It’s almost time again for the Hay River Community Gardens to sprout up.
The communal garden plots in the industrial section of town don’t look like much at the beginning of May but by the end of the month Pat Burnstad, president of Hay River Community Gardens, hopes to have them ready for producing.
“The main purpose is to be able to produce our own food,” said Burnstad. “It’s a good thing, to have lots of people in town growing their own food. It helps reduce the cost of groceries, and it’s better for you.”
The gardens were set up five years ago with the help of the Territorial Farmers’ Association and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
Now with five years behind them, the gardeners know what to do come this time of year. A work session at the end of May will be the beginning of another productive season.
“We have to clean out the plots that weren’t cleaned out in the fall, pull out the weeds, prune the raspberry bushes,” said Burnstad. “We expect people to help out and keep things tidy and clean.”
She said people have successfully grown crops of potatoes, carrots, eggplants, squash, tomatoes, beets and leafy greens.
“The tomatoes just take off in the greenhouse,” she said. “I’ve seen tomatoes in there in December.”
One of the benefits of gardening in the community is that more novice gardeners can learn from their green thumb peers.
“It’s a good place to go visiting. There’s always somebody out there,” Burnstad said. “Maybe some people don’t know a thing about gardening. It’s a good place to start because there will always be someone there to help you figure it out.”
She said lots of gardeners will spend a few seasons learning, and then take their skills back to their own yards to continue with what they’ve learned. Others prefer the community gardens year after year.
“Maybe there are some people like me who can’t grow stuff in their yards because there are too many trees,” said Burnstad.
The community gardens see full sunlight from dawn until dusk.
Another benefit of working a plot in the community gardens is that the price of water is covered by the Town of Hay River.
“A person gardening at home might spend $75 watering their plants every month,” said Burnstad.
A plot in the community gardens costs $25 for the whole season.
Burnstad said she hopes to present a new workshop.
“We know how to grow things but I never thought about harvesting,” she said. “I’ve done some courses in canning but maybe we could focus on how to harvest and preserve the crops. I remember one year there were tomatoes just falling on the ground. One girl said, ‘I can’t eat any more tomatoes!'”
Burnstad said she is not necessarily looking for more members but people who are interested are welcome to join. She expects there will be people at the work session who will want to register.
“It’s not that we want to override the businesses that sell produce, but the stuff from the garden is so good,” she said. “It’s amazing the difference it makes when you grow it yourself.”
– Diana Yeager