In the northern part of the county, three Master Gardeners are picking up where Covid left off at the Oceanway Senior Center Garden.
The garden, as it is now, is inviting; a productive senior center vegetable patch. A series of raised beds are surrounded by mulched pathways. There is a tool closet and a bench. There’s an area for herbs. Blueberries line one fence, and grapes another. There’s even garden art in the center! But things have not always looked so promising.
The garden was shut down, along with the senior center, during the pandemic and weeds took over, some waist high. It has truly been a labor of love to get the gardens back in order. There have been obstacles to overcome, such as weeding, slinging mulch, getting tools donated, and rodents chewing large holes through the drip irrigation pipes. Not to mention the natural Florida wildlife!
But things are coming together to have a beautiful and productive space once more. A recent order of topsoil has given the beds a needed replenishing and PVC pipes are on the way to provide for a rodent proof irrigation system. Already, produce has been harvested and the weight recorded in the garden logbook before being donated to the senior center kitchen. What is not used in the kitchen is donated to the seniors to take home.
In some cases, the food offered at Jacksonville’s senior centers for breakfast and a hot lunch is the only meal (s) an elderly person gets. The City of Jacksonville operates 20 senior centers throughout the city, which is the largest in the United States. At 12 square miles, our city is the county of Duval with an approximate total population of 1 million. 13.8% of Jacksonville’s citizens are over the age of 65 (as opposed to the State’s 21.3%) The Senior Centers are designed to encourage and empower our senior to live active, independent lives as long as they can.
Activities at Jacksonville Senior Centers include: Exercise and Fitness programs; computer classes; Arts and Crafts; Games; various Educational classes; Recreational and Social activities; Health Screenings and services; Special Events and Guest speakers. Senior Centers in Duval County also offer Dances and Dance classes, Clubs, Group Travel opportunities, and much more.
That local master gardeners volunteer to support such initiatives speaks to the character and generosity of gardeners as a general species. Those interested in also volunteering to participate in Senior Center Vegetable Patch should call our extension agent, Tonya Ashworth at (904) 255-7450.