CATONSVILLE, MD (May 2, 2016) -- -- Before Rose Wolford ever moved her first piece of furniture into her new apartment home at Charlestown retirement community she was getting her hands dirty in her new garden.
"I actually obtained my garden before I moved in," says Rose. "I brought over a few plants from my house, including some annuals and two low-growing woody plants."
Raised in Pennsylvania, Rose discovered she had a green thumb when she was just four years old. She later built a career as a landscape designer.
"We grew our own food, more out of necessity than pleasure," says Rose. "My mother would always let me have a row in the garden where I could plant flowers, and I really loved it."
This spring, as soon as the threat of frost subsided, Rose was eager to get her garden going.
"Once it's fit to be outside, I'm out there," says Rose. "I have always loved growing flowers, so I planted an ornamental flower garden. I chose colors that would complement my apartment so that I can cut bouquets and bring them inside."
In a nearby garden, Charlestown resident Patricia (Pat) Kasuda grows tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, and zucchini.
"I enjoy being outdoors," says Pat. "I go to my garden daily and either weed, pick, or groom my plants. Gardening is great exercise, and I like meeting fellow gardeners, listening to their experiences, and learning new ways to do things in the garden and in the way of preparation such as canning and freezing."
A graduate of the Master Gardener program through the University of Maryland Extension, Pat, along with fellow gardener David Pollitt, oversees the community gardens located in the green area outside the Charlestown Square Clubhouse. The square spaces are available to Charlestown residents on a first-come, first-served basis.
"We remind gardeners of the guidelines regarding weeding, use of chemicals, allowing plants to overgrow plot areas, etc." says Pat. "We also coordinate volunteers to keep the common areas clean and the grass mowed.
A nearby community tool shed houses rakes, shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows, hoses, as well as two tillers. The Charlestown Grounds Department provides complimentary mulch and compost.
A retired Presbyterian minister, David moved to Charlestown from a small farmhouse in Harford County where he grew his own fruits and vegetables.
"We had about 9,000 square feet of gardens," says David. "I grew everything you can think of, from asparagus, green beans, and lettuce to strawberries, peaches, and apples. We ate our share and distributed the rest to friends and family. We also made strawberry preserves and applesauce."
In spring 2012, just a few months after moving to Charlestown, David planted his first crop of strawberries, lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, and a variety of other vegetables. Since then, he has acquired two additional gardens.
"One is completely dedicated to just strawberries," says David. "The other two have all the vegetables. Last year,, we froze some of our green beans and peppers and enjoyed cooking with them throughout the fall and winter."
This year, he will grow more of the same and with the exception of his tomatoes, he already has many of his plants in the ground.
"I usually wait until mid-May to put my tomatoes in the ground," says David. "Last year, I started some of them from seed in containers, but the stems were weak and flimsy. So this year, I'm going with plants instead."
Many gardeners at Charlestown grow more than what they can eat and are happy to share their bounty. Extra fruits and vegetables are left for the taking on a table located near the gardens, but they don't last long.
In late summer, the gardeners hold a picnic prepared with the fruits of their labor.
"It's an opportunity to get together and grill hot dogs and have a fun-filled afternoon sharing the goods and the not so goods of the growing season," says Pat.
As for Rose, fresh flowers aren't the only thing she's growing. Working in her garden has also allowed her to cultivate new friendships.
"I've met quite a few fellow gardeners," says Rose. "It's been a great way to get to know people, especially since I'm relatively new."