Hope Garden

Hope Garden Video


Sonward’s Hope Garden

2015 In Review

Sponsored by:  The Community Fund of Westmoreland County and Parnassus Partnership

Supported by:  New Hope Community Church, Citizen’s Family Health, The United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington, Citizen’s General Hospital, Abiding Grace Fellowship, Rock the World


The Hope Garden began in February 2015.  Students began to learn about the lifecycle of a plant, what grows in Western PA, why vegetables are important, basic plant care, and how to,calculate what can be planted in the garden.  They did an experiment where they planted a bean seed in a baby food jar with a wet paper towel so,they could observe what happens with the root system underground.



In March, students began planting tomatoes and marigolds indoors.  Students cared for the baby plants and observed all the different kinds of seeds.  They were impressed that many different seeds grew roots and plants.  At the end of March, garden beds began to be built.  Students shoveled the soil into the beds and then planted snow peas.



In April, students took care of the garden.  They planted onions and roped beds into 1ft by 1ft sections.  They weeded and watered the snow peas.  They continued putting soil in garden beds.  The learned about tool safety, and they continued indoor planting.  They were excited when the snow pea plants sprouted.  Students cleaned the garbage out of the blighted lot next to the Hope Garden lot. Students also began washing old tires to be used to beautify the garden.


In May, students planted carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard, and nasturtiums.  They planted cucumbers, herbs, pumpkins, and watermelons indoors.  They continued to care for the garden, weeding, watering, and putting soil in the beds.  They started painting the reclaimed tires to line the garden.

At the end of May, students harvested the green onions and snow peas and passed the out to the neighborhood.  Many students had never grown and picked a vegetable before.  Because no chemicals were used, they got to pick and eat them.  There were plenty to eat and plenty to share.


In June, it was time for major planting.  15 garden beds were filled with soil.  Students planted green and purple beans, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and herbs.  They learned that nasturtiums are edible flowers and they taste a little spicy.  Sonward welcomed 30 volunteers a week for 24 hours each week, to aid in the garden tasks.  In addition to vegetables, students and volunteers planted flowers on the borders of the garden.  More tires were added.  More artistic components were added, including a pergola, pallet tables and benches, scarecrows.  They made ladybug houses for the ladybugs to live in.  Watering and garden care continued.  Students harvested lettuce and there was enough for everyone to eat, take home, and share.  Students learned some gardening disappointments when they planted corn and the extra rain pounded the seedlings back in the ground and they had to replant it.  There were lessons about bugs that are garden friends vs foes.  Students released ladybugs and earthworms I not,the garden.  They also had a nutrition lesson from Citizen’s Family Health.


In July students continued to maintain the garden by watering and weeding.  There were a few vegetables they were able to harvest and take home including peppers and tomatoes.  They learned how to stake tomatoes and prune tomatoes and why that was important.  They hatched and released butterflies into the garden.  More artistic director laments were added to the garden, including painted reclaimed wood pieces, scarecrow heads, and more painted benches. They saw the purple bean plants sprout and produce beans. Students harvested cucumbers, ate them for snack, took some home, and learned how to make refrigerator pickles.  The volunteers continued each week for the whole month.


Students continue with garden care.  They harvested and blanched the purple beans to get them ready to freeze.  They learned that purple beans turn green in boiling water.  Students take home tomatoes and peppers as they ripen.  As the produce continues to grow, students are excitedly awaiting lessons about cooking, preserving, and eating the food from the Hope Garden that they’ve worked so hard to grow.