Community garden benefits local food pantries

Donated land, some grant funds and dedicated volunteers are adding up to a community garden that will help feed the people of the North Boroughs and North Hills for years to come. Volunteers who risked the rain last saturday to plant vegetables for North Hills Community Outreach include: ackrow -- Karen Bender, Dan Dalton, Marisa Manheim, Nancy Jones, Tom Jones, Nick Rivero, Oyano Caracci, Killian Scheible, Mike Stitt, Alicia Monahan; front -- Derwanna Hurst, Nina Rivero, Connie Rivero, Rosie Wise, Paige Stitt, Sheila McCall. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

A plot of ground a little under one-third of an acre located at the eastern end of Bellevue may not qualify as urban gardening, but planted carefully, a garden that size will yield an abundance of produce for the North Hills Community Outreach [NHCO] food pantries.

It's not the first time that this mini-farm has been cultivated. Terrie Amelio, whose family gardened the Davis Avenue property many years ago, donated the land to NHCO, requesting that the land be used as an organic garden and that the produce support NHCO's food pantries in Bellevue and Hampton.

Rosie Wise, garden coordinator, said, "The name of the garden, Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden, is in honor of her mother. This land has never been developed. We are blessed with very rich soil on site and we are able to plant directly in the ground."

Volunteer gardeners lucked out last Saturday, managing several hours of planting between breaks in the rain, putting in cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, lettuce, zucchini, pole and bush beans, onions.

"We also planted basil, parsley, nasturtium and sunflowers. Chard was planted in April and ready to harvest. In the fall, we plan to plant cool season crops that will include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and root vegetables," Wise said.

The volunteers included current NHCO volunteers, Bellevue residents and neighbors living close to the garden, as well as church and school groups and college students.

"We held a kick-off meeting at the end of April and invited all who wanted to get involved with the garden. We have had a very good response from the community, "Wise said.

Heeding Shakespeare's warning, "'tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed…," the project will require an ongoing volunteer effort.

"This is a great opportunity to learn a new skill or share your knowledge with others," Wise said. "Workdays will be posted on NHCO's on-line calendar at We need help with typical garden chores like weeding and watering, and we also need help harvesting the produce and delivering it to NHCO's two food pantries."

In addition to the volunteers, the garden has benefited from assistance provided by Grow Pittsburgh, an organization that, according to its mission statement, demonstrates, teaches and promotes responsible urban food production. The organization has also helped with the design and garden layout, and has tilled all of the contour beds.

"The organic seeds and plants are supplied by Grow Pittsburgh for the first two growing seasons as part of a grant through Allegheny Grows, a partnership between Allegheny County Economic Development, the Western PA Conservancy and Grow Pittsburgh. We have also received some donations of seeds and plants from volunteers," Wise said.

To prevent rabbits and other critters from munching the veggies, NHCO purchased fencing that the volunteers installed, along with a shed, a compost bin and raised beds so that people of all ages and abilities can help in the garden.

Wise urges those who do not have time to join in the group gardening to help in another way. "Plant an extra row or just one more plant in your garden or on your patio at home and donate the produce to the food pantry. All produce will be given to families who utilize our food pantries.

Wise said that efforts have been made to secure the garden's future. "Thanks to the Grable Foundation, NHCO will hire Youth Leadership Coordinators to help with the development of the garden. High school students who live near the NHCO's Bellevue satellite office are encouraged to apply. 2011.pdf"

Two upcoming events have been organized to boost community awareness and support of NHCO's work. A May 27 fund-raising concert at Avonworth High School's Lenzner Field will feature the band, Just Another Boss. Tickets for the 6 p.m. show are $5 per person, or $3 with a non-perishable canned food item.

And on Sunday, June 26, at 1:30 p.m., NHCO will host an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and blessing. After that, guests are invited to attend a garden party. Additional information is available at

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