Bea Feldewerth maintains a vegetable and flower garden for the residents of Twin Oaks in Wentzille, Mo.

Photo by Sarah Conard

Wind chimes hum and giggle in the wind, and neighbors sit peacefully on their decks enjoying the unusually comfortable summer day as Bea Feldewerth walks up and down the length of her garden, inspecting plants.

The 72-year-old lives at Twin Oaks at Heritage Pointe, and spends 30 minutes to an hour—sometimes more—every day in her garden, growing produce to share with the 130 other residents throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Raised on a farm in St. Paul, Missouri, Feldewerth says there always was something to do for her and her 12 siblings. From the time she was old enough to pull weeds, there’s never been a year she hasn't had a garden. When she and her husband, Dave, moved to Twin Oaks three years ago, one of the first things she asked for was space to plant some seeds.

Her garden stretches the back length of the independent-living wing of Twin Oaks, in beds likely meant for shrubs or flowers. Industrial-strength wire cages hold up super steak, jet star and celebrity tomatoes, lemon and regular cucumbers, and bell pepper plants. Oversized zucchini, butternut squash, rhubarb and potato plants sprawl out, threatening to overtake the sidewalk. (For each plant, Feldewerth offers a recipe—except of course, for the cucumbers and peppers. She doesn’t care for those, she says, but grows them anyway, because other residents like them. This year, she started growing yellow tomatoes, which are less acidic, to appease residents who can’t enjoy the red variety.)

Colorful varieties of flowers tempt bees and add a light fragrance to the air. A sign welcomes residents to harvest any vegetables they please. Each morning, after she exercises, Feldewerth tends to the garden, picking weeds, watering plants and harvesting ripe produce. She takes a few here and there for herself and her husband, but mostly she puts what she grows in a basket in the dining room for everyone to share. The basket empties quickly, she says.

“One lady, she came in to eat around 9 o’clock,” Feldewerth says. “And she said, Where are the tomatoes? I said, Early bird gets the worm! So the next day she came down at 7:30, and she got her tomato.”

Feldewerth has already begun prepping the garden for the fall crops. At the end of the season, she even harvests and dries some seeds to use for the following year. Other residents thank her and compliment her produce, especially the tomatoes. Everyone loves tomatoes, Feldewerth says. But her favorite is rhubarb pie.

“If you do a little bit every day, you can see the growth and enjoy the fruits and vegetables,” she says. “It’s a little work but it’s a lot of fun.”

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