The bounty of her bed at the Oakes Avenue Garden nearly toppled Ronnie Smith over.
She reached into the bottom of her box to pull out a monster zucchini, about the size of a loaf of bread, and lost her balance.
“If it wouldn’t have been for my great-nephew, I’d of fell in there. I’d have been kicking feet up in the air and screaming bloody murder,” Smith told visitors during an open house at the community garden Wednesday, Aug. 18.
This is the second year Smith has rented a box, and she’s been impressed with how well it’s grown.
“It’s just wonderful. I mean, I love having my garden here. It gives me something to do every day. I bring my dog. He stays right next to me,” said Smith, who can see the edge of her box from the window of her apartment.
It’s the second year Jack and Carol Arthur of Billings Park have rented a bed, as well. Their plot is bursting with kale, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, onions and beets.
“We find we really grow things,” said Jack Arthur. “These plants take right off. It’s ideal. We’ve got full sun here, and we’ve got water.”
Lack of space for a garden prompted Craig and Carol Smith, who live in Central Flats, to rent a box at the Oakes Avenue Garden this year. One of their tomato plants has completely taken over half of the garden, and they said their cucumbers were amazing.
“We couldn't believe what happened here,” Carol Smith said. “People planted these funny-looking little gardens and all of a sudden, it was like Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Wednesday’s open garden event was a chance to celebrate the success of the community garden, which was launched three years ago by the nonprofit Superior Community Gardens Association. President Dan Pickles thanked the many volunteers and organizations who stepped up to turn the empty lot into a growing community site. Twenty-two garden beds are rented this year. Apple, peach and pear trees, as well as berry bushes, have been planted to provide fresh fruit for the neighborhood.
It was also a chance for board members and gardeners to connect. Last year, when boxes were first made available, the pandemic prevented gatherings like the one Wednesday.
Gardeners aren’t the only ones to benefit from the site. A percentage of the produce grown at the gardens is donated to the Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency food pantry.
Renters share their bounty with others, as well.
“Last year I brought a lot of tomatoes over to the Duluth Salvation Army,” Jack Arthur said.
Ronnie Smith has plans to transform her monster zucchini into muffins for friends to enjoy at an upcoming bingo session.
Gardeners can also leave extra produce at the on-site kiosk for neighbors and community members to take home. The public space is open to all.
Superior Community Gardens Association board members also talked about future plans for the site — building more boxes, a gazebo, a storage shed — and the idea of expanding to other sites in the city. They are seeking volunteers and funding, and welcome suggestions for future community garden sites.