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08.12.21 | Sage Advice

Strengthening Communities Through Community Gardens

With summer slowly fading and the harsh months of winter in the distance, the magnetic appeal of growing one’s own vegetables and herbs is more important than ever for many of us. Previously, we’ve talked about the health benefits of gardening and how to raise indoor houseplants, but one hobby we haven’t mentioned is community gardening. 

Community gardens begin as collective spaces managed as a collaborative effort that leverage the expertise, time and energy of fellow gardeners who come together to provide fruits, vegetables and all varieties of fresh produce for anyone in the neighborhood to enjoy. And by their very nature, community gardens also add green space and vibrant beauty to city blocks that may be defined by asphalt and concrete.

With people working closely — literally and figuratively — community gardens improve personal well-being through social connections and have even been found to decrease violence in some neighborhoods. 

Zoe Hansen-DiBello, program manager and visionary at Grow Education, helps promote healthy food access in neighborhoods by implementing community gardens. At TedxNewBedford, Hansen-DiBello explains the all-around engagement and respect that community gardens helped to encourage in a neighborhood close to her. Watch Hansen-DiBello’s talk below. 

Gardens galore in Bronzeville

The popularity of urban farming and the adoption of community gardens can be seen throughout neighborhoods in large cities across the country — including our very own Bronzeville. 

Situated at 4148-4156 S. Calumet Avenue, the Bronzeville Neighborhood Farm connects those living in the neighborhood with the use of green spaces and gardens. Managed by the Bronzeville Alliance and protected by NeighborSpace, the garden is a hub for community members to forge meaningful relationships built on the experience of working together towards a common purpose — tending the gardens and sharing the rich yield of fresh fruits and vegetables with each other and with the community writ large.

The neighborhood is also home to the Bronzeville Community Garden, located at 343 E. 51st Street. Supported by Build Bronzeville, the garden hosts many community events throughout the year including Volunteer Days and Crochet & Conversation meetups. Along with urban farming, the Garden is home to public art projects that enhance the outdoor spaces and provide additional reasons for neighbors to stop.

Starting your own garden

Thinking about starting your own community garden? One of the best places to start, The American Community Gardening Association provides a comprehensive education and resource platform for starting a garden of your own, along with a map of community gardens located across the country. 

A person sits next to a foot stool in a large lot filled with community garden plots. Out of each plot sticks a brightly colored stakes that are numbered. Above the person appears a concrete bridge either for walking or driving.
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06.01.21 | Sage Advice

Starting an indoor herb garden is easy — here’s how

It’s easiest to eat healthy when you cook delicious, fresh, and flavorful food — and incorporating fresh herbs into your home cooking is a great way to add that extra burst of flavor. Lucky for us, you don’t need an advanced green thumb or even a backyard to grow these fresh, delicious herbs yourself, right from the comfort of your own kitchen – here’s how.

Picking Your Plants

There’s a wide array of herbs that will grow and thrive indoors all year round. These plants include basil, chives, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Decide which flavors are your favorite to incorporate in your cooking, and start off with 3-4 different plants. Each plant’s needs will vary slightly, so be sure to plant each herb in its own separate pot so you can adjust your care routine accordingly. 

You’ll often find herb plants, such as basil, available to you in your local grocery store’s produce department. Alternatively, visit your local garden center (Home Depot, Lowes, and Menards are all great resources for this) for a wider array of herb plants to choose from.

The Right Conditions

There are several things that any plant needs to thrive. Before you begin the process of purchasing and planting your fresh herbs, you should determine where in your household the herbs will live. Herbs prefer a lot of sunlight — six hours of full sunlight each day is ideal. Therefore, you should choose the sunniest spot in your home as the location of your herb garden, prioritizing locations that are close to the window, rather than the center of the room. For example: window sills are the perfect spot for an indoor herb garden! Once that’s settled, you can move onto actually planting your herbs.

First you’ll need the right pot. For indoor herbs, be sure to choose a container with ample drainage. You can tell which pots have appropriate drainage by checking for holes in the bottom of the container; these holes will allow water to escape the soil as needed.

Second, it’s important to choose the right soil for your herb. Most herbs do best with a standard indoor potting mix, and will be even happier if that mix is one that advertises good drainage. 

As we mentioned above, be sure to plant all your herbs in separate, individual containers. This ensures that when it comes time to water, you can check the soil of each pot and only water the plants that are in need of added moisture at that time. Because most herbs live in loose, fast-draining soil, you should check your plant’s soil every day (or every other day) to see how much moisture it has retained. Herb plants do best when their soil is slightly moist, but not soggy. Too much watering, and you’ll drown your plant.

