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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.