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Gardens galore! Tallgrass Creek gardeners enjoy fruits (and vegetables) of their labor

September 17, 2020

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Overland Park, Kans. – Though fall is right around the corner, gardeners at Tallgrass Creek, a senior living community developed and managed by Erickson Living in Overland Park, Kansas, are still enjoying summer's bounty from their well-tended gardens. The fresh produce and beautiful flowers come from 48 garden spaces Tallgrass Creek provides for residents with a green thumb.

The gardens are a short walk from the main entrance to the community, tucked behind rows of yellow lilies and a charming slatted fence adorned with climbing purple clematis. Garden club chairman Larry Tolin notes that gardening has always been a source of joy for him and his wife Diane, especially after sheltering at home during the pandemic.

"Once things relaxed even just a little, we headed to the garden to plant," says Larry. The Tolins enjoy tending their four garden spaces, which yield tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, peas, and lots of okra.

"Our okra plants get about nine feet tall in the fall," says Larry. "We have several ways we like to make it and also freeze it so we can have it all year long."

Plentiful produce

The individual garden spaces measure 10x10 feet, with soil and water provided by Tallgrass Creek. Residents handle the planting and maintenance of their spaces, which produce lush gardens of homegrown fruits and vegetables, leafy lettuces, and eye-popping blossoms.

Another frequent gardener is Calvin Bey, who knows a thing or two about gardening. "People say I should just pitch a tent and spend the night," smiles Calvin. "I love spending time in the garden."

Calvin's background includes impressive advanced degrees in forest management, ecology, and research genetics, which led to a 35-year career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). His unique assignments found him and his wife Doris living in diverse places such as Mississippi, Haiti, and Alaska, where he was involved in ecologically-oriented projects.

"I think I've gardened farther south and farther north than almost anyone," says Calvin, who retired after serving as the USDA's Director of Forestry Management Research. Calvin also developed and taught classes about biointensive (organic) gardening classes in Fayetteville, Ark., where he and Doris lived before moving to Tallgrass Creek. He has gardened organically since 1970, with an emphasis on growing nutrient-dense vegetables that are healthy for the consumer, soil, and environment. Calvin's three garden spaces yield radishes, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, rhubarb, and strawberries, all growing in raised beds he created.

"To make a raised bed, you dig a shallow trench using the soil to build up the area or row next to it," says Calvin. "It improves drainage and warms earlier in the spring, which produces healthier growth."

Calvin also keeps soil covered using hay, or other mulch and grows cover crops such as buckwheat, oats, and peas on soil that isn't being used for gardening. "It promotes microbial life and improves water infiltration, which bring more nutrients to the soil and greatly benefits the plants," says Calvin.

Tons of tomatoes

In addition to lush flowers and a multitude of vegetation, Tallgrass Creek gardeners love their homegrown tomatoes. There are currently about 90 tomato plants growing in the garden, which Calvin says if healthy, can each yield up to 100 tomatoes throughout the season.

"We have all kinds, large and small," says Calvin. "We're always giving them away and there are plenty of takers."

Calvin says that for him and other Tallgrass Creek gardeners, gardening is a wonderful diversion, especially as the pandemic continues.

"Watching something germinate and grow reflects the beauty and fullness of life," says Calvin.

"Gardening is always comforting, but even more so with what we're going through now."

To learn more about the variety of activities and amenities available as part of Tallgrass Creek's vibrant lifestyle, please visit or call 913-897-2700.

About Tallgrass Creek: Tallgrass Creek, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 65-acre campus in Overland Park, Kansas. The not-for-profit community of more than 500 residents and 350 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information can be found at

Written by Mary Bush

Photo Caption: Calvin Bey checks out a tomato plant in one of three garden spaces he tends at Tallgrass Creek. The Overland Park, Kans., community provides 48 garden spaces for residents who enjoy gardening.