Less than three months after gardeners started planting, the Viatorian Giving Garden is bursting with fresh vegetables — and flowers. This year, more than ever, the 25 plots feature a variety of flowers — from 10-feet tall sunflowers, to marigolds, zinnias and wildflowers.
While some of the flowers are being cut and arranged as small bouquets for families who visit the food pantries, they also serve another important purpose, as pollinators. Butterflies — including Monarchs — and bees are flocking to the garden, doing their job as pollinators, which has led to a bumper crop of vegetables so far.
Gardeners are keeping track of their harvest, weighing them on a hanging produce scale inside a nearby shed and logging their tally in a notebook. This summer, Associate John Dussman and Ed Flynn added a whiteboard to keep up with the growing numbers. And they are impressive!
By July, the gardeners already harvested 1,000 pounds of vegetables, or what the garden usually produces in one summer. Their harvest includes: zucchini, peppers, dill, lettuce, basil, chives, cilantro, cucumbers, tomatoes, banana peppers and squash.
In the offseason, Viatorians doubled the size of the garden, with the intention of inviting more gardeners and faith communities to assist in their mission of feeding the hungry. Between the increased numbers, composting and shared gardening tips, as well as the abundant flowers drawing pollinators, the garden is in full bloom.
Even officials with the Wheeling Township food pantry, where much of the produce is donated, have noticed.
“We want to thank everyone for the multiple donations of fresh produce and flowers during the month of July,” Supervisor Kathy Penner said. “They were a healthy addition to the pantry. Every donation makes a difference in someone’s life and brings relief during a time of need.”