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BEACON Senior News

Community gardens keep seniors rooted in wellness

Apr 26, 2024 04:45PM ● By Lisa Lowdermilk
Deerfield Hills Community Garden in Colorado Springs

Sam Gallegos, a Deerfield Hills Community Garden enthusiast, beams with delight at the fruit of his labor: the first red tomato. Photo by Jody Derington

The easy way isn’t always best. Sure, you can purchase cut flowers and fresh produce. But many seniors prefer to plant, water and tend their own plots, or volunteer to help others. Variable temperatures, high winds and less-than-ideal soil conditions make gardening in a semi-arid climate challenging, but the harvest is all the sweeter. No room? No problem. The dozen or so community gardens around Colorado Springs have you covered.

Urban agriculture at its finest, a community garden offers land divided into plots. Individuals cultivate their plot for a modest yearly fee and keep the harvest. 

Community gardens supply better nutrition. Those who work a plot are
3 1/2 times more likely to eat the recommended five servings of vegetables per day. 

These shared spaces boost the city’s environment by improving air and soil quality and increasing the biodiversity of plants and animals. Some even donate produce to food banks. 

Ranch Community Garden designated 16 plots for this purpose. In 2023, volunteers planted, maintained and harvested the food bank plots, sending 440 pounds of fresh produce to local food bank Mercy’s Gate for families in need. 


Located northwest of Widefield, the Deerfield Hills Community Garden features 15 raised beds for improved accessibility. Raised beds allow people in wheelchairs, as well as those with arthritis or other conditions that prevent bending down, to garden comfortably. 

Deerfield Hills Community Garden offers raised beds for accessible gardening.

 Dee Cunningham, 68, executive director for Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, a position that includes overseeing Deerfield Hills, redesigned its space and introduced native pollinators around three sides. 

“The first year, it exploded with hummingbird moths and bumblebees,” she said. 

The nectar-producing flowers and pollinators create a colorful hive of activity. With 15 raised beds and seven larger plots, there’s plenty to keep helping hands busy. Volunteers can let themselves in using a combination lock. 

Station 21 Garden—so-named because of its proximity to Fire Station 21 on Dublin Boulevard—features more than 60 raised beds. It was designed to encourage schoolchildren, neighbors and firefighters to grow plants together. Its location in the northeastern residential areas drew Laurie Mulert, 66, to it. 

“When we moved into this house almost three years ago, I realized the garden was just a five-minute walk from home,” she said. “Years ago, I had a garden in Virginia and figured this would be a nice way to meet local people.” 

Mulert is part of a three-person committee that manages the garden. Help is always welcome.

“There’s no set schedule. Volunteers can come and go as they please,” Mulert said. 

The Mid Shooks Run Community (MSRC) Garden, located near Memorial Hospital Central, organizes events, such as plot planting, plant swaps and potlucks, as well as unscheduled opportunities throughout the planting season (March 1-October 31).

“We aim to be an inclusive space where people come together, build relationships and become active members of their community,” said Amanda Stewart, MSRC Garden guidance committee member. “We [also] empower community members to take ownership of this shared space, participate in decision-making and contribute.” 

Stewart’s go-to resource for gardening is the CSU Extension. 

“CSU Extension is incredible,” Stewart said. “They provide evidence-based research that’s specific to our region.”

There’s a help desk staffed by volunteers working toward their Colorado Master Gardener certification, and they host classes and free webinars. 


Gardening burns 200-400 calories per hour. It works all the major muscle groups, building strength and endurance. 

“Check in with your doctor and do a really good regime of stretching before you start gardening,” Cunningham advised. 

Dee Cunningham (in green) works alongside others in the pollinator garden she designed at Deerfield Hills Community Garden.

 Gardening also helps seniors stretch their budget by supplying fresh organic produce. 

“Produce you’ve grown yourself is nowhere near the cost of produce at the grocery store,” said Jody Derington, 53, park operations administrator for Colorado Springs. It also brings peace of mind. 

“It’s rewarding growing something yourself, knowing there are no pesticides,” said Mulert.

Bite into a ruby-red homegrown tomato, and the robust flavor will keep you coming back for more.


The socializing inherent to community gardens is a bonus. 

“It enhances our health in every direction,” Cunningham said. “It also gives us the ability to teach our grandchildren.” 

New connections with positive, like-minded people stem from working shoulder to shoulder. 

“Not only is gardening incredibly good therapy, it attracts really nice people,” said Pam Hamamoto, 74. She has served as president of the Horticultural Art Society (HAS) for nine years and has gardened for nearly 40.

HAS, a nonprofit, welcomes volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Demonstration Garden and Wednesdays in the Heritage Garden from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. 

“Volunteering is the best way to learn,” Hamamoto said, “and we welcome anyone who wants to help.” 

Located near Colorado College, the HAS gardens are a popular spot to de-stress. The formal Heritage Garden, with its patterned beds, Lorelei sculpture (a German mythical figure), gazebo and arbors is a popular spot for weddings—and yoga. The award-winning Demonstration Garden features a sensory garden, rose beds and even a gnome home.


If you’re still daunted by the prospect of gardening, fear not—you don’t have to start big. 

“Even if you have an apartment or condo, you can still grow something,” Cunningham noted. 

An herb garden in containers works well, and easy-to-grow herbs like basil, oregano and mint add zip to your dishes.

“Start with low-maintenance plants that have been built to survive and thrive,” Stewart suggested.

Examples include zucchini, radishes, peas and tomatoes. 

“Make sure you leave enough space between plants, as they can sometimes grow into others,” Mulert advised. “Have fun, and don’t get too invested.” 

Mulert and Stewart endorse gardening guru Mike McGrath’s quote, “You’re not a real gardener until you’ve killed at least a hundred plants.” 

“There’s nothing funnier than watching a great big honking bumblebee cram its way into a catmint. Seeing little things like that in your garden will cheer up your whole day,” Hamamoto said.

It’s the simple pleasures of gardening in community that makes the hard work worthwhile—and delicious. 

Community Gardens

Horticultural Art Society Demonstration Garden
222 Mesa Road and Glen Ave.

Horticultural Art Society Heritage Garden
1117 Glen Ave.
[email protected]

HAS Annual Fundraising Sale
May 10-11 and May 17-18
Fridays 9 am-5 pm
Saturdays 9 am-4 pm

Deerfield Hills Community Garden
4290 Deerfield Hills Road
[email protected]

Station 21 Garden
7320 Dublin Blvd.
[email protected] 

Mid Shooks Run Community Garden
702 E. Boulder St.
[email protected]

CSU Extension, El Paso County
17 N. Spruce St.

Ranch Community Garden
4625 Ranch Drive
[email protected]

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