Justin Rademacher finds his escape from reality in a plot of dirt at a City of Fitchburg park.

“Gardening can be therapeutic,” the Fitchburg resident said. “The (plants) don’t care what kind of day you’ve had, they just need someone to take care of them.”

Rademacher and his fiancée were the last applicants accepted into the Swan Creek Park Community Garden on East Cheryl Parkway earlier this spring. The city implemented the garden concept in 2017 after it was identified as an initiative in the city’s parks and open space plan the year before.

Swan Creek Park is the city’s first community garden. It’s now at capacity, with 16 gardeners from around the community sharing 13 10-foot-by-20-foot plots, in all totaling one-tenth of an acre.

Wade Thompson, community development planner for the city, said the concept has grown in popularity as the demand for “passive recreation” has increased.

The city started the community gardens program there last year. Thompson said the city picked Swan Creek Park because of the land use demographics surrounding it, with multiple apartment units close by where residents don’t have space to create gardens of their own.

That was the case for Rademacher and his fiancée, who had been growing produce on their “crowded” patio.

Swan Creek Park also had a lot of “open space” that wasn’t being used for other park facilities, Thompson added.

“Overall, we just really think it’s a good use of park space,” Thompson told the Star.

With gardeners having planted corn, tomatoes, peppers and beans last year, he said he was “amazed” at how much produce the gardeners could yield out of such a limited garden space.

One of the gardeners was able to harvest 250-300 pounds of produce out of his portion of the garden, Thompson said.

Gardeners choose how they want to use their crop – it’s up to them if they keep it all, or give it away, Thompson said.

They’re are also free to plant whatever they want in their plot in the garden, Thompson said, minus the plants that are on the city’s no-plant list of produce that don’t do well in a garden setting.

In Rademacher’s garden, he’s planted peppers and tomatoes, and was working on transferring dahlias on a warm but overcast Saturday in June.

Thompson said he hopes to see the concept grow, hopefully by creating larger gardens, and placing them in more of the city’s parks.

“I think next year we hope to expand maybe to the north of where the (Swan Creek) garden currently is,” he said. “I imagine at some point there’ll be gardens popping up elsewhere at city parks – certainly, if residents are interested, we encourage them to talk with their neighbors and come see us to talk about kicking off a garden in their park.”

Having grown up with a mother who always had a garden, Rademacher said he’s enjoyed “watching things grow” and has found that having a garden and bringing in seedlings and produce is a quick way to make friends at work.

“Everybody will be your buddy,” he said.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter

@kimberly_wethal.