A gardening group where friendship grows

By on July 9, 2022 0
Left to right: Alan Torcetti, Nereida Culpan, Merv Taylor and Robin Petersen from St Kilda Retirement Village and Care Home, Cambridge.

mike walen

Left to right: Alan Torcetti, Nereida Culpan, Merv Taylor and Robin Petersen from St Kilda Retirement Village and Care Home, Cambridge.

When Merv Taylor and his wife Sylvia moved to Bupa St Kilda Retirement Village in Cambridge four years ago, they didn’t know anyone. But they quickly made friends and built a community, thanks in part to Merv’s love of gardening.

He is part of a close-knit group of gardeners who take care of the communal vegetable garden in the village. “I made a lot of friends through the garden,” he says. “People know who we are and come and ask if we have something in the garden, and if so, we’ll go get it for them.”

While the couple’s two-bedroom villa has its own flower beds and a small vegetable patch, Merv enjoys tending to the communal vegetable patch as it keeps him fit, active and involved in the village community.

“It’s a few hours of exercise a day, and it keeps me busy,” he says. “I’d be a bit lost without it.”

From left to right: Nereida Culpan and Alan Torcetti.

mike walen

From left to right: Nereida Culpan and Alan Torcetti.

The former lorry driver says he and Sylvia chose the village, which is home to around 130 residents in 99 villas, because they felt it was the right size – neither too big nor too small.

It’s big enough to have its own full-time gardener and maintenance man to do the heavy lifting, but small and personal enough for residents to enjoy the benefits of tending their own gardens and helping around space.

“There is a bigger group of gardeners who take care of the other gardens around the village,” says Merv. “Our group of market gardeners is a secondary growth – there are three of us who work regularly in the vegetable garden and others to help us.”

The vegetable team grows a variety of seasonal products for the inhabitants of the village.

“We grow cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, leeks, carrots, beans, potatoes and kumara – all kinds. The only fruits we produce are raspberries and blueberries.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Merv and his fellow gardeners pick produce ready to harvest, pack it up and bring it to the community center in a little red cart.

Gardening is great exercise, a brilliant mood booster, and a fun way to connect with other people, but it's not the only way to stay active and engaged during your retirement.

mike walen

Gardening is great exercise, a brilliant mood booster, and a fun way to connect with other people, but it’s not the only way to stay active and engaged during your retirement.

He says people often say that local vegetables taste better than those from the supermarket.

“We don’t use any sprays and the only fertilizers we use are blood, bone and lime. We also have a compost pile and three compost bins, which other residents can throw their waste into.”

“Monday to Friday we go around eight in the morning and we stay there until about ten. We’ll take a look and see what needs to be done. We know what to do and it’s done . .”

He says gardening is great exercise, a brilliant mood booster, and a fun way to connect with other people, but it’s not the only way to stay active and engaged during your retirement. “I like to go out gardening, but there are many other things you can do.”

Merv’s wife, Sylvia, gets her daily exercise by taking walks, and the village offers many other activities and pastimes, from pétanque to board games. “You can participate in whatever you want,” Merv says. “Join us – it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good, join us.

Merv’s top tips for an active gardening retreat:

  • Try gardening, even if you’ve never done it before. “Just dig up a patch and get started – it’s easy!”
  • In addition to being good for your physical health, being outdoors in nature is good for your mental health and well-being. Get in the habit of checking your garden every day and spending a few hours pulling weeds and keeping things tidy.
  • It’s also good for the environment. Don’t forget to save your waste for the compost bin instead of throwing it in the landfill.
  • Join a gardening group for friendship and motivation. If you’re new to gardening, this is a great way to learn from more experienced gardeners.
  • It is very rewarding to share the fruits of your labor with others by selling or giving away your products.

To learn more about Bupa, visit bupa.co.nz