Clara’s early harvest.


Clara’s backyard plot


Maggie in her garden.

What is a hobby you can do the rest of your life? Gardening — with adaptations. Take it from a couple of 99-year-olds.

My mom, Maggie, claims that gardening is her psychiatrist. She wants to have a garden even if it doesn’t grow or produce anything she can eat. Just to see it and talk to people about it brings her pleasure.

Another 99-year-old, Clara, is still gardening in her backyard in Jericho, VT, using her walker so she can sit on it if she gets tired. She pulls a few green-tail onions and radishes and then has a rest.

My mom lives in a retirement community, Wake Robin, where the garden is just down the hall. Using her walker or her wheelchair (depending on how she is feeling that day) she goes out to the patio where there is a a waist-high planter. It is out from under the roof overhang, so it catches rain and sun. She has radishes now, with lettuce and carrots on the way. She just planted some swiss chard.

Her favorite tool when she gardened in a raised bed —and before that, in the ground — was a hoe. Her black gold fertilizer was llama manure.
Clara also likes to garden with a hoe and grow shelling peas, cucumbers and potatoes. She sneakily digs out a few new potatoes from the hill before they are fully grown. She started gardening in Charlotte, Vermont at around eight years old when she started milking cows. My mom started as a girl because her father gardened in back of their house in Montclair, NJ.

Their advice to new gardeners: Don’t expect things to come up too soon and don’t get discouraged.

Debbie Page works in the perennial department of our garden center in Williston, VT. She lives in a solar-electrified home, surrounded by 30 acres with raised beds for vegetables and several perennial borders.