Bringing Raised Garden Beds to a Senior Residence in Pennsylvania

The garden beds at Kirkland Village were filled with a hugelkulture mix.

Health and Wellness thru on-site gardening

Gardeners everywhere have heard about the physical and mental health benefits of gardening, and for seniors, those rewards are even more important. Research shows that gardening relieves stress, increases serotonin levels, boosts the immune system, is good exercise, and may lower the risk of dementia. In fact, just being in nature and enjoying plants has a lot of benefits too.

When gardening is incorporated into senior living facilities, it creates community, offers connection, and provides comfort. For one, if gardening was a pastime that residents previously enjoyed, they don’t have to give that up. Seniors can still enjoy their “beautiful home” garden and atmosphere that they may have spent many years creating. The growing of food to share offers a sense of accomplishment, work, and contribution that improves morale. Community gardens allow the residents to come together and do something they enjoy. They can continue with a treasured hobby and also make new friendships and stay connected to other residents.

The garden beds at Kirkland Village.

Tall Raised Beds by Durable GreenBed are accessible, durable, and easy to maintain

The makers of Durable GreenBeds are dedicated to keeping gardening manageable for seniors. Several Durable GreenBeds were recently installed in a senior residence in Pennsylvania, and the residents are set to enjoy a colorful growing season because of it.  

Fred DeAntonis lives at Kirkland Village in Pennsylvania, which is a CCRC, or continuing care retirement community. This means it has everything from independent living apartments to skilled nursing, memory care, and personal care. Kirkland Village previously had a garden on the grounds, but given some recent new construction, those garden beds had to be relocated. DeAntonis is the Chair of the gardening committee, and he says he started thinking about what would help make gardening more accessible to the other residents. Since DeAntonis had gardening experience, he knew what he felt would work best.

“I started thinking that it would be easier for some of the people to not have to bend down so much and still be able to garden by using raised beds,” he says. “And I also wanted something that would last a long time, so I started looking for raised beds online.” He found the Durable GreenBed website, and brought the idea to the resident gardening committee.

Advantages of Complete Garden Bed Kits

The committee liked that Durable GreenBeds are made from recycled materials and the fact that they’re long lasting and usable for years, without having to worry about replacing them. “Garden beds are usually made out of wood and they don’t last very long,” DeAntonis says, “and the price point was reasonable, it was within what we wanted to spend.”<

Not only that, but DeAntonis says Durable GreenBed owner Tom van Denend was helpful at every step along the way. And, the raised garden bed kits proved to be easy to install with “no particular skills” and nothing more than a power drill, a mallet, and a level. The group purchased three of the 4×8-foot beds and three of the 4×4-foot beds. They were delivered and installed last November. “That’s a good time to do it because then you can put in most of the material that you want to fill them with and they get a chance to winterize,” DeAntonis says.

The garden beds at Kirkland Village were filled with a hugelkulture mix.

Soil Choices for Deep Raised Garden Beds

Given the nearly two-foot depth of these beds, at 22 inches high, filling them with nothing but topsoil wouldn’t be wise. Tom told DeAntonis about hugelkulture and the gardening committee took that advice. Hugelkulture is an ancient, tried and true gardening method commonly practiced by Germanic cultures. Hugelkulture beds need less water, as the woody material soaks up water and very slowly releases the moisture. It creates rich soil as the wood slowly decays. The decaying wood also produces heat, which warms the beds faster.

“We put in branches and all kinds of scrap wood in the bottom half of the boxes and surrounded them with mushroom soil, and then put some more soil on, and left it that way over the winter,” DeAntonis says.

This spring, as the weather started to warm up, they topped everything with a few inches of good topsoil and mixed everything together. The residents have already planted some early spring crops like snow peas and lettuces, and are now adding more plants to the beds.

Adding Vegetables to a Senior Raised Garden

Prior to the new garden beds, Kirkland Village had some garden beds strictly for flowers, which were made from pressure treated wood. “And, you know, they’re not as attractive and they’re actually more expensive when you factor in long term durability,” DeAntonis says. Kirkland Village has an active flower committee, which makes flower arrangements for the community out of the flowers they grow. At least one of the new beds will be planted with flowers, while others will be planted with vegetables.

DeAntonis has lived at Kirkland Village for three and a half years. Although he enjoyed gardening at his home, he will not miss the rototilling and all of the other maintenance that came with it. Van Denend, through Durable GreenBed, is so committed to maintaining gardening as an activity for older residents that he offers volume discounts on Durable GreenBeds to communities building larger gardens, like Kirkland Village. Ready to look at the durable raised garden beds for seniors that will bring gardening to your senior center? Learn more about Durable GreenBeds for senior center gardens.