With a little help, some Wyandanch seniors start their own gardens (Newsday)

(Newsday) – Wyandanch seniors are getting their hands dirty and loving every minute of it. Nonprofit Sustainable Long Island and PSEG Long Island have partnered to create garden beds at the Wyandanch Senior Nutrition Center. On Friday, center attendees helped fill seven planting beds with 12 types of fruits, vegetables and herbs ranging from strawberries to tomatoes to parsley

“I’m so excited,” said Doreen Morrison, who comes to the senior center about four times a week. “I’m looking forward to the reap!” The 65-year-old used to have a garden in her native Jamaica but went years living in Brooklyn without one. Now living locally, she said she’s already bought the soil to start her own home garden. “This gives me inspiration,” she said of the center’s garden, which she helped fill with turnip, cucumber and rosemary plants.

PSEG Long Island provided a $10,000 grant for the garden, and volunteers from the company built the beds and filled them with soil. Gabrielle Lindau, director of Sustainable Long Island, said the 4-foot-by-4-foot beds, raised about 3 feet off the ground, allow for more plantings and less weeds while also keeping out hungry predators. The raised beds also make it easier for the elderly to maintain, she said, with some beds lowered to accommodate those in wheelchairs. Lindau’s group will do occasional checkups, but they’ve also been teaching the seniors skills that they hope will help keep the garden maintained. “The idea is to really make this garden self-sustaining,” she said.

The center serves 60 to 70 seniors daily and provides meals to four satellite centers in the town. Center director Alicia Portwine said that as the garden is harvested, the center will use the fruits, vegetables and herbs in their meals. “Many of my seniors have left homes and don’t have their own gardens anymore so this gives them the opportunity to maintain something small with a group of friends and get the fresh vegetables that they usually have to go outside the community to get,” she said.

Portwine said she hopes to get other community members involved in caring for the garden, making it a multi-generational effort. Madeline Quintyne, commissioner for Babylon Town’s department of human services, was on hand with other town officials for the unveiling of the garden. “For the community, this gives them a great sense of pride,” she said.

Myrie Henry, 67, said he is looking forward to caring for the plants and appreciates the raised beds because he doesn’t have to bend over to work. “It’s good therapy,” he said of gardening. “It keeps your body and mind busy, which is important.”

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To learn more about Sustainable Long Island’s mission, please visit http://sustainableli.org/who-we-are/our-mission/

Photo Credit: James Carbone

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