Photo by Sabrina Romano

A look at the potential layout of the revamped Lookout St. garden.

By Sabrina Romano

Lenore Dittrich Zotter is on a mission to beautify Troy Hill by planting gardens throughout the community. Zotter, the Troy Hill Citizen, Inc. (THC) beautification committee garden coordinator, held this year’s first THC garden meeting Thursday, March 26 at the Grace Lutheran Church on 911 Howard St.

Currently, the community has five gardens operated by THC; Troy Hill Citizens Park, Tours/ Sundeman garden, Elbow Street garden, Straubs/Ley Path, and Lookout Street garden. This spring, Zotter wants to revamp the community’s largest vegetable garden on Lookout St.

THC applied for a Love Your Block grant through the city but did not receive one, and are now asking for the community’s support.

Only three years old, the Lookout Street garden is a half-acre in size and holds 19, 4×8-foot planting beds, according to Zotter.

Last year, maintaining the garden was a community effort, but volunteers taking care of the garden dwindled in the middle of the season. This year, Zotter wants each gardener to maintain and grow their own garden bed. Residents do not have to pay a fee to grow vegetables in the garden. Zotter plans to hold monthly meetings to keep the volunteer effort organized this year.

Nancy Noszka, THC’s community development consultant, attended the garden meeting.

“There is great opportunity with the size of this garden and the soil and it’s more or less about mobilizing people. So (the meeting) is really trying to mobilize people around the garden and taking ownership of it,” Nozska said.

Noszka said they have all the materials to plant the garden, but need more volunteers to start growing it. Already, GTECH Strategies donated a split-rail fence, among other materials for the Lookout St. garden.

As far as a timeline, Zotter wants volunteers to start planting as soon as they can.

“We should have our peas in already. I guess as soon as people pick beds tonight. Now, you can plant peas, lettuce, and spinach.”

Zotter would like the vegetable garden to set an example for the children who live in the community.

“There is a playground right next to it. We are hoping it will be a good example for kids to come down there and see something constructive going on in their community,” Zotter said.

Although the city did not provide a grant, it’s still supporting THC spruce up the community.

Noszka organized the effort between the community and the city. For the first time, Pittsburgh water and sewage authority gave THC access to an underground tap, which will help water the Lookout Street garden.

Noszka hopes to get the Burmese refugees that live in Troy Hill to participate in planting as well.

“They have made Troy Hill their home and from their native country, they are farmers,” Noska explained. “Grow Pittsburgh has come to us and said, ‘hey, let’s see if we can take this edible garden and introduce it to Burmese families and possibly give them a plot to integrate them into the community and make them feel a little bit more part of the community.’ ”

Not only will these community gardens bring the community together while making the neighborhood greener, they also serve to help feed the community residents.

“The garden on Lookout Street started from the city. It had a program toward communities that were considered to be a food desert where we didn’t have access to a grocery store or a farmer’s market within walking distance. That is the city lot, so they let us use the lot,” Zotter explained. “They gave us all the wood for the raised beds, filled them with soil, and gave us the plants when we began that garden.”

Last year, Zotter and the other Lookout Street gardeners gave many of the vegetables they grew to community residents.

Pastor Anne Miller Smith of Grace Lutheran Church will be a volunteer gardener at the garden as she was last year.

“If nothing else they offer, among other things, a sense of space that many places don’t offer,” Smith said. “This is a place where people can connect with one another without having to make sure their house is dusted. This is a running space for little feet.”

Zotter will be organizing another garden committee meeting scheduled for April 23, which all residents are welcome to join. THC is also having its 10th annual plant swap on May 17.