By Jordan Houston
Residents at SaddleBrooke Ranch are embracing their green thumbs while planting the seeds for stronger connections through a community garden.
The 55-and-above resort-style community recently embraced the new amenity, offering its active residents the chance to enjoy the benefits of gardening. The garden is now open to its members, featuring 110 individual 4-foot-by-8-foot plots. The plots can be leased for $50 annually.
The garden also includes tools and materials, hoses, storage boxes, a storage shed and ramada.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” resident Lucy Lange says. “Everyone has their own water spicket, and there is a beautiful shed that has tools in it, wheelbarrows, gardening information and magazines. If people have extra pots, they can put them in on one of the shelves.”
Lange, who has lived at SaddleBrooke Ranch since October 2020, adds that worms are available for the participants, courtesy of the community’s master gardener, Grace Ehrman.
Because of the desert’s rough terrain, the worms can be beneficial in aerating the soils, she says.
“We have icky soil here,” Lange explains. “So, everyone has had to amend their soil with a lot of compost and planting soil and that kind of stuff.”
SaddleBrooke Ranch added several handicap-accessible plots, which are raised to appropriate heights. They also feature faucets that turn on in “different ways” for those who might not have full grip capacity, Lange says.
Gardening, for all ages, provides a multitude of benefits.
“It’s a sense of community,” Lange says. “We’re all kind of from someplace else, and this has brought likeminded people together in a very positive setting. It just makes me happy.”
On top of fostering a sense of community, gardening provides opportunities for physical activity, stress relief, stronger immune systems and a possibility of increasing brain health.
Resident Glenna Matthews, who moved into SaddleBrooke in June 2020, says the community garden has been extremely beneficial during isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not only about the community and meeting new people,” she states. “It’s getting back to the earth. For retired people, we haven’t been able to have gardens because we were always working, so this was a real benefit in which we didn’t expect to come to fruition — especially during COVID. This gave us an outdoor thing that everyone helps each other with.”
The bountiful garden is decorated with hot-weather vegetables and flowers that are complementary of the desert’s soil and terrain, Matthews explains.
Matthew notes the space is also protected by a fence to keep larger animals at bay.
“The entire garden has a chain-link fence to keep big mammals out,” she shares. “We have javelinas, and the garden is at the end of the property and the beginning of the desert.”
The garden boasts zucchini, squash, cucumbers, varieties of tomatoes, cantaloupe and green peppers, to name a few items.
Lange’s plot, on the other hand, is overflowing with colorful flowers.
“I grow flowers,” she shares. “We grow veggies in our backyard because my husband says it’s too much work to drive two and a half miles to the garden to pick tomatoes.”
“I have zinnias, asters, sunflowers, and I just planted this summer snapdragons,” Lange continues. “I have so many blooms. It has just taken off, and anyone is welcome to come by and cut some flowers.”
The resident gardeners can also participate in SaddleBrooke’s Gardener’s Exchange group to learn about gardening in the North Tucson area and the challenges they are facing. The group provides horticultural information for desert gardeners.
In addition to the Exchange, the University of Arizona Pinal County Cooperative Extension provides research-based information on environmentally responsible gardening and landscaping through a wide variety of outreach activities.
The cooperative offers educational programs and classes, horticultural information about environmentally responsible gardening and landscaping, plant problem diagnoses, water conservation best practices, safe pest control methods, and plant identification and selection guidance.
SaddleBrooke Ranch highlights a new Ranch House Clubhouse and Creative Arts and Tech Center, a pool complex, indoor pool, casual and fine dining and fitness and sports facilities.
“It’s a beautiful community,” Matthews says. “It has everything from pickleball, to tennis, to a dog park, to a tech building, to an arts and craft building, a clubhouse and two pools.”
To learn more about the community or its new garden, call SaddleBrooke Ranch at 1-866-818-6068 or visit robson.com/communities/saddlebrooke-ranch.