Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update #1 - Cancer Victory Garden in New Jersey

This is great - read on and enjoy the smells! Thanks, Cheryl. :-)

Hi again Diana- Just wanted to keep you posted on our little herb garden at the Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ...

We have sufficient oregano that there is a noticeable scent. It doesn’t quite smell like I’m cooking pizza in my office, but there is nice fragrance when you get near the little oregano sprouts. This has grown so quickly and full that it had to be thinned out.

The dill had to be thinned out too as it was growing too wildly for our little peat pods. The tops of a few of the sprouts are unmistakably dill, with their feathery blooms.
The cilantro has only one or two tiny sprouts that pushed through. And one little leaf looks just like cilantro should. I assume this herb takes a while to grow.
Parsley has pushed past the surface too and seems to be growing nicely.
So we have a little garden! I’m quite excited to prove that growing herbs indoors is simple. Experience is not required. (And I'm glad to avoid the embarrassment of failure). I've sent out a couple of emails to the staff to update them on the herbs. A few people stop by to look. Our IT guy, Francis (he was in the first batch of pix I sent you), bought the same set of 72 peat pods and a bunch of different seeds. He, his wife and their 2 young sons have been having a ball planting and watching the seeds grow at home.
Next, I'll probably be making individual plants for the patients and staff to take home. The man at Home Depot suggested I just use paper cups to re-pot the plants for travel, so I"ll try that. I already bought the potting soil, but the plants aren't ready yet. I'll make sure the plant is labeled on the cup, and I was thinking of providing a recipe along with the plant. My supervisor would love to see this become a full "Cancer Victory Garden" in our courtyard, but I'm not sure about that yet. I'll definitely need some help with that!! I'm planning to take the CSO exam in September and I've started an online study group, so that will be taking up a bunch of my time. But, we'll see what happens.
Cheryl Wachtel, RD

Here are some updated pix:

(Photo Below: Our thinned out herb garden: parsley, cilantro, dill and oregano)

(Photo Below: dill and oregano)

(Photo Below: parsley (first 3 rows), then 3 rows of cilantro. You have to look closely for the cilantro.)

I repeat - this is GREAT! I'll just bet that the staff and patients at your cancer center will jump at the chance to help develop and maintain a Cancer Victory Garden in your courtyard. It is no longer a surprise to me to find there is interest, talent, skill, and love just waiting in the wings to be involved with such a worth-while effort. :-)

Keep us all updated periodically!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Cancer Victory Garden™ is for memories, too

I have a very wide vision for this blog and the concept of a Cancer Victory Garden™. I am fortunate to be using my gardening experiences during the on-going recovery from my own cancer therapies. However, caring for my garden, nurturing new life, is also very important to me because having my hands in the soil both physically and spiritually connects me to all who have gone before me.

Having personally experienced deep sadness and grief from losing friends and relatives to cancer, memories of both past loss and happiness are part of my every day life in addition to contributing to my deep appreciation and gratefulness for each moment of today. Feeling part of the sacred circle of life comes most easily to me when outside in my gardens, while working the soil and tending the plants with the sun on my back, my knees on the ground, and my hands in the dirt.

Thus, I hope this blog will inspire everyone who has been touched by cancer (no matter how, when, or where you are on your personal cancer journey) to get your hands in the soil to first honor life that has been and then cherish and cultivate life for today and life still to come.

I'll end by sharing some of my favorite quotations that combine my love of the land, soil, and gardening with the deepest kinship and respect for our soil's life-force that nourishes us all.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet

is the ashes of your grandfathers.

So that they will respect the 
land, tell your children that the earth
is rich with the lives of 
our kin.

Teach your children what we have taught our children, 

that the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls
 the sons of the earth.
If men spit upon the ground, 
they spit upon themselves.

~~ Native American Wisdom

The land is a mother that never dies.
~~ Maori Proverb

“Land...is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through
a circuit of soils, plants and animals.”
~~ Aldo Leopold

A garden is evidence of faith.
It links us with all the misty figures of the past who also planted
and were nourished by the fruits of their planting.
~~ Gladys Taber

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Accessibility Gardening Tips for People with Physical Limitations

I recently read a discussion about the use of raised beds to meet the needs of gardeners who have physical disabilities, including those who would need to garden from a wheelchair. Although the question that sparked the discussion related to installing raised beds in public parks, I immediately thought the information provided would be very helpful to anyone considering gardening on the grounds of a cancer center, health care facility, or elder-care residence.

I asked permission to reprint the resources and words of wisdom provided on this listserv discussion shared by Dave Wilson of King's Agriseeds in Ronks, PA.

Here are Dave's suggestions, followed by his list of suggested resources for further information:

• Primarily the major factors to consider are accessibility, space allowance, height and reach ranges and designing an accessible route especially for someone in a wheel chair. The size of the pathway between the garden beds needs to be accessible by a wheel chair so that a person in a wheelchair can turn around. There can’t be protruding objects or surfaces that would inhibit someone in a wheel chair and the surface path needs to be “improved” or hardened enough so that a person in a wheel chair would not get stuck as in a wet muddy soil.

• Beds need to be built up above the ground level with wooden sides to fortify them which then lets you raise the soil surface level up to a height that a person in a wheel chair can reach in and access.

• Other planting table beds can be adjusted to a height on a raised bedding table full of soil similar to what we may have in a green house wooden raised table bed that is used to start greens, but the height of the table has to be adjusted so that someone sitting in a wheel chair could reach into the table bed and work by reaching their arm in to seed, transplant, weeding or watering the plants etc.

• The following web site has many good resources listed: http://www.inthecountrygardenandgifts.com/jspece/gardening/accessible.html

• This link specifically about using raised garden designs and shows some pictures of these. http://www.inthecountrygardenandgifts.com/jspece/gardening/raisedbed.html

Also look into:

Adil, Janeen. ACCESSIBLE GARDENING FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Bethesda, ND: Woodbine House, 1994. RM 735.7 .G37 A35 1994

Chaplin, Mary. GARDENING FOR THE PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED & ELDERLY. London: Batsford, 1980. RM 735.7 .G37 C42 1980

Please, Peter, editor. ABLE TO GARDEN: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR DISABLED AND ELDERLY GARDENERS. London: Batsford, 1990. RM 735.7 .P54 1990

Woy, Joann. ACCESSIBLE GARDENING: TIPS & TECHNIQUES FOR SENIORS & THE DISABLED. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1997. RM 735.7 .G37 W69 1997

(Photo: Example of a raised bed that is accessible for a person using a wheelchair)

In addition, I just stumbled onto this article, which gives many specifics about garden designs for people using wheelchairs. I especially liked their recommendation that the entire bed be raised with space underneath either for the person's knees or for storing gardening tools. The second recommendation that I really liked was including a chair or bench for a friend!

If anyone develops a Cancer Victory Garden™ at their cancer center or other health-care facility, I hope you take this information into consideration and find it useful. I was so weak and debilitated during my chemotherapy in 1984 and 1995 that I would have loved to have wheelchair accessible raised beds for gardening. I still remember trying to both plant and weed by lying on my side along some of our gardens, because I was too weak to sit up unsupported. I know your patients will thank you!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD