Drive up to the entrance of the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center and there between the parking lot and the front door, you’ll see them: waist-high wooden gardening boxes overflowing with ripening tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, radicchio and spices.
They’re part of the “Senior Sowers” gardening initiative launched through a collaboration of the Senior Center, the Gulfport Merchants Association and the Gulfport Community Garden to introduce seniors to gardening.
“We’ve had some serious interest,” Senior Center Coordinator Rachel Cataldo said Friday, April 8. “We get people coming in all the time, stopping, looking, asking what’s going on with it, can be they be involved.”
The project, started as part of the 2016 Martin Luther King Day Day of Service effort, is still in the development stages. Six boxes are currently being used; another seven are ready to be filled and planted as soon as more volunteers sign up, Cataldo said. Organizers eventually hope to have a group that meets on a regular basis to learn about Florida-specific gardening.
Among the most avid participants is Elsa Menis of South Pasadena. In the past she always gardened, she said, but now she lives in an apartment and misses it.
She loves seeing something come out of nothing, she says. “It’s the emotional satisfaction of seeing it growing and getting our hands dirty.”
She and her husband Elias are there tending to the boxes almost every day, watering, weeding, pruning. Menis says gardening is much easier with the tall wooden boxes. “Try it, you’ll like it,” she says encouragingly. “We can do more, but we need more people.”
The program is open to anyone participating in the Senior Center. When the vegetables are harvested, those who helped will get first pick of the produce, Cataldo said.