LESTER—There was a point earlier this summer where Chad Riebeling feared he would lose his veggie-packed garden due to the drought conditions that have defined the season.
However, recent rain showers have buoyed his hope for the growing season and reinvigorated the numerous greens growing at Riebeling Gardens, located about four miles north of Lester.
“Everything is growing really, really good now. It’s coming finally,” said Riebeling, a 41-year-old farmer who launched the gardening venture this spring.
Riebeling grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa outside the Lyon County community. He also has a hog barn and raises a few calves. However, he said he always has wanted to have his own garden since he was little and decided to finally grow one this year.
He planted the patch in late April with Rachel Wipf under the moniker, R&R Gardens.
Although Wipf later moved back to Aberdeen, SD, to be with family, Riebeling has maintained the garden under his own last name since then. His neighbor, Tyler Goodchild, has helped him maintain the garden.
Some of the recent items the garden has yielded include beets, cabbage, radishes and leaf lettuce. Riebeling also has squash and honeydews that are on the verge of being ready to harvest, as well as green beans and various types of tomatoes.
“I’ve got some cherry tomatoes just starting to ripen. I’ve got Roma tomatoes. I’ve got like 270-some plants of tomatoes,” Riebeling said.
He noted some customers recently asked him about buying green beans and tomatoes and he had to assure them the vegetables would be ready soon.
Besides growing produce that could be thrown into a salad or turned into salsa, Riebeling also is cultivating a variety of herbs and aromatic plants, such as sweet basil, parsley, garlic and cilantro.
Riebeling spoke of the dry spell that plagued the region before a few rainfalls delivered much-needed moisture in early July. During that period, he watered the garden himself.
“I kept alive but it wasn’t growing like it should have,” he said. “Some of that stuff, as early as we planted it, it should be already producing, like a couple weeks ago. There for about two weeks, I thought I was going to lose the whole thing just because it wasn’t growing. It wasn’t doing anything.”
His latest battle has been against the weeds that have sprouted up alongside the vegetables following the rainfall.
“I’m getting them all pulled, but they grow faster than the produce,” he said.
Riebeling has been impressed with the response from his neighbors, friends and family who have bought produce from his garden. He also mentioned the positive reception he received at the Rock Valley Farmers Market July 15, where his vendor stall was the only one that offered fresh produce.
He remembered he had not yet finished setting up the stall when he arrived there and shoppers already were showing up to peruse his inventory.
“Just about everything sold that I had, and the stuff that I didn’t sell, I have somebody else that would want it anyway,” Riebeling said.
He returned to the farmers market Thursday and planned to keep going through the rest of the season. Riebeling also plans to have a produce booth at the upcoming Lester Day Celebration, which is set for Saturday, Aug. 21.
He has put up flyers advertising his garden and said many customers have contacted him directly asking about buying vegetables once they’re ready to be picked.
“It just depends on how much I get rid of and what I have left.”