Gardening makes for good friends, exercise

Group transforms Lakewood Villas in South Toledo

From left Cathy Jensen, Paula Unferdros, Geraldine Jacobs, Bessie Schuler-Oliver, Mary Frederick, Lorece Brown, Daisy Davis, Judy Day, and Linda Columbi in the Lakewood Villas garden.
From left Cathy Jensen, Paula Unferdros, Geraldine Jacobs, Bessie Schuler-Oliver, Mary Frederick, Lorece Brown, Daisy Davis, Judy Day, and Linda Columbi in the Lakewood Villas garden.

Names: Linda Colombi, Daisy Davis, Mary Frederick, Geraldine Jacobs, Cathy Jensen, Bessie Oliver. Retired service coordinator, licensed practical nurse, barmaid, school-bus driver, apartment complex assistant resident manager, and custodian/school-bus driver, respectively, living at Lakewood Villas in South Toledo. They range in age from 62 to 81.

PHOTO GALLERY: Good Friends' Garden

Garden specs: 50-by-50-feet, fenced, built by the villa’s developer. We rented a rototiller and Cathy did the tilling.

When did you start gardening? In 2012, we made a flyer and circulated it to people in the 90 villas here. Twelve people participated, so we divided the area into 8-by-20-foot plots. This year we have six people working seven plots. We got seedlings from Toledo Grows. We all started gardening at different times in our lives. Linda: When I was little, my mother gave me seeds from something she was going to cook. I planted them and to my surprise, they grew. Then I tried to plant anything, trees, plants, flowers, sticks. Daisy: I grew up on a farm in Swanton. At about 9, I had to help my parents with the corn, vegetable garden, and the animals, including horses, cows, pigs, chickens, and the black and tan coon hounds my father raised. Mary: Off an on for about 20 years. Geraldine: When I was little with my grandmother and mama in Georgia; flowers and vegetables. Cathy: It runs in the family. My ancestors had farms in Oregon, Bono, and southern Michigan. Bessie: I grew up in Mississippi on a farm we worked with a horse. I was afraid of the horse. We had to get up at 5 a.m. to pick and separate cucumbers and set them at the side of the road for pick up. I hated that.

Cherry tomatoes in the Lakewood Villas garden.
Cherry tomatoes in the Lakewood Villas garden.

What do you grow: Tomatoes, green beans, squash, green and purple okra, hot and green peppers, onions, eggplants, zucchini, yellow squash, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, beets, turnip greens, leaf lettuce, herbs, collards, carrots, garlic, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, and flowers.

Favorite plants: Health Kick tomatoes (plum-shaped, fewer seeds than roma, meaty, delicious, and said to have more lycopene, an antioxidant, than any other tomato. Summer and pattypan squash, okra, hot peppers.

Give us a tip: Some of us sprinkle Epsom salts and powdered milk around the base of tomato plants. Geraldine adds baking soda to that mix. Linda: I’m still looking for fish heads, fish tails, fish guts.

Hours spent gardening: After spring, Cathy spends a couple of hours a day, depending on the temperature; others spend a few hours a week picking and weeding.

Annual expense: From $10 to $100.

Challenges: The woodchuck. He gets the tomatoes and cucumbers and carries them back to his home under a nearby pine tree. An ammonia-soaked towel on top of his hole seemed to help as long as the towel was wet, but that’s hard to maintain. Deer jumped the fence and ate some plants early in the season.

Cathy Jensen, left, and Linda Columbi working.
Cathy Jensen, left, and Linda Columbi working.

We’re proud of: Consensus: The way Cathy takes care of the garden and picks up the slack, weeding and watering and even picking and delivering veggies for us. She helps everyone. Linda: I’m proud of growing organic plants. I’m very concerned about GMO food and I want food I can trust. Daisy: The friendships we’ve made gardening. Mary: I just like to get my hands in the dirt and to see things grow. Geraldine: I’m proud of eating out of the ground. I eat cukes and tomatoes every day, and I love my okra and tomatoes together with a little bacon and onions over rice. Cathy: I’m proud of the ladies, that we’re working together and have a successful garden. Bessie: I’m proud of Geraldine. I was gone for six weeks and she took care of my garden and picked and saved beans for me and froze the okra.

What do you get out of gardening? Exercise, good friends, fresh air, food, stress release, getting out of the house, memories of being a little girl.

Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com and 419-724-6075.