Last year, members of the South Hills Interfaith Ministries planted a garden outside its offices at 5301 Park Ave. in Bethel Park to demonstrate how easy it is to grow vegetables.
Through the volunteer effort, the ministries' 40- by 30-foot plot yielded more than 1,600 pounds of food, which the interfaith nonprofit social service agency distributed to its two pantries for needy families in the South Hills.
Noting that success, Father Phillip Pribonic, pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church on Library Road in South Park, was happy to volunteer garden space on church grounds to grow vegetables for SHIM pantries.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, a blessing of the SHIM-St. Joan of Arc garden in the field on Trax Road will take place and will include the recitation of the Litany of Saints.
At 2 p.m. on May 19, the SHIM garden at 5301 Park Ave. also will have a garden blessing to which the public is invited.
Planting in both gardens is expected to begin in the latter half of May.
For the new garden, nearby Trax Farms donated its services to plow the church's empty field for a plot of size 100 feet by 150 feet; 90 feet by 100 feet will be planted the first year.
The soil was tested to determine its acidity, and if additional nutrients were needed. Lime was laid, and then fertilizer.
An electric fence that emits a buzz to frighten pesty deer and groundhogs without harming them will go up this week.
The parish is covering the cost of the seeds, tools, fence, and more.
The church committee, led by master gardener and retired surgeon Ronald Boron, plans to grow tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, herbs, lettuce, spinach, green beans, yellow beans, cucumbers, zucchini and squash.
"We're very excited about it,'' said SHIM program director Doris Nagel. "The possibilities are endless and expect the yield to be tremendous.''
SHIM serves from 350 to 400 families a month, or about 1,000 individuals, in its pantries at its Bethel Park offices and in the Prospect Park rental complex in Whitehall.
Besides St. Joan of Arc Church, SHIM has garden partners in Bower Hill Community Church in Mt. Lebanon, and St. David's Episcopal Church in McMurray.
For Father Pribonic and Dr. Boron, the new garden will be a slice of heaven in their own backyard.
"It's nice to go out to the garden with a salt shaker and eat a tomato," Dr. Boron said.
Father Pribonic quoted from Leviticus, Chapter 23, Verse 22, about reaping the harvest of one's land and leaving the gleanings, or leftovers, for the poor.
"I'm looking forward to the gleanings,'' he said.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com.