available funding for the project. In addition to the grant from Espoma, funding also was provided by the hospital.
Garden club members worked closely with local garden centers that offered discounted plants and vegetables—resulting in the cultivation of 800 plants, including 20 different types of vegetables. Daily meals for the veterans are supplemented by the abundant, healthy produce they grow. In addition, kitchen staff members at the hospital volunteered to assist in harvesting and storing vegetables.
The elevated design of garden planters provides easy access for gardeners
Vegetable plants are growing and producing thanks to the efforts of garden club members and veterans.
‘The best garden therapy ever’
As members of National Garden Clubs can attest, gardening offers myriad health and therapeutic benefits. “The residents assist with planting vegetables and through their gardening efforts, experience the best garden therapy ever,” said James Pavelka, member of Hobart Garden Club. In addition, garden club members hung attractive plants in hanging baskets around the area, which now serves as a gathering place and social hub for apartment residents.
Hobart Garden Club members will provide ongoing gardening support. The garden club’s future plans include raising funds for the construction of a greenhouse at the complex so veterans can enjoy gardening year-round, as well as building a large garden on ground level to provide produce for the community.
The scope of Plant America projects includes community beautification and/or restoration; community gardens; school and/or classroom gardens; landscaping for Habitat for Humanity homes; landscaping for Blue Star Memorial Markers; the implementation of environmental practices; or a public event that offers horticultural or environmental education. Individual NGC member garden clubs may apply for a grant up to $1,000 toward direct expenses for projects from the Plant America Community Project Grant program.
“For nearly 90 years, NGC members have tapped into the gardening needs of their local communities. These community-service efforts—often accomplished with limited resources—forge relationships, strengthen community ties and fill a need for sources of food or create beautiful public spaces,” said NGC President Nancy Hargroves. “The NGC Plant America Community Project Grant program, along with like-minded partners such as The Espoma Co., provides NGC members with needed funds to put garden plans into action.” n
Photos courtesy of
Hobart Garden Club
Articles and photo graphs reprinted with permission by The National Gardener, Fall 2017.