Garden fresh produce

UP Home volunteer keeps garden producing fresh vegetables

The community garden at the United Presbyterian Home in Washington is full of fresh produce for residents. (Gretchen Teske/The Union)
The community garden at the United Presbyterian Home in Washington is full of fresh produce for residents. (Gretchen Teske/The Union)

WASHINGTON — A box of fresh vegetables appears on the community table at the United Presbyterian Home a few times a week.

Within a few hours, all of the tomatoes are gone. Usually a few cucumbers remain.

That’s all according to Carl Chalupa, a resident and the supervisor of the community garden. The garden is 270 feet by 130 feet with some of it set up for the UP community and some for residents.

“We have individual spaces if a person wants a garden of their own so right now we have nine,” he said.

The garden spaces are typically 30 feet by 15 feet but can be made larger or smaller, depending on what the resident wants. On the other end is the UP garden.

“The produce I get off it I take in for the people who can’t get out,” he said.

In March, the nation was hit with stay at home orders and warnings about social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers at the UP Home took every precaution and were able to continue their work, he said.

“We were never together but could still do the gardening,” he said.

Gloves, masks and social distancing were all in order. It was a little difficult, he said, but seeing how much the residents enjoy the produce makes it worth it.

“They really enjoy getting the fresh produce right out of the garden,” he said.

The feeling goes both ways.

Chalupa said just as excited as residents are to receive, he is to give.

“It makes me feel good because just like Jesus said, ‘You plant the seeds, you water it and then you go for the harvest.’ I really enjoy that,” he said.

Chalupa is not a native gardener, but grew up on a farm. Throughout his life he has lived in Utah and Alaska before moving back to Iowa in 2004.

Chalupa and his wife had an acreage in the country, but when the stairs became too much to handle the pair moved into the UP Home. In the country home, Chalupa had a garden plot and got his own when he moved back to Iowa.

He enjoyed it so much he decided to take over for the former garden supervisor who retired from his position.

Chalupa has a plethora of vegetables for residents ranging from cucumbers and squash to watermelon and radishes. With the help of two other residents, the garden is checked everyday. Chalupa himself spends anywhere from an hour to five hours at the garden.

In the back of the garden is sweet corn, donated by UP resident Dick Wehr. It was planted in two batches, three weeks apart, to ensure there is a continuous supply.

The corn is harvested by hand by residents who come out and assist. It is then put in bags and distributed around the campus to anyone who would like a few ears.

“It doesn’t take long if you have a lot of help,” he said.