West Texas Aphasia CenterMidland, Texas A Therapeutic Vegetable Gardening Project Designed & Built by Permian Basin Master Gardeners
A Co-operative Project • Aphasia: Loss of speech or other language abilities, usually from stroke or head trauma • Garden designed by Permian Basin Master Gardeners (PBMG) Design & Review Team, with advice and cooperation of West Texas Aphasia Center (WTAC) staff • Funded by a grant from Students in Philanthropy from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin • Volunteers from PBMG, Odessa High School Students in Philanthropy, and a local church • Permian Basin TCE Horticulture Agent Deborah Benge Frost suggested research people and materials.
Getting Started • Objective: Create a fun, therapeutic activity in a non-stressful environment in which to teach a life skill—gardening—usable by all the center’s clients, that would encourage speech and build confidence. • Objective: Educate WTAC staff & provide information on research based horticultural and environmental practices. * * * • PBMG Design & Review Team, TCE Horticulture Agent, & WTAC Staff met to determine special needs for the garden and to view the site. • Team researched adaptive site needs, bed preparation techniques, implementation of drip irrigation, and vegetable varieties for our area. • Design: 4 large, raised beds with adequate space for wheelchair access & beds narrow enough to reach center from a seated position from each side • Team provided priced shopping list & suggestions for acquiring materials locally
Master Gardeners participated by: • Designing beds & irrigation system • Providing information on materials, prices & sources • Killing the grass before starting • Building timber bed forms • Lining beds with landscape fabric • Filling beds with topsoil & organic material • Installing drip irrigation • Recommending vegetable varieties for Permian Basin area • Providing science-based information on planting and culture from TCE & TAMU sources • Then we got out of the way!
What the Staff & Clients Did • Purchased all materials • Planted vegetables • Watered • Fertilized • Watch them grow • Weeded • Waited • Harvested • Took Veggies home • Cooked and ate them • Started a Cookbook • Best of all: Communicated with each other enthusiastically through the entire experience!
Results: Beyond Our Expectations • Clients experienced the fun of planting and caring for the garden. • Scientifically sound gardening techniques brought success—loads of vegetables—and the pleasure of seeing something grow and flourish under one’s own hand. • Adaptive design measures made gardening easier & more pleasurable. • Clients’ families shared their enthusiasm, donating garden tools, gloves, patio furniture, & plants. • Follow-up surveys reveal the clients enthusiasm, communication & emotional investment in garden. • Clients & WTAC staff collaborated on aphasia friendly cookbook, using symbols and pictures-- a project started by the clients in response to the gardening experience.
The Future • PBMG Design & Review Team will assess progress & recommend expansion and/or changes. • Additional walkways • Flower beds • Patio furniture • WTAC is applying for grants for further improvements.