Estelle Crowe's planted corn is beginning to tower above her, and Daryl Dyson's lettuce sprouts have him eager to watch them grow and eat the fruits of his labor.
Although confined to wheelchairs, Crowe and Dyson are enthusiastic gardeners, and the new raised garden bed at Inwood House in Silver Spring has made gardening accessible to them and six other wheelchair residents at Inwood.
Inwood House, opened in 1979 as a residence for adults with physical or mental handicaps, offers independent community living and minimal support services, according to officials there. From the basement coffee shop, just a few feet from the garden, many residents watch their neighbors delve and dig in this novel approach to gardening.
One day last week, Crowe watched as the heavy rain fell and worried that it might harm her crop. Crowe has not gardened for many years but her green thumb of old was evident from the success of her corn, cucumbers and mint plants.
The garden is her pet, she said, and she fights with the plants and yells at them while checking them every day for signs of progress. "It's a chore, and it's hot," Crowe said. "Gardens are a lot of work and you might as well plan on that."
Some of her friends at Inwood House said it was too late to plant this year. But she said, "Wait a minute--look at those plants there." And a smile of satisfaction ended the coffee shop discussion.
Dyson, 30, had never gardened and the experience has been enriching, he said. "Despite the limitations I have, I can dig out there, I can use a spade and do what I've got to do."
Dyson is a dedicated gardener now, out every morning at eight to water his lettuce and tomatoes. "It's nice and it's right," Dyson said of the idea to raise the level of the soil. "I started a little late, too, but it's coming out well. I'm going to continue gardening, and I can't wait to try it next year."
The idea for the Inwood garden came from Mary Goodwin, chief nutritionist of the Montgomery County Health Department. She had heard of raised gardens elsewhere and thought Inwood was a perfect location for another. "Gardening is very therapeutic," Goodwin said. "The work with tools and soil is good for muscle control and development.
"The gardeners can grow their own food, eat it, improve their diets and feel better about themselves." Goodwin said results from gardening also can raise self-esteem and encourage self-reliance. "You can't lose," she said. "I'd support this idea anywhere."