STANWOOD — The pea plants grew so high this year that the gardeners needed a ladder to harvest the tallest.
It’s been a season of abundance at the Warm Beach community garden, across from the neighborhood where the gardeners live and share their produce. Warm Beach Senior Community is part of a Christian organization and offers independent and assisted living for adults older than 62. The community is celebrating 50 years this summer.
For 25 of those years, a shared garden was the dream of the late Gilbert Beckwith. He requested that management set aside some land. He got a 50-by-100-foot plot. He and other volunteers cleared out brambles and blackberries, then tried to till and plant the land. The ground was rocky and difficult to work with.
In 2014, another volunteer, Arlo Tiede, asked the owner of Cascade Lumber on Camano Island if he had any wood to spare for some raised beds. Cascade donated a truckload of cedar planks, along with screws and bolts.
A group of seniors who call themselves the Facelift Brigade assembled the beds. They put in 18 a couple of years ago, and now are up to 32. There was enough lumber that they also put together 15 planter boxes now placed around the senior community, with colorful flowers in bloom. There are petunias, marigolds, snap dragons, geraniums, impatiens and more.
Beckwith was 99 when the raised beds were finished. He asked how much money would be needed to lay down barrier cloth to prevent weeds between the beds, fill each one with soil and fertilizer, and buy sprinklers. A few weeks before he died, he donated $2,200 to finish the garden.
There now is a riot of greenery where once the rocky ground made gardening a struggle. The biggest hardship this year, gardener and Facelift Brigade volunteer Bud McDole said, is that they can’t harvest fast enough to keep up with all the produce. There’s a table near the community dining room where people leave extras for their neighbors. The other day, there were 12 coffee cups full of fresh raspberries. They disappeared quickly.
“It gives people purpose,” McDole said. “We’re a Christian organization, and I think that there’s a relationship between their faith and tilling the land.”
Donna Timm started on the garden committee about five years ago, when she first moved to Warm Beach. Beckwith recruited her, and she later took over as head of the group.
“Every raised bed is taken,” she said. “There’s a waiting list.”
Her husband, Ike Timm, is the chaplain at Warm Beach. McDole teases him, noting that there’s at least one bunny and several neighbors — Timm among them — who enjoy the produce without putting in the labor. McDole can’t get too upset, though. After all, Ike Timm always prays for the garden’s abundance on Sundays.
Max Larson Timm, 8, is Donna and Ike Timm’s grandson. He helps in the garden. The Elger Bay Elementary third-grader planted carrots, beets, chives, flowers and a large pumpkin he is particularly proud of. Aside from pumpkins, blueberries and a toy snake are his favorite things in the garden.
Gardener Joan Husby has been growing spinach, chard, strawberries, lettuce, beets, tomatoes and peas. Her favorite recipe is borscht made with fresh beets. She moved to Warm Beach two years ago.
Orval Heath also is a second-year gardener. Last week, he sat on a wooden bench next to one of his two plots and pulled up red radishes. Max asked if he could try one, and Heath offered him a small one. Max scrubbed it off on his black T-shirt and took a bite. It wasn’t to his liking — too spicy.
The raised beds, benches and flat gravel paths make it easy to access the garden, Donna Timm said.
“There are people gardening here who hadn’t been able to garden in years,” she said.
She and McDole compare it to passages in the Bible about the Garden of Eden, a paradise.
“There seems to be a really incredible sense of joy and purpose here,” Timm said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.