One garden grows veggies for seniors. The second, something unusual.
Fresh ripe tomatoes hang from the vines.
Bright red long hot peppers protrude from tiny green branches of plants growing low to the ground.
And giant, purplish leaves that have opened up to face the sun reveal perfectly round cabbages in their bellies.
These are the types of vegetables that Doug Selway of Middletown has been growing in his backyard garden and donating to seniors living at Main Towers in Newark, a complex with 150 wheelchair-accessible apartments.
Once upon a time, Selway delivered the produce from his garden to the seniors as a way to give back to the community, but the fertile soil produced hundreds of pounds of produce than he couldn’t continue to deliver by himself.
“So, I started bringing the seniors to the garden instead. It’s better for them to come out here and pick the vegetables they want,” Selway said.
Jeanine Macuso, a disabled senior who runs Main Towers, partners with Selway every year to get the vegetables. She said that the vegetables from his garden are welcome by the seniors at the complex.
“You should try his tomatoes. They are the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten,” Macuso said maneuvering her electric wheelchair through the vegetable garden. “I can’t get enough of them.”
Getting seniors out of Main Towers to pick through the garden is a way for them to get some sun and fresh air, Macuso said. With the help of her son, Daniel DeLude who drives the van, they visit Selway’s home, off Port Penn Road, a few times a week during the summer.
“I like to come here. It’s great to pick the vegetables myself,” said Joan Charles, one of the seniors at Main Towers. “It helps us add more fruits and vegetables to our diets. I make sauce with the tomatoes and is delicious.”
Selway, who happens to work at the produce department at the Pathmark supermarket in Newark, isn’t the only gardener in the neighborhood with fertile soil. His neighbor, Sharon Pleasanton also grows a prosperous vegetable garden right next door.
“My husband, Larry, had a great green thumb. Anything he planted just grew,” said Pleasanton.
Larry Pleasanton worked for General Motors for many years before he passed away two years ago. According to his wife, he brought home a few tall, wooden-telephone poles which he would cut in half and use in his garden as giant wood stakes for the legume and tomato plants.
Four years ago, while taking a stroll in the garden, the Pleasantons noticed something a bit odd. They saw that growing out of the top of one of the telephone poles, was the trunk and branches of a young birch tree.
“It was incredible. We didn’t know how that could happen,” Pleasanton said. “Everyone thinks that it must have started from bird poop.”
Selway agrees with the theory.
“That’s how a lot of stuff grows around these parts,” he explained. “The birds carry the seeds like that everywhere.”
The birch tree has now grown large enough to crack open the telephone pole it grew out of.
“It’s a tree within a tree,” said Pleasanton. “My husband and I didn’t know what to make of it or what it meant. It’s just something to see.”
Selway and Pleasanton said that they are lucky to live in an area that can bring forth abundant produce and also, incredible things.
“There are more homes around here now than when we first moved here with my husband,” said Pleasanton. “But a lot has remained the same.”