From cabbages and chard to strawberries and squash, crops at the at the Juneau Community Garden are in bounty after recovering from last year's heavy rain.
"Last year we had as horrible a year as you could ever have," said Sandy Williams, a 10-year plot owner. "I tell people, 'Gardening in Southeast Alaska is difficult, but if you give up because of the weather, your garden is not going to do anything.' So even though we're in rain country, if you stay with the garden, it will stay with you."
The garden, located at 5669 Montana Creek Road, is leased by the city of Juneau and includes tools, water and soil for use by renters. Each renter is allowed two plots, which measure 10-by-20 feet and cost $30 a year. Of the 130 plots, approximately 100 are currently active.
Williams' wife, Susanne, also a plot owner, said last year was terrible for squash, bush beans and peas at the garden.
"The peas just kind of went mushy on the vine," she said. "They couldn't even make pea pods. It was really bad."
Janet Valentour, who has had plots at the garden for about eight years, said last year's brutal rain even impacted her decision on what to plant this year.
"I usually do broccoli, and I didn't bother this year," she said. "Now I'm kind of kicking myself because this was a great year to do more exotic stuff."
If Valentour could have done more with her plot this year, she would have done kohlrabi (a turnip-like cabbage), broccoli and cauliflower. She normally grows tubers (beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, lettuce and zucchini).
As for this year: "The mice are eating my beats, all the way down to the tips," Valentour said. "Usually, I can share them with the mice, but we haven't had enough rain, so the beets can't grow as fast as the mice are nibbling away at them."
And even with the half-mile-long electric fence encircling the garden, which Sandy Williams helped build about five years ago, the porcupines are still persistent.
"Porcupines like the carrots, so we have to keep them covered or they'll dig right in there," Sandy Williams said.
But what creature wouldn't want to nab such crops? Right now one can see cabbages, chard, rhubarb, beets, potatoes, strawberries, onions, chives, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrots, kale and garlic, just to name a few.
Kim Titus, a plot owner since the garden started in 1993, agreed this summer has been superb.
"This year is our first year in many years our lettuce actually bolted," Titus said. "The weather has been so hot, it's actually more like a Lower 48 situation."
Nice weather also benefited the Juneau Community Garden's six charity plots, which it dedicates each year to The Glory Hole and Southeast Alaska Food Bank. Last year, the plots had carrots, kale and chard, in addition to potatoes. This year, they are just potatoes, mainly because they are easier to maintain.
"With the number of potatoes we have this year, we should donate probably 1,200 pounds of potatoes," Sandy Williams said. "There are a lot of folks in need in this community."
Susanne Williams is even referred to as "The Salad Lady" when she drops off vegetable donations at The Glory Hole.
"That's what they call me now, because I bring in the greens," she said.
The Williams, who even dedicate one of their own plots to charity, say getting other gardeners to work on the charity plots is difficult.
"It's difficult to work your plots and then go work other plots," Valentour said.
"While the weeding isn't fun, contributing that to the food banks in Juneau is a worthwhile endeavor," Titus agreed.
In addition to charity plots, the garden allows other groups to use the area. Fishermen wanting easy access to the summer run of coho at the adjacent pond can go through the garden's northwest gate.
"Folks go down there and park, go through the gate, and it's a four-minute walk to the fishing hole," Sandy Williams said.
And at the opposite end is a gate to a trail circling the pond for bird watchers.
"We didn't have to do that, because we have exclusive rights to it here, but we're good neighbors," Sandy Williams said. "But if we find them not keeping the gates closed, we might have to change our attitude."
In all, plot owners agree that the garden lives up to its name.
"It's an excellent community opportunity for people who enjoy the practice of gardening and don't have the space or sun in their own yard," said renter Janet Valentour.
Sandy Williams said approximately 30 to 40 people attended their annual barbecue two weeks ago, which his wife, Susanne, helps coordinate. And he expects more will attend their Harvest Fair on Aug. 22 at the garden.
"When we have functions like the Harvest Fair, you can't hardly find a parking spot in here," Sandy Williams said. "We get a lot of people out here, a lot of home gardeners, too, because we don't restrict to just the garden renters."
The Williams welcome outside gardeners to submit exhibits for judging. They also encourage families - especially with kids - to attend.
"One of the things we do is take a bale of straw and hide some trinkets in it, and little tikes can go in there and search for treasures," Sandy Williams said.
The fair also includes croquet, horseshoes, potato toss and a food fair, which includes a plate of food at a small cost.
Although Janet Valentour only attends the Harvest Fair when she's in town, she said the baskets of vegetables are beautiful.
"They should actually sell those after the contest," Valentour said. "I think they could actually raise money for the garden if the person who put the basket together wanted to contribute it."
"It's a lot of fun," Titus said of the fair. "There's a lot of good food and potluck and homemade items sold there to help to support the community garden, and they're are well worth coming out for."
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or email@example.com.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.