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Growing ‘Aces Acres’ at The Village

May 2, 2024

This story appears in the Spring 2024 issue of At Liberty.

The Village at Penn State entrance signDon Ace and his wife, Lelia, moved to The Village at Penn State in 2003. Don, a retired Penn State University faculty member who had grown up farming, enjoyed trimming, weeding, and pruning to remain physically active and contribute to the Senior Living community’s natural beauty. Don and Lelia had previously lived for years in the Center Valley, PA area. They spent time in Florida after Don retired, until they moved to The Village to be near their adult daughters and their families year-round.

In 2013, Don cleared out stones, rocks, and weeds from a remote area of the property to experiment with making a raised bed garden. He planted two 4 x 8 ft. beds to see if anything would grow in that area.

Garden bedsIt did, and more residents got involved during the next ten years. Today, they’re planting two to three beds at a time. Three gardeners have two beds to garden and maintain, while the others have one bed each to plant, weed, harvest, and maintain.

Don says, “If someone cannot manage the bed alone, we pitch in to help with planting, weeding, and watering. Most of us grow vegetables or fruit; raspberries, planted in double beds, are surrounded by fencing to prevent wildlife from eating the crops. A few people grow petunias, sunflowers, or zinnias. We grow tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, garlic, string beans, radishes, kale, and asparagus. We have given Dining Services tomatoes to use in sandwiches.”

Summer garden bedsWhen anyone wants to give up gardening in their raised bed, they inform Don. Newcomers can take over the relinquished garden bed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

At the end of every summer season, Don, his friend, and fellow resident Max Stoner plant a cover crop of oats to increase the organic matter at the roots, which also serves to till the soil on the surface.

Don explains, “There is no water supply to the garden beds, so water has to be transported there via pickup truck. Max and others bring ten 5-gallon water-filled plastic jugs that I obtained through wine making activities to the gardens.

A full garden at The Village at Penn State in State College, PA

We aren’t going to expand our current location due to the water supply issues and fencing required, but if there is a building expansion in the future, we hope to be able to get a water line put in for a new garden area.”

Residents and team members at The Village hope that with Don’s horticultural leadership, ‘Aces Acres’ will grow for years to come. Don and his gardening buddies’ energetic, healthy attitudes are a testament to the benefits of gardening and eating fresh vegetables!