Senior Garden Project adds beauty, healthy food to Page

The project was headed up by Warren Johnson.

The Senior Garden Project at the Community Center began as a small project just to beautify the backyard a bit. Warren Johnson coordinated the project with occasional help from clients at the Page Community Center. Results of the project wielded more than just a little bit of beauty, but grew into a source of healthy food choices for all.

Two years ago the back patio area of the Community Center had essentially become a storage area for supplies or furniture. The administrators wanted people driving up Lake Powell Boulevard, or who were attending city park events, to see a more beautified building.

The garden is now in full bloom and people driving up main street in Page are starting to notice that over the spring, 20 or so large sunflowers sprouted up and grew to amazing heights of seven to ten feet. Where large wooden butterflies are pinned to the fence, now there are gentle bees, humming birds and actual butterflies stopping in to check out the new source of nectar from the variety of colorful flowers all over the garden.

“My favorite is the flowers,” said Johnson, about the Mexican sunflower. “I have planted these [sunflowers] and they have this type of [velvet] stem that is like silk. It is really neat.”

Johnson also made sure popular salad ingredients and spices were included, such as Armenian squash, cucumbers, parsley, cilantro, mint, sunflower seeds and more.
“People just love fresh tomatoes so we grew seven varieties of tomatoes. There are so many tomatoes we have to give them away.”

The plants are used in the senior center meals, the monthly cooking classes or just given away to clients if they are lucky enough to be there when the overflow is picked.
“Sometimes I just come out here, and if I am hungry, I walk by and just grab and eat,” Johnson jokes as he gives the Chronicle a small demonstration by stuffing parsley into his mouth straight from the garden’s potted spices.

Johnson admits the garden was a project that did need effort and wasn’t without problems. But once the topsoil was bought in and the seeds planted he only used one type of fertilizer.

“I used the hydrogen peroxide mix found at the hardware store,” he said. “That was all I used.”

The hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) technique uses the same kind of hydrogen peroxide as people use for a disinfectant on cuts. Many people cannot relate the two uses but later discover the hydrogen peroxide can oxygenate the soil, germinate the seeds faster, keep the soil aerated in case of overwatering, breaks down parts of the oxygen into water, is a natural insecticide, and also kills mold and mildew.

Of course, the disclaimer is the formula requires a dilution of the hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water and the strength of peroxide should also be acknowledged.
Johnson used the pre-mixed formula from the hardware store in Page so he didn’t get it wrong and now the Senior Garden is healthy and in full bloom.
Plans for how to use the beautified area are still in the works but ideas have been plenty.

One is to redesign the area into a patio that connects the current dining room with the garden area. The patio could be a new source of much needed sunlight along with a nice place to have lunch.

“Debbie Winlock, our Director, thought it would be nice if we could open up the wall and extend the dining room,” said Johnson. “But that is not for sure or how long that would take to finish that. But I thought it was a nice idea. We also have this area on the other side of the fence that is covered with [red pebbles]. I would like to expand [the project] into the area that is covered with rocks. That way people could see the garden instead of the rocks.”

The idea is a suggestion to beautify the park for more family or tourist friendly gatherings.

The outer garden wall could be seen from the city park and visitors are encouraged to refrain from picking the vegetation through the fence. Currently the senior garden is not open to the public but personal tours could be arranged by calling the Community Center at 928-645-2600.

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