ROCKINGHAM — As Linda Simmons watered plots at the Hitchcock Creek Greenway community garden Wednesday afternoon, some of the plants looked like they were past saving.
Instead of a luscious green, some leaves had faded to a dull yellow or orange, especially most of the squash, as the plants have dried up.
Susan Kelly, executive director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension office for Richmond County, said this has been a rough year for heat and rain. However, water is provided.
Accuweather showed a temperature of 97 degrees at 6:30 p.m. while Simmons held the hose, spaying much-needed water on the various crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers hanging on the vine.
“Because each individual takes care of the plots, some are in better shape than others, depending on their commitment to the project,” Kelly said in an email. “July and August are so hot gardeners don’t like to get out there.”
She added that raised beds dry out faster and hold more heat than conventional gardens and that the garden is built on the foundation of Pee Dee Mill No. 1, which is mostly brick and stone.
But drying out isn’t the only threat to the foliage.
“I’m sure there are a variety of insects, disease and weed pests out there now,” Kelly said. “This is the time of year that insects and diseases really take hold of gardens.”
Indeed, a look through the garden netted sights of worms and insects, including two pairs harlequin bugs mating on a Brussels sprouts leaf in Robin Roberts’ plot.
Pests aren’t the only insects buzzing around.
Simmons commented how she loves to see the butterflies that have been drawn to the garden by the myriad flowers planted, adding that she often takes photos of them.
Although it’s called a “community garden,” that doesn’t mean just anyone can go up and pick what they want. Several signs staked around the area warn against produce pilfering.
Simmons said she had to tell someone that harvesting was reserved for those with garden plots.
“We have had vandalism this year, as we have each year,” Kelly said. “There are video cameras and when we have theft I call the Rockingham (Police Department) and they check the cameras. The last time I did that was the first weekend in June.”
The garden started about five years ago when Kelly wrote a grant and partnered with the city to build the garden. The Extension rents the plots and tries to provide education for those who don’t necessarily have a green thumb, but want to grow their own food.
“Most of the gardeners have had plots every year but we do have some new ones,” Kelly said. “I call Judy Cagle our ‘head gardener’ because she has become the organizer. In community development work that is the sweet spot, when the community steps up and takes leadership rather than the Extension agent.”
Those interested in having a plot are encouraged to contact the Extension office at 910-997-8361.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]