Children plant “Rainbow Garden”

North Hills Community Outreach officially celebrated the opening of the Rainbow Garden section of the Sirianni Garden in Bellevue. The new garden has been planned and planted by children, who will continue working to grow fresh produce for NHCO’s food pantries. Pictured above from left are Connor Weiss, Annaliese Weiss, Sneha Srinivasan, and Terri Sirianni at last Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

The former Sirianni homestead in Bellevue added a new chapter to its history last Friday with the official opening of the Rainbow Garden, an area planned and planted by children under the guidance of the North Hills Community Outreach.

The Rainbow Garden name refers to several of the plants that can be found there: red for the tomatoes, orange and yellow for the peppers, green for the cucumbers, purple for the eggplant.

It joins the community garden already in existence on land donated to NHCO by the Sirianni family off Davis Avenue in Bellevue, and will help NHCO provide even more fresh produce to the food pantries operated by the organization, including one in Bellevue.

Outreach garden coordinator Rosie Weiss said that more than 100 students at all grade levels from North Hills, North Allegheny, Shaler, and Hampton school districts, along with Summit Academy and Bellevue Elementary, helped build the garden."
Looking over the plot that until recently had been just a grassy area, Weiss observed, "It's a sunny location. It's the definition of an Italian garden."

Built with a $10,000 grant from Whole Foods, the development of Rainbow Garden became part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project for North Allegheny graduate Sneha Srinivasan, who organized gardening workshops and recruited fellow students to work at the garden.

"The project started at the beginning of my senior year, last September, and then we planted in April," Sneha said.

At the ribbon-cutting, Sneha said, "I wanted young people to learn how easy it is to plant and grow your own food."

Connor Weiss of Hampton said that his mom "…dragged me here! But I made lots of good friends along the way. I've enjoyed learning and being able to help out others."

Connor was joined by his sister Annaliese, in the ribbon cutting. Their mom, Laura, said that she wanted her children to "…become involved in understanding that many people do not have food as they do. I wanted them to learn to help others."

In its less than two years of existence, the community garden has grown to include at least a dozen different vegetables, as well as herbs, and by next season, trees planted in an orchard in an upper area of the land should begin to yield apples, peaches and pears. An irrigation system that includes fresh water captured in rain barrels has helped to grow lush crops typified by tomatoes growing on what resemble bushes more than the plants found in most gardens.

The entire garden is open to anyone wishing to volunteer, with chores ranging from weeding to picking, packing, weighing, and distributing produce, which last year totaled more than 3,000 lbs. of vegetables shared by the Bellevue and Allison Park food pantries.

"Volunteers are a great asset to the garden and the work could not be completed without them," Weiss said. "We have been quite busy this season and the garden is indeed growing. Two new areas of the property are now under cultivation, the berry patch and the Rainbow Garden. This will increase the production of food for NHCO's two food pantries. Installations of both projects were volunteer-run. The new areas, along with the orchard and the rest of the garden, need tending to. Volunteers are needed year-round. Even if you don't like getting your hands dirty, there's an opportunity to help."

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