Hello from a 1st time Gardener in Pennsylvania


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Hi All :)

My name is Shelby. My day job is in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Our program supports individuals with severe mental illness develop life skills to reclaim their health and autonomy. In my off time I make art, practice yoga, & enjoy a plant based lifestyle :)

This year I proposed the construction of a vegetable garden in the backyard of our psych program. One of the many things we do in our program is teach participants how to prepare nutritious meals in our commercial-grade kitchen. I thought having access to fresh, organic produce would provide our folks with meaningful activity & help keep their minds interested in where their food comes from (diet & lifestyle have a huge impact on mental health). The proposal took on momentum & before I knew it we were filling containers & sewing seeds (all without much of a clue as to what we were doing).

Its been beautiful to see individuals who were formerly shy or disinterested marvel at big yellow blossoms on our squash plants, & express excited about harvesting mint to make their mother's ice tea recipe.

You'll probably see me post a LOT of questions on here. Very happy to know there are other experienced gardeners that can help us trouble shoot things.

Thank you! <3
 
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Welcome . Where in PA are you? I live in Chester County. Just retired from 18 years working for a company that has group homes with mentally handicap individuals. My position title was Service Director and then last 3 years moved to new position Clinical Specialist. My pet peeve was that the company could care less to train staff on how to cook good meals, the process of cooking the food to retain the nutrients. I tried when I could to provide instructions to the staff on cooking process, but it was only hit or miss, nothing really formal. Its a shame as quality food for a human is important for their well being. Now a year retired, just enjoying my days gardening and traveling. Good luck with your garden.
 
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Hi @Esther Knapicius!

I’m in Upper Bucks County, so not too far from you. Our program is part of Penn Foundation, a partner of St. Luke’s. Congratulations on your recent retirement :)

I’m exploring getting an associates degree & then pursuing certification to become a health coach for the program. I’m sure you had participants with co-morbidities as we do; it sounds frustrating to not have had company support in implementing practices to address that. I’m hopeful the US continues to move towards integrated health care so that people can experience health across many (ideally all) dimensions of life.
 
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@ShelbyRolla , Had all sorts of diagnosis, and a few rare genetic disorders. Its all about money my dear, all about money. I have seen things revised and get worse because of cut backs in the mental health field. They revamp some trainings which in my mind does not produce the best staff. They feed you with the idea that the new trainings will show a decrease in mistakes in certain areas, I never saw that, I saw an increase. Such as in administrating medication. I used to teach that. (one of the trainings I did). I have a B. S. in Public Health Education, and I am a licensed Nursing home Adm. and a Certified Investigator for PA. Not certain your age, but with your associates, make sure your courses are such that can be transferred to a 4 year program. A 4 year degree holds more weight for advancement . I know its only a piece of paper, but society loves that paper. Yes, Bucks County not far, my husbands best man and his wife lives up that way.
 
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Hi Shelby,

I am new here too. I am an Occupational Therapist, and have previously worked in Psych Rehabilitation. This is such a great idea to promote participation and engagement in meaningful activities. My experience with people going through psych rehab is they are mostly unemployed and relay on government benefits, which is not a lot money. Where I live, buying fresh fruit and vegetables (not even organic) is vey expensive, so they spend their money on cheap and unhealthy foods. I hope with a sustainable source of fresh produce, this would make a different to their physical health.

In relation to Esther's point above, I agree to an extent. As an Occupational Therapist, meal prep/cooking is an Instrumental Activity of Daily Living. To ensure the patients are able to live safely and independently in the community, we provide them with training to do so. However, the skill of cooking good to retain its nutrients is an extremely difficult goal. A lot of people within this cohort do not have the mental capacity to understand what this means. Like Esther mentioned, this is something which in important beyond mental health, and should be overall public health education piece.

Good luck with work and program Esther, I hope it is a success!
 
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@davidinsydney , its about teaching the staff , that teach the client. When you walk in to a group home and you see a package of frozen peas boiling away in 6 cups of water, mentally I freak. I have showed them how simply placing the peas in a shallow pan with a nice lid and 3 tablespoons of water, putting it on low heat will work, the peas simply steam done. Most staff have no clue how to cook, let alone teach the client. At this point I am retired, not working , so that fight at work ended. I am enjoying gardening, traveling etc. BTW, meal prep, also should involve, reading labels, and understanding them. And how to store food. how to buy bulk meat and wrap it well for the freezer. Wish I kept notes the last 18 years, lots of nutty stuff the staff did. One thing, I have not used a certain swear word since I left, LOL.
 
