A newsmaker you should know: A gardener with a 'rosy and wise outlook'
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Gardening typically might not be an activity one thinks of this time of year, but Rosie Wise not only thinks about gardening all year, she gardens all year.
Ms. Wise is the garden and youth coordinator for North Hills Community Outreach. In her role, she plans and oversees the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden in Bellevue.
Today marks her second anniversary with the community outreach organization.
"When I came, the garden was an empty lot," said Ms. Wise. The land had been donated by Terrie Amelio.
"Since I started in March, I was already behind," she said.
One of her first tasks was to plan the garden, something that often looks a lot different on paper than it ends up in the dirt, said Ms. Wise.
"Our garden is actually what they call 'contour plowing' because we follow the contour of the plot," she explained.
The garden was funded in part by grants and Ms. Wise started purchasing tools and other supplies, including seeds. The first season, Ms. Wise, aided by more than 200 volunteers, grew more than 3,000 pounds of food for the families and community members that the agency serves through their two food bank programs. Last year, Ms. Wise estimates they grew more than 4,500 pounds.
The original garden was smaller than the current half-acre garden. The organization purchased an adjacent lot and also planted 23 fruit trees last summer. Ms. Wise said they own about six-tenths of an acre, but have left part of the lot as a buffer between the adjoining lots.
This time of year, Ms. Wise has already planned the garden for this growing season and will have her first planting day March 16. The seed drive began in January and includes seeking seed donations from community members and seed companies.
"We have companies who can't sell their seeds from last year, but they are still good, so they donate them to us," she said.
Ms. Wise said food pantry participants were surveyed to see what types of vegetables they would use to help with the planning. Vegetables include corn, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, squash, pumpkins and kale.
Ms. Wise depends on help from the volunteers, including family, school and scouting groups, to assist with all aspects of the garden.
"I'm always looking for help for planting, weeding, harvesting -- you name it," she said.
Ms. Wise also has an unheated high tunnel where she grows hardier plants year-round. Many crops, such as lettuce, can grow if they are simply covered with plastic, Ms. Wise said.
The garden is grown organically without pesticides and utilizes compost, thanks to two large compost bins built by volunteers.
Ms. Wise's efforts don't go unnoticed.
"Rosie is passionate about all things that grow -- fostering the growth of healthful produce for local families who utilize our food pantries, and the growth of all the volunteers who help the make the garden possible," said Jennifer Drayton, development manager at the agency.
"Rosie Wise, her name says it all," Ms. Drayton said. "A gardener with a rosy and wise outlook."
Ms. Wise said she gardens all year not only for the outreach organization but for her own consumption. She has a plot at a community garden in her hometown of Ambridge and loves experimenting with growing things.
"Gardening is a science and an art form. Not everything you try is going to work, but when it does, it's delicious," she said.
First Published March 7, 2013 5:50 am