Ollie Redden isn’t selfish with his garden full of produce. When the Pierre native harvests his beans, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes, you can often find him doling it out among his neighbors.
Some might say Redden represents the true meaning of community gardening, since he grows all of his vegetables in a Pierre Community Garden plot.
“I just love to see something like this,” Redden said, looking around the garden. “We’re accomplishing something that’s more than just the produce.”
Almost every year since 1991, community members such as Redden have gathered to plant a variety of produce and flowers in the garden. In 2010, the garden moved from its original spot near the Pierre Indian Learning Center to its current location at the corner of Highway 34 and Landfill Road.
The half acre of land is state property classified as a city project, according to garden coordinator Deb Bessert. The garden consists of 45 plots ranging in size and price – anywhere from $30 to $45. Bessert said membership fees help repay the city of Pierre for water, fencing and other services, as well as purchasing supplies.
Bessert said the garden got off to a late mid-June start this year due to the rainy weather. But even though last year’s season was much longer, it was also more dry.
Despite previous drought and problems with raccoons and rabbits, the garden is full of color and the aroma of fresh dill weed this season. One plot contains okra, uncommon to the region, while almost every garden has a tomato plant.
Bessert said there are no limits to what people can or cannot plant as long as they keep up their plot by taking care of weeds. Those who don’t take care of their space can be asked to leave the garden.
Bessert, who now gardens with her mom on their own plot, said gardeners range from experienced green thumbs to beginners. Some people realize quickly that they’re not up for the challenge of taking care of a garden.
“There are people who have no idea how much work it is,” Bessert said. “You can’t just plant and come back in the fall. It’s a learning experience for everybody.”
Bessert said a lot of conversation, questions and answers are exchanged within their small gardening community, making it a great space to learn and experiment with new gardening techniques.
Last spring, 26 interested gardeners were on the community garden waiting list, but after some gardeners dropped out, only eight remain waiting. Bessert said people usually only stay on the list for a year, and the earlier they call to be on the waiting list, the better.
For more information on the community garden, contact Bessert at 605-280-0505 or visit ci.pierre.sd.us/parks/communitygarden.shtm.