For some, gardening bears more fruit than what grows out of the ground.
Take Dave Rulli, for example. Four years ago, he unexpectedly found himself retired and a widower.
“He spent a lot of time indoors, not going out,” recalls his daughter, Emily Rulli. “I said, ‘We need to get you out of here.’”
That’s when a co-worker asked Emily Rulli to water her Pea Patch while she was out of town, planting the seed of an idea to help her dad. She and her sister chipped in the $25 to get him his own little plot, and he found his way back into the light of day.
“It just worked out perfectly, and we love it,” said Emily Rulli.
“It keeps me out of trouble,” her dad said with a laugh.
The next year, Dave Rulli became eligible for a free plot as a senior. He and his daughter, a 29-year-old substitute teacher, spend part of every day there, working the earth and planting whatever strikes their fancy: rutabagas, endive, onions, pumpkins, peas, corn and more.
“Every year it’s trial and error,” said Emily Rulli.
It’s plenty for the two of them, with some left over for lucky little furry critters that inhabit the neighborhood around Sterne Park, and for the Gardening for Good bin, which gives the fresh produce to those in need.
The city of Littleton provides the ground, water and tilling. Gardeners bring their own seeds, hoses, tools and whatever else it takes to successfully reap what they’ve sown. All that work requires lots of chat breaks, which provides opportunities to share tips with other gardeners.
“We learn from each other,” said Emily Rulli. “People will be very happy to share with you their experience, their knowledge. Sometimes you take it, sometimes you don’t.”
Dave Rulli says the Pea Patch has been a great way to spend some quality time with his daughter and new people, too. The gardeners gather together for an end-of-season cookout featuring what they’ve grown, and Dave Rulli often treats them to frozen yogurt as they dig dirt in the dog days of summer.
“The majority of people here are very generous,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun meeting nice people. … You could spend all day here if you wanted.”
It’s not too late for Littleton residents to get a Pea Patch. For more information, call 303-795-3863 or visit littletongov.org/publicservices/peapatch.asp.