Since 1972, Welden Yerby Senior Community Garden in Northeast El Paso, has been a haven for retirees looking for a healthy hobby.
“You know a lot of times life is just so busy at home, but this is a kind of respite to get away and grow and be in touch with nature,” said Ben Avalos, 66, who has been a member of the garden for nine years.
Now the garden, which previously required members to be 55 or older, is lowering its age requirements to 50 to plant the seeds for expanding its membership.
Volunteer Coordinator Joyce Ealey, 77, said the garden has 120 active plots right now. She hopes by lowering the membership age they can fill all 135 garden plots. “I want more people, but we are doing great right now. It’s just been a good year,” she said.
The Welden Yerby Senior Community Garden, at 9175 Stahala, is one of several City of El Paso gardens under the Parks and Recreation Department. It is managed by a volunteer board of governors. Ealey said it started with about 20 members and now has 60 members.
“It’s been a well-kept secret. The garden and the people taking care of it.” said Ealey, who began as a volunteer at the garden while in her 40s, helping one of the members tend their plot.
The oldest gardener that Ealey can remember was 99 years old, but the current oldest member is 91 years old.
“It keeps you young,” she said.
The gardeners pay an introductory membership fee of $87.50 and after that $40 a year. All membership fees go toward garden needs, equipment. Other donations are also welcome. The city supplies some materials for the garden such as topsoil and water. Members are also required to supply their own tools.
Ealey said the garden has a few rules that are strictly enforced. Rules include if a gardener wants to bring guests they need to give a notice in advance.
“Being a member, you agree to keep your garden clean, to be kind to one another, and to not cause any ruckus because we will tell you it’s time to go” Ealey said.
Members are not allowed to garden after sunset when it is dark because the garden does not have lights on the property.
They follow organic farming practices, Ealey said.
“They eat what they grow. You know what’s on it,except for what’s falling from the sky. You know what you put on it, what you used to grow it. Pesticides we don’t use them,” she said.
The board provide several crates in the garden if a gardener wants to share crops on a “first come, first served” basis.
Gardeners also share recipes during member events such as the annual member’s potluck supper. The garden also has two cleanup events per year.
Some garden members have installed their own watering systems in order to tend to their gardens even when they are out of town or too busy to visit their garden in person. Even though their plots are low-maintenance, many still frequent the garden.
“They still come just as much. Sometimes it’s a place to come and just do nothing. Just sit up here or at one of the two gazebos and just relax,” Ealey said.