How one Carlyle Place resident restored the community garden and created a space for friendships to grow.
“Bloom where you’re planted”, as the old saying goes. That’s exactly what Tommy Goings did when he moved to Carlyle Place a few years ago. Before retirement, he worked in finance, but his agriculture roots run deep. When he was a child, his family grew most of their own produce and throughout his life he’s kept a garden. When Tommy moved to Carlyle Place, the community gardens needed a refresh, and he was glad to take the lead.
One of the best things about living at Carlyle Place is we invite you to “craft your happy”. That means if there’s a class, club, or activity that we don’t offer, we’ll find a way to make it happen. We empower residents to spread joy throughout the community. For instance, last year when the Hollomans joined Carlyle Place they brought with them their passion for dancing. Now you can find residents dancing right along with them.
Gardening wasn’t exactly the most popular activity at Carlyle Place before Tommy moved in. The beds had fallen into disrepair and fixing them up would prove to be quite costly. As a co-op-style community, residents decide how to allocate funds. With a small budget, Tommy was able to work his gardening magic and gather neighbors to help restore the community gardens.
Making a garden grow
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Tommy’s gardening project. It actually took a few years. Thanks to the reliably pleasant Macon climate, there’s a little more time in a year to till the soil than other parts of the United States. He explained all the hard work and collaboration that went into creating the community gardens.
“A few of us worked on it for the first year and that helped gain momentum. Last year though, I wound up working five different beds. Another gentleman had six beds, and then we had three other people who worked a few beds.
What I heard from some people was that they would be more interested in gardening if we had raised beds because they had trouble getting up and down off the ground. So, we took that to the Buildings and Grounds Committee and asked them if there was budget for raised beds.
This past autumn, I recruited two other guys that live here and have building experience. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. We got the lumber from Atlanta and between the three of us, we built 20 raised beds. Each bed is about four feet wide, twelve feet long and about two feet high.
They did a lot of tree trimming in January and I had them save the wood chips so that when we started getting the beds ready for planting season, we’d have some good filler. To make a good gardening bed, you start with cardboard on the bottom. This breaks down and makes a good weed barrier too. Then we added the wood chips. We filled it about halfway with wood chips, leaves and whatever else we could find. Then we filled the rest of the way with garden soil mixed with compost. So, we’ve got about 4-6 inches of earth to put your plants in, which is plenty.
After the raised beds were ready, we decided we wanted to put some sort of stone pathway between them. I researched it and talked to the landscapers. With their knowledge of stone, they came up with a triangular-shaped stone. It makes a good, compact walking area. We put down twelve tons of it if you can believe that.
Down here, Easter weekend is usually when people start their planting. We started on Good Friday. And wouldn’t you know, all twenty beds are taken this year. There are about fourteen of us gardening. The raised beds went fast. I think people got excited watching us make them,” Tommy explained.
Fruits of their labor
Nothing quite says summer like sinking your teeth into a Big Boy tomato. It’s pretty clear from the abundance of tomato cages around the garden that Carlyle Place residents feel the same way. They’re expecting their first harvest of tomatoes by the first week of June.
“One of our favorite things down here are Georgia-grown tomatoes right out of the garden. It’s the tomato sandwiches. That’s what you wait for every year. I grew one a year ago that was 17 and a half ounces. And it was four and a half inches across. Only took one slice to make a sandwich!” Tommy laughed.
He’s also seen people grow okra, bell peppers and even potatoes. There are plenty of beautiful flowers growing in some of the beds too. The fun doesn’t stop when the weather gets chilly though. Tommy also plants a winter garden so there’s always something to anticipate.
Around Carlyle Place, Tommy’s known as “The Garden Guy.” It’s a title he wears with pride.
“I’ve made a lot of friends in the garden. It’s a social thing. If we’re out here, people feel inclined to come out and see what we’re doing. We have a lot of walkers early in the morning and they’ll come by and stop. And then we have one of the caregivers who works the night shift, and she always stops by in the morning to check and see what we got done the day before.”
It’s not uncommon to find Tommy in the garden at any time of day. For him, it’s just the joy of being outside. Whether watering his plants or weeding a garden bed, he takes as long or as little as he wants.
Are you considering downsizing but aren’t ready to leave your garden? Thanks to residents like Tommy, you can have your tomatoes and eat them too! We’d love to see you in our garden. Stop by for a visit by calling 478-405-4544 to schedule your personal tour today.
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