Remember the succulent taste of a vine-ripened tomato from your grandmother’s garden?  Seasoned gardeners know there are plenty of chores to do in the coming months, if they want to enjoy freshly picked vegetables from their own patch. Their “to-do” list might look like this: weed, water, prune, stake, fertilize, mulch, pick. Tending the garden is time-consuming, but many make it a family activity. The result: a bucket full of gardening memories. Encourage your group of senior adults to swap some of their favorite stories. Dig in with a few of these suggestions.

  • REMINISCE – Display typical garden props: straw hat, boots, bag of dirt, seed packets, and garden tools such as hoe, spade, and trowel. Show photographs of a family working in a vegetable garden. Ask: Did you ever have a vegetable garden? What did you plant? Do you enjoy working in the dirt? Who taught you how to garden? What do you recall about your grandparents’ garden? Share some gardening advice for the novice.
  • REMINISCE – Show a nostalgic photo of a 1940s victory garden. Look at old issues of The Saturday Evening Post and LIFE. Ask: Did you have a victory garden during World War II? What did you raise in your garden? Did you garden by yourself or with others? Was it a family activity? What is a community garden?
  • DISCUSSION – Discuss the meaning of “green thumb.” Ask who in the group has a knack for growing plants. Debate whether avid gardeners are born with a “green thumb.”
  • DISCUSSION – Learn the history of old seed companies such as Burpee, Ferry-Morse Seed Co., Gurney, and D. Landreth Seed Co. Ask participants where they purchased seeds for their garden and if anyone planted heirloom seeds that were saved from different generations of their family. Explain how to save seeds.
  • DISCUSSION – Talk about the meaning of the following quote by Thomas Fuller, and ask participants to apply its message to their own lives: “A good garden may have some weeds.”
  • DISCUSSION – Discuss the meaning of vegetable idioms such as the following: red as a beet, cool as a cucumber, spill the beans, two peas in a pod, in a pickle, couch potato.
  • HUMOR – Share some garden humor (ex: What happens to Artie when he swallows a bug? Artichokes). Finish the following limerick (five lines with a rhyme scheme AABBA): There once was a gardener named Nell. She wanted to plant a good crop of kale…
  • GARDEN ACTIVITY – Plant an herb garden. Identify culinary herbs by scent: basil, dill, rosemary, sage.
  • GARDEN ACTIVITY – Pass around copies of The Old Farmers’ Almanac. Look at the gardening calendar. Ask participants if they used the information to plant and cultivate their garden. Explain how to garden using the phases of the moon. Plan a garden together.
  • GARDEN ACTIVITY – Place half of a sweet potato in a container of water and watch a vine grow out of the eyes of the potato. Share favorite sweet potato recipes.
  • FOOD – Challenge the participants to name all the vegetables they have ever eaten. How long a list can you compile?
  • FOOD – Ask participants if they heeded Mama’s advice to “eat your vegetables.” Find out if your group likes the taste of the following vegetables: kale, turnips, broccoli, okra, corn, chick peas, beets, lima beans, spinach, lentils, asparagus, collard greens, cauliflower, peas. (Note: Love it – thumbs up; Hate it – thumbs down). Ask: Are there any vegetables/fruits that you wouldn’t eat as a child that you now eat? Which ones? Who encouraged you to try them?
  • FOOD – Taste a variety of fresh vegetables from a local garden. Serve with an assortment of dips.
  • PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – Ask the group to name garden tasks. As they name things, write each task on a separate slip of paper (ex: plant seeds, pull weeds, stake tomatoes, water plants, pick string beans, shell peas).  Ask participants to draw a slip and act out the task while others in the group guess the chore. Or, participants can take turns drawing a slip, but everyone in the group acts out the chore together.
  • CRAFT – Make a garden scarecrow from old clothes. Give to staff or family members for use in their garden. Talk about old-time remedies for pests in the garden.
  • MUSIC – Play a recording of “Garden Song,” performed by John Denver. Ask participants to describe the picture that comes to mind as they listen to the lyrics.
  • MUSIC – Other garden songs to sing or to listen to: “Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “When You Wore a Tulip,” “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” “Country Gardens,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “This Land Is Your Land”


  1. Which two vegetables are used in succotash? Corn and lima beans
  2. Name some leafy green vegetables. Collards, kale, spinach, chard, lettuce
  3. What stalk vegetable is available in green and white? Asparagus
  4. Which orange vegetable is good for your eyes? Carrots
  5. Which vegetable do you grind to make grits? White or yellow corn
  6. What dish is made by fermenting cabbage? Sauerkraut
  7. Name four vegetables that begin with the letter ‘p’. Parsnip, peas, peppers, potatoes
  8. What do the following have in common: onions, carrots, turnips, beets, radishes?  They are root crops – we eat the part that grows in the ground.
  9. Bibb, iceberg, Boston, and romaine are varieties of which vegetable? Salad lettuce
  10. What are dill pickles made from? Cucumbers


“It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

“GARDENING” written by Sue Hansen. © 2012 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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