Rita Fiddler has her hands full weeding on a hot summer morning at one of Red Deer’s community garden plots.
It’s 9:30 a.m. on Sunday and the sun is already beating down on Fiddler as she pulls weeds that have quickly spread through the fava beans following last week’s heavy rains.
Fiddler, who is helping out neighbours who rent the plot on land at Red Deer College, knows she has a lot of work to do to get rid of the infestation. There’s thistles throughout the rows of potato plants, green onions, parsley, peas and dill.
“This is a full-time job if you wanted it to be,” said Fiddler, who arrived at about 7:30 a.m.
She said everything is growing well, including the peas that run about as high as her waist.
“The soil is great here,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler doesn’t have to worry about lugging water from home. She uses a pail to draw water from a rain barrel nearby.
The couple have been renting the plot for a few years now, said Fiddler, and each year, the city sends a letter to them to see if they want to renew.
“I often see people out here working on their garden,” said Fiddler.
The city approved several locations a few years ago and since then, they’ve become a huge hit among those who might not be able to have their own vegetable garden, or they just want more space.
Other locations include a former farmstead adjacent to Piper Creek on 40 Avenue; Parkside Gardens, off Nash Street behind 52 Avenue; and a small, unforested section of Barrett Park.
Kent Devlin and his wife have rented a 10 metre by 12 metre plot off Nash Street for the last four years now. They grow an assortment of vegetables — peas, carrots, potatoes, beans, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and beets.
“The area you get here cannot fit in your backyard and we really like the idea of organic vegetables,” said Devlin. “We know what’s gone into them and they taste so much better than the grocery store variety.”
Devlin is out to the plot a couple times a week to check in and do any weeding or watering. He hauls water from his house. “People will rip out potato plants or some peas and carrots from time to time,” said Devlin. “Not a lot of people have stolen from us, so we’re pretty lucky.”
He knows of other gardeners who have seen their pumpkins or cucumbers taken because they are so easy to grab.
The hard work is worth it, though.
“We just had a baby the end of June so we’ll probably make a lot of purées out of the vegetables,” said Devlin.
“You just can’t compare a carrot out of the garden from a carrot bought from the store.”
The City of Red Deer offers over 150 community garden plots that are open from mid May to Thanksgiving weekend. For more information, call Cemetery Services at 403-342-8303.