Community Groves℠ – Tree Pittsburgh Homewood Community Garden

(Pittsburgh, PA)- The local non-profit Tree Pittsburgh received funding from ACTrees to develop a Community Groves℠ project planting fruit trees at the Homewood Community Garden.

BUILDING THE TEAM

Lesson: New and Enhanced Partnerships

The partnership between Tree Pittsburgh and community gardening organization Grow Pittsburgh strengthened and deepened throughout the project. It was the first time that the two groups worked collaboratively on a project, and both organizations plan to join forces in subsequent years to continue to provide technical support to the other and to provide resources to the public on fruit tree care and planting. The joint partnership also provided opportunity for volunteers from each organization to branch out with their activities – garden stewards were able to plant trees, and Tree Tenders were able to help put community gardens to bed for the winter. This cross-promotion among volunteer groups will yield greater access to individuals with interest in both forestry and agriculture.

2012-11-06-12-group1In addition, a partnership was forged with Chatham University’s School of Sustainability and the Environment. Tree Pittsburgh hosted the first small-scale orchard class at their campus farm, and the students were able to benefit from the partnership by attending for free. The hope is that each student carries forward what they learned and that they pursue some level of involvement and/or continuing education with either Tree Pittsburgh or Grow Pittsburgh. Finally, the YMCA, site of the Homewood community garden, brought many resources to the project, including the volunteers. The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh has embarked on a sustainability initiative, hiring a coordinator who worked directly on the project, as well as other tree planting projects at various YMCA facilities. This project only strengthened existing joint efforts, and Tree Pittsburgh staff are confident that more plantings will happen as gardens and/or landscape projects are initiated at other sites.

PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION

Lesson: Site Design

Grow Pittsburgh will take on the lead role for the long-term care of the trees. Supporting the garden stewards, they will ensure that volunteers at each site are caring for the trees according to best management practices for fruit and nut tree care. The unique planting technique utilized in the project, known as hugelkultur, provides for a permaculture answer to tree health. By building raised berms, using organic matter (mostly woody material and topsoil) Tree Pittsburgh believes that the trees will have a better chance of survival given the unfavorable conditions of the site. Both garden sites were former vacant lots, and all garden plots are built as raised beds. Given the experimental nature of the planting, both organizations are keenly interested in monitoring and evaluating the overall success of each planting bed. Staff from both Grow Pittsburgh and Tree Pittsburgh will collectively monitor site conditions and tree health for the next two years.

ON-GOING OPERATIONS

Lesson: Harvest and Distribution

The trees need time to establish and mature before they produce fruit. When Tree Pittsburgh staff anticipates a harvest, planning will begin to distribute and/or produce value-added products.

Learn more about Community Groves℠.