The Hay River Community Garden has been bursting with produce this summer with frequent hot days and some rainy, chilly ones.

Located west of the railway tracks on Dean Drive, the town is blessed with a huge area of acreage that includes 54 outdoor plots and 60 greenhouse plots.

The Hay River Community Garden, more than a decade old, includes 54 outdoor plots and 60 greenhouse plots. Funds from the rubber duck race this weekend will go to some of the first upkeep and maintenance of the plots and grounds during the life of the garden. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Megan Russell, president and Kristen Weingartner, vice-president provided the Hub a walking tour of the grounds on Aug. 23 to show how the season has gone this year and to explain where they hope to see developments in the future.

Made up of 30 community garden members the community group is making an attempt to revive an old rubber duck fundraiser from the Katlodeh Bridge to Bob McMeekin Chamber Park this Saturday morning (Aug. 28) which organizers believe will make a large impact on the overall look and feel of the garden grounds.

Kristen Weingartner, Hay River Community Garden vice-president, and Megan Russell, president emphasize the point that the celery in the garden this year was extra tasty, with more of a pronounced taste – although more slender and stringy. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“If we raise a good amount of money from the duck race, we’ll probably do some more landscaping and fill build on top of that,” Russell said.

“We think this weekend will make a huge difference and will be game changer because government grant applications often require putting up a certain percentage of money.”

Although Hay River and the South Slave have gained some attention over the summer months for the weather – including with record-breaking temperatures some days days earlier this month and heavy rain on others – gardeners haven’t been too disappointed.

Judy Steele beams after pulling several root vegetables from a garden plot. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“It’s really been not bad,” said Weingartner enthusiastically of the 2021 growing season. “We’ve had rain, but then we’ve actually had heat. Over the past few years, we’ve just had rain without the sun and the heat and in those years it’s been tough. So this year, I think it’s been better for the crop.”

Megan Russell, president and Kristen Weingartner, vice-president of the community garden show the interior of the greenhouse which greatly lengthens the growing season and provides assistance to vegetables needing more heat-intensive conditions. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

And the variety has been good both outside and in the greenhouse structure. From frost-tolerant root vegetables like turnips, beets and radishes, which typically do very well, to leafy greens like kale, lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard and peas.

What is important to remember is that every year will often be unique for its own reason, no matter the weather conditions, they explained.

The Community Garden includes a communal berry patch where people can help themselves to sweet, raspberries. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“Each year certain things will kind of grow better than others,” Russell said. “This year was the only year I had a successful broccoli and broccoli is kind of more of a cold-tolerant plant.

“Broccoli likes cooler, more consistent temperatures so it doesn’t always do really well up North because we get a shorter season and not the hot heat and full sun. But this year, broccoli did outstanding and was grocery store-worthy.”

Pumpkin pride: Russell shows her single pumpkin that she was able to grow this year. There are still several weeks before Oct. 31 and lots of time for the squash to grow. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Ticket sales for the duck race have gone well in recent weeks, as volunteers have been stationed at the Fisherman’s Wharf and Super A Foods.

Money raised is expected to go toward repairing garden beds and other infrastructure on site – some of the first efforts in more than a decade.

Judy Steele, Megan Russell and Kristen Weingartne, all members of the community garden,examine ome rooted vegetables. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Some of that work, in fact, already began this year as close to 10 garden boxes were repaired.

The grounds include a pond on site that the group would like to develop into the overall landscape and plenty of room to grow which will hopefully lead to another greenhouse on site.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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