Gallagher Services’ Horticultural Program started in 2003. The program was to provide horticultural therapy for day program participants and create an opportunity for partnerships with garden clubs, service organizations and youth groups to work alongside the individuals in the program.

This year, Suse Greenstone, a Registered Horticultural Therapist, expanded the program to involve 80 individuals in the Gallagher Day program and invited a number of significant partners to help. Suse received her B.S. degree in Plant Science with a specialization in Horticultural Therapy from Rutgers University. Her field work involved working with individuals with developmental disabilities in Maryland and New Jersey. She also worked with elders and veterans in memory care programs and designed a horticultural therapy program for veterans with spinal cord injuries.

After receiving her registration as a therapist, she was employed as a Registered Horticultural Therapist with the Adams County Adult Correctional Complex in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she designed and facilitated wellness programs for the inmates. Previously, she had eight years of experience working with therapeutic gardening programs in Corrections.

In her role as horticultural therapist for Gallagher Services, one of the first groups that Suse recruited was the Master Gardeners from the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Baltimore County. They have provided classroom assistance and participated in the assessment review for each individual’s participation. Their feedback assures that individuals have a good experience and get the most benefit from the classes. This month will begin the Master Gardner’s third 8-week session.

Earlier in the spring season, individuals in the program learned how to start plantings from seeds and cuttings. These sessions were conducted in the greenhouse in preparation for planting in the outdoor garden, which started in the second week in July and includes crops of tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, herbs and flowers.

Boy Scouts from troop 832 did a great job in preparing the garden beds for the planting. Nick and Jeff Myers and the other members of the troop weeded, removed the old garden structures, assembled new ones, roto-tilled the garden beds and spread six cubic yards of mulch. Two Eagle Scout candidates have also chosen to do their Eagle projects to benefit the horticulture program. Patrick Masavage has just completed his project, building eight custom work stations that will allow individuals who use wheelchairs to more easily participate in gardening activities. The stations will be used in classrooms and in the outdoor garden as well as in the greenhouse. Nick Myers, who helped prepare the gardens, will be installing a 12 sq. ft. patio in the outdoor garden to make it more accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs and have other mobility limitations.

Individual volunteers, Catherine Burke and Chris Oursler, have also been invaluable in helping Suse get ready for the planting season. Other important partners this year have been Watson’s Garden Center Managers, Eric Rutledge and Bob Samond, who have offered significant discounts on seeds, fertilizer and equipment.

When it comes time for harvesting the garden’s bounty, individuals will be learning how and when to pick the crops, and how to prepare the vegetables following a variety of recipes. They will also learn how to dry herbs for teas and winter cooking. Nature crafts, such as flower arranging and botanical print making, will also be included.