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Welcome to the forum, Shelby, it sounds like you are doing good things. There is lots of good advice here. Sometimes I find it difficult with people on another continent, not knowing climate conditions, but my main advice would be give everything a try. There is not usually only one way to grow plants, they want to grow, try all the variations you think of, it will be a learning curve. Good luck.
 
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@ShelbyRolla , Had all sorts of diagnosis, and a few rare genetic disorders. Its all about money my dear, all about money. I have seen things revised and get worse because of cut backs in the mental health field. They revamp some trainings which in my mind does not produce the best staff. They feed you with the idea that the new trainings will show a decrease in mistakes in certain areas, I never saw that, I saw an increase. Such as in administrating medication. I used to teach that. (one of the trainings I did). I have a B. S. in Public Health Education, and I am a licensed Nursing home Adm. and a Certified Investigator for PA. Not certain your age, but with your associates, make sure your courses are such that can be transferred to a 4 year program. A 4 year degree holds more weight for advancement . I know its only a piece of paper, but society loves that paper. Yes, Bucks County not far, my husbands best man and his wife lives up that way.
Thanks for the response, Esther! I have my bachelors, so this would just be supplemental. Sorry to hear the program was such a struggle. We are very blessed to have a strong (small) team here & a commercial kitchen onsite. We prepare a full lunch with our membership every day (some examples include vegetarian stuffed peppers, vegan butternut squash bisque, vegetable pad thai, & cashew crusted califlower steaks). We have a monthly menu planning meeting with our membership. We also pay for them to take Servsafe training, and do a thorough kitchen clean up every day after lunch (we are board of health certified so our procedures are standardized). We do have participants with ID diagnoses, & we partner them with other participants or staff to ensure protocols are followed; many of our members have built the habits over time though & are able to work independently. I've worked in other programs that were more broken, but feel really lucky to be here.
 
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Hi Shelby,

I am new here too. I am an Occupational Therapist, and have previously worked in Psych Rehabilitation. This is such a great idea to promote participation and engagement in meaningful activities. My experience with people going through psych rehab is they are mostly unemployed and relay on government benefits, which is not a lot money. Where I live, buying fresh fruit and vegetables (not even organic) is vey expensive, so they spend their money on cheap and unhealthy foods. I hope with a sustainable source of fresh produce, this would make a different to their physical health.

In relation to Esther's point above, I agree to an extent. As an Occupational Therapist, meal prep/cooking is an Instrumental Activity of Daily Living. To ensure the patients are able to live safely and independently in the community, we provide them with training to do so. However, the skill of cooking good to retain its nutrients is an extremely difficult goal. A lot of people within this cohort do not have the mental capacity to understand what this means. Like Esther mentioned, this is something which in important beyond mental health, and should be overall public health education piece.

Good luck with work and program Esther, I hope it is a success!
Hi David :) I completely agree that being on the low budget of government assistance, having a lack of information about nutrition, and being in a food desert makes it difficult to get health options. We are so lucky that we have the budget to buy organic food when we can't supplement from the garden. It gives people the opportunity to experience at least one nutritious meal a day. Thank you for the well wishes! & Welcome to you as well :)
 
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Welcome to the forum, Shelby, it sounds like you are doing good things. There is lots of good advice here. Sometimes I find it difficult with people on another continent, not knowing climate conditions, but my main advice would be give everything a try. There is not usually only one way to grow plants, they want to grow, try all the variations you think of, it will be a learning curve. Good luck.
Thank you Oliver! Much appreciated! :)
 
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Just popping in to say hi, I'm new as well! It sounds like you are doing great work. My current focus is on houseplants, but one time I grew a tiny potato with my mom as a kid. I don't have my own yard now, but I remain proud of that potato.
 
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Just popping in to say hi, I'm new as well! It sounds like you are doing great work. My current focus is on houseplants, but one time I grew a tiny potato with my mom as a kid. I don't have my own yard now, but I remain proud of that potato.
i love it! Potatoes are the best. I feel intimated about planting them next year, but am planning to do so. Hopefully I can feel as proud :D
 
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i love it! Potatoes are the best. I feel intimated about planting them next year, but am planning to do so. Hopefully I can feel as proud :D
I think you'll find Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum cvs.) especially easy to grow. Some people find harvesting easier in a large container (15 gallons or larger) or even in a raised bed with removable sides, but of course, digging them out of the ground isn't that difficult either.
 
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I think you'll find Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum cvs.) especially easy to grow. Some people find harvesting easier in a large container (15 gallons or larger) or even in a raised bed with removable sides, but of course, digging them out of the ground isn't that difficult either.
Ooh, Thanks @Marck! I'd never thought about doing them in a container. I'm looking forward to reading up on them more
 
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