When it comes time to harvest and enjoy your fresh herbs, always take in moderation. Regular pruning is good for your plants, but too much at once, and your plant won’t be happy. 

Overall, the more time you spend caring for your herb garden, the better you’ll learn to understand your plants needs. And as you care for your plants, they’ll care for you too, by providing healthy and fresh flavor to all your meals!

A window sill herb garden
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05.04.21 | Sage Advice

The Health Benefits of Gardening

At Sage Collective, our philosophy of vibrant living encompasses everything from engaging in moderate, regular physical activity to eating a primarily plant-based diet and having an active social life. Interestingly enough, gardening touches on all three of these facets of vibrant living at once. Adopting gardening as a hobby brings a wide array of health benefits and beyond — let’s take a look:

Physical Health Benefits

Naturally, spending time outdoors gardening leads to higher levels of Vitamin D exposure. Adequate Vitamin D exposure is particularly important for older adults, as it increases calcium levels, therefore improving bone health and providing a boost to your immune system. The act of gardening is also an accessible, aerobic form of exercise that aids in increased flexibility, strength and stamina. Additionally, if you’re growing a vegetable, fruit or herb garden, all that fresh food is great for your diet! 

Mental Health Benefits

Growing and nurturing a living garden brings with it a deep sense of accomplishment, pride and self confidence. Just look at what you can do with your own two hands! Gardening is also believed to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, one scientific study even posits that inhaling M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that lives in the soil, can increase levels of serotonin – the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feeling of well-being, and overall happiness.

Social and Cultural Benefits

While it can be a solo activity, gardening is also a great way to spend time with family, friends or neighbors. Community gardens in particular help many older adults to combat loneliness, all while contributing to the greater good of their neighborhood. Gardening has long been a way for communities to come together, to nurture each other, and to practice healing, sovereignty and even resistance

At Sage Collective, we advocate for older adults to adopt gardening as part of their lifestyles for all these reasons and more. In support of this belief, we will continue to promote the adoption of community gardens in the residential environments in which we engage older adults (including our own residents currently in development in Bronzeville), as well as bringing farmers’ markets to such communities. Stay tuned for more!

An older African American woman smiling while holding flowers she is about to plant in her garden
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11.25.20 | Sage Advice

Growing Your Green Thumb — With Indoor Houseplants

With winter quickly approaching, in many parts of the country, it’s time to bring the great outdoors… indoors. Keeping houseplants is the perfect way to incorporate nature into your everyday life, even on those days when getting outside isn’t an option. Houseplants also make for lovely additions to home design, help improve indoor air quality and even serve to boost your mood. So today, we’re talking about how you can grow your green thumb indoors by sharing some houseplant 101 tips.

Consider Sunlight

Whenever deciding to add a new houseplant to your home, you first have to consider two primary factors: where will the houseplant go, and how much sunlight will it receive? If your new leafy friend is going to live on a bookshelf by an eastern facing window, you can expect ample sunlight exposure. But if the plant is going in a room without windows that receives little sunlight, be prepared to choose a plant that can thrive in those lowlight conditions.

A good way to gauge whether your houseplant is getting the appropriate amount of light is to inspect the leaves. Yellow leaves signify either a lack of sunlight, or a lack of water. Leaves that begin to brown on the edges, as if burned, are being scorched by too much sunlight.

Watering Regularly

All plants will need regular watering. A good rule of thumb is to water your houseplants once per week, but this may change depending on sunlight and the time of year. Many store-bought houseplants will come with specific instructions.

It’s good practice to choose a specific day for watering (say a Saturday morning) in order to make it into a regular habit. You can also check if your plant needs water by sticking an index finger into the soil. Even if the top of the soil appears wet, if the soil half an inch below is dry, your plant may require more water.

Beginner-Friendly Plants

Choosing what plant will fare best in your home’s specific conditions is an important part of the process. Take the time to do your research before buying a houseplant, or ask a clerk at the store for their help and advice. Those new to keeping houseplants will do best to choose from a list of beginner-friendly options, including pothos, spider plants, snake plants, succulents and cacti. 

Whether you start with just one houseplant, or grow your collection to become an indoor jungle, indoor gardening is the perfect way to introduce vibrant living to your winter months — and beyond.

A wooden shelf is lined with pots of succulents and other potted houseplants
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