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Garden-grown delights: Union Central residents enjoying fresh veggies this summer

Union Central Senior Living resident Ken Holt stands in the midst of the small garden created by himself and fellow resident Kermit Lyngaas last summer. The fresh vegetables are enjoyed by Union Central residents from May through September. (Photo by Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers1 / 3
This radish was plucked from the garden at Union Central Thursday afternoon. It is one of several fresh vegetables that residents can enjoy this summer. (Photo by Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers)2 / 3
The 54-foot by 6-foot garden at Union Central includes rhubarb and tomatoes, corn and string beans, as well as a few day lilies and other fresh blooms.3 / 3

When most older adults give up their homes to move to a senior apartment complex or assisted living facility, they also give up the privilege of enjoying fresh-picked vegetables from their own garden.

Such is not the case for the residents of Union Central Senior Living, however, thanks to the efforts of Ken Holt and Kermit Lyngaas.

Since last summer, the duo has worked diligently to maintain a 6-foot by 54-foot garden that enables their fellow residents to enjoy fresh vegetables every May through September.

“We have corn, turnips, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, radishes, onions, carrots, string beans and rhubarb,” says Holt, a resident of Union Central since September of 2012.

“I’ve always liked gardening, and I needed something to do,” he added. “I saw a little piece of open land out there that I thought would be a good place for a garden, so I thought I’d plant some seeds.”

He was aided in the task by Lyngaas, a fellow resident who likewise enjoyed gardening.

“We got it tilled, cleaned it up, seeded it and made up a nice little garden,” Holt added. They even managed to acquire some manure from a farm north of town for use as fertilizer.

“We both work on it all the time,” he said, but added that Lyngaas had been unable to do so recently due to a stint in the hospital.

Though Lyngaas and Holt do most of the work of tending the garden, it does provide a point of interest for the other residents as well.

“They’re always asking, ‘How’s the garden coming?’” Holt said, adding that many of them also gear their daily walks to include a stroll around the garden plot (which is fenced in for protection).

Holt, a former over-the-road truck driver and retired sugar beet hauler, said he has always had a strong interest in gardening.

“We had a garden at home for many years,” he said, adding that his late wife had also been a gardening enthusiast.

“We had a big garden, with enough fresh vegetables for everyone,” Holt said —including their daughters, most of whom now live close by with their families.

When he’s not tending his garden, Holt can be found volunteering, whether it’s assisting with the noon meals at Union Central or visiting with home-bound seniors at Ecumen-Emmanuel Nursing Home.

In fact, his volunteer efforts earned him a 2013 nomination as Becker County Outstanding Senior Citizen, though he ultimately lost the award to Bob Sonnenberg.

Holt also visits his four daughters and their families as often as he can, and enjoys spending time with his eight grandkids.

“I usually go visit them” instead of the other way around, he added, noting that his place at Union Central doesn’t have much room for company.

But for the next couple of months, he and Lyngaas will continue to make sure their fellow Union Central residents enjoy all the fresh vegetables they can produce.

“The radishes are pretty much done how,” Holt said, adding that the corn should begin producing in a month or so, and the squash will begin thriving toward the fall.

“Next summer we may have some rhubarb,” he said, pointing to the tiny plants that are still in the developing stages.

“It keeps me busy,” he added.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454