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.

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Ripe tomatoes hang ready for picking in one of the boxes at the Oakes Avenue Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The site has grown from an empty lot to a food-production site for those who tend the 22 boxes. The high temperatures have led to flourishing tomato vines as the fall harvest approaches. 
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
Ripe tomatoes hang ready for picking in one of the boxes at the Oakes Avenue Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The site has grown from an empty lot to a food-production site for those who tend the 22 boxes. The high temperatures have led to flourishing tomato vines as the fall harvest approaches. Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

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.”

Craig and Carol Smith pick ripe tomatoes and weed their garden box at the Oakes Avenue Garden during an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. One of their tomato plants has grown huge, and their cucumber harvest earlier this year was "amazing." 
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
Craig and Carol Smith pick ripe tomatoes and weed their garden box at the Oakes Avenue Garden during an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. One of their tomato plants has grown huge, and their cucumber harvest earlier this year was "amazing." Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

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.

Alison Moffat, left, Bonnie Strabel, 5, and Will Strabel look over the Oakes Avenue Garden during an open house Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. More then a dozen people gathered to share the success of the community garden and show off their plots. 
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
Alison Moffat, left, Bonnie Strabel, 5, and Will Strabel look over the Oakes Avenue Garden during an open house Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. More then a dozen people gathered to share the success of the community garden and show off their plots. Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

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.

A grasshopper rests on an orange sunflower at the Oakes Avenue Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
A grasshopper rests on an orange sunflower at the Oakes Avenue Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

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.

For more information, visit the nonprofit’s website, superiorcommunitygardens.com, Facebook page or leave a message at 715-718-2